Ryerson Theatre: 40 years later

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By Sofia Mikhaylova

The third floor of the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre has been transformed.

Elaborate costumes from past student productions now stand at the front of a large, spacious room. The 40th anniversary Gala Cocktail of the Ryerson Theatre School (RTS) is in full swing as smartly dressed undergrads from RTS, past and present, mingle and talk under the light from the ceiling that opens up to the grey, winter sky.

Over the course of the weekend, RTS has held a series of events to celebrate its 40th anniversary, including a social, and the gala.  Alumni as far back as 1976 have come to celebrate their school’s success.  They chat with nervous and excited current students, whose handwritten name tags proudly proclaim, “Production, 2014.”

Some have brought their children, who now run across the room, shouting gleefully. Recent grads, young adults and 20-somethings, are the next generation. They stand in their own groups and occasionally speak to former grads. Mostly, though, they stick with each other.

The stars of the event, however, are the four student-designed time capsules set up on either side of the room. Each one contains a small array of items and objects dedicated to a specific decade of the theatre program, as well as to theatre itself.

“[The time capsules] are a good way of giving tribute to what was relevant and important, both at school and outside of school,” said Tamara Vuckovic, archivist for the RTS.

The capsules are organized by decade, starting with the 70s, right from the theatre school’s inception. Students, staff, and alumni can feel free to walk up and down the aisles, and pause and look at certain items or newspaper articles from the past.

“I find if you look at articles, it’s always about the performers, not production,” said the designer of the 80s time capsule, current production student Khanh Quach.

Quach dedicated his capsule to the backstage production crews of theatre, who are frequently overlooked and not always recognized.

“If the audience doesn’t notice the production people, then we’re doing a good job, but the audience often forgets that we work just as hard as the performers.”

Ryerson’s Theatre School was founded in 1971, with the help of Jack McAllister, a former Ryerson instructor who used London’s Central School of Speech and Drama as the model for Ryerson’s own theatre. In the beginning, the programs offered were four-year programs for acting and arts administration, or three-year diploma programs for technical production and dance.

Now, the arts and technical production programs have fused, and RTS offers full-time, four-year degrees for all three specialties. As well, the building that houses the theatre school has changed, moving from 101 Gerrard St. to 44/46 Gerrard St. E., due to the rising popularity and growth of the programs offered.

The time capsules and, more broadly, the 40th anniversary are a testament to the connection between RTS and its graduates.

“A lot of the alumni end up coming back and teaching or producing for some shows,” marketing and publications manager for the current RTS season, Tara Mohan said.

“I’m always happy to be here,” 1988 production grad Laurie Stevenson said. “I made so many wonderful friends.”


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