Get to Know Us! MCT’s International Theatre and Facilitation Intern

Lambert has been shadowing the MCT staff for a few weeks, and participating in many aspects of our InterGEN project, including our recent video shoot and a series of workshops for seniors and youth.

We hope that at the end of his stay in Canada, Lambert will be fully prepared to take what he’s learned at MCT, combine it with his years of experience in theatre, and begin to create the positive change he desires.

1. Tell us about yourself.

I’m a 31-year-old actor from France. I was born in a little city in the middle of France called Boussac. I originally was studying law, but then decided to go to Paris to pursue theatre. I was especially interested in physical theatre, and learned about divised theatre in school (also called collaborative creation: a form of theatre where the script originates from improvisation by a group of people, rather than a playwright). I was a founding member of two theatre companies, and helped to create a number of productions.
I’ve been feeling distanced from the real world, so this year I decided to train as a dramatic arts facilitator at Sorbonne. Theatre, for me, is a medium through which I can speak out about the ills of a society. Theatre can’t change society, but it can open people’s minds and alter their perspective. I don’t practice theatre to change the world, but to be in touch with people.

2. How has your experience with MCT been so far?

I’ve been getting to know MCT for a little while now, and I feel really comfortable with this team. Everyone is really friendly, and I’ve felt welcomed since my first day. For the moment, I am observing how MCT works, and learning about the organization’s methodologies.
In MCT’s InteGEN workshop sessions with groups of Chinese seniors, I have been helping to plan the activities, and I’ve also helped document the sessions with a sound recorder. The shared stories I record will assist our playwright, Diana Tso, in creating the script for our upcoming InterGEN play.

3. What do you hope to gain from being an intern at MCT?

During this internship, I hope to learn how to facilitate and create workshops that explore social and personal issues. I’ve been interested in Forum Theatre for a long time – I remember reading Theatre of the Oppressed by Augusto Boal maybe seven years ago, and thinking: “That’s probably one of the best ways to do theatre if you want to change something in this society.” So, when I found MCT and understood the kind of theatre they practice, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with them, and learn from them.

4. What exactly drew you to MCT?

MCT practices theatre on a human scale. Many theatre companies speak about the place of humanity in the world, but they forget about humans. The work that MCT does brings them close to people, and makes them heavily involved in creating opportunities for social change. I recognized myself in the way MCT uses theatre. They are really curious about giving a voice to societal issues such as racism, harassment, or miscommunication. In the case of the InterGEN project, it’s miscommunication between generations, but that applies to so many situations. MCT lives inside the identified issues; they work with and learn from people, and don’t presume to know what the issues are.

5. Where do you see yourself in the next few years?

That’s a difficult question. I think I really want to spread my passion for theatre by working with both actors and non-actors. I want to mix socially engaged theatre and a more classic style of theatre, which is what MCT already does! I would like to work in a company where I can be a facilitator, actor, and director, and create work with diverse people such as actors, community members, dancers, visual artists, writers – the list goes on. This may seem like a lot, but I need to dream big.

6. Can you tell us three words you would use to describe yourself?

-Questioning: I question everything, all the time, especially myself.
-Curious: I wonder about everything.
-Dreamer: Sometimes I’m here, and sometimes I’m not… But don’t call me flighty!

MCT and Sefton Jackson: MicroSkills Workshops

About MicroSkills

Community MicroSkills Development Centre is a multi-cultural, non-profit, community-based organization committed to assisting the unemployed, with priority to women, racial minorities, youth, and immigrants. Recognizing barriers that immigrants, racial minorities, youth, and women face in their efforts towards self-sufficiency, MicroSkills aims to enable these groups to participate more fully in Canadian society, and assist them in acquiring the skills needed to achieve self-determination and economic, social, and political equality.

The programs are designed to assist the unemployed achieve career and personal goals. Clients can choose as many services as required to help them on their way to becoming self-reliant and economically self-sufficient.

