The Upstage Interview, each Monday, is a result of CharPo's media partnership with Upstage: Theatre on Radio on CKUT.
Upstage host Eric Sukhu spoke with National Theatre School (NTS) CEO Simon Brault about the NTS Revealing Talent Tour. Below is an abridged version of the interview transcribed by Estelle Rosen, CharPo Editor-in-Chief.
The conversation began with Sukhu asking Brault how he handles his several posiitions including CEO of NTS, Founder and President of Culture Montreal, and Vice-Chair of Canada Council for the Arts Board.
The first thing I have to do is learn how to wear many different hats and travel with all the baggage that comes with it. I have been involved almost 30 years in the cultural milieu. I love it. When I was working with Monique Mercure, then Artistic Director of NTS, I was asked by the previous government to serve on the Board of Canada Council. In fact, I’m the only person on that Board that has been re-appointed by the Conservative Government despite publishing many articles and a book on culture sometimes criticizing them.
There will always be theatre. A lot of funding isn’t necessary to do theatre.
Brault was asked what it is he loves about theatre.
What I like about theatre is that it’s still a simple, powerful, resilient art form. Even today with new technology and various possible platforms, theatre is still the incubator of so many discoveries in terms of text and images.
Theatre remains specific as a very old art form and highly transferable to other media like TV or film. There will always be theatre. A lot of funding isn’t necessary to do theatre. Very sophisticated productions can be done because theatre was, and always will be, accessible to those people who urgently want to say something about life.
Brault was asked about the Revealing Talent Tour being presented as part of NTS 50th anniversary celebrations.
In fact I am just back from travelling across Canada spending eight days with our English class graduating this May. We were in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, and Halifax, performing a 20 minute piece; a tapestry of monologues from Shakespeare, Molière, Michel Marc Bouchard and other playwrights.
The worst student for us would be someone who would be some kind of tourist; trying to see if they like it or not.
It was amazing to see the reaction. For me it’s been a treat. Rarely do I have the opprtunity to spend a week on the same topic.
To have the chance to travel with the students, share conversations about the future of theatre was extraordinary.
Usually I only have a brief time to spend with students. How great to work in a place where people surrounding you are in their 20s and everybody wants to imagine they will make a difference in the world of theatre – that energy and commitment is inspiring and fulfilling.
Sukhu asked about the current aggressive marketing campaign including huge posters and TV ads.
This is the first time we decided to do this kind of campaign. Usually we have more applicants than positions, but this year we decided to take a different approach.
One of my roles is to avoid the situation where we would become some sort of Ivory Tower. Even though training is intense, we need to keep the connections with the rest of the theatre milieu and the rest of society. Young people are there to master their art but also to become citizen artists. We need to be in synch with society.
Sukhu asked about criteria for accepting students.
Drive and talent. We try to find students who know that this is what they want to do in life. The worst student for us would be someone who would be some kind of tourist; trying to see if they like it or not. They need to have the passion for total commitment. We understand that one doesn’t learn at school everything needed to be an artist. We learn how to learn – by repetition – success and failure – by observing - being coached by the best teachers and professionals.
Commitment is crucial. There isn’t a marking system at NTS. 99% of those students accepted will finish their training because they have been carefully chosen. They may not know exactly what they will do every week but they know that they are entering a world where passion, hard work and commitment are essential.
Revealing Talent Tour
Mar. 15, Centaur Theatre Lobby 7pm