Theatre & Performance Studies: Student Testimonials

 

Grace Phan-Nguyen

Specialist: Arts Management

Major: Theatre and Performance Studies

 

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 
My high school had a class in arts management and students and professors from the UTSC program came to visit our class to discuss the programs and answer questions. I connected with the professor and was thoroughly engaged with the work that was presented to me. Theatre and Performance Studies was my major as I was naturally drawn to the art form.
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 
Arts Management: The AM program is an invigorating, engaging, and challenging program. The program is as useful as you make it to be as it offers many opportunities to explore your industries and interests. It is flexible enough to allow you to explore your practice and it is well rounded enough for you to specialize in your field of interest. You need to come into the program with the determination to advocate for yourself and your passions. I love how our mantra is "It depends." as it encourages us to think outside the box of "right and wrong ways of doing things" and pushes us to be creative problem solvers.

Theatre and Performance Studies: TAPS is a flexible and enriching program. It offers classes for theory, practice, and technical theatre. The professors and members of the faculty are highly invested in students' interests and the student body is very much of a family. The department offers many opportunities for the students to experiment and explore various interests before going into the industry. Therefore, it is not uncommon for students to be highly involved with the Toronto theatre scene during their undergraduate studies.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
1. It's okay to not know what you want to do. Just try it, do your best, and if it doesn't work out- try something new.
 
2. Take every opportunity that presents itself to you. A missed opportunity may be a closed door later on.
3. No one really cares what your GPA is once you're out in the industry; they care if you can do the job. Fail now in a safe environment and practice to be a better practitioner for wherever you may go.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation?
 
I will be attending the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies to pursue my master's and create theatre.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
First year: My first year was the year of adjusting to the workload, evaluating my priorities, and navigating through my various ambitions/social interactions/identity.
Second year: Deciding on my program was not a difficult decision. However, I focused on applying what I was learning in class to my various part time jobs in the theatre community.
Third year: I started to experiment and explore other industries while studying and found an area of interest.
Fourth year: I specialized and actively found work in my field of interest while studying.
Fifth year: I was mostly finishing my program requirements to graduate while working.

Alana Paré

Major: Theatre and Performance Studies & French

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

I've always been fascinated by theatre as an art form, a creative vehicle, political and revolutionary tool, as well as an industry as a whole. Even since I was a kid I've never loved anything as much as this. I had the avenues to choose a more traditional 9-5 career path with more money, but I decided I would much rather follow the thing that I truly live for and have endless passion towards. The world can't function without theatre, and I'm working my way to the centre of it all.
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

The TAPS program equally balances research based socio-political history focused theatre courses, performance training courses, and technical theatre training courses. You do have proper "sit down" classes with lectures and note-taking, and it's absolutely fascinating how in depth this art form goes through history and cultural influences. The performance classes are smaller for a more intimate and personal learning experience which works wonders. It makes it fun to go to class. With all of this, you certainly get a well-rounded education.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

Don't sweat about needing to go to a pretentious conservatory program in downtown Toronto - you get the same education here minus the highbrow program that makes students compete unnecessarily with each other. Everyone gets an equal chance to get their hands on everything here. Use the small campus to your advantage. Engage more in class, and really get to know your profs (since they have time for you here!). I've had so many astounding opportunities because I had the chance to get to work with my professors one-on-one, and they saw potential in me for the world outside of school. Volunteer for opportunities to work in the theatre outside of class, because some skills you can only learn by doing them. Also, audition for everything around campus and stay connected online to hear about every event going on to really get into the theatre community here - we're one big family!
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
 
I plan on working as a lighting designer for a few years while I get my feet on the ground, and balance writing on the side. Eventually I'll work my way back into directing professionally again, and maybe continue acting for fun on the side. These are four skills I've had the opportunity to nurture and grow with during my time here in the TAPS program.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
In first, second, and third year, I've held work study jobs in the ACM department (first and third were in the LLB theatre), acted in the mainstage productions, and participated in some events with the Drama Society. I lived, breathed, ate, and slept theatre. To have theatre classes in between all that made the experience all the better - the total theatrical immersion helped me learn so much about running with this industry and gave me the chance to take on different roles in the production process. I've had so much experience that has helped me get professional jobs in theatre over the summer and I know I'm not the only one with that same success!

