This is the second in Folio’s three-part series Welcome to the pARTy, where we ask upper-year arts and design students to share their experiences with the incoming class. Read part one here and part two here.
Starting university can be daunting. As an arts student, you may be faced with juggling new friendships, foreign technology, and unfamiliar skills. Either way, these experiences are the first steps to becoming more confident in your work and in yourself.
Vitan Pravtchev, a third-year theatre studies student, shares his first year experiences below and welcomes you to the pARTy.
To start off, why did you decide to go into theatre?
Throughout my childhood, I went into theatre programs just for fun, kind of like summer camp. It wasn’t until Grade 7 when I decided I wanted to go to Etobicoke School of the Arts for musical theatre. I loved singing, I loved dancing and I loved acting and when I auditioned I got in. I spent four years in musical theatre, but throughout my high school career, in fact, I wanted to be a lawyer, a chemical engineer, a linguist, a biochemist — everything but acting.
When Grade 12 rolled around, I decided I wanted to get into this profession [theatre]. I said that I don’t care about the money; the money comes when you have a passion for something. I realized that theatre was always there. No matter how academic I was, I always felt free in the theatre. I think Grade 12 was the biggest turning point when I realized the academics are fun, but I can’t do that for the rest of my life and I decided that I wanted to become an actor.
What was something you wish you knew about your program going into first year?
When I came into first year, I objectified everything. I was looking at my teachers and I was thinking like, “What the heck are you teaching me?”
The biggest thing that I want to tell first years is to not objectify the work. Just come in here with an open mind because becoming an actor is not doing what you already know. The best actors out there have full life experience. And that’s why when you get into the program, be vulnerable. Have an open heart, have an open mind, and listen. Forget about what you’ve learned. Have it at the back of your head, but right now you’re going into a program to develop more skills, not to use what you already know.
What were your favourite classes?
Because I had an extensive dance background, I loved [Pippa Domville’s] class. She teaches Movement, and I loved it. We did pilates, yoga, cardio, we did tons of stuff. It really helped me understand my body a lot more.
Another class that I really liked was Zone of Silence with Perry Schneiderman. I did not reap all of the benefits from it because I did objectify that class a lot in the beginning, but it taught me how to listen.
I liked voice class with Irene Pauzer. I enjoyed that class because my voice grew a lot. You don’t realize it when you’re in the class, but now when I’m hearing myself, my articulation is better, and I formulate my thoughts better.
What were your least favourite classes?
I did well in history, but I didn’t like it. It was too lecture-based for me. It was almost the history of art in general. It was just so much information, and I felt like I was just collecting information and that’s it. If the class was more interactive, I would’ve liked it.
What building/room did you do most of your work in?
We actually work in Kerr Hall West 80 and 79 because those are the biggest studios. We do a lot of the movement work in Graham; it’s just like this dance studio.
Upstairs [in the Ryerson Theatre School building], there’s a studio in 312 or 311 and we use that as well because it has mirrors.
There are tons of rooms. That’s the best thing is that there’s always some kind of room somewhere in the school that you can use. If you’re ever auditioning for something you can always work somewhere.
What tools have you used the most and how do they help?
This school has a philosophy of creating an actor’s toolbox. You’re never doing one technique. It’s very much diversified, which is the best.
The first thing that they work on is your imagination. That is the first tool that they pull your experiences from.
Your physical body is the next tool. It’s a huge instrument; this includes your physical and your vocal instrument. So, that’s another tool. That’s what they do in voice class is to broaden that vocal instrument.
What’s your favourite project you’ve done so far?
In first and second year we do scene studies. I absolutely love them. It’s so much fun because you’re focusing on a smaller piece of work, and it’s so much easier especially for an actor, like me, who doesn’t have extensive acting training. You can really look at a 20-minute script and really break it down and nitpick it and have that attention to detail.
After scene study we did Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I was Hamlet actually, and I’m very proud of that. I loved Shakespeare because it taught me a lot about text analysis. When you look at the text it looks plain and two dimensional, but the moment you start reading the script, that’s when I realized there’s so much more depth.
Do you have any other words of advice for first years coming in?
Take a breath. When you get into the program don’t have any expectations or anticipations. Come in with a clean slate and have fun. Go to parties, but don’t overwhelm yourself with drama — by drama I mean friendships and stuff like that. Just really allow yourself to soak in everything.
Don’t objectify the work and don’t have an ego. Be true to who you are.
The biggest thing that I would say is accept what your teachers are telling you. Take it in. Really try to understand what they’re trying to say with that criticism, don’t just take it personally.
Also, listen. I think the most important thing that any actor should have is to have that capability to listen to the other person.
Photos courtesy of Isabelle Docto