The Jackman Theatre in the renewed school building will serve as a theatrical point zero for UTS drama students, giving them the freedom and space to build really creative work, says Drama Teacher Gabrielle Kemeny. “It’s going to be magical – a blank theatrical space that they can do anything with, allowing them to stretch their imaginations.”
The studio theatre space, named for the Honourable Hal Jackman O.C., O Ont ’50, a UTS Founder and former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, will serve as a drama classroom, multi-disciplinary performance space and a gathering place for UTS community events.
“The stakes feel higher when students practice and rehearse in an authentic theatre space,” says Gabrielle. “They get a real life sense of the art form. Students who are just learning how to project their voices can be heard in a space like that, and the intimate proximity to the audience creates great sightlines. The experience will be very different than a traditional classroom setting.”
With no formal stage, the simplicity of the studio theatre provides a dynamic open space for students to design their stage to suit their production, creating that intimate experience with the audience. The flexibility opens the door for collaborations with other departments. “Our students can really get creative and play around with this space,” says Gabrielle. “They can work in the aisles. They can emerge from every corner to create a sense of complicity with the audience.”
Gabrielle previously worked as a professional actor, director and playwright in Toronto and Montreal for a decade, and ran her own theatre company. She is now in her ninth year of teaching drama at UTS. Under her tutelage, UTS drama students have garnered many drama festival awards of excellence, including from Canada’s coveted National Theatre School Drama Festival, for directing, playwriting, acting, costume design, original sound design and ensemble work. She also developed a collaborative theatre project and masterclass with exchange students that came from Copenhagen to UTS.
Students gain many real-world skills from theatre that she says transcend to other areas of their lives – from how to engage an audience, how to listen and present with confidence, and how to innovate. “We challenge students every day in the class: what can you do that no one else in the room will have thought of and then how can you make it work, and make it memorable?”
Studying drama and learning to engage with an audience develops students as learners and human beings, Gabrielle says. “When students work together on drama performances, they use their collaborative skills to develop a strong generosity of spirit – an empathy – by listening to one another and embracing different perspectives.”
The Jackman Theatre will take this collaboration to an entirely new level.