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Category: Exit Interviews

April 18, 2011, by

By Simon Rice

Most theatre school students do not graduate to a career in the theatre.

While theatre may be an important part of their experience, it simply does not have enough employment opportunities for all theatre school graduates. It has, in fact, very few.

Lwam Ghebretariat, 2011.

If we can accept that premise moving forward, obvious questions spring to mind.

What is theatre school for? What is its value to the great masses of us that it has produced who, for many different reasons, are not in the theatre’s employ?

Lwam Ghebretariat is a graduate of Canada’s most reputable theatre school, and yet he has never pursued a career in acting. He has persued a very different career, which he says has a unique connection to theatre.

Lwam and I sat down recently to try to answer these questions and others. Here’s how it sounded…

Lwam stared in the 2010 Summerworks hit, Homegrown

(If you would like to download this Exit Interview as a podcast, click the arrow above on the right.)

After graduating from the National Theatre School of Canada in 2003, Lwam stayed in school, completing a BA (Honours) in philosophy and French at the University of Alberta. He is currently in his final semester of law school at the University of Toronto.

As an undergraduate student he spent his summers researching Eritrean/Ethiopian literature and culture (some of that work can be seen here). As a law student he has worked and volunteered at Downtown Legal Services, representing low income clients in criminal court and disciplinary hearings, and at the African Canadian Legal Clinic, in the area of human rights litigation.

As an actor he most recently appeared in Homegrown (by Catherine Frid, directed by Beatriz Pizano/Aluna Theatre, Summerworks 2010), a play which received national media attention. Other credits include Twelfth Night (Canadian Stage) and Ministry of Love (Theatre Rien Pantoute).

Since this interview, Praxis has learned that Lwam was recently voted Valedictorian for his graduating class. So congratulations Lwam! We’re pretty sure your theatre training will come in handy.

January 19, 2011, by

By Simon Rice

"People from Aurora don't go to theatre school," Christine Horne, 2011

Last summer I set out on an exploratory series of audio interviews to gather candid thoughts and feelings on the theatre school experience. The first Exit Interview post laid out my reasons for embarking on this project. It has for numerous reasons taken until now to finally get my first interview online. But it will not be the last. If you enjoy this one, please stay tuned for more to come very soon!

Christine Horne is one of the most talented and successful young actors I have had the pleasure of knowing. I was also blessed to have once directed her in the 2009 Praxis Summerworks production Underneath. Christine’s introduction to the world of acting was by her own admission, somewhat accidental.

I sat down with her at a noisy College Street cafe in Toronto’s west end, days before she began rehearsals for her second Praxis Theatre production, Jesus Chrysler as part of Rhubarb at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

(If you would like to download this Exit Interview as a podcast, click the arrow above on the right.)

Christine Horne, York University, 2004

Christine Horne is an actor and producer hailing from Aurora, Ontario. Recent theatre credits include Romeo and Juliet (Canadian Stage), The Turn of The Screw (DVxT Theatre – Dora Award), Miss Julie: Sheh’mah (KICK Theatre – Dora nomination), Underneath (Praxis/Summerworks), Twelfth Night (Resurgence), Bluebeard (GromKat/Toronto Fringe), The Seagull (Wordsmyth), and Gorey Story, which she also co-created (Thistle Project – 4 Dora nominations).

Film and television credits include The Stone Angel (VFCC and MethodFest nominations), Othello, The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard, Little Films About Big Moments, Flashpoint, Republic of Doyle, Rookie Blue, Befriend & Betray, and King. Upcoming: Jesus Chrysler (Praxis/Rhubarb), and Andromache (Necessary Angel/Luminato). Christine is the Artistic Co-Director of The Thistle Project, Artistic Producer of KICK Theatre, and a graduate of the Acting Program at York University.

June 17, 2010, by

The Studio Floor

Image by nmhschool licensed under Creative Commons

by Simon Rice

In his 1999 provocation, True and False: Common Sense and Heresy for the Actor, David Mamet asserts, “most teachers of acting are frauds, and their schools offer nothing other than the right to consider oneself part of the theatre… Formal education for the player is not only useless, but hurtful,” says Mamet. “It stresses the academic model and denies the primacy of the interchange with the audience.”

Let me be clear, while I believe Mamet’s edicts to be wonderful conversation starters they are limited in their worth, not to mention hypocritical—he is himself an acting teacher.

Theatre schools are indeed strange places, seemingly full of contradiction. They are almost impossible to describe to someone who hasn’t attended one.  At my earliest (and unsuccessful) audition for a prominent Toronto theatre school, I and the other nervous applicants were treated to a half hour lecture on why we shouldn’t go to school for acting. Perhaps this was an attempt to weed out those who didn’t have the conviction or depth of character required to survive three years of physical and emotional turmoil.

Theatre schools, not unlike some other training programs for highly competitive fields, seem to have adopted the baptism by fire approach. If you can survive it, you can survive anything, with the exception, perhaps, of a career in acting.

When I was finally, after several attempts, accepted into a three-year program, it was explained to my class that our “journey” would be structured more or less in three parts.

First year we would be pulled apart, literally and figuratively. All of our preconceptions about the craft would be exposed to the light of day, all of our “blocks” opened, both physically and mentally. Much of this, “opening” would occur while lying prostrate on a studio floor. We would, we were warned, find this process both painful and confusing.

During second year we would slowly and carefully be pulled from the floor and put back together, so that we could hit the stage on our feet in final year, which would consist primarily of full scale productions.

I suppose, beyond sounding slightly cultish, if it worked it would all be worth in the end.

Six years after graduating I look back at my theatre school experience with a mixture of emotion, which ranges from sweet nostalgia to blinding rage. But when I take a deep breath and the feeling passes I start to wonder.

Do theatre schools in all their various contemporary forms serve young aspiring actors well?

My guess is that the answer to that question depends on individual experience. What school, what teachers, what students etc. And there is no doubt, that from school to school, while there are often great similarities, there are also vast differences in styles, methods, approaches and philosophies.

And so it is in the spirit of genuine open-minded investigation that I will begin a series of conversations here on the Praxis website, called Exit Interviews. I will talk to former theatre school attendees, graduates, non-graduates, as well as former students who are now teachers, from a variety of schools across Canada and North America. My hope is to broaden our understanding of the contemporary theatre school, its strengths and weaknesses, through the honest reflection of those who survived it. Stay tuned!

If you attended theatre school and would like to weigh in on this conversation, please leave us your comments below or send us an email to  I look forward to the debate!