Tag Archives: drama

From GSS to UofT Drama (UCDP) – Part 4

Let’s talk about workload, and managing time.

Doubling in Computer Science and Drama is no picnic.  Both departments demand a lot from me, and I’ve had to get used to quickly shifting mind-sets from one to the other.  There have been days where I would get up, run to the Playhouse, go to a Nia warm-up class, take a shower, then run to the Bahan Centre to take an algorithms class, then run back to the Playhouse for a Yoga workshop in Movement class, and then run back to the Bahan Centre to take my Java class.

This might sound overwhelming, but I discovered something very interesting: these two opposites seem to fuel one another.

That Nia class in the morning would get oxygen flowing through my body, and would really wake me up.  On the days I had Nia and went to Algorithms, my mind was noticeably sharper, and I was in a better mood.

It’s funny how a better mood can help propel you through work.  It’s a bit like warming a knife before it goes through frozen butter.

Anyhow, the reason I’m writing this, is because someone asked me if it’s a good idea to take DRM100/DRM200/DRM201 while also trying to take Calculus and Bio, and a bunch of other courses.

Really, it’s a judgment call.  It’s not going to be a cakewalk by any means, but if you’re willing to put in the hours, it’ll pay off.  You’ll walk out of a school year and go, “Did I really just do all of that?!  Awesome!”.

But for a more practical standpoint, here’s how I look at it:

A full course load is 5 courses per semester.  6 courses per semester is called “overloading”, and while it’s possible (I’ve done it), I don’t really recommend it.  The only reason I did it was because I felt I needed to play catch-up, since first year ended up being mostly an exercise in futility.

So, DRM100, DRM200, and DRM201 are all full year courses.  And DRM201 has the added feature of secretly being 2 courses, even though it looks like 1.  So, with 3 slots taken up per semester, that leaves room for 2 more full year courses, or 4 half courses, or 1 full year and 2 half courses.  You get it.

So that’s one way of looking at it – can you make it all add up to 5 credits?

Another note – while it’s certainly possible to drop courses if you’re overwhelmed, I do not recommend dropping any of your drama performance classes unless you’re really in trouble.  In the performance classes, you’re almost always working in a group, and pulling out without warning can really damage a group.  So don’t.

If any people auditioning for the UCDP have any more questions, post some comments, email me, or contact me on Facebook.  You can find my contact info here.

Attention GSS Students Auditioning for the UCDP!

Quick note here while I’m in between classes:

If you’re planning on auditioning for the University College Drama Program at UofT for next year, you must follow these instructions before March 13, 2009.

Tell everyone you know who is interested, because if you don’t get the forms in before that date, it gets a lot more complicated to be considered.  A lot.

UCDP Showcase: The Directors’ Shows

I’m super exhausted tonight, but I wanted to make sure I wrote about the UCDP Directors’ Shows – because they’re coming up!

Let me explain.

At the UCDP, there is a 400 level course for Directing (I think it’s called Seminar in Directing, but I’m not sure…check the course calendar).  The students in this course each select a play that they’d like to direct, and pitch a concept to the UCDP faculty for consideration.  Upon approval, they cast the show, start rehearsals, work with designers, work with production people, and slowly assemble their shows.

They’re also my friends and colleagues, and I think they’re all very talented!

So the shows from this year’s directors are coming up.  Here are the dates and descriptions, copied verbatim from the program website:

Week 1: Thursday – Saturday March 12th -14th 2009  8pm

White Biting Dog –written by Judith Thompson, directed by Yevgeniya Falkovich

In the beginning there is a rapidly shrinking universe that is one life.  A young and successful man seems to have lost the warm little centre of his world, that something which is the reason for waking up in the morning, the “stuff that makes a smile rise up”.  He hasn’t smiled in years, he’s become emotionally numb, and settled in a place where the search for any meaning in life has ended with inconclusive results, where there is a void so profound that he lacks even the drive to keep filling it with day to day living.  It is at the moment when he stands at the top of a bridge prepared to exit when the play begins.

The Universe –written by Richard Foreman, directed by Olga Ryabets

This play has no story, no climax or anything. I think the point is contained not in the play, but rather in the experience of watching the play. I think experiences like this can potentially help a person in dealing with the unexpected. This is a theory I am testing out.

Week 2: Friday – Sunday March 20th – 22nd 2009  8pm

Shape of a Girl –written by Joan MacLeod, directed by Sarah Miller-Garvin

Little Girls Killing Each Other: It’s 1997 and all of Canada is shocked by the murder of Reena Virk, a young girl killed by several female classmates who claimed she had stole their boyfriends and spread rumours about them.  15-year-old Braidie stands alone on a beach and finds herself haunted by the similarities between herself and Reena’s murderers, forcing her to rethink everything she’s based her world on.

The (abridged) Adventures of Ali & Ali and the aXes of Evil: A divertimento for warlords – written by Marcus Youssef, Guillermo Verdecchia, and Camyar Chai, directed by Jiv Parasram

They made it through Mogadishu! They brought Hilarity to Haiti! They made Kabul Kollapse with laughter (may be related to bombings)! Now we’re bringing them to the UCDP! They’re Ali Hakim, and Ali Ababwa! And they’re bringing a Korean!

