Deem Waham, Howl Staff
Last week I got the chance to head out to the U of T Drama Festival at Hart House, an annual four-day competitive theatre showcase. The roster is composed entirely of original student plays and awards are handed out to the shows that most impressed the adjudicator. This year’s judge was Joel Grothe, who, I was told many times that night, is amazing. But the real people behind all the theatrical magic are the three U of T students who together form the executive team of the U of T Drama Coalition (UTDC). I had the pleasure of heading backstage during intermission and chatting with UTDC President, Jameson Glas, and Festival Coordinators Jen Collins and Spencer MacEachern.
Howl: [To Jameson] Can we start with an overview of what you do?
JG: As the president of the Drama Coalition I’m kind of involved in everything. The Drama Coalition primarily organizes the Drama Festival, it’s been our main mandate for a while, [but] when I took over last year we switched to doing a whole bunch of other things, so we also do an email list that contains all the information from every drama society on everything they do. We also organize workshops, but essentially we have weekly meetings with every single [drama society representative], and my main role is heading those meetings, making sure they’re going well, making sure everything’s going smoothly for the festival. And we’re starting up a new project, which is the Drama Coalition Awards; we’re viewing every single performance and giving nominations in every category from best actor to best production.
Howl: But generally, is the Drama Festival the biggest event for UTDC?
JG: This is our big festival, this takes a lot of prep work and it’s why we have those weekly meetings, but the Drama Coalition Awards are kind of a huge project [too] I think, and we’re putting a lot of time on those. Because it’s the first year, a lot of what I did last semester was get all of the administrative stuff done, get all of the reps chosen, and now we see a lot of theatre and – yeah, I mean, president is mainly a lot of administrative decision-making, and sitting at meetings.
Howl: The good stuff – the fun stuff!
JG: Yes, it’s the fun stuff, it’s the stuff you wanna be doing!
(Is that sarcasm we sense there, Jamie?)
Howl: [To Jen and Spencer] And you guys are both Event Coordinators?
JC and SM: We’re Festival Coordinators!
SM: But we do a lot of other stuff. We’re just a big happy family here!
JC: We are. At the moment, the entire core executive that gets voted in for the Coalition is the three of us, and then there’s a rep from each society. Technically our job is solely the festival, but since the Awards are new and it’s not on the constitution and [already] set-up, I think that future years will probably only have one Festival Coordinator and one for Awards.
JG: Right now we all have our hands in absolutely everything. The two of them are far from Festival Coordinators. They do way more than what that job makes it sound like.
Howl: Tell the truth – do you make them bring you coffee?
JG: Uh, no. In fact, if anything the opposite is probably true, as a thank you for the amount of other things they’re doing!
Howl: Do you feel like there’s a huge theatre and drama involvement at U of T?
JG: Oh, yeah, I think it’s enormous. We have so many drama societies, it’s crazy. Each college has their own and they do so many major productions. That’s the reason we thought the awards was such a good idea. I think we have maybe 13 major productions that we’re seeing and adjudicating, and these are, like, thirteen full length musicals or full length plays. And, I mean, the amount of commitment and the amount of time that goes into one of those is wild.
SM: It’s very unique to U of T I think, and you can notice that each college has a specific character to its work and I think that’s really enjoyable to see. St. Mikes always do the big musical at Hart House, UC are usually a little more academic, Victoria College has a full season with season packages, then you have smaller plays at New College, and then you have people who just want to start up their own groups every year.
Howl: Actually Woodsworth doesn’t seem to have a play in this festival, or a lot of drama involvement –
JC: We tried to track down a drama club at one point at Woodsworth!
JG: At the clubs fair at the beginning of the year there was a sign that said “The Woodsworth Drama Club”, and one of our society reps gave the two people standing at the booth our email address and we never heard from them and could never track them down again!
Howl: Well can you give some tips for Woodsworth students who want to get involved? How would they start?
JG: I started one at New College two years ago – and the festival is exactly how I did that. You don’t book your own theatre, which is a huge expense when you’re trying to do productions; you have a lot of support administratively from us, we really want to help you jump through a lot of things— and starting up a new society, this is a great way to do it because you just need to produce one or two good submissions and you can get a really strong base for yourself.
Howl: Do you judge the submissions or screen them before accepting them?
JC: Well, the way it works is each college has complete creative control; they make their own calls for scripts and they pick whatever one they want to put on. We do read them over just to make sure – some colleges submit multiple plays and we have to make sure that there’s a right amount for the number of nights we’re putting on that year and that kind of thing. But unless there’s something horribly inappropriate –
SM: Which there never has been!
JC: Yeah, there’s never been a problem. We do read them, but we’re not going to reject you, we just want to make sure that we know what’s happening, and that way we can schedule a couple of comedies with some dramas on the same night, and that kind of thing.
JG: I think this year we received the exact amount we needed for a four-night festival. Last year we received a few too many and at that point we did need to make the decision of which were our strongest eleven scripts.
Howl: Did you guys see these plays before the night they went on?
JC: No, but we got a one minute showcase on Sunday, so each play gave us one minute, no costumes or anything, on the stage – but that was all we’d seen.
Howl: What did you think of them after seeing them performed in the festival?
SM: Very different reading them than actually seeing them. They really just come alive on stage, I mean you don’t get the great actors or the staging when just reading it, and it’s hard to sometimes visualize what they’re trying to do until you see it.
JG: And that’s the fantastic thing about this festival – when you are writing a student work, it’s so difficult to tell how that student work is going to go until you really get the chance to produce it.
At this point someone came backstage to let the Drama Coalition trio know that their presence was needed elsewhere, so they politely excused themselves and, sadly, that was all for my time with them. However, if you want to know more about the Drama Coalition or the U of T Drama Festival, visit drama.sa.utoronto.ca, or Like their page on Facebook. Or both. And stay tuned for The Howl’s reviews of this year’s shows!