On September 12, HCA will be welcoming students back into our halls and classrooms once again after a 6-month shutdown. Our Acting instructor and Theatre Department Head Stephanie Hope Lawlor has been cooking up great ideas for her returning classes, and we had a conversation with this dedicated teacher to learn what exciting things are in store for students in the Fall. In addition to being a vital member of our HCA community, Stephanie runs her own indie theatre company, Rook’s Theatre, and has been praised by Gary Smith as being “something rare: a real, unvarnished actress.” Stephanie brings a true passion to her classes, and we’re excited to see how HCA students will learn and grown under her guidance this year!
Why is learning acting such an important skill? During these strange and unpredictable times, why are the arts vital?
Acting teaches important life skills like confidence, communication, teamwork, public speaking, empathy, and generous and meaningful collaboration. Studying acting empowers people to celebrate their individuality. In that way, the arts are vital and essential! They keep us connected and help people synthesize the world around them. During this period of time, we’ve all been turning to movies and TV shows, books, viral art gallery tours, podcasts, our favourite music… the arts help us to cope with our challenges and become better people.
What new things and awesome things should students be looking forward to in the theatre department this year? What are YOU excited about this year as we return to in-person classes?
This year, we’ll have lots of adventures in storytelling, musical theatre, improv, writing, rehearsing and performing! We are so lucky to have an inspirational space to work in, with the ability to physically distance and our very own stage. There have also been several awesome upgrades taking place at HCA, which is going to make for some fun, new opportunities.
More than anything, I am so looking forward to seeing everybody in person! Theatre is such a communal art form and being in the same room together again will be so exciting. This experience is changing us as humans and it will inevitably change the stories we want to tell and how we tell them. I’m excited to meet this year’s cohort of students and hear about what’s important to them — and to see them take the stage again.
What’s your teaching philosophy?
First and foremost, everybody has a voice that matters and each student’s presence is valuable. In my classes, it’s my aim to create a space that is safe, creative and founded on the importance of the ensemble. It’s through challenges that we learn and grow, and there’s no better way to do that than with a supportive company of actors. Oh, and embrace your weird!
You taught extensively online during the past few months. What was exciting about it, and what was the overall experience like?
Teaching acting online felt very daunting at first! I quickly realized that having the space to connect and be creative during such a strange, isolating time is what was most important. The arts always adapt to the world around them and I was so inspired to see the way HCA adapted to our circumstance so quickly! Now we have additional infrastructure to make sure our students are never without the art
Since April, HCA Theatre students have created 4 virtual plays, prepared audition monologues and songs, studied scenes, taken full-day camps and created an innovative piece of theatre for Stream Out Loud, the Hamilton Fringe Festival’s first-ever digital theatre festival. Along the way we’ve been able to maintain our creative connections, make meaningful friendships, and add a few innovative projects to our resumes while we were at it.Musical Theatre Ensemble is going to be happening online for the first term or so. Can you tell us a little about how the class will run, and what sorts of fun things students can look forward to?
I am SO excited to be joined by Rylan Allen for MTE this year! Rylan will be our music director and brings several years of teaching and performance experience with him.
Because there are still many questions about the safety surrounding group singing, we thought it would be best to start the year online and reassess as we go.
Though we won’t all be in the same studio for September, we’ll still be jumping right into dance classes and studying new music and choreography! Be ready for voice lessons, new dance steps and lots of opportunities to perform. Our Winter Showcase in December will go ahead as usual (either digitally or in person), and we have lots of fun plans in store for our big Spring Showcase in June!