Caroline Watling

Majors: Molecular Biology, Immunology, and Disease and Theatre and Performance Studies

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 

I've always loved theatre, but knew I wanted to pursue a BSc. I originally applied for biochemistry, however after second year I realized that wasn't the direction where I wanted to focus. In my third year I took the b levels and requirements for both Human Biology and my current program. I love that I'm able to have such different majors.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 
Theatre studies at UTSC is a very demanding but fulfilling program, which explores performance, history, theatre in Canada, possibly technical theatre. I've developed not only as an actor, but have also learned how to hang a light, and historical events that shaped gender roles in contemporary society. Theatre is wonderful because of the small class sizes and ability to explore yourself. Biology offers many hands on learning experiences through labs. The first two years offer education in all areas of biology; however, as you move into upper year courses there is an ability to specialize.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
1. Look at upper year courses that your program offers or requires. Upper year courses ought to appeal to you. They become more demanding, so it is important that you enjoy the material.
2. Hard work is more important than anything. You've made it this far; you've proven your intelligence; it's time for your work ethic to shine.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation?
 
I'm interested in becoming a naturopath, blending my interests in biology, and arts.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
I found first year was an adjustment to the system of university. Second year I struggled academically because I was not in the right courses. It wasn't until I was in third year and found courses that really interested me. I'm now into my fourth year, I'm enjoying all of my courses and have earned almost straight A's in the past year.

Ayesha Haq

Major: English
Minors: Philosophy and Theater & Performance Studies

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

Ever since I started high school, I had the drive and passion to become a lawyer. My research into the field started when I was in 9th grade and all the academic decisions that I made since then were based on achieving that end goal. Upon extensive research, I found out that Law School required no preliminary course work or program obligations which basically meant that I could have a Bachelor’s Degree in anything that I desired. Additionally, I knew that I had to graduate with the best grades to get into a good Law School. Putting two and two together, my very first instinct was to do something that a) I was exceptionally good at and b) I absolutely enjoyed doing. My love for the Arts is what led me to Major in English, with minors in Philosophy and Theatre and Performance Studies. All three of these programs are different in their own way and I have strong reasons for studying each one. I have always been an avid writer and my love for reading and writing combined is what pushed me to major in English. From English Classics to Contemporary Canadian Writing, every novel, poem or short story that I read struck a chord within me. My love for literature gave me the utmost pleasure in analyzing and studying texts that I read for leisure. Argumentation and debating has been something I’ve always enjoyed doing. Writing argumentative essays, being a part of the Debate Club in high school and representing the high school at different Model United Nations conferences was a significant part of my co-curricular record. I wanted to take those argumentative skills and put them to work in my undergraduate degree. Hence, I decided to minor in Philosophy. This enabled me to work my brain in ways that I never thought I had the ability to do and that feeling was one that I can’t even begin to describe in plain words. Lastly, Theater and Performance Studies was purely out my sheer love for the performing arts. Through theater, I was able to unleash the playful side of me and play characters that were so unlike me. I got to channel the inner performer that I always dreamed of being and this minor was one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

So as mentioned in the previous question, I was a part of multiple programs and each one was a different experience all together. Being a part of the English Department taught me how to analyze texts through the lens of various literary theories. This sharpened my analytical skills as well as reading skills which were highly important for my legal studies. Being a part of the Philosophy discipline, honed my argumentative skills and broadened my perspective on various metaphysical and humanitarian issues. The Department of Theater and Performance Studies showed me the brilliance of art to educate and create awareness about various issues. I learned a great deal about different performance theories and playwrights who dedicated their lives to using performance art to make a change in the society and attempted to show a changed world through art. The highlights of each of these disciplines are immeasurable because each department had their own benefits both inside and outside the classroom. The English Department gave students the opportunity to submit their research papers at conventions so as to be recognized in the English academic community. I was grateful to be a member of the Sigma Tau Delta North American English Honor Society for which UTSC was the only Canadian Chapter. The English Department also funded my trip for me to present my research at the Annual English Convention in Minneapolis. The English Department also has many different work-study opportunities. I was fortunate enough to work under Prof. Maria Assif as the Assistant Events Coordinator and helped manage all of the various English events carried out throughout the semester. And contrary to popular belief, English Literature is a subject with tons of research opportunities. Many Professors are looking for students to help them with their research and I would definitely recommend reaching out to them if you’re interested. The Philosophy Department is relatively smaller which makes networking so much easier. The Philosophy Portables are where all the Faculty and Staff offices are located. There are comfy sofas there where many students would chat about philosophical issues and indulge in on going debates. Most of the Philosophy Professors also had informal office hours at Rex’s Den where you could come and talk about absolutely anything. Having this informal interaction with the Professors made the learning process less tedious and more enjoyable. There is also an Annual Philosophy Symposium run by Professor Wilson which would be an awesome opportunity to participate in. The Theater and Performance Studies department required students to be a part of the performing arts community in Toronto. As part of our course work, we were required to watch a theatrical performance every semester which I highly enjoyed. Furthermore, the variety of courses enable you to play with artistic styles that you’re interested in. The performance courses were my favorite but the program offers technical courses that dealt with backstage work like sound, light, stage design etc. The program also required that students engaged in technical work for various performances at UTSC. So essentially every theater student is well-equipped with knowledge of how a performance is put together,

