A view from inside the theatre school. PHOTO: NATALIA BALCERZAK

An Inconvenient Move

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By Rachel Surman

The Piper is the last show many Ryerson theatre students will work on this year and the final show some of them will ever do at Ryerson. But they’ve been kicked off the main stage due to scheduling issues that occurred because of the new fall reading week. They must now produce their show in the small Abrams Studio theatre.

“The fourth year’s last show should be on the main stage. They’re entitled to it,” second-year theatre production student Giordan Sora said.

But Ryerson owns the main stage, not the theatre school, so theatre productions have to be co-ordinated around several other events that rent out that same space.

“Ryerson gives us a lot of leeway but we don’t get final say,” Sora said.

The new fall reading week messed up his schedule by front-loading the season. Sora said the schedules were changed so that The Piper was moved to the Abrams Studio, which the Theatre School owns, and the shows that usually make the most money ran back-to-back.

“There has to be a main stage show so they put it in first semester,” Sora said.

While publicity and marketing manager of The Piper, Wendy Chan, said they were able to overcome the issues they faced in first semester and haven’t encountered any scheduling issues with the current show, the move to the Abrams Studio has created some challenges of its own.

“In the Abrams Studio there is a pole in the centre of the stage and that is a bit of an issue in terms of staging because of the perspective. Where as [with] main stage, there is nothing,” Chan said.

In the past, student set designers have attempted to find creative ways to incorporate the pillars into their designs. Claren Grosz, a second-year theatre performance-acting student who worked in the Abrams Studio for last year’s production of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, said that the centre pillar was turned into a fountain and the less-obvious pillar in the corner was used for actors and stagehands to hide behind.

“We had a really good set designer who incorporated them and they were there seemingly on purpose,” said Grosz. “But I mean, it’s definitely an adapted space and it doesn’t feel like a real theatre.”

Sora said the pillars also limit what can be done for lighting because they cause shadows and interrupt sight lines.

“I think everyone hates them. They make everything 10 times harder,” Sora said.

While the Abrams Studio’s size and inconvenient architecture has caused some obstacles, Chan doesn’t think the move to the smaller stage will take away from how the production would have turned out on the main stage.

“It’s not that much of a difference but it’s more about experiencing different sizes and atmospheres and about how to stage and act in a different location,” Chan said. “It’s also about how the director deals with the different size of a theatre.”

Sora said that he often prefers smaller theatres because “some of the best shows are done in small spaces.” He said that since the audience is so close, they can see every flaw so carpenters have to be better and production teams have to pay a lot more attention to the small details. It also gives them more creative freedom to play with textures.

“We wanted to remake wood by gluing sawdust together. It didn’t work because it was obviously a stupid idea, but you get to experiment with interesting ideas like that,” Sora said.

While Chan said the Abrams Studio is a bit of a challenge, she agreed with Sora that it’s also a lot of fun. But he said he’d still “rather be on the main stage.”

The Piper runs from Feb. 7-9 and from Feb. 12-14 in the Abrams Studio at 8 p.m.

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