When the snow was coming down and literally froze the city for a day, Kaho Koda, the Production Manager of Players Theatre, and myself were enjoying a cup of tea and talking about theatre, student theatre, and “doing it” in Montreal.
Kaho is currently the production manager at Players’ Theatre located in the heart of McGill while also working as the lighting designer for the Department of English production of Richard III and keeping up with the schedule of a full time student. When asked how she does it, Kaho simply answers, “you have to be organized.” She uses an agenda to write down in pencil all her engagements, “because theatre meetings are always subject to change,” she jokes, and to-do lists to make sure she can attend to her school and work responsibilities with ease, thus avoiding feeling overwhelmed. “I am human, so it happens sometimes,” she adds, “but writing a to-do list and a what-got-done list always helps and also feels very satisfying.”
As Production Manager, Kaho is responsible for the smooth run of each season while being the liaison between the production team of the show to be performed and the executive team at Players’. “Since each production is unique in its own way, some might need more support and I am there to direct them to what they need while assisting them on the technical aspect of the shows” she explains.
Kaho is very thankful to her experience in student theatre as she feels “it gives a lot of opportunities for students who wish to pursue theatre and is a way to gain experience,” she tells us. Kaho started with student theatre as an Assistant Stage Manager for Players’ production of Oh! What A Lovely War directed by Connor Spencer. This experience allowed her to join the community and meet people who later became a second family to her. “I always loved theatre, but never considered this path as a career until I got to work behind the scene” she adds. “[Student theatre] is a gateway to the community” as Kaho experienced it herself by getting the opportunity to work with companies outside of the school environment.
Kaho is currently the lighting designer for the Department of English production of Richard III, and she gives us a little snippet of how it feels to take on such a big role in a theatre production. “As lighting designer, everything is pretty much new to me,” she confesses. While she had the chance to play with lights in the past as production manager and lighting operator, designing a whole theatre piece can be a little scary, but very exciting for the young woman. “I have all the designs in my head, but the stressful part is to get them out of head and on the stage,” she explains. Translating design onto the stage can be very challenging because she tells us that lighting designers use their imagination a lot. However, Kaho remains positive about this experience because of the uniqueness of the play. She tells us that director Myrna Wyatt Selkirk and assistant director Katey Wattam decided to set the play in a different world as its center theme ‘carnival and circus’. “Lighting, therefore, like in many other shows, affects the mood dramatically and I am excited to play with the lights and create this mood in the set,” says Kaho, smiling with excitement.
What drew Kaho to technical theatre is the satisfaction of witnessing the progression of a show from the first table read to opening night from an audience perspective. “It gives me Goosebumps,” she says, “seeing a show come alive and presented to an audience is an incredibly satisfying and eye-opening experience.” She tells us that working on the technical side of theatre gives you the opportunity to help shape what the show will eventually look like. Her experience also allowed her to expand and explore other interests, such as directing. In 2016, Kaho had the opportunity to direct University of Laughter by Koki Mitani. “It helps to know the process of technical work and stage managing when you are directing as it gives you a better appreciation of the work behind the stage” she rightfully adds. She is drawn to this discipline because, while a director isn’t the only creative mind on a project, he or she is responsible for setting the world of the play. She also adds that directing a show can also create a platform to celebrate other cultures. “I loved doing University of Laughter because it is about my culture,” explains Kaho. As a Japanese woman, Kaho loved being able to bring to light her culture on stage, which is often underrepresented in the McGill theatre scene. “It was nice to be able to set up a platform where people can talk about race and addressing the themes of the play,” she tells us. Kaho enjoys being able to open a dialogue between friends and professors and discuss themes of race and representation.
All the skills and expertise learned in student theatre help Kaho to hone her technique and get ready dive headfirst into the Montreal theatre community after her graduation. Kaho hopes to expand her bubble further from the student theatre environment in school by working with community, independent, and professional theatres.