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

1) Know Your Professors: This is one piece of advice that I can’t stress the importance of enough. Your Professors are there to help you. As daunting as university is, having a connection with your Professors opens up avenues to success. Go to their office hours if you have questions. Go to their office hours even if you don’t have a question. Talk to them about their research or the specific subject areas that they specialize in. Go to the events that their speaking at to learn more about the discipline you’re a part of. Knowing your Professors gives you the advantage of having a connection at the University and they could later recommend you to pursue further studies or to secure that job that you always dreamed of. If they don’t know you, they won’t know you as a person and will not be able to holistically comment on your strengths and achievements.

2) Get Involved. UTSC has so many opportunities on campus but most people don’t avail them because they are afraid to put their foot out the door. Apart from being a part of your academic discipline, be a part of organizations that you are passionate about. For example, I was very much interested in advocating for Muslims and Pakistanis on campus which is why I was a part of both those student organizations. I also extending my love for Model United Nations and was selected to be a part of the Tri-Campus UofT Delegation that participated in the Harvard World Model United Nations is Rome, Italy. These experiences help build your resume, strengthen your skills and give you the opportunity to meet new people on campus. And most of all, the worthwhile memories will stay with you for the rest of your life.

3) Have Fun. Undergrad is only stressful if you make it stressful. There is tons of academic help available to you so instead of worrying make the best of your time. If you’re living on residence, develop relationships with your housemates and hall mates. If you’re living off campus, then develop meaningful relationships with people in your program or with people in different student organizations.

Also, UTSC’s location gives you direct access to the city and downtown Toronto is a great place to explore. Apart from that Scarborough itself is such a beautiful natural and scenic area. UTSC is home to our very own valley where you can sit by the river and throw pebbles as a de-stressor or even make a trek to Scarborough Bluffs. These little moments are going to be highly important in making your undergraduate studies worthwhile because undergrad is not limited to studying inside the classroom.

What will you do with your degree after graduation?

Currently, I am pursuing a Juris Doctor at the University Of Cincinnati College Of Law. Everything that I did in undergrad led me to pursue my dream of becoming an attorney and I am extremely grateful for all the opportunities I was given at UTSC. There is a huge misconception that Arts is the worst degree to secure employment in the professional world. There is so much you can do with an Arts degree. English Literature opens up avenues for editorial positions and journalistic opportunities. Philosophy helps you to go into public policy and governmental positions. Theater and Performance Studies opens the world of theater from acting, film making, play writing, directing, film critiquing and so much more. Your degree is limited when you limit it, so don’t let anyone tell you that your degree is a waste of time because every discipline will take you places you never even imagined going.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

