If someone told me three years ago that I was going to be a part of the 2011/2012 Soulpepper Academy I would have asked them what they were talking about. Until I was invited to come in for an audition I did not know that this amazing program was around. The first time I walked into the Young Centre and clumsily made my way to the Kevin and Roger Garland Cabaret I remember thinking to myself “this place is cool” not knowing then that this “cool place” would become my artistic home for the next year.
The Soulpepper Academy for me has been a place of growth and many new experiences. It was my introduction to the classical theatre world, a world that I thought I did not or could not belong to. Before starting this program I had very little experience with classical plays and I assumed that acting in them was something I would not be good at because the stories were so different from my life experience. One of the big reasons why I accepted Albert’s offer was to challenge that idea. To use this opportunity as a way to face my fears and take on this body of work that I have felt intimidated by for so long. The journey has not been easy and there have been many moments of frustration with text that felt foreign in my mouth and characters that seemed so far removed from me, but with guidance from incredible artists like László Marton, Nancy Palk, Daniel Brooks and others I was able to push past the frustration. These teachers and mentors over the past year have helped me understand that it is because of my life experiences that I can act in classical plays. That there is no separation between me and characters found in plays by Ibsen, Shakespeare, or Beckett and that I can find just as much truth and freedom in playing a young woman from Norway as I do in playing a young woman from Rexdale.
This program has given me the tools – and more importantly, the confidence – that I need to take on classical theatre and has opened my eyes to the art world as a whole. Before coming here I had never been to Stratford or the Art Gallery of Ontario or the National Ballet. This company encourages us to go out and see and experience as much art as we can and that way of thinking is infused in the kind of training that we get. One day we are working on A Doll’s House the next day we are doing the Tango or rolling around in Dirt. Of all the incredible experiences I have had here I think the best part about being in the Soulpepper Academy is walking into the studio every day and seeing Qasim, Sarah, Justin, Courtney, Hannah, Daniel, and Paolo.
The eight of us started off as strangers and now have become inseparable. It has been a blessing and a thrill to be in a room with people who have the same love, passion and thirst for this art as I have. I have been inspired and challenged by these seven incredible artists and I could not have asked for a more fulfilling way to spend a year.
Justin Many Fingers
Being a part of the Soulpepper family is very exciting and very busy. The Soulpepper Academy has helped me find a new set of tools as a performer and creator. The Academy has opened my eyes to Western theatre in a new way and has pushed my limits in every aspect of performance. My fellow Academy members really grounded me and we feel like a family as we spent day and night delving deeper into classic texts and preparing our collective creation, Dirt. I studied at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre where Native culture is a big influence. Now that I have a hands-on understanding of Native and Western performance/creation, I feel ready to start my own path and continue learning and exploring as an artist.
This is the final Academy Notes blog. Be sure to check out the Academy’s collective creation Dirt, On stage May 18.