September 28th, 2015
Concordia’s Artistic Director for Productions
Director of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QDF: Is this your first season as ad. How does it differ from your job at Repercussion?
Amanda: Yes, it’s my one and only season as QD of the theatre department (Raymond Marius-Boucher is on sabbatical.) The biggest difference from Repercussion is that I didn’t choose this season but I’m the one who will see it through. My biggest challenge going into this, is that I don’t know what I don’t know – what does it mean to be the Artistic Director of a university theatre department? Fortunately, I am surrounded by a very supportive team in the Concordia Theatre Department.
My top priorities moving forward are to streamline the process for assigning/inviting Directors and choosing the plays we put on. This necessarily begins with a deep reflection on the purpose of productions within the department.
QDF: What are the shows?
Amanda: To start, I will be Directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream – yes, again (lol). The great thing about this is that I know this play so well, that I can really focus on the design team and the actors, and give them the support and guidance they need to create this production.
We will once again have the SIPAs (short hand for Student Initiated Production Assignment). This is an opportunity for students to choose their own work, build their own teams and drive their own productions from start to end. It’s guided by Ursula Neuerburg-Denzer and happens at the Cazalet studio (Loyola Campus) at the beginning of November.
In addition we will have the Performance Creation Playground: an exciting new project that also puts students in the creative driver’s seat, this time collaborating to create a series of site-specific pieces that will eventually play simultaneously in February 2016 all over the FC complex on the Loyola Campus.
In April 2016, Dean Fleming of Geordie Productions will join us as a visiting Director for Alice, a take on Alice in Wonderland/Alice Through the Looking Glass as adapted by Harry Standjofski. That will be such a fun way to end the year.
QDF:Why should we come out to see student productions?
Amanda: It is the equivalent of watching butterflies emerging from their cocoon. You get to see the next generation of Theatre professionals as they take risks and try out new ideas. The energy and vitality of that is very exciting. It’s amazing to think that, years from now, you might be able to say “I saw them when . . .”
QDF: Why include public productions as a part of training:
Amanda: Productions are where it all comes together. Theory is so important, but when the pressures of time, an audience, and working with other people come into playm that’s when you figure out who you are as an artist.
QDF: University vs Conservatory; what’s the difference?
Amanda: That’s a longer conversation than we can have now! But I would say, briefly, that Conservatories offer a much more specialized training while Universities by nature require a broader approach. A conservatory can dig deep, whereas a university tends to cast its net fairly wide. I think both systems are super valuable, depending on what a student is looking for.
At Concordia, we tend to really look at the social impact of what we do as artists and encourage students to be reflective of the impact of their work. We give them the chance to not just follow the paths created by those who’ve come before (though we certainly believe that knowing your history is important!), but to think about what kinds of trails they’d like to blaze for themselves. We talk a lot about the role of the artist in society. That’s not to say that conservatories ignore such things – I just know that it’s a real focus here.
My guess is that not every student who graduates from a University theatre program will become a professional theatre practitioner, although there are certainly a solid number of Concordia theatre grads working here in town! (Not to mention around the world.) I know some of our alumni pursue drama therapy, or education, or work in the field of community-building, politics, etc. or focus on more research-based practices – it’s fascinating to see where their theatre training can take them, and how their creativity is valued in other areas.
QDF: Diversity is becoming a pressing issue within the arts. How is training and performance changing to meet this challenge?
Amanda: I think training institutions have a vital role to play in changing the status quo. We need to recruit more diverse artists into our programs, expand the way we approach training (to reflect different practices, different performance traditions and different aesthetics), encourage the artists we train to be aware of issues of representation and accessibility, and generally make sure that we’re leading the way in all these areas. Of course, that is all easier said than done! But it’s not nearly impossible, and we’ve just got to stop talking about it and start doing it. Personally, I know that in planning Concordia’s next season, my priority will be seeking out plays by women and/or writers of colour. I feel like we’re on the verge of big changes in theatre, and I’m sometimes discouraged, but mostly excited.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Playing from December 2nd-6th
At D. B. Clarke