Theatre: Theatre grads get “bridge” to professional careers

- Adrienne Holierhoek

After graduation, most theatre students expect to have to work hard and “pay their dues” to make it big. But this summer, six graduates from UVic’s Department of Theatre will get an amazing opportunity to break into the national theatre scene with Victoria’s newest professional theatre company, the Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre.

Blue Bridge’s mandate is to mentor young theatre artists with established professionals, offering them the chance to perform major roles alongside of some of Canada’s most respected theatre artists. The idea of founding artistic director and theatre professor Brian Richmond, the theatre company also works closely with the Faculty of Fine Arts to present the Professional Theatre Apprentice-Scholarship Program.

For BFA recipients Rielle Braid and Brian Culp, who will play the parts of Audrey and Antonio in Shakespeare’s As You Like It (June 9–21), this means the opportunity to work with the esteemed Canadian director Jeannette Lambermont-Morey. “I’m learning a lot,” says Braid. “It’s the perfect step for me. I feel proud to be part of the inaugural season.”

“I really feel this gives me a leg up and a bridge to a career in professional theatre,” says Culp, who transferred to UVic from a community college in Portland. This opportunity has opened doors to an audition for another production of As You Like It in Banff this summer.

As assistant to the costume designer for As You Like It, theatre and English double major Natasha Sharpe is also learning on the job. “I’m picking up contacts and information from people who have international experience.” After her experience with Blue Bridge, Sharpe will be taking on the role of co-producing artistic director for the summer season at the Bare Bones Theatre Company in Nelson.

Madeleine Wilson, who has a BFA in theatre specializing in directing, is the assistant to the producing artistic director for Blue Bridge and works closely with Richmond. “I get to see the underbelly of the theatre, from marketing initiatives to equity issues and grant applications. I enjoy seeing the whole picture and then taking care of all of the details that make it happen.”

Two other theatre graduates, Sara Pelzer and Ingrid Hansen, will be involved with Blue Bridge’s production of the musical The Fantasticks (August 4–16). Pelzer will be performing the leading role of Luisa while Hansen will be the costume designer.

Hansen, who started in the acting program, fell in love with other areas within theatre. “I realized I wanted to have more creative input into the artistic process. Switching to the comprehensive degree gave me the chance to learn theatre design and have a wide array of experiences that I feel led me to start my own company, SNAFU Dance Theatre.”

Pelzer grew up in Victoria and wasn’t sure what she wanted to be. “The professors in our department, especially Brian Richmond, helped expand my idea of what I could do as an actor and to see it as a collaboration of different art forms and styles.”

Pelzer and Hansen are also collaborating on the upcoming SNAFU production of Pretty Little Instincts for the Fringe circuit later this summer.

Each of the students recognized that UVic was a unique environment to learn in. “You get out of it what you put in,” says Hansen. Culp also made the most of his time here by diversifying his education to include set design and construction, lighting and sound design and operation, as well as acting.

Looking back on her time here, Braid wanted to recognize the support of Phoenix Theatre audience members and recalled meeting one at the Belfry Theatre. “She had followed my time at the Phoenix and recited all the plays I had been in! This city’s theatre community is so supportive and they’re keen to see us succeed.”

Victorians can keep watching UVic’s stars shine this summer on the stages of Blue Bridge Theatre.


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Keywords: theatre, theatre, grads, bridge

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