It was about two years ago, during my second year of University, that I caught the itch for theatre. To my surprise, my interest in live-performance included both spectatorship of, and performance in, productions. I started auditioning for stuff at Western University, and it was upon the success of landing my first role as a Dragon in a Purple Shorts play called “Simon the Brave” that certain individuals began referring to me as the living Troy Bolton (from the movie High School Musical). Having grown up as a competitive athlete, eventually playing varsity basketball for Western (hence Troy Bolton), I found that the theatre scene felt very much like foreign territory, a world I was eager to become a part of.
By the beginning of third year I was pursuing a minor in Theatre Studies, with a new appreciation for theatre. Recently, I learned how relevant theatre and performance is to our everyday lives. For example, Judith Butler, a philosopher and gender theorist (among other things), discusses in “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An essay in phenomenology and feminist theory” how gender is socially constructed through the enactment of gender roles. Furthermore, it is in performing these roles that we construct our gender identity.
Engaging in theatre as both a cast member and an audience member has made me realize that one of the greatest strengths of theatre is its (potential) diversity. The reason why I say “potential” is that quite often this diversity can be halted by populist theatre, otherwise known as mainstream theatre. Jen Harvie’s 2009 book, Theatre & the City, touches upon this point. Regardless, diversity in an of itself is a hot topic nowadays, and I believe that it is starting to be reflected on stages in casting and in storylines. Take, for example, “The Gay Heritage Project”, a production put on by Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, which is an alternative Canadian theatre company whose mission is developing and presenting voices that question sexual and cultural norms. As you may have guessed by the title, “The Gay Heritage Project” examines the rich history behind gay culture, arguably a less frequented, topic presented on stage.
Destination Theatre is part of my journey in acquiring greater knowledge about theatre, by both studying it and immersing myself in one of the world’s leading theatre hubs. I am excited to experience theatre in another part of the world. There is a certain culture formed through the interaction of the city and the theatre productions, which results in a unique theatre community with a distinct feel. Watching a show in Stratford is a widely different experience, than a show in Toronto, or even in London. For example, in Stratford, it is not uncommon to run into actors at Balzac’s, either grabbing a Cup of Joe for breakfast or between matinee and evening performances. For me, this small-town feel carries over to the performances where I would see those friendly “neighbourhood” actors on stage. It fostered a strong sense of community in me, which manifested into a sense of pride and excitement towards the actors and performance, something I have not experienced at a Toronto-based production. I am curious as to the “feel” of the theatre scene in London, England.
Travel often results in much self-reflection and greater understanding of oneself, culture, and the world at large. In walking foreign landscapes, meeting new people, and attending cultural events, in this case theatre, I believe we can begin to understand that how we live is but one way of life, but one perspective. The result is a whole lot of self-reflection. I look forward to learning more about theatre, European culture, and myself as we embark on this journey to London, England together.
Cece Pellegrino is a fourth year student at Western University.