My first year, was devoted to understanding how I was to develop my studying habits. In English, you are given tons of readings and if you are taking ENGB03 with Prof. Sonja Nikkila then you will be asked to read Middlemarch which is extremely lengthy and dense. The undergrad writing style is also difficult to adjust to, so my first year was spent mostly at the Writing Center, despite my extensive experience in writing. One thing you have to be mindful of is that you need to open your mind to learning new things and un-learn some things from high school. The transition from high school to undergrad is difficult but you have to set your pride aside and ask for help. The more you delay in seeking for help, the more difficult it will be to secure the grades you want. Also, be careful when picking courses in your first year. I knew I wanted to major in English and so went directly towards the required courses. While it’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do, try to take courses that won’t set you behind when you do realize what it is that you want to do. In second year, the course load tends to get more manageable and you are given more choice in terms of the courses that you can take. Unlike first year, in second year you know how to tackle the dense reading and writing assignments and time management becomes less of a struggle. If you tend to be more of an “exam taker”, then try to take courses where the syllabus lists a midterm and final and less of the writing assignments. I loved writing which is why the courses that I took rarely had mid-term or final exams. By this time you will know your strengths and weaknesses and will be able to play them to your advantage. In third year, you will see a huge shift from B-level to C and D level courses. The C and D-level courses in English and Philosophy tend to prepare you for grad school because they are set up as seminar courses. The discussion in these classes will be more intellectually stimulating requiring you to challenge your brain in and outside of class. I would say that your grades are the most important in second and third year so choose your courses wisely. If you are considering further studies, your fourth year will be the most challenging. I was victim to what they like to call “senioritis” where a senior student starts to take academics less seriously. I was extremely lucky that it did not affect my grades in any way but I would still not encourage any student to fall into that pit. Fourth year is also where you will be working on your grad school applications. Plan ahead of time if you plan on taking the LSAT, GMAT, GRE or any other standardized test. Looking back, my fourth year was the most stressful as I was juggling 5 courses, doing two part time jobs, studying for the LSAT as well as working on my law school applications. While I thought that I would be able to manage it with little or no stress, it did take a bit of a toll on my health and wellness. So be wary of the fact that fourth year will not be as exciting as you hope for it to be. I was also extremely sad about the idea of having to leave UTSC and the uncertainty behind where I will end up was worrying at times. But just know that by the end of it all, it will be worth it and the next thing to come will be bigger and better for your future.

Eunillyne Tan Lazado

Specialist: Arts Management
Minors: Music & Culture and Theatre and Performance Studies

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 
In high school, I really enjoyed my theatre classes and being involved in my school’s music program such that I wanted to learn more about them in university. All history, theory, culture and performances aside, I really wanted to learn how both of them intersect in interdisciplinary art. Therefore, it became important to me that I do both together. All of the universities I applied to would not allow me to do both, so when Professor Barry Freeman from the Theatre and Performance Studies program said that I can do both at UTSC, I decided to accept the University’s offer. I started my first year with the intentions of doing a double major in Music and Culture, and in Theatre and Performance Studies programs within the Department of Arts, Culture and Media (ACM). I heard about the Arts Management program from my fellow musicians in the UTSC Concert Band. I heard that it was quite intensive, required a lot of reading and writing, and a fast-paced program. However, what made me interested is that I could combine both art and business, which I wished I explored more in high school, in the program. Also, I knew that if I were to find a career, I would want to work in a field that I could see myself enjoying and holds value for me. I applied to get into the program in the summer of my first year, and here I am now in my final year!
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 
Entry to the Arts Management program is quite competitive. What I really like about this is that all students in the program have their own major interests; therefore, undergraduate experiences in the program are quite customized for each student. I’d like to think that being an arts management student, I get to have the best of both worlds because I’m not ‘stuck’ in one specialist, but I get the chance to float around and learn more about music and/or theatre. However, don't be fooled: Arts Management is quite intensive, requires a lot of work, and is competitive - it's all worth it, though! :) Similarly, the Music & Culture program is its own community within ACM, as well! With the changes in the Calendar, the program is more flexible than ever! There are three streams of studies: Music and Society; Community Music; and Music Creativity and Technology. You can create your learning experience in music and your course selection based on your interests in these three streams. On top of that, you may pair your Music Major (or Minor) with other disciplines. Many of my peers in our performing ensembles (UTSC Concert Band, UTSC Concert Choir, UTSC String Orchestra, or Small Ensemble) pair their Music Major with studies in computer science, biology, and management, to name a few.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
1. Keep an open mind and be prepared to learn. We all come to university with our own way of thinking, and attending classes and participating in discussions may or may not change the way we think. Be open to these thoughts, to new ideas, and try your best to apply critical thinking. Most importantly, as a professor of mine ALWAYS says: "Write it down!" Write your ideas down, no matter how small or unimportant they may seem to you, because you never know when you'll need them. Always come prepared to class, and make the most of the resources around you!
 
2. Seek help when you need it. You don’t have to go through all of your undergraduate career alone! ACM has the most helpful staff, who will help you when you need to book a rehearsal space, or rent out the AV equipment you need for class or a project. The faculty is superb and friendly; and they have a lot of experience working with not only their research, but also the classes you are taking. Most importantly, they want to help you! Don’t be afraid to say “hi” to them - get to know your professors and visit them during their office hours! One of the things I learned throughout my undergraduate career is that professors are more likely to help people who are proactive in their learning and experiential experience, so take the initiative, and start conversations with them!
 
