Rising directors join York’s collaborative program with Canadian Stage




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York University’s Graduate Program in Theatre – Stage Direction in Collaboration with Canadian Stage brings together one of Canada’s premier theatre schools and one of the country’s leading contemporary theatre companies to support the development of directorial talent for the national and international stage. 

Integrating studio work at York with involvement in artistic projects at Canadian Stage, this landmark program offers highly specialized, advanced training in large-scale theatre directing. It launched in fall 2011 with Ker Wells and Ted Witzel as the inaugural MFA students (see the July 23 YFile story).

Now York’s Department of Theatre and Canadian Stage are welcoming a second set of rising young directors into the collaborative program. Estelle Shook, former artistic director of British Columbia’s Caravan Farm Theatre, and Matjash Mrozewski, an internationally recognized choreographer based in Montreal who trained at Canada’s National Ballet School, were hand-picked from a group of stellar applicants from across the country.

Estelle Headshot bwEstelle Shook

“The process of selecting our new participants for the program was lengthy and very challenging,” said Professor Eric Armstrong, MFA program director in Theatre. “After submitting a portfolio and application, as well as a Skype interview with the panel, the top five candidates were brought to Canadian Stage to direct professional actors, to observe and critique a show in the Bluma Appel Theatre, and to participate in a seminar. It was really difficult making our final choices, as all the candidates were so strong. We couldn’t be prouder of our two new Canadian Stage directing students.”

In addition to working with faculty members in York’s Graduate Program in Theatre, Shook and Mrozewski will be mentored at Canadian Stage by veteran directors Peter Hinton (National Arts Centre, Shaw Festival, Stratford Shakespeare Festival) and Chris Abraham (Stratford Festival, Crow’s Theatre), and will have the opportunity to collaborate with Artistic & General Director Matthew Jocelyn. Their work with Canadian Stage will be supported by Birgit Schreyer Duarte, the company’s artistic and dramaturgical consultant for programming and coordination of the MFA program.

Shook and Mrozewski bring extensive professional experience to their graduate studies at York.

With Caravan, Shook produced, developed and directed more than 30 outdoor productions set in all areas of the company’s 80-acre property, from fields and pines to barns and riding rings. Highlights include The Ballad of Weedy Peetstraw, billed as a “bluegrass opera” based on Goethe’s Faust, written by Peter Anderson and John Millard, and Shakespeare’s Macbeth and King Lear, both of which employed the famous Caravan Clydesdale horses as stage machinery. Joining York’s MFA program marks a return to Canadian Stage for Shook, as she directed the company’s 2011 Shakespeare in High Park production, The Winter’s Tale.

In 2001, after a remarkable performance career with The National Ballet of Canada, Le Ballet du Grand Theatre de Genève and Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, Mrozewski chose to dedicate himself to choreography. Since then, he has created works for many renowned dance companies including the Stuttgart Ballet, Royal Ballet (Covent Garden), Royal Danish Ballet, Australian Ballet, Houston Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and National Ballet of Canada. He also choreographed two original Canadian musicals, Mimi, or A Poisoner’s Comedy (Tarragon Theatre, Toronto) and The Bricklin at Theatre New Brunswick/Fredericton Playhouse) for director Alisa Palmer, and two films by Canadian director Moze Mossanen.

Matjash6321adjust copy 2-1Matjash Mrozewski

The duo will build on these successes as they move into the MFA program, set to blaze new trails in the wake of their predecessors, Ted Witzel and Ker Wells, who have just completed their degrees.

Hot on the heels of their hugely successful Canadian Stage directorial debuts of The Taming of The Shrew and Macbeth, which ran in repertory to record audiences this summer for Shakespeare in High Park, Witzel and Wells are directing Canadian Stage’s season openers at the Berkeley Street Theatre. The newly minted graduates are each helming a play by Sarah Berthiaume, a rising star of Quebecois theatre.

The Flood Thereafter, directed by Wells, and the English-language premiere of Yukonstyle, directed by Witzel, are being presented for the first time in English outside of Quebec in partnership with Hopscotch Collective and York’s Department of Theatre.

The Flood Thereafter, opening Sept. 26 and running to Oct. 6, is part portrait of small-town Canada and part timeless fable. Every day, 22-year-old June does an abrupt strip show in the gritty Emotions bar, with all the men of the town watching and weeping. June’s relationship to the men stretches back to the sirens who ensnared the mariners of ancient Greece. But when a young stranger arrives in town, the tide begins to turn.

Yukonstyle, playing Oct. 13 to 27, follows three unlikely roommates as they endure the harsh Whitehorse winter as the 2007 Robert Pickton murder trial plays out on TV. One of them, a young Aboriginal man, confronts the mystery of his missing mother’s identity.

For more information and tickets to both productions, visit the Canadian Stage website.