By Zahraa Alumairy
As the winter semester begins to wrap up, more and more annual program showcases take place, including Ryerson Theatre School’s (RTS) New Voices Festival.
The annual event allows fourth-year students to write, produce, direct and perform their own original pieces. The three branches of RTS, performance acting, dance, and production, are all involved.
Clara McBride, a co-producer of New Voices, opened the Friday night show by saying that this is the last time many of these students will be performing at Ryerson.
“How special it is their last time is something they created,” said McBride.
She is working alongside Kate Hilliard this year and took over for Sheldon Rosen, faculty of the performance acting department who has lead production for New Voices for nearly a decade.
Rosen is currently on sabbatical, but curated the festival at the beginning of the year, according to McBride. Hilliard and McBride both described the production process so far as a “treat.”
“It’s an amazing opportunity to be involved with young artists who are trying to find their creative signature,” Hilliard said.
Hilliard said this festival “prepares these students for the impossible world that is ahead of them,” with collaboration among students and others involved taking “an enormous amount of rigour.”
McBride also described the creation of a show as a machine “that needs to be well taken care of and well put together for the show to come to life on stage.”
Fourth-year students Anthony Purpuse, Konstantina Mantelos and Ngabo Nabea worked together on a theatre piece titled “Empire” which they performed on April 8. It was written by Mantelos, directed by Purpuse, and acted out by Mantelos, Nabea and a number of other students.
The play is set in a pub and split into four scenes, it chronicles the growth of two friends, Charlotte and Keran, as they navigate the world of university and adulthood. Mantelos said it was inspired by the many nights spent in the “Marquis of Granby” on Church Street with Nabea.
“With her play, it’s very much about growing up and changing,” Nabea said.
Nabea also wrote and performed a spoken-word piece that evening titled “On Paper,” which was about what writing has meant to him in his life.
Mantelos described this festival process as “a learning curve” they’ve been working to overcome.
“Up until now, a lot of us have pretty much just been actors in the process of making plays,” she said.
She described how they are involved in several different aspects of creating their production, including set design, lighting, finding a space to practice in, and more.
“This festival, I think, is the most important thing in this theatre school, because it allows us to mount our own shows and gives us practice to do that,” Purpuse said. “You won’t find this anywhere else.”
In terms of restrictions on content, Nabea said they can have “pretty much whatever [they] want.”
“We wrote things that we felt passionate about, and those things have been given the opportunity to be put up,” Mantelos added.
Along with the opportunity to present original works, Hilliard thinks the festival is a good training opportunity for the students.
“If you want to work in Canada, your ability to spearhead your own projects is something that is absolutely necessary,” said Hilliard. “Most dancers are not going to graduate from here and have a job with Kidd Pivot, nor are actors going to go straight to Stratford. There’s a lot that happens in-between. So this is one of the opportunities where they get to train for that, in many different ways.”
27 shows were featured in this year’s festival which ran from April 4 to 9.