Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication and Design is home to nine schools that cover just about every creative field you could imagine. Their School of Performance is home to three of Ryerson’s most entertaining programs. I wanted to learn more about their Performance: Production program and what it’s like to be behind the scenes of the theatre industry. I got to interview fourth-year student Caroline Rodway from Whitby, Ontario (ON) who is specializing in audience relations and arts administration. She offered me her insights about this program, and I hope you find them as interesting as I did!
Jenna: In your own words, tell me about the Performance: Production program.
Caroline: Performance: Production is a really good multi-faceted theatre production program focusing mostly on technical theatre, so you get to learn lighting, sound, costume design, set design, audience relations, general arts administration and theatre management.
J: What initially caught your attention about this program? Why were you interested?
C: For me, working in theatre was always the go-to, that’s what I wanted to do. I knew I had to find a program that focused on that. Something that was really unique about the Ryerson program is that right from the start you get to specialize in the areas that you like. You’re able to take production from the start. You’re guaranteed hands-on experiences every single year, every single semester, which I love.
J: I know you applied a while ago now, but you remember what the admission process was like?*
C: Yes, I do! You had to create a portfolio that was all your theatre works. I think something that really stuck with me is that we were told it was about how much you loved theatre and how much you’re willing to put into learning your craft. I had newspaper clippings of different shows that I had done that had been reviewed in the paper. Even though I wasn’t necessarily in the production team, it was still work that I had done. Then you bring that portfolio to an interview. You sit with some of the faculty members and they ask you a few questions about why you want to do theatre, where you see yourself, progressing to—like do you want to do costuming, stage management, lighting? Just finding your focus. Then they asked you about why you want to continue at Ryerson and what makes that program special to you. The interview was a nice way to get introduced to the program, as well as to state why you want to be there.
*Please note that non-academic requirements can change on a yearly basis and may not be exactly the same as described here. Check the website for the latest information.
J: What are some types of classes that you have taken throughout the program?
C: There are a lot of specialized courses. Costuming is really fun because you get to actually work with the sewing machines, and you’re sewing costumes within the first two weeks of classes. In first year I learned how to thread a sewing machine –I had never touched a sewing machine ever. There are theatre management classes where you get to learn budgeting, marketing and arts administration. There are some more technical classes, where you’re learning how to set up theatre systems. There’s also the practical classes, where you’re actually in the theatre or in the studio, working with actors and dancers to create big shows that get to be performed for the audience.
J: You touched on this a little bit in your last answer, but what are some examples of assignments you completed in this program?
C: The biggest assignment is your show each semester, which is a whole class dedicated just to creating a show. You’re assigned a specific role. You could be the lighting designer, you might be the stage manager. Then you work together with your peers to create a show. As you go through the years, your job gets more and more specific, and more is expected of you because you know more. You have a lot of opportunities to work with the actors and dancers and their different skill sets to create dream shows on paper. It’s nice to have that opportunity to collaborate on assignments.
J: Are there any experiential learning opportunities in the program? Have you completed any and if you have, what are they like?
C: Yes! We’ve talked about the shows and it’s really exciting that they happen every term. It’s not just one show that you do at the cumulative of your four years, it’s every single year you’re in the studio and you’re working on something. You have the opportunity to switch between acting shows and dance shows. Ryerson is very fortunate to have two separate performance spaces. We have the larger Ryerson main stage theatre and there’s also a smaller studio theatre located in the Student Learning Centre (SLC), which is this little performance building right below the SLC. What’s exciting about that is that it allows you to work within a lot of different types of shows. You might work on a big scale dance show during first semester, and then a really exciting technical studio acting show during second semester. It allows you to work with a lot of different types of people, a lot of different equipment, different spaces, learning different challenges and overcoming different parts of the theatre making process every term.
J: Over the past year, how has the program adapted to online learning?
C: It’s been exciting I think. It probably hit the Production program harder than a lot of other programs. We couldn’t be in our collaborative spaces and we couldn’t be in the studios and we couldn’t be on stage. But I think overall, the School of Performance has done a really good job of being resilient and adapting. We’ve started doing online shows. Last semester we did a full online showcase where we featured all of the work from the term in a festival-style setting online. It was completely digital. We used different streaming services so that a lot of people could access it. There were dance films, there were live acting shows, there was a live clown show that even involved audience participation. We were able to still fully encompass the art form, which was so incredible. This semester we’re still at it where we’re doing an entirely online season of programming. In Production, specifically, we’ve had the opportunity to have a lot of guest lecturers that we wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to work with. Online makes it easier to connect with people across the country. They brought those people into our virtual spaces, so that
we can learn from more professionals in the industry.
J: What types of careers can people pursue after this program?
C: Oh my goodness, I’m always astounded by the amount of things that people do from Performance: Production, because not only can you be a theatre practitioner, you could also go into film. You could use your skills and adapt them to the film industry. I’m hoping to use my skills that I’ve learned here to take a more academic path. I’m going to try and pursue a master’s degree, and I hope to do some more performance based scholarship. There are people who have gone on to become arts administrators that are running theatre companies, they’re designing for big ticket shows, commercial shows and not for profits. All of the theatre all the time!
J: My last question for you is, why did you choose Ryerson?
C: I chose Ryerson mostly because of the location. I commuted, back when commuting was a thing. It was convenient to be able to take the train into school every day. I also love the downtown location. I love being in the city. It was really nice to have so much going on all the time. You were never just on campus—you were on campus but you were also in Toronto. That meant for me that going to see shows was just part of my weekly routine because it was so close and everything was so accessible. You get to meet so many different people because it’s such a central hub. It meant I was closer to a lot of employers, so getting work throughout my schooling was easier. I just I loved the school as a whole, so that was what drew me to it