UTM’s Theatre and Drama Studies program represents a tiny portion of the student population. Housing about 80 students at a time across all four years, TDS aims to train professional actors without neglecting academics. In the grand scheme of things, TDS is a fairly new program, and this year celebrates its 25th Silver anniversary.
A reception to honour the occasion was held on November 1 and was well attended by students, alumni, faculty, and staff both from Sheridan College and U of T. Hors d’oeuvres and drinks were served at the Deerfield Hall atrium, though there was little elbow room when it came to food. After giving everyone time to arrive and hang up their coats, several people gave speeches.
Notably, Michael Rubinoff, associate dean of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Sheridan College, spoke about the “elite group of students” who are accepted into the program. “This is the theatre community in this country,” he said, and TDS grads have indeed made their mark in the film, television, and theatre industries. Hailey Gillis currently works at Soulpepper; Cory Doran is a voice actor; and David Yee has just won the Governor General’s Award for Drama.
Nicole Stamp, a graduate of the program and occasional teacher for TDS, took the stage after all the scheduled speakers had wrapped up. Stamp spoke about how the program changed during her time as a student. She recalled her second-year scene study class, which comprised everyone in her year. Stamp’s year was the most racially diverse ever, and she discussed the qualms she and her peers had while studying Tennessee Williams—whose characters neither she nor her classmates particularly identified with. What ensued was the implementation of the Canadian Comedy unit, where students are asked to immerse themselves in contemporary, homegrown, and racially diverse plays.
Finally, the audience heard from Patrick Young, who has been artistic director of TDS for the past 25 years. Along with a few other long-standing faculty members, Young came up with the original curriculum. Allegedly, Ron Cameron-Lewis, who is also currently part of the faculty, quite literally drew up the curriculum on a paper napkin. “[The students] are all among the proudest accomplishments of my life,” Young said.
Following the speeches, the third-year class performed a beautiful rendition of the song “Somewhere”, from the musical West Side Story, to great acclaim.
Many people left once the speeches were over, but others stayed to catch up with their peers and professors and dig into the celebratory cake.
The event was a success, promoting and praising a program that, despite its tiny size, still attracts a lot of fans and promises to continue doing so.