STU alum takes on theatre in Toronto

Natalie Jarvis – The Aquinian

It was an average morning for Matthew Hines.

He woke up in his Fredericton apartment and prepared himself for a day of work at the Regent Mall. As usual, he logged onto the Ontario Colleges website to see if he had been accepted to the George Brown theatre program.

When he got the news, his heart was beating like crazy. He flailed around his apartment in a rush of joy and excitement.

“My roommate had auditioned as well and she didn’t get accepted so it was kind of an awkward moment, but it was more of a feeling of ‘Sweet, I don’t have to work at the Regent Mall again next year,’” he said.

Of the 35 students accepted to George Brown College this past fall, three came from St. Thomas University. Alongside Hines, Jeff Dingle and Carolyn Higle moved to the bustling streets of Toronto and took on an intensive theatre program.

Hines was surprised. He often contemplated what it meant to be good enough, or how he would rank among other young Canadian actors.

The curriculum consists of acting, dance and music parts, Shakespeare, movement exercises, muscle lengthening, improv, speech and voice work, among many other things.

Hines stressed the difference between university and college. He said college is more career-focused, preparing you for the demands of a specific job.

“University is more about expanding your mind – at least for me it was.”

He said he’s doing more work than he’s ever done in his life at George Brown College and that people often underestimate how draining the performing arts can be.

“It’s not just about memorizing something and writing a test or an essay about it – it’s about opening yourself up emotionally and the amount of work that it takes to do that in so many different areas is just ridiculous.”

Hines added that some people can’t handle the amount of rejection, or the idea that when they graduate, it might be a struggle to find work. Some of his classmates, whom he refers to as colleagues, have already left the program.

“It’s such a competitive field. But that’s the thing. You don’t get into the arts because you want money. You do it because you have to, right, it’s your calling.”

The average graduating class is about 16-17 people. That cuts the starting number almost evenly in half.

He admits that he’ll probably be a waiter for quite some time. For theatre actors, the jobs are scarce and don’t always pay well. He emphasized the importance of flexibility.

“You have to be willing to kind of go wherever the job is.”

But Hines said in a perfect world he’d get an agent and start working in a show somewhere.

He knows many actors wind up doing commercials or whatever they can find, but he’s not setting any limits. He holds a strong interest in directing and entertains the thought of starting a production company one day.

Beyond a strong work ethic, he said someone who thrives in theatre has a true desire to pursue it.

“It’s really hard. You have to really, really want it in order to achieve it.”

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