Theatre St. Thomas: then, now and what’s to come

Correction: Theatre St. Thomas’s next production is The Bacchae, a theatrical development of Euripedes’s Greek tragedy running Feb 10-13 at the Black Box Theatre – not Heathers .

Current Season

The lights go down, the music builds and the crowd leans forward. The first face with a pale white face and bright red cheeks appears. Nothing can be heard but the sound of the voice as they begin their dialogue.

Trudeau and the FLQ was the most recent Theatre St. Thomas performance. With 68 parts played by 16 actors, the production included more than 600 cues.

All five viewings of show were sold out. But what is the future for this flagship extracurricular club that has 45 years of experience under its belt?

Nearly two years after the university stirred controversy by not renewing the drama co-ordinator job after Ilkay Silk’s retirement, TST appears to be opening a new dialogue with the university community.

Since joining the club, Theatre St. Thomas artistic producer Robin Whittaker has directed Carnation Voyage, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew; and this year, Trudeau and the FLQ. This February, TST will bring the ancient Greek tragedy The Bacchae to life on stage.

“It’s definitely batting above it’s weight class, for sure, among Canadian university campus clubs,” Whittaker said.

•••

This year’s Theatre St. Thomas president, Sharisse Lebrun, said the club works well with the drama department.

“It’s really important to have here at STU, and it compliments the drama concentration and allows students to apply what they learn in the classroom,” the fourth-year student said.

Both Whittaker and LeBrun said that TST also allows students to be creative in the ways they explore topics.

LeBrun said even though she isn’t in the drama concentration, the club allows her to get that experience that she can’t get through her degree.

“It not only compliments the drama education at STU, but all the education at STU,” she said.

Kelsey Colford, a St. Thomas graduate and a member of Theatre St. Thomas since her first year, knows exactly what this family means to each member of the club.

“In my first year I was terribly homesick and didn’t really feel like I had found my community at St. Thomas,” she said. “I decided to audition for Oh! What a Lovely War. I didn’t get in.”

Despite this, the club felt like a home away from home for Colford.

“They give me a place to go where I forgot my homesickness. It gave me mentors and friends who encouraged me to better myself. It gave me a purpose even on the difficult days. Those people were relying on me to show up and be a part of something,” she said.

“I sent an email to Ilkay [Silk, the club’s former director] asking if there was any way I could assist the production. She welcomed me with open arms and introduced me to my second family,” said Colford.

•••

Ilkay Silk oversaw Theatre St. Thomas for 36 years. Almost two years ago, her position was eliminated.

“I’m perplexed. Of course I’m upset. That goes without saying,” Silk told The Aquinian in 2014. “But the emotions are very layered. One is perplexed. Deeply, deeply not understanding the decision. So deeply. I don’t get it.”

The change came about due to budget cuts at the university. A petition circulated among the students to have the position renewed but at the end of 2013-14, but the position was still cut.

Going forward, Whittaker said he hopes to incorporate more Canadian plays that are relevant, not only locally but globally, along with student works. Whittaker will soon teach a script-writing class. He said he expects it to be included in Theatre St. Thomas’s future line.

“Definitely incorporating a venue for new writers, and Canadian plays when it makes sense to do them, definitely introducing our audience to new styles as well as new playwrights and new plays, these are the things we hope to do.”

•••

Kelsey Colford says the club will always have a special place in her heart, and she hopes that club retains its core values. 


“I hope the administration continues to support TST as it currently exists. That TST maintains the calibre of performance going forward and that it remains open to all the university population,” she said.

For the current TST president, the club’s growth is a constant drive for the people who hold it dear to their hearts.

“I’m graduating this year, and I’m not worried at all. I’m excited to see the work that comes out of TST,” she said.

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  • R. Whittaker

    Please note that Theatre St. Thomas’s next production is a physical theatre refashioning of Euripedes’s The Bacchae, running Feb 10-13, 2016 in the Black Box Theatre.

    Heathers is not a TST production.

    http://wp.stu.ca/tst/current-season/

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