Editorial by Karen Johnson-Diamond
When I graduated from theatre school in Red Deer, Duval Lang (former Artistic Director of Quest Theatre in Calgary) cast me in a touring production. Was it because he needed a young-looking girl and I passed? Partly, sure. However, there were many established artists in Calgary at that time who could have ‘played young’. Duve saw the value of fostering emerging talent and expanding the theatre community in doing so. So many actors, stage managers, and designers working professionally in Calgary were given a leg up by Duval Lang. Now it is up to us, the veterans, to continue that work by paying it forward.
Thirty years later, I find it incredibly exciting and rewarding to work with emerging artists. My training comes from a time where there was rarely a design with projections, gender-fluid casting, or site specific devised theatre. In working with emerging talent in our community, I have been exposed to new playwrights, and to styles of theatre and design that have become popular only in the last decade or so.
Years ago, I was filled with wonder seeing Downstage Theatre’s, Arm’s Length Embrace, a fluid ‘choose your own adventure’ performance, with each audience member determining their own path. The story was dictated by each individual’s curiosity. It was that show that first opened my eyes to what the ‘new kids’ were doing. If those of us in the theatre community didn’t open our hearts and minds to these sparks of ideas, we’d never experience the kind of work being produced today by innovative companies like Ghost River Theatre, Swallow A Bicycle, or The Old Trout Puppet Workshop.
Inside Out Theatre is leading the charge in Calgary when it comes to diverse and inclusive casting; able-bodied and differently-abled actors appear on stage together, and not always in plays solely about their abilities. Thank goodness people listened to Rebecca Northan years ago and said, “she’s got wild ideas about putting the audience INTO the plays.” And hence, Spontaneous Theatre Company was born.
Each time I attend a performance at Northern Light Theatre, I am introduced to someone wonderful Trevor Schmidt has discovered. Concrete Theatre is presenting important theatre for youth, featuring brand new theatre graduates. Three years ago, Hoodlum Theatre came on the scene with a mission to “…showcase emerging talent and give students and young artists a safe space to hone their craft and perform.” The work being done in Alberta to support and encourage emerging talent is proof of the industry’s excitement about the new blood!