In acting, your body is your instrument. The student’s at CUE are fine-tuning this instrument to make each university play a first-class production.
It takes a big production team to put on a play and Everyman is no different. The set is currently going up, the costumes are being fitted, choreographers and movement coaches are correcting positions, and the actors are preparing their lines. “We are doing four days a week of rehearsals,” says Keera Kalynchuck, actor and drama student, “And Saturday is usually an eight hour day.”
Because of all the days spent together, Keera says “We create really close friendships.” They are all in it together and, although productions can be nerve wracking she says when they all get into positions they can say “Okay, let’s take a breath. We got this, it’s going to be fine.”
The play CUE is performing next is Everyman, a successful and popular play by poet Carol Ann Duffy, and originally produced by the National Theatre, London in 2015. Keera says, if she could put the play into one sentence it is “coming to terms with the inevitability of death.”
“It follows the main character, Everyman, as they go through his birthday, but then tragedy happens and death comes knocking at Everyman’s door,” she explains.
Keera describes her role Sensuality and Taste as very fun to play – “All the characters in the play are so different and so is the way they all interact.”
As a whole Keera describes the CUE drama program as “friendly and open.” Keera has been involved in both junior high and high school productions and says, “I wasn’t sure how the Concordia program would be, but I was immediately welcomed by the teachers, Glenda [Stirling] and Caroline [Howarth], who are just fantastic people to work with. They create a good energy for us to be creative and stretch ourselves as actors.
Preparation is key as an actor Keera says, but even in rehearsals there is an excited nervous energy when they do a full run of the play.
Everyone’s scrambling, making sure everything is perfect and on time. It’s fun to watch all the pieces come together, and see all our hard work pay off.
Part of the preparation involves memorization of lines and Keera mentions, “It’s really helpful for me to include actors from each scene and to memorize those lines together. But, if I have to memorize the lines myself I recommend memorizing them forwards and backwards – so that you know who comes before and after you.”
“Also, my advice if you mess up,” says Keera, “you can improvise to make it look like it wasn’t a mistake. The one time I was Dorothy in a Wizard of Oz production and the Winkies were carrying me off stage, one of them tripped and I went flying into the curtain. We just played it off like everything was fine, and the audience thought it was just a funny part of the play.”
Keera began university with a minor in Drama and a major in psychology, but she loved Theatre so much that she switched Drama as her major. She is getting training on and off the screen and hopes to one day be a cinematographer. “I taught myself how to do editing, work with green screens and I threw myself into classic movies. For my capstone this year I’m doing a short film,” Keera explained.
Speaking about the program as a whole, Keera emphasizes, “Drama really does create a sense of family and students here stay friends after graduation – these people are truly the kindest and most respectful people you’ll ever meet. Maybe it’s because we put ourselves out there and you have to get comfortable with all the other actors. We’re all trying new things and have to encourage each other.”
Keera recommends any student take theatre courses regardless of what career path they are taking. “I used to be one of those people whose face would go red presenting, but I’ve been able to get over that. When talking in front of people, a lot of people forget how to breath properly, so theatre is very helpful to get over nervousness by teaching breathing techniques.”
Stefan Sikanja plays “Strength” in the upcoming Everyman play. His character “portrays the inner strength a person has – you can be strong physically, but you can also be strong mentally or emotionally,” Stefan explains.
For Stefan, the first thing he considers when playing a role is “how does the character move? As soon as I feel like I’m moving as a character, then I am allowed to think as a character as well,” he adds.
Speaking about the rehearsal process, Stefan says “Acting is basically all about choices. We have freedom to explore different options in rehearsal – there are no wrong choices, but we’ll try to choose what we consider the stronger choice.”
Stefan doesn’t believe acting comes down to talent alone, he says “Like any professional field, whether you’re an athlete or an artist, to get to that next level, where you are deemed to be amazing in your field it comes down to work ethic.”
The harder you work will determine your success in the end – not just talent.
The CUE drama program has a very supportive leadership team, who help students get to the next level, says Stefan. “They have built a very comfortable environment which gives us a safe place to express ourselves. No one makes you feel bad for messing up – It’s all considered to be a learning experience. Caroline will say ‘Make bold choices,’ – we throw ideas at the wall and see what sticks.”
This is what makes theatre so unique says Stefan, no matter how many times you have done a production, each show is different. We have six runs of Everyman and none of those six shows are going to be identical – with a movie it’s the same performance over and over.”
Another difference between film and theatre is your movements, says Stefan. “If an audience at the Jubilee auditorium is sitting 150 feet back, you need to make expressive movements that are visible – all emotions are exaggerated,” he explains. “If you’re happy you can’t just show it on your face, your whole body has to express it. In film, it’s more internalized – a closeup or a wide shot might influence your performance, but movements can be subtle.
Stefan has loved acting so much that he’s planning to pursue this as a career. “I did a bit of acting in junior high, otherwise I just enjoyed acting with friends when playing games like charades, so I thought I would explore this Drama program at CUE – now it’s my passion!”
Stefan has already performed in musicals, plays and short films, and says after graduating this semester he will audition for some feeder schools to take his drama career to the next level.
When asking Stefan what advice he has for other students who feel nervous about performing he answers, “Don’t worry about nerves, because if you’re nervous it shows you care. Once you get on the stage and do your first scene the butterflies will peter out. You will get into the flow after a few minutes – and remember to breathe!”
After speaking to both Keera and Stefan one of the greatest benefits of the drama program is the self-confidence students can gain.
“Drama for me has helped me know myself better as a person.” says Stephan, “I understand what my body is capable of, how I can calm myself down, and what gives me the right energy.”
Keera agrees, saying, “Friends of mine who do improve are just so self-assured.”