Arts

U of O alumna Catherine Ballachey introduced the Hive to the GCTC. Photo: Courtesy of the Jelley Photography.

New mentorship program introduced to help students shape their theatre skills

On Nov. 2, five students were invited to see a showing of the Henry VIII-themed play The Last Wife, as well as the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC) panel discussion series The Prologue. But thanks to a new program started by University of Ottawa alumna Catherine Ballachey, these students got to take a little peak behind the curtain.

The Hive, a new mentorship initiative being introduced by GCTC, is the brainchild of GCTC artist liaison Catherine Ballachey, who completed her masters in theatre theory and dramaturgy at the University of Ottawa this year. While organizing a series of student matinees, Ballachey noticed a need for “deeper engagement” with the theatre.

“I was curious if there was a way to engage with students who are interested in theatre and interested in the arts, beyond just them being forced by their teachers to come see a student matinee,” she explains.

With this goal in mind, she created The Hive, a mentorship program that aims to give high school and university students a “behind-the-scenes” look at the theatre production process.

Participants are invited to attend GCTC shows, meet the artists and designers beforehand, and take part in post-show “talk-back” sessions. The program will also provide production workshops on topics ranging from playwriting to stage management.

The goal of The Hive is to get students involved as participants in the theatre industry, rather than just as audience members.

“We hope to inspire the next generation of theatre-goers and theatre-creators,” Ballachey explains.

She says that the project includes programming both for “people who go and enjoy and watch the theatre and engage with it … but then also, of course, (people who) create the theatre through all the different aspects that come into it.”

As the program grows, Ballachey plans to tailor the programming to the interests of participants. For instance, she says, “I had a number of students tell me they were really interested in stage management, (so I decided) ‘okay, let’s a do a stage management workshop.’”

She’s also mindful of the time constraints faced by students.

“Students live such busy lives these days, so we hope that the way that we’ve designed (the program) will allow people to fit it in where they can.”

Ballachey, who got her start working at the GCTC box office and later won the RBC Emerging Artist Grant as assistant director of their show Angel Square, wants to give students the chance to experience theatre organically, rather than through a “classroom setting.”

“When you read a book in class when you’re forced to read it, and then you actually read it on your own and discover it on your own, it’s two different experiences,” she explains.

“We’re hoping for students to come and enjoy the theatre on their own terms, and take away what they’re interested in.”

To sign up for The Hive’s mailing list, students can email Ballachey at artistliaison@gctc.ca. Events are held monthly and cost between $10 to $15 per show. Additional events will be held in December and January.