For the third year in a row, HCA is excited to offer our youth-based Creation Collective theatre intensive that culminates in a Hamilton Fringe Festival performance. From July 5 – 16, participants between the ages of 14 – 25 will learn acting and creation techniques – and work together to create and present a piece of digital theatre as an ensemble. This program is intended for young creators of all artistic disciplines – no theatre experience necessary! We spoke to program leaders/theatre artists Erica May-Wood and Stephanie Hope Lawlor about their artistic backgrounds, teaching experiences, and what makes the Creation Collective such a unique experience for participants! Visit our HCA Creation Collective page to register for more info and to register.
What are your artistic backgrounds? Why and how did both of you get into theatre as a profession?
Erica: I did my first community theatre show when I was 13, went to a performing arts high school and got my first professional job when I was 18 – a show I did for 8 months, before going overseas to study further. The ‘why’ is a harder question…I don’t always feel that I chose it – it feels like it chose me, but more likely we chose each other. I love sharing stories, connecting and learning from other humans of so many backgrounds through theatre; whether making something with other artists or being moved by the work of other artists, I feel fully alive when I am working as an artist.
Stephanie: I watched a lot of theatre growing up, but it took a lot of courage for me to step into my first acting class! As soon as I did, I knew I was a goner. Taking acting classes as a teenager was completely life-changing for me – I learned that I was capable of more than I could have ever imagined. I found a place where my skills and interests aligned, and it was in that space that I felt most excited to learn. Acting classes turned into studying theatre at the college level, which turned into creating a fulfilling, exciting life in theatre.
The HCA Creation Collective participants will be working together as an ensemble to create a digital devised theatre piece. What is devised theatre? Can you tell us about the process of creating theatre in this way?
Erica: Devised theatre (also called collective creation) is the process of starting with nothing, working together to find out what interests the ensemble both creatively and in terms of story – and from there building, creating, rehearsing and presenting theatre together. It’s a sometimes-scary, but amazingly fun and rewarding process.
Stephanie: Devising a piece of theatre is great, because it lets the collective create something that is meaningful to them. Instead of working with already existing texts and characters, you can craft something that speaks directly to you and tells the story you want to tell. In the HCC, we explore lots of different creation techniques from writing to improv to movement to music – if you are inspired by it, you can create art about it!
The Creation Collective is a program for students aged 15-25. Why is providing a youth-focused theatre intensive particularly important to both of you?
Erica: Youth don’t always get enough opportunities to showcase their talent and offer audiences their wisdom, in my opinion. Youth know lots of stuff and see the world in a really unique way. There is so much we can learn from youth, and being entertained by their wicked humour is a big plus.
Stephanie: Young people are often underrepresented on stage! Being in your teens and early twenties is a formative age in terms of your creativity and artistic growth. It’s empowering to learn to trust in your own voice.
Students will be sharing their performance at the Hamilton Fringe Festival. What is a fringe festival and what might students expect from the experience?
Erica: Fringe is a great artist community with festivals around the world, creating space for a wide and diverse range of artists to make and share theatre. As self-produced theatre, everyone is also responsible for marketing and promotion and inviting the world to see your work. These are great skills for a future of producing your own work and beyond.
Stephanie: The Hamilton Fringe provides members of the HCC with a fun and exciting introduction to the theatre community in Hamilton. We have a thriving theatre scene here with incredible artists telling all kinds of stories through all kinds of artistic practices. The HCC bridges the gap between being a student and stepping into the professional world for the first time. The beauty of a digital festival means your work can be experienced by communities outside Hamilton. Your aunt who lives in Calgary can still tune in to experience your show. We’re no longer limited by time or space!
HCA has offered a summer Creation Collective program since 2019. Can you share any particularly special moments from the past couple years of the program?
Stephanie: What struck me the most in both programs (which looked vastly different in 2019 and 2020!) is how deeply the groups bonded. Whether in person or online, artists showed up with open hearts and open minds and bravely created together, even when they were nervous. When you’re devising together, it can be hard to see the end product. I get so excited to see groups let go of product and revel in process instead. The space between is where the magic happens.
Why should students join the HCA Creation Collective this summer?
Erica: You will make theatre. You will make new friends. You will have the experience of presenting a show in a festival. You will have the experience to make this uniquely yours.
Stephanie: You’re going to build new connections and develop a new theatre family. It’s going to be an outlet for you to synthesize the emotions and feelings of the past year and turn it into art, and it’s going to be a BALL. I can’t wait.