1. Could you give a brief background of yourself – where you are from, your interests and passions, and your past experience in the performing arts?
Hi! I’m Melissa. I’m originally from New Jersey, but I moved to Canada two years ago to study at University of Toronto. At U of T, I’m in acting training as a specialist in Drama, Theatre, & Performance Studies, and a minor in Literature & Critical Theory. I also act, direct, and work behind the scenes for various extracurricular theatre groups on campus, and serve on the Victoria College Drama Society executive board. Most recently, I co-adapted and performed in a stage version of “The Possessed” by Fyodor Dostoevsky with the St. Michael’s College Troubadours, and am working on a few other classic literature adaptations. I also do a lot of volunteer work and enjoy singing and creative writing.
2. What initially attracted you to working with Mixed Company Theatre? Where/how did you hear of it?
A few months ago, I discovered MCT while looking up applied theatre companies in Toronto. I was immediately drawn to MCT’s collaboration with communities for the entire duration of each creative project, from conception to performance. I’ve also attended a few workshops on Forum Theatre performance and facilitation, and am excited to see it in practice and to learn how to engage different audiences. In addition, I really enjoyed volunteering at the Carnival of Community and knew by the end of the event that I wanted to help out more!
3. Have you done any other community theatre work in the past in the US? How do these experiences compare with what you have experienced here with MCT?
Last year, I interned for the ArtsPower Collaboration in Madison, NJ. The program is a partnership between Drew University and the Marion E. Bolden Center for Newark Public Schools, and I helped stage four original short plays about challenges the high school students face as lower-income urban youth. I think the biggest difference is time–at AP, we worked 10-4 every day for three weeks, and the majority of it was spent in rehearsal. At MCT, however, projects are more spaced out and are developed with community members from start to finish. In addition, I’ve only ever used Forum Theatre as a tool for discussion, rather than actual audience participant involvement in the action onstage.
4. What has been the most memorable experience with MCT so far?
I’ve really enjoyed the two workshops I’ve participated in so far at MCT, for very similar reasons. With Nu Kollektif, we explored the many ways in which a single story can be interpreted or retold, while the InterGen project has unveiled how various accounts exemplify how one’s perspective changes with age. I look forward to hearing more stories and helping to make the personal become universal.
5. What do you hope to learn during your time at MCT?
So many things! I’m primarily interested in gaining more facilitation skills–from establishing community partnerships, to running workshops, to creating the final performance product. I also want to learn a bit more about arts administration and how to run a non-profit theatre organization. Finally, I hope to gain a better understanding of Forum Theatre and its practice.
6. What do you hope to do with the skills that you pick up at MCT? Is there a personal project/something close to your heart that you would like to explore with the support of MCT?
In the long-term, I hope to someday pursue a master’s degree or other advanced training in applied theatre, and become a facilitator myself. For now, however, I’m interested in exploring mental health issues and stigma through various theatrical forms–so you can imagine how excited I am by MCT’s new anxiety play!