Landmark program supports development of major theatre talent

York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Canadian Stage announced yesterday they were launching a landmark initiative to support the development of directorial talent for the national and international stage.

Bringing together one of Canada’s pre-eminent theatre schools and one of the country’s leading not-for-profit contemporary theatre companies, the York University MFA in Theatre – Stage Direction in Collaboration with Canadian Stage Program will offer highly specialized, advanced training in large-scale theatre directing. As a new field of specialization within York’s Graduate Program in Theatre, the two-year program will allow students to develop their creative and technical skills to the highest level within a rigorous academic and professional context.

Students will be deeply immersed in the professional world of theatre as they integrate their studio work at York with involvement in artistic projects at Canadian Stage. The program will be customized for each student based on their experience, artistic orientation and goals. Key elements of this enriched academic experience include the opportunity to direct a Canadian Stage production and an internship with a major national or international theatre.

“This program is a unique and exciting extension of our ongoing commitment to help nurture Canadian talent,” said Matthew Jocelyn, artistic & general director of Canadian Stage.  “Along with York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, we want to enable the development of strong, individual voices in Canada’s next generation of theatre directors.  It is an immense pleasure to share this goal and combine forces with York on this groundbreaking educational program.”

Above: From left, York Faculty of Fine Arts Dean Barbara Sellers-Young with Matthew Jocelyn, artistic & general director of Canadian Stage, and Nada Ristich, senior manager corporate donations, BMO Financial Group

To directly support the program, Canadian Stage has established a new position for an associate artist who will work with the students to facilitate their professional development as theatre directors. Canadian Stage has named Kim Collier, co-founder and artistic director of Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre and 2010 Siminovitch Prize winner, as associate artist. In addition to her work with the York program, Collier will contribute to Canadian Stage productions and artistic programming. Her position and Canadian Stage’s participation in the MFA program is generously supported by BMO Financial Group.

Right: Sellers-Young and Jocelyn show the signed memorandum of understanding

“Our sincerest congratulations to Kim Collier, Canadian Stage and York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts on the launch of this exciting program,” said Nada Ristich, senior manager corporate donations, BMO Financial Group. “Theatre, arts and culture enrich our lives on a daily basis, and we are proud to support talented Canadian artists as they grow and develop in their careers.”

Both Collier and Jocelyn will serve as personal mentors for students in the MFA program, working closely with graduate faculty in York’s Department of Theatre.

The idea for this innovative collaboration grew from a meeting 18 months ago between Jocelyn and Barbara Sellers-Young, dean of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

“When we began these conversations, Matthew shared with me his vision of bringing Canadian artists to the world and the world to Canada,” said Sellers-Young. “We were delighted to discover our two institutions have this goal in common, and with this new directing program, we’re putting it into action together.

Above: A capacity crowd drawn from York University, the Canadian theatrical community and Canadian Stage attended the signing ceremony

“By joining forces, the outstanding artists who teach in York’s theatre department and the exceptional creative team at Canadian Stage are creating an unparalleled opportunity for rising talent in this country,” Sellers-Young said. “My colleagues and I look forward to working with Matthew and Kim to give our students the benefit of such a wonderful range of professional guidance and experience.”

The MFA program in stage direction is set to launch in September 2011, and York’s Graduate Program in Theatre is now accepting applications. Emerging directors with a strong individual and interpretive voice, who want to work on large-scale productions as part of an integrated creative team, are encouraged to apply. Two students will be admitted in the inaugural year.

For more information, visit the Graduate Program in Theatre website.