By Karoun Chahinian
Ryerson students and alumni are preparing for their production of the contemporary musical The Last Five Years.
Directed and produced by Carl Pucl, a fourth-year performance production student at Ryerson Theatre School (RTS), The Last Five Years is being brought to life by talent within the Ryerson community.
“I had been reaching out to professional directors seeking apprenticeship opportunities to no avail. I asked myself why I was relying on others to succeed,” said Pucl. “Why not take a non-traditional career path? Why not do the work I know that I’m meant to do right now?”
The musical’s creative team consists of students from Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication and Design which includes the Ryerson Theatre School (RTS), Ryerson School of Interior Design (RSID) and Radio and Television Arts (RTA) programs. Pucl’s aim when including Ryerson students was to showcase the talents hidden within the university.
“I wanted to give all of us a creative platform which might not always be available in the early stages of our careers,” said Pucl. “Many of us wait for someone to give us a chance and rather than waiting around, we are taking charge and inviting them to come see our show.”
The Last Five Years is a love story between two New Yorkers who struggle to maintain their relationship over half a decade. There are only two characters, Cathy Hiatt and Jamie Wellerstein, who approach the retelling of their love story from opposite ends.
“The structure of the musical is gorgeous, but people have historically always presented it as a very real story,” said Pucl. “We’re exploring it from the notion of perspectives. It’s always been staged as a collision of time, but for me it’s about the mindsets of the characters and how distant their realities are.”
While the majority of the participants are Ryerson students or alumni, professional sound designer Michael Laird came on board with the project. Laird has worked on prestigious productions such as Spamalot! and Evil Dead: The Musical in Toronto.
“I reached out to him and everyone thought I was crazy,” said Pucl. “Michael called me to tell me he was interested in working on the show and we were all really excited to be collaborating with him.”
The leads of Jamie and Cathy are played by Kaleigh Gorka, a 2014 RTS graduate and Josh Wiles, a University of Toronto and Sheridan College’s theatre and drama studies program graduate. They became intrigued and wanted to be a part of it.
“The Last Five Years is a story for our time,” said Gorka. “It is so relevant to contemporary society’s experiences in love and relationships. There are thousands of love stories in our world, but this one is something particularly deep, honest, raw, and real.”
Wiles said Pucl’s drive to direct the show is “pretty astounding.”
“I would say it’s almost fearlessness,” said Wiles. “He’s willing to do and try things that others wouldn’t even take a chance on.”
Rehearsals start in February, but the process of organizing the show has been taking place since November. Pucl said that he has been on the receiving end of cautionary concerns from friends and colleagues due to the amount of money and time invested in the production since the idea was first realized.
“They urged me to reconsider the scope and scale of my vision, citing that I might never financially recover if things go south,” said Pucl. “If people are concerned that means I’m on the right track.”
The Last Five Years runs from March 19th to the 21st in the SMCS Centre for the Arts. For more info, like their Facebook page, follow them on Instagram, or donate to their campaign. All links are below.
“If we didn’t pursue our dreams because failure was a possibility,” said Pucl. “We would never do anything or go anywhere.”
Ideigogo Campaign: www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-last-five-years–111/x/8949306