Tag Archives: Theater

From GSS to UofT Drama (UCDP) – Part 2

This is a long post.  Maybe make yourself a sandwich first.

Here’s the story of how I accidentally auditioned for the UCDP DRM200 performance class, and failed my audition.

I had just completed my first year of university at UofT as an Electrical / Computer Engineer.  And I had hated it.  Like, really, vehemently, hated it.  The computer programming classes were fine, but the other ones….bleh.  ECE was not for me.  So I switched out of Enginnering, and transferred to the Arts & Science faculty.  I hadn’t declared any majors yet, so I was more or less free to pick and choose among the courses in the calendar that I liked.  I had no direction, no goal, graduation date, no program of study, nothing.  I was starting from scratch at UofT, with only a few transfer credits to my name.

So I dug through the UofT calendar, and here’s what I chose:

  • AST251 – Life on Other Worlds
  • JEF100 – The Western Tradition
  • MAT137 – Calculus!
  • MUS325 – The Age of Haydn and Mozart
  • SCM219 – Studies in Mass Media
  • CSC148 – Introduction to Computer Science
  • PHL273 – Environmental Ethics
  • DRM100 – Introduction to Drama – Form and Style

Yep, I spread it out, just choosing the ones that sounded interesting.

Now, the UCDP website just recently got a face-lift (I think they switched to Joomla!, if it matters).  Anyhow, organizational-wise, it wasn’t in the greatest shape when I was in second year.

So, scouring around, I found on the site that if I wanted to take any of the Drama courses, I needed to audition and be accepted, and that there were only a few audition dates, and they needed a headshot, and cover letter, and a ballot form.

So, naturally, I printed out the ballot form, wrote out a cover letter, sent in a photo.  A week or two later I got an email with my audition date.  Cool.

Here’s where it starts to get hairy.  Grimsby is about an hours drive from Toronto, and on the morning of my audition, traffic was really bad.  By the time I got to the audition location, I was about half-an-hour late.


Plus, it didn’t help that the man who was running the audition (who I would later discover to be Ken Gass himself) seemed quite annoyed at my lateness, and the fact that I’d missed half of the audition.

So, what did we do in the audition?  Well, from what I remember, he gave us an extremely short monologue, and we had to deliver it each, one by one.  Here’s the monologue:

I thought we were going to


Forget it

Just forget it

We had to find a way to deliver that.  So naturally, everyone was trying to do something different and interesting, and I did mine, and I have no idea how I did.

What I did notice, was this strange…familiarity between people.  All of the people auditioning seemed to know one another.  This was kind of spooky.  I felt very out of place, and way out of my depth…and I totally knew I was bombing the audition, on top of my late arrival.  I could feel Ken Gass, scowling into my brain.

And then it was over.  The audition part, anyways.  Everyone got off the stage and started talking to one another – again, like they all knew one another – and I just grabbed my stuff and left.

But it wasn’t over…the audition has a second half.  It’s an audition AND an interview.  So, I killed time at Tim Horton’s with my Dad (probably telling him how much I bombed the audition, while he listened, patiently) and waited until my interview time came.

And then my interview time came.

I walked into this room…and there were three people sitting across from a table, and a chair on my side, facing them.  I sat down.  I recognized Ken as one of the interviewers…the other two I didn’t recognize, but I’d later find out that one of them was Pia Kleber, who at the time was the Drama Program Director.

So, right to business (since they were auditioning/interviewing hundreds), she asks me what kind of theater I’ve seen lately.  I stumble a response, not prepared…I say something about the Lion King production, and The Blue Man Group… they didn’t seem impressed at all.  She asked me what kind of plays I liked, and I said I enjoyed Shakespeare (the only playwright that came to mind instantly).  She quizzed me on Shakespeare, asking me my favourite play, and why I liked it, and basically proved to herself (and myself) that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

And then she asked the big one:

So, tell me, what will you do if you don’t get into Drama 200?

And I sit there.  Confused.

I don’t want to be in Drama 200.  I signed up for Drama 100

There’s an uncomfortable pause.  Ken Gass facepalms.  Pia Kleber stares at me in dumbfounded silence, and then says:

You don’t need to audition for Drama 100.  Take some workshops, see more theater, and audition next year.

And I walked out.  I completely blew my audition for DRM200, a class I wasn’t even going to take.

The next summer I auditioned again.  I had seen more theater, read more plays, prepped…I don’t think Ken recognized me, but if he did, he hid it well.  Anyhow, that summer I got in.  And that’s how it happened.

The end.

So, take home message:

Coming out of high-school, you do NOT need to audition for DRM100.  You only need to audition if you want to get into DRM200.

If you are auditioning from DRM200, here are some tips:

  • See lots of theater in Toronto.  Not Broadway stuff, the indie stuff.  Go to Factory, Tarragon, Passe-Muraille, Buddies, etc.  Some really great shows.
    • Added bonus:  I know that Factory gets volunteers to usher shows, and that volunteer ushers get to watch the show for free!  Contact Factory at their website for more info.
  • Get familiar with some Canadian plays.  Read some John Mighton, George F. Walker, Judith Thompson.  Read a Shakespeare play or two, that can’t hurt either.
  • Show up on time
  • Just relax.  Everyone else there is probably as nervous as you are.  Be cool.
  • Ken will probably get you into a big circle at the start of the audition, and then one by one, you enter the circle, say your name, and then leave the circle.
    • Don’t make it a scene.  Just follow the instructions.  In my audition, a guy fake-tripped into the circle, and started making it a little gag scene.  Don’t.
    • Wait until you get into the center, plant, and then say your name clearly.  Make eye-contact with the people in your field of vision.  Turn your head back and forth to bring more people into your field of vision.
    • Make sure it’s the approximate center of the circle.
    • Don’t scream, yell, or otherwise force your name.  Just say it clearly so everyone can hear it.
    • Pay attention while other people are doing the exercise.

That last one is a biggie – show respect to your fellow audition-ees.  Ken (et al) are looking for lots of things; but one of the big ones is this:  Is this person someone I will want in my class?  Is this person someone I can work with?  If you’re chatting while someone else is doing their work, it’s no good.  Even when you’re not on stage, if you’re watching someone else work, you’re learning.

Anyhow, this is a super-long post, I think I’m going to wrap it up.

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.

Attempts On Her Life photos

Hey all – this past weekend, the show I’ve been working on at the UCDP called Attempts On Her Life wrapped up.  I’m really proud to have worked on this show – it is, without a doubt, one of the most visually stunning pieces I’ve ever worked on.  Just to give a glimpse of what the show was, here are some photos from the show.  Thanks to Douglas Hamilton for permission to post these.

Attempts On Her Life Pic 1

Alex and Tara

Tom and Tara

Tom and Tara

The Camera Loves You

The Camera Loves You



Dress Rehearsal

Rehearsal - lots of computational power in this play...

I worked on sound design, and composed original music for this piece.

I’ve been asked by a few people to post the soundtrack for the show.  I’ll hopefully do that within the next few days.

Open Auditions for Toronto Student Production

Some buddies of mine are holding auditions for a  student production that they’re putting on called The Imbalance of Life here in Toronto at UofT.

Fellow UCDP students Mike Clarke and Tom Davis are holding auditions on the following dates:

Wednesday, Feb 11:  2PM-4PM, 7:30PM – 9PM  (TOMORROW!)

Thursday, Feb 12: 6PM-10PM

I know it’s short notice, but I just found out myself.

Anyhow, email trinity.dramatic.society@gmail.com if you’re interested in getting a time slot.  And they’re also looking for crew as well as cast, so if you’re technically inclined, and want to get involved, send them an email.