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Arts & Culture

Ryerson Musical Theatre Company showcases their production of “Big Fish” in the midst of funding challenges

While RMTC’s latest musical opens in less than a month, the show’s team has been working on it for almost a year. 

By Stephanie Davoli

Ryerson’s Musical Theatre Company (RMTC) is in its final weeks of production for this year’s musical, Big Fish—which opens at the newly-renovated Al Green Theatre on March 11. 

This is RMTC’s fifth show since it was created by former Rye student Robyn Hoja in 2014. The company is an entirely volunteer-based student organization and the only extracurricular musical theatre group on campus. 

Since the beginning of this year’s production, the team has faced a few challenges when it came to funding. 

“This year was even more stressful because of the cuts from the Student Choice Initiative,” said Zacharie Fransvaag-Dinelle, president of the executive team. “We didn’t know if there was any money so we put a lot of work into a sponsorship package.” 

These cuts provided additional challenges in terms of set design for the Big Fish team. As the rehearsal process continued, the team was working on several, more technical, aspects of what it takes to put on a show.

“We move in two weeks early this year because Big Fish is so tech-heavy and we don’t have the budget for a lot of sets, so we really have to utilize lighting a lot in our show and moving in early allows us to better prepare for that,” said Daniel Goldman, the show’s director.

“This year was even more stressful because of the cuts from the Student Choice Initiative”

According to Fransvaag-Dinelle, RMTC receives a lot of its funding from the Ryerson Communication and Design Society, which they are registered with as an official student group, yet they still rely on many student groups to sustain themselves.

The Ryerson Liberal Arts Society, as well as the RSU, have helped fund past productions. Although the RSU could not provide financial assistance to this year’s show, members of the production said that they were not too affected by this, due to minimal funding in the past. 

“Getting funding from the RSU was never a make-or-break scenario for us,” said Parker Ducharme, the show’s director of production. “Also, because the Ryerson Communication and Design Society is very generous to us and they are not associated with the RSU, that helped alleviate some pressure when it came to money this year.” 

As a way to generate some additional funds for the show, RMTC starts a fundraising campaign every year to supplement production costs, such as props, sets, costumes and orchestra equipment. According to Fransvaag-Dinelle, this show’s fundraising campaign had a larger goal than usual to offset several university-wide financial cuts that took place this year.

The goal for this year’s show was doubled from last year, at $3000. After weeks of campaigning, they raised approximately $1175.

Despite the fact that they did not meet their goal, the show’s production team was very happy with what was raised nonetheless.

“Whether it’s through a donation, supporting us on social media, or buying tickets to our show, RMTC is extremely appreciative of any support we receive”, said Rachel Yen, the show’s director of marketing. “We hit almost 40% of our goal which exceeded our expectations.”

Fransvaag-Dinelle added that the team was very happy with what was raised especially because, for previous productions, RMTC has only been able to raise a couple hundred dollars.

Despite these challenges, the Big Fish company is now in their final weeks of rehearsal as they prepared to move into the Al Green Theatre.

The show’s creative team, which includes the choreographer, director and director of music, also began working on the production around mid-April of last year. 

“We’ve been incredibly overwhelmed as a team recently as we’ve heard everything come together”

As head of the show’s executive team, Fransvaag-Dinelle is responsible for overseeing almost all production aspects of the show, including auditions which began in September of last semester.  

“If there were about 25 cast positions, we usually get about 100 people auditioning,” said Fransvaag-Dinelle on how auditions are usually a lengthy process. “But there are so many talented people at this school and we’re lucky that we’re the only company at Ryerson that does musical theatre. So we kind of get everyone, but it still blows my mind how talented everyone is.”

Once the show was fully cast, rehearsals began. According to team members, these rehearsals have been intense, eight-hour days every Sunday since September. 

Zoe Choptain, the show’s choreographer, said that some of her biggest challenges have been finding enough time for additional rehearsals with key cast members. 

“We’ve been trying to make it work however we can; whether that means staying after rehearsal for a couple of hours, or coming in early,” said Choptain. “But, fitting everything in has been a challenge because this show is so crazy and we’ve made it so dance-heavy that we need all the rehearsal time we can get.”

After months of preparation, RMTC will be showcasing “Big Fish” from March 11, to 14, at the Al Green Theatre and tickets are now on sale here.

“We’ve been incredibly overwhelmed as a team recently as we’ve heard everything come together,” said Goldman. “To see this massive undertaking finally coming to life has just been so rewarding.”

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