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IB1 student David Cash starrred in Alphonse

Co-curricular Theatre and Graduate Internship forge valuable connections between students and Old Boys

By Dale Churchward

The Graduate Internship Initiative was introduced in the 2012-13 co-curricular Theatre season at UCC. This initiative sees a young Old Boy, experienced in theatre, bring his expertise to a theatre production at the College.

It’s been a huge success and as the current year wraps up, two Old Boys who’ve worked with the program talk about how transformative the experience has been.

In the Graduate Internship’s initial year, Justis Danto-Clancy ’07 directed American Buffalo in the David Chu Theatre. This year, James Graham ’07 directed a workshop production of Alphonse in UCC’s Lecture Theatre.

Graham appeared in a professional production of New Jerusalem in Toronto last fall; he’s currently in rehearsal for two Canadian Stage summer productions: Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and As You Like It. James is also a founding member of The Howland Company.

Danto-Clancy is the director of facilities and production at The Theatre Centre in Toronto; he’s an associate member of The Howland Company.

Here are some of Graham’s’ observations on the UCC Graduate Internship:

When Dale Churchward approached me last April about directing a show for the 2013-14 Graduate Internship, I jumped at the opportunity. I had been to Justis Danto-Clancy’s thrilling production ofAmerican Buffalo the year before and the level of enthusiasm, commitment, and pure joy he inspired in his cast made it clear that this was something I had to be a part of.

The UCC theatre community is a tight one and has always thrived on the willingness of a handful of Old Boys working professionally to bring their wisdom and expertise to the next generation of eager and excited young theatre practitioners. I know myself how much that advice, that guidance, and in many cases that necessary dose of reality can mean to a kid full of talent and passion, but scared of what comes next. It seems vitally important to me, then, that those of us who made that leap make sure students know that while a life in the arts is a difficult one, it can also be fulfilling, and that there is a community out there always ready and always willing to lend a hand.

Many of the mentors I had at school are now friends, peers, and in many cases artistic collaborators. Toronto is one of the fastest growing theatre cities in the world and the school, as a leader in this community, should be at the forefront of that charge. The Graduate Internship offers students at UCC the chance to build those networks, to connect the College to the exciting work being done in the city, and to offer a guiding hand to the next great Canadian actor or ready to take the plunge.

Danto-Clancy’s observations on the UCC Graduate Internship:

The graduate internship at UCC not only allowed me to tell a remarkable story with incredibly talented, brave students, but it also served as a springboard for my own career in professional theatre. In fact, upon reflection, the graduate internship, for the UCC students and the graduate is a very accurate introduction to professional work.

Being an unknown entity to both actors and the technical crew of the UCC theatre community tested my ability to communicate my artistic vision right from the start. The rehearsal hall became a proving ground for so much of the directing theory I’d only ever really practised with people I knew very well. Now, working in professional theatre, I feel well-prepared to represent my ideas as a relatively unknown, young guy. I derive much of the confidence and calm that ensures my theatre productions run smoothly from experiences I’ve had working with the cast and crew of American Buffalo at UCC.

The students who participate in the graduate internship glean a great deal from it. Because they work with a director who doesn’t spend any time in their classrooms, they’re allowed freely and fully to explore the characters set before them. Perhaps this is a first for many; the standard of work in the rehearsal hall is never reflective of whether or not they’ve done their most recent English homework. Students are held to a high standard of work which, true to UCC logic, helps them to achieve very high-quality results.

Also informing the work in the room is the mystique of working with an alum. I remember, as a student, the pride and honour it was to work with Old Boys; and I’m sure that – to some extent – that feeling drove the team to work hard. In fact, the dedication of the team and its willingness to “do the work” is something that all professionals strive to achieve with all the teams they encounter. It’s built into the graduate internship.

The symbiotic relationship of the graduate and the student stands as one of the great strides UCC has made in proving that they believe their graduates are capable of greatness. The graduates feel it. The students feel it. The art, consequentially, is formative and exquisite. It doesn’t get much better than that! I feel truly lucky to have been selected to participate in the program as a graduate, and I hope that this important initiative produces many more years of insightful, excellent work.’

The 2014-15 co-curricular theatre season will see further work that integrates young Old Boys and current students. Stay tuned for more information about this and other related theatre initiatives. If you have any questions, contact Dale Churchward: dchurchward@ucc.on.ca

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