GSS / Highschool Folk Auditioning for DRM200:  It would be a good idea to see these shows – it’ll certainly get the interviewer’s attention if you tell them that you saw some student work at the UCDP.  Big plus.  If you miss these shows, it’s not the end of the world, but still, any edge you can get…

From GSS to UofT Drama (UCDP) – Part 1

So I took a trip past my old highschool yesterday, and it turns out that there are a bunch of people there interested in coming to the University of Toronto.

And a bunch of them want to take drama.

So I’m going to start recalling my experience going from Grimsby Secondary School to the University College Drama Program (UCDP) at UofT.  I’m going to break it into chunks – so I guess this is part 1.  I’m just going to freeball this, so I’m sorry if this is all over the place.

The drama program at Grimsby Secondary School is extremely physical.  The teachers, Soyka, Rosie, and Ebert, come from a physical tradition of theater originating from a man named Jacques Lecoq.  So, essentially, if you’re going to GSS, you’ve probably got a bit of Lecoq training in you.

And believe it or not, that GSS training is pretty special.  The Lecoq school is in Paris, and so it had to cross quite a distance to get into Grimsby, Ontario.  The theater tradition in Canada, generally speaking, does not involve theater as physical as Lecoq’s – it’s a bit of an anomaly.

So entering the UCDP was a bit of a shock.  The UCDP does not focus physically like GSS – it’s much more broad, and tries to give its students high academic exposure to a myriad of different theater styles.  I say academic exposure, because while you might talk about other styles in academic classes, on the practical level, the theater style at the UCDP is pretty consistent across the board for the first few years.

Let me back up a bit, and get a bit more precise:  I’m going to be talking about the performance practicals at the UCDP, so that means the acting classes.  There are three levels of acting classes:  DRM200, DRM300, and DRM400.  If you make it past auditions, you enter into DRM200 to begin with.

DRM200 is taught by Toronto writer/director Ken Gass – a legend in the Toronto alt theater movement, and the brains behind Factory Theater.

Assisting Ken is Nicky Guadagni, an extremely capable and talented actor, with a very impressive resume.

In, no particular order, this is the type of work we do in DRM200:

  • Classical monologues
  • Canadian monologues
  • Canadian play scenes
  • Shakespeare scenes
  • Improvisation in a realistic universe

When you take DRM200, you also take DRM201 – Voice and Movement.  You have to take this course, simultaneously – there’s no way around it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  DRM200 and DRM201 interlace quite nicely, with each class feeding into each other.  DRM201 is really two courses – Voice is one course, Movement is the other.  They each have their own instructor.  In DRM201, you have Cindy Block for Voice and Sallie Lyons for Movement.

Voice is a study of the Linklater approach to voice work, and is focused primarily on freeing the voice.  Freeing it from what, you ask?  Freeing it from the imposed tensions, the habitual stuff we put on it all day.  It’s about finding range, and expressiveness in your voice.  It’s about making people want to listen to you, and to convince them with what you say.

Movement is a whole bunch of stuff:  Laban, Viewpoints, Yoga…DRM201 Movement is mostly concerned with freeing physical tensions in the body.  In DRM201 for me, Sallie corrected by misaligned walk, pointed out some pretty crazy tension in my shoulders, and helped me discover some new muscles in my body.  It’s good stuff.

I’ll talk a bit more about the UCDP in Part 2.  I’ll probably talk about auditions too.

Some things I’ve learned from Movement and Voice class…

At the University College Drama Program, if you’re taking a Performance course, then you’re taking Voice and Movement.  They go hand in hand.  This is my third year taking Performance at the UCDP, and so this is also my third year with Voice and Movement.

I’ve learned a lot over the past 3 years in V/M.  Though they’re really two separate courses, there is plenty of overlap.  One of the most interesting things about these courses is their similarity to physiotherapy.  In these classes, we’re challenged to become more articulate with muscles that most people take for granted, or don’t even know they have.

So how do you get students to discover new muscles?  This is the challenge I didn’t understand two years ago – the challenge that the instructor has in guiding students to these areas of the body/brain.  Every student is different, and each could have their own way of understanding the mechanical workings of their own bodies – it’s really hard to tell.

So how did they do it?

Metaphors, believe it or not.  Images and metaphors.  I remember thinking that these classes were really…kind of strange, with all of the speaking in metaphors and images…

“Now, imagine that your soft pallate is like one of those automatic-pop-up tents….now POP it open!”

“Imagine more space in your hip flexor…breathe into that space…”

It might sound spacey, or floaty, or like nonsense, but believe it or not, this stuff works.

Probably the best example was in my voice class this year, when the instructor was getting us to find ways of getting our voice over obstructions in our mouths.  In this case, our obstruction was our own tongues – we had placed the tip of our tongue against the lower portion of our bottom teeth, and were pushing the middle of our tongue out of our mouths.

Now try to get sound out.  It might sound like you’re talking into a tin can.

The instructor then got us to try and “arc” our voices out of our mouths – and here’s where the really interesting part came in – he got us to arc our arms forward at the same time.  And it worked.

He said that there are many ways of communicating with the brain, and that one of them – that is often overlooked by academics – is through the body.  It’s called kinesthetic learning.  By arcing our arms away from our body, we were reinforcing the feeling of what he wanted us to do with our voices.

And in doing this, I actually discovered new muscles in my throat.  No joke.  They don’t move much, and they’re very subtle, but they’re there, and they affect sound, and those are what he was trying to get us to find.