The 2017-2018 season at Theatre Erindale is promising—a grand total of seven plays to boast in the upcoming year.
Jamie Robinson, one of Theatre Erindale’s play directors, is directing UTM’s graduating drama class in Suzan-Lori Parks’s 365 Plays in 365 Days. Robinson has starred in prominent television series like Saving Hope and Murdoch Mysteries, and has some extensive theatre background under his belt.
David Matheson, the artistic director of Wordsmyth Theatre, also gave insight into the new productions at Theatre Erindale.
The Medium (TM): What plays are you involved with at Theatre Erindale?
Jamie Robinson (JR): I’m directing 365 Plays in 365 Days, which goes up in November with the graduating class from U of T Erindale. It’s by Suzi-Lori Parks, and we’ve been rehearsing since September, so we’re right in the middle of rehearsals right now.
TM: What kind of work goes into making these plays?
JR: Well this particular play is by playwright Suzi-Lori Parks—she’s an American playwright. She decided back in 2002 to challenge herself and literally write one play a day for a year, so she did that from November to November, 2002-2003 […] When it was finished theatre institutions across North America like schools, professional theatres and amateur theatres all did these plays one at a time throughout America. So that was 15 years ago. I read all these plays over the course of a couple of years, just slowly going through it. When I proposed this play to the University of Toronto they took it right away because it was a great opportunity to compile several of these scripts together […] I compiled 32 of the scripts together, plus three other scripts. Some of them are only one page long, some of them are a half page long, some of them are just stage directions, some of them are a little bit more in length with text, but the reason I wanted to do it is because it gave all the students equal weight throughout the production so that everybody gets a chance to shine, everybody gets a chance to be part of the ensemble. It’s a really unique project.
TM: What’s the most significant thing UTM students can look forward to this season?
JR: Well, this is the first time I’ve worked at U of T—from my perspective, the graduating class is extremely exciting, and I think that anybody who comes to see any of their shows, you’re going to get passion, you’re going to get bigger, you’re going to get a kind of conservatory. Well, they are a conservatory, they’ve all been through this program together but it’s like a repertoire company, like a Stratford or a Shaw, for example. These company of actors who know each other so well that they stick up for each other […] their chemistry is fabulous together, so you’re always guaranteed a great acting show. If not on top of that the production staff is fantastic and they’re really helpful, both students and professionals.
TM: What did you find most challenging while directing this play, and what do you find challenging in general with directing?
JR: For this particular play, and for I guess directing at any level, it’s that first day of rehearsal, that first week really. Making sure that everybody is all on the same page, that everyone is treated equally, that everybody has an equal say, which always can be very freighting and daunting. We did accomplish that, and as a result now we are in the mid-process of deepening the context of the whole play. But I guess the most challenging is going to be when we do actually get up on stage and adapting all of this work that we’ve done on stage and making it palatable for an audience and adding the lights and the sound and all that – which we’re just beginning that process now. A little bit freighting coming up.
TM: What is Theatre Erindale up to for the season?
David Matheson (DM): It’s an exciting season ahead. We’re doing a mostly contemporary season, and this is the first time we’ve done this before. We’re calling the season Theatre Now—and the idea is that we want to look at things from the contemporary perspective. It’s sort of a funny way of honoring the fiftieth anniversary of UTM: instead of looking back, we’re going to look at where we are. Every show is going to examine time from a different perspective. Our program also has a new full-time faculty member and that’s Meredith Scott. Scott will be directing our production of Twelfth Night. This play will be interesting because it will have two different casts, so, they’re might be a reason to see it twice.
TM: Are you currently involved in the production or direction of a work?
DM: I’m directing a play called Clybourne Park. It’s a controversial play. There’s a famous play. There’s a famous play called A Raisin in the Sun—it’s about a black family who buys a house in Clybourne Park, which is a traditionally white area of the city. What Clybourne Park does is that it takes the perspective of the owners selling the house, and their neighbours are telling them not to sell it to the black family. It takes in 1959 in Chicago. In the second half of the show, it takes place in modern day Chicago, and it’s interesting because now the area is being gentrified, and all the yuppies are moving in. Now it’s reverse: First, the area tries to keep black people out, and in the second half, the area tries to keep [rich white] people out of the community. This play is really controversial—it talks about race. We’re hiring a former student Cameron Grant to work with us on this.