Photo: Tom Sapiano

Theatre student sets sights sky-high

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By Kristen Vinakmens

Barbara Andrade has a passion for theatre. She’s been doing it since she was eight years old, but the acting bug hasn’t bitten her. She’s more interested in stage managing, which is why she enrolled in the technical production component of Ryerson’s theatre program.

The problem for Andrade is that she doesn’t see a job in theatre as a good career choice. She studies theatre a more of a side interest than as a practical pursuit, because she already has a job lined up after she graduates — as a flight attendant for Canadian Airlines

“This is something to do as a hobby on the side,” the fourth-year student says of theatre. “It’s hard to do this full-time.”

Andrade works six days a week for course credit — rehearsals ran Tuesday through Sunday — stage managing the production Salmon Miranda, which opens today and runs until Dec. 10 at the Artword Theatre.

The play is a romantic comedy written by actress Leah Davidson. She and Christopher Morris play Sam and Miranda, a seemingly mismatched couple who learn to come to grips with each others’ respective flaws — some of which are easier to accept than others.

As stage manager, Andrade has to be at all rehearsals from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., doing everything from taking notes to making schedules to prompting lines. Once the show starts, it’s the stage manager’s job to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Andrade met the play’s director, Sarah Armstrong, and Davison several years ago at the Etobicoke School of the Arts. When she ran into Armstrong again a few months ago, “the timing was perfect,” Andrade says, because she needed a project to work on and Armstrong needed a stage manager for the show.

“Working here with Sarah and Leah on this production has put me back in the groove again,” says Andrade.

While she’s putting in long hours for Salmon Miranda, she sees it as more of a fun thing to do rather than something leading to a serious profession.

Actor/writer Davison supplements theatre work with other jobs, while Morris works in theatre full-time, but they’ve both found it’s not an easy career.

Davidson says it’s getting better as the industry grows in Toronto, but jobs are still limited, particularly in acting. Thinking ahead and budgeting is key, she says. “It’s like the student lifestyle, only you live like a student forever.”

Morris says it’s hard to keep your head up in this field, because not only is the money scarce at times, there’s also plenty of rejection.

“The toughest thing is keeping true to what you want to do,” he says. “It’s kind of sick to live in this lifestyle. It’s very easy to lose track of what you’re doing when you’re putting yourself where you could really fail or incredibly succeed.”

Tanita Mendes, a faculty member in Ryerson’s theatre technical production program, says it may be more difficult to succeed as an actor in theatre because so many people want to perform on stage. Getting a job on the technical side as a stage manager or lighting technician may be easier because “the ratio of jobs to people appears greater,” she says.

But Andrade has no intentions of leaving the world of theatre completely behind. She plans to take a couple of months off each year to pursue her interests on stage, but isn’t waiting to find a spectacularly well-paying job as a stage manager.

“If I can get picked up by somebody and can make more money than what I will be making flying, then of course I’d be stupid to say no,” Andrade says. “My passion for theatre hasn’t died.”

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