Learning the fine art
Theatre gets serious in Yk

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 05/99) - The Yellowknife theatre scene is hopping. This past Saturday saw no less than two productions (reviewed in these pages). But, hang on to your hat, dah-link -- the upcoming weeks and months will be a time of plenty. Enthusiasts greedy for the theatre can gorge, and go back for more.

In February, the offerings are Art and Communicating Doors. Come the blush of spring there are two musicals planned, Fiddler on the Roof and Evita. And with the full bloom of summer, Yellowknife will witness its first out of doors Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream.

With all of this frenzied activity -- most of the people involved in these productions are day-professionals working in theatre after-hours -- it comes as no surprise that eventually there would be a need and desire to stretch and grow. Train, or train further, if you will.

Thanks to the generous sponsorship of NorthwesTel and Canadian North, the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre responded and came up with a Director's Workshop, which took place mid-January. Taught by Chris Johnson, chair of the Theatre Program at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, the workshop turned out to be even better than anyone had hoped.

Johnson, who has been actively involved in the practice of theatre, as well as teaching it, for a quarter of a century, was both surprised and excited by the thriving theatre community.

"But I assumed everybody would know everybody, because of the similar interest," said Johnson.

That isn't the case.

"With community theatre we're all stumbling around trying to put shows together," explains Jody Woollam, a participant in the workshop. "We're so busy, there's no time. We send each other flowers."

According to Woollam, the workshop was a great opportunity to get together and work together.

"It was one of the first times when the major players in theatre in Yellowknife could sit on a stage across from each other," enthuses Woollam.

These "major players" came from varied backgrounds and experiences: actors, directors, producers, filmmakers, playwrights, technical directors and teachers. Woollam, who has produced half a dozen plays and acted in as many, particularly enjoys being on stage. But she was curious about directing.

"The director is the person with a vision, the director animates words from the page," explains Woollam. "As an actor, it's more clear to me now."

Johnson, in an interview prior to the workshop, had this to say when asked what he felt he had to offer: "In amateur theatre, it's such a scramble to get things done, you're always concentrating on the big problems that you forget the detail work. Here they'll have the opportunity to do that work without the pressure of public performance. And they can pass that on to actors."

Two weeks after the workshop, Woollam agrees. And though she won't necessarily be jumping into directing any time soon, she now has theatrical techniques she did not have before. Warm- up techniques, line study, projection and characterization are but a few of these.

"The community needs it," stresses Woollam.

Next year, who knows? There might be a workshop on stage managing, acting or play writing. Asked if she would take it, Woollam answered with an unqualified "Yes!"