3. Have fun! University is a place to explore, learn and gain more in-depth knowledge on your interests, so use it as a safe space to experiment and step out of your comfort zone. Join student clubs, or even start your own! Gain experience through the work-study program, and see if there’s a way to work with the professor, or department of your interest! Take advantage of all the available opportunities, and use them to shape your own undergraduate experience, because university is more than just hitting the books - it is also about the experience. Get involved, take it easy, and know that you have a support system with you when you need it.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
 
This past year, I have been taking a very interesting course on Community Music and how music is being used as a tool for developing communities in various lenses, such as in adult education, social justice, and community music therapy. I have been getting more and more inspired by what I am learning that I am currently applying to the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) for the Master of Education program in student development, as well as community development. I want to investigate how I can use arts-based approaches to develop stronger communities and engagement in higher education, and with the community partners that the institutions work with. On a completely different (but slightly related) note, I would really love to work in developing educational programming for schools within performing arts organizations, such as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Canadian Stage.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
My academic journey is quite different than how it might have looked like, had I applied to the Arts Management program directly from high school. Therefore, my journey was quite unconventional. I started my first year with the intentions of doing a Double Major in Music & Culture and Theatre & Performance Studies, therefore, my first year consisted of taking the introductory courses I need for both programs, such as Introduction to Theatre, Listening to Music, Music of the World’s Peoples, and Materials of Music. I also used my first year of university to satisfy my breadth requirements in the Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning categories - I found that the earlier I was to do this, the better, because they are meant to be exploratory courses for first years, and if I already thought of doing further studies after my undergraduate career, it would not affect my final GPA as much. My second year was quite complicated. When I was accepted in the Arts Management program at the beginning of my second year in undergraduate studies, I started taking my introductory arts management courses, such as Introduction to Arts Management and Audience and Resource Development. In addition to these, I also took two introductory management courses from the Department of Management. Because Arts Management is a specialist program, it was not recommended for me to do a Double Major due to heavy workload. After speaking with my program director, we have agreed that I will be doing a double minor instead to satisfy the Arts Requirements within the specialist program. This was a great compromise because I was able to do arts management, and still practice both of my artistic disciplines. With her permission, I was also able to take a few B-level arts management courses due to my previous experiences. I also continued taking music history and theatre history courses to satisfy my double minor requirements. In my third year, I took the majority of the B-level and a number of C-level courses in Arts Management, such as Principles and Practices in Arts Management, which was one of my favourite courses because I had the chance to go on a 30-hour placement with an arts organization. I had the chance to learn about and work with the Toronto Children’s Chorus, one of the world’s finest treble choirs (after finishing my placement, they immediately hired me for that summer. I am currently still in touch with the organization since I joined their Youth Choir). Some of the senior level classes I took during the year were the Legal & HR in Arts Management and Arts Marketing. In this program, most classes are cycled through every two years, therefore it is important to take required courses as soon as they are offered in the year, or you might have to wait for two more years to take it. I also took my senior Theatre and Performance Studies classes, and participated in the annual theatre production, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. After that winter semester, I successfully finished my minor in theatre. Last fall, I completed my requirements for my music minor. A fantastic aspect of both my minor programs is that they are very flexible, and it is up to the student to shape their own learning through the choice of courses. To fulfill my requirements in music, I took courses that included Jazz; Music, Movies, and Meaning, and Introduction to Community Music. At the moment, I am on my way to finishing my degree. I am currently taking two senior Arts Management courses: Fundraising and Development in the Arts, and the Senior Seminar in Arts Management (or simply Senior Seminar). Senior Seminar is a capstone course of the graduating cohort. It allows students to apply what they have learned throughout the past four years in the program into the creation, planning, and execution of a project that is of value to everyone in the class. In addition to these, I have been taking the course, Exploring Community Music, which is a continuation of the introductory course from the fall, which allows me to learn more about community music, and explore other interests/areas of studies in music that is beyond performance and teaching. The past four years have been quite intensive and busy, but I am thankful for the challenges I have encountered throughout my undergraduate career. From interesting course structures, through the experimental things I have done - I even made it through all the calendar changes in all of my programs! It requires a lot of planning, organizing, and road mapping your path every single semester, and the following semesters ahead. I`m glad I came to UTSC, and I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to study what I love, and learn more from it beyond the readings and the walls of the classrooms. I hope you find a home within the community of people you are learning with, no matter which program you choose, and know that there is help all around!