Sefton, Mixed Company Theatre, and MicroSkills

Sefton Jackson is a graduate from the Humber College theatre program, and was washing windows for corporate buildings when he met Waawaate Fobister. Waawaate was one of the actors at Mixed Company Theatre (MCT) in Cobblestone, a show that reflected the stories of youth living on the streets and in shelters. Waawaate saw in Sefton a kindred spirit for the performing arts whose talents were better served on the stage, not washing windows. He encouraged Sefton to check out MCT and recommended him to the artistic director, Simon Malbogat.

Sefton later interviewed with Simon, who saw his raw talent and passion for acting, and thought that he would be a perfect addition to the Cobblestone show. Sefton started acting in Cobblestone in 2006, then moved on to Showdown and Showdown 2.0. He continued touring with Showdown 2.0 through high schools and public schools for a number of years. During this time Sefton began exploring roles outside of acting, and began facilitating workshops with Mixed Company Theatre. The most recent workshop he has facilitated has been in partnership with the Community MicroSkills Development Centre, delivering workshops looking at gender differences at North Albion Collegiate.

The workshops were designed to be homework drop-in sessions, where students spent time getting help with their homework, and participated in the MCT and MicroSkills workshops. Initially, the workshops were catered to male students, but later were opened to include female students. The students were comprised of Grade 9-12 youth who faced difficulties keeping up in the classroom. Sefton used games as a way of entering into deeper conversations about the power dynamics between genders, equality, and how to build more respectful peer communities.

These workshops were developed to encourage learning in both directions, from the facilitator to the students, and vice versa. Some of the things that Sefton learned were a couple of new phrases that he had never heard before. These included “Curing AIDS”: the idea that anything could be cured by having sex, and “Girl Clowning” or simply “GC”: to go online and act nicely or flirt with someone, then behave in the exact opposite way in person in front of their peers, essentially shaming them (usually a boy behaving this way to a girl).

Sefton used the opportunity of the youth sharing and explaining these phrases to engage in a discussion about the impact of the behaviour, and the power dynamics of the actions that these phrases elicit. He worked with the students to identify who the power wielders were in instances of Girl Clowning, the power dynamics between men and women, and the unfair and negative implications. Through this informative dialogue, Sefton was able to help the students understand how these phrases and actions deteriorate relationships between the genders, and demean female students.

MCT and MicroSkills Workshop Philosophy

Each workshop started by going around the circle and sharing everyone’s names, since there were different students each week. In addition to sharing names, students were asked to check-in with how they were feeling that day, and in that moment. This ensured that Sefton, as well as the other students, were aware if someone was having a bad day and needed extra support or empathy. Sefton encouraged an environment where there were no right or wrong answers, so that students could speak frankly without judgement. Students were allowed to share their views freely, using language that they were comfortable using. The workshops began with Sefton identifying that he was not an expert, but a facilitator, open to learning with the students. If someone required services beyond Sefton’s abilities he would then refer them to other resources.

Student Feedback/Outcome

Students came to the workshop identifying each other by their gender, with a distinct separation between boys and girls, and all the stereotypes that went with it. At the end of the workshop, students left seeing each other as human beings and equals. In the beginning, students entered and sat by themselves, not knowing anyone, and not wanting to sit next to anyone. By the end they developed friendships, sat together, shared jokes, and played games. Sefton also used games to show the students the shift that had happened in their social interactions with one another, and at the end they were able to understand the benefits of nurturing a communal and friendly culture of equality and respect.

Sefton’s Feedback/Outcome

Sefton was able to engage with the students in a way that allowed learning to happen. One teacher, after observing Sefton’s first workshop, was worried that the rest of the workshops would just be repeating the same games and format, and that students wouldn’t be learning anything new. He asked Sefton to include ways of addressing and building perseverance, and helping youth deal with their inner relationship with themselves (How do I deal with me?). Sefton was able to adapt the workshops to include inspirational quotes from famous figures such as Martin Luther King and Einstein. He had students create three images to go with the quotes that most resonated with them. The images were meant to be visual representations of perseverance highlighted in the quotes.

