Two recent graduates try their hand at producing
By Julia Siedlanowska, Staff Writer
Director and acting teacher at Douglas College, Thrasso Petras recently invited two of his former students, Madelyn Osborne and Kate Prefontaine to associate produce Nicolas Billon’s Iceland this spring. The show is directed by recent UBC MFA grad Kathleen Duborg, and is her inaugural project as a director outside of UBC.
Osborne is a graduate of the Douglas Theatre Program, but stayed after her final year to take several guided study courses at Douglas College. Having taken the courses within Douglas College’s Theatre Program, Osborne worked with Petras as an assistant director.
“Thrasso recruited me in January when we were working on The Importance of Being Earnest, asking if I’d be interested in associate producing,” said Osborne. “Having no idea what that meant but jumping on an opportunity I said yes.”
The guided study courses helped prepare Osborne for her role as associate producer on Iceland. “It taught me a lot about deadlines and getting things done now, not later. I also really learned how to communicate with people and pull the resources I knew I had and ask for help when I didn’t have any,” said Osborne. She also worked as a student assistant in the Theatre department this past year, which she says helped her with her ability to stay motivated and to prioritize.
Recent graduate of the Stagecraft and Event Technology Program at Douglas College, Prefontaine was head of sound when Petras directed A Macbeth at Douglas College this past fall.
“So we had that connection there,” Prefontaine says. “Thrasso contacted me shortly after A Macbeth wrapped and asked if I was interested. I also knew his production partner Kathy Duborg from years back when we worked at the Gateway Theatre together. Kathy and I ran into each other at a performance of A Macbeth and we caught up a bit so possibly a seed was planted there.”
Both students rose to the opportunity of producing and learned a lot about the role. “Producing is a vastly different animal than being a tech, or an actor,” says Prefontaine. “It’s all about connections. I think my stage management background helped a bit there because you’re constantly communicating with so many different individuals in vastly different departments and you need to ‘speak their lingo’ while still communicating what we need for the production. One minute you may be speaking to government employees about alcohol licences, the next you’re contacting people on Craigslist about buying a couch for the set, and then the next minute you’re trying manage the social media aspect and posting photos to Facebook to drum up interest. Producing can be anything and everything.”
In addition to using their connections and people skills, the students also learned about perseverance, as Osborne describes: “The greatest thing I’ve learned is probably that you really can get anything done as long as you are willing to work for it. There were plenty of times I would get frustrated not knowing how to do something or where to go, but I’d push through, research, and ask for help until I got what I needed to fulfill that task. Then, when I finally did, it was so satisfying knowing I didn’t break.”
Both Osborne and Prefontaine came to the opportunity through their connection with Petras through the Douglas College Theatre Program. “I think one of the greatest things that Douglas gave me to prepare for this was a network of individuals that live for theatre,” says Prefontaine. “The stagecraft group I graduated with is like a little family and I know I can turn to many of them for help on any project because they love this business. Many have already lent a hand to Iceland, and others I’m already working with on other projects. It’s a great little community we’ve grown.”
On the creative side, Duborg chose and directed the show by the Canadian playwright as a project outside her MFA. The story is told by three characters and deals with ideas on capitalism, sex, and racism.
“Why this show is ultimately challenging to an audience is because they want to understand who these people are really fast,” says Duborg. “As an audience we’ll make a decision pretty quick on who [the character] is. But what Nicolas Billon does is he then cuts the legs out from underneath that judgment. All of a sudden it turns and you’re unsettled because you thought you had it.”
Iceland concluded its week-and-a-half run at Vancouver’s Studio 16 on May 3.