Unexpected Learnings

Sefton didn’t expect to become so attached to the students, since he had only spent five sessions with them over two months. He really enjoyed keeping up with and learning their various slangs, and felt that the kids not only accepted him as a peer, but fully respected him as a facilitator. Facilitating workshops with Mixed Company Theatre has helped Sefton realize that he enjoys engaging in the arts as a facilitator working with youth through different themes and issues.

What keeps him connected to Mixed Company Theatre

In his own words, “To be honest it’s Simon.” This is an answer that several participants of MCT programming have mentioned. For Sefton, he has learned many lessons from Simon, lessons about people, life, and the various ways that we manipulate and are manipulated by others in the arts sector and in general. With each and every show and workshop that he has worked on with MCT, there is always a culture of learning: learning from each other from participants, and from the audience. This has helped Sefton, as an actor, to be prepared to adapt and be open to recommendations and feedback. Each performance is different, which allows him to really sharpen his improvisational skills. Sefton tells us that when you’re an actor with MCT, you learn to do many things beyond acting; you learn to put up and tear down your sets and pitch in with the rest of the team to ensure that you all give the best performance possible, and that has prepared him for the wider world of performing arts.

Get to Know Us! MCT’s New Design/Arts Admin Intern

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Shellana has been interning with Mixed Company Theatre since February – you might recognize some of her work, such as the layout of the program from this year’s school touring show Half Full, or the poster for our most recent InterGEN workshop.

Many more of Shellana’s designs are going to be made public in the next few months, and she’s been helping a ton behind the scenes as well. We love her sense of artistry, and we wanted to get to know a little bit about the person behind the multifaceted creativity.

1. Tell us about yourself.

I was born in the Philippines, and lived there until I was about five years of age. My family and I then migrated to New Jersey, where we lived for about five more years. After that we moved to Toronto, and have been here ever since. Now, at twenty years of age, I am in my third year at Ryerson University, studying the creative industry. I have always been interested in drawing, and intend to go back to school to study graphic arts. In my spare time I like to stretch my talents towards amateur voice acting. I love to volunteer at arts and culture events in Toronto. One example is my experience volunteering at Inside Out, the LGBT community film festival.

2. Can you recall any memorable experiences within the arts?

I remember when I still lived in New Jersey, in the third grade, there was a National Poster Contest for school aged kids. Basically the contest holders were asking students to draw their own safety poster. I placed first in the country, and a photo of me holding the first place plaque was published in the paper. I also won a cash prize of $75! You can’t buy too much with $75 now, but back when i was in third grade I guess it was a big deal.

3. What exactly drew you to MCT?

I was in search of some arts administration experience, because that’s where I intend to focus my career. I subscribed to the Art Council’s volunteer board, and came across MCT’s ad saying they were looking for volunteers to handle arts administration, among other duties. I responded, and after a meeting with Kristin, the Artistic Projects Manager, I was named MCT’s newest intern.

4. What do you intend to gain from being an intern at MCT?

Mainly experience. As someone who intends to have a thriving career in arts administration, the experience with MCT could be really beneficial to my future. Currently, I am working closely with Ayla, MCT’s Outreach Coordinator. The different aspects of outreach are also something I’m interested in.

5. How has your experience with MCT been so far?

Pretty cool, the atmosphere is pretty chill. I love the fact that I get to return to doing what I love, which is drawing. At other places where I’ve volunteered we would literally sit at our respective spaces for there hours without talking. It isn’t like that at MCT.

6. Where do you see yourself in the next 2-3 years?

Graduated from university, I want to get out of that place! I would like to be working and, as I’ve mentioned before, I would like to go back to school to study animation or graphic arts. My mom tells me to try selling my art, but the selling is the hardest part of the artistic process.

 

Thanks for sharing, Shellana!

Get to Know Us! – MCT’s New Intern

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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!

 

Thanks Melissa!

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