On stage backstage -
Those of us working in the theatre use jargon, terms and buzz words and tend to assume that everyone else knows what we mean. A few weeks ago, I addressed the subject of preview performances - a term that has not been regularly used in Stephenville but is standard practice for theatre companies around the world. This week I thought I would address what constitutes a 'professional' in the theatre, as it seems to be a hot topic lately, particularly among our company and patrons. The Oxford Dictionary defines a professional as "a person having impressive competence in a particular activity" or as "one engaged in an activity as a paid occupation." It would be wonderful if theatre artists in Canada could reside exclusively in the latter category. Alas, in this wonderful country, only 5 per cent of people who classify themselves as actors actually earn the majority of their living through their craft! Shocking as it may seem, this leaves 95 per cent of professional actors sitting in the former definition - people who have impressive competence in a particular activity, but sadly, little opportunity to follow their dream of living the life of a working actor, let alone a star. Unlike the United States, it is only within the last 55 years that Canada has had theatre companies of professional status - made up of our own productions, created by our own artists. Even the largest companies rely on people who follow their passion while working their "day jobs." Ever wonder what all those spear carriers and bit part actors do when not on stage? How about the people making commercials you see every day on TV? How about the chorus members of the largest opera companies? Safe to say they are singing in the church choir right beside you on Sunday, and maybe serving your gin and tonic in your local bar any night of the week. Stephenville is blessed with a wealth of talented people who do not, for any number of reasons, make their living from their art, yet these individuals possess very impressive competence. Young Evan Smith, who came to STF as an intern in 2007, about to complete his final year of high school and will, quite likely, go on to study musical theatre at one of several excellent facilities. Dave Bennett, a talented musician from St George's who has worked with STF for several years, and during the off season may be found building, renovating or telemarketing. Jennifer Dawson, a civil servant, has an amazing voice and fills the house whenever she performs. And Lynette Murrin, another amazing singer - oh, wait now, she teaches music so maybe that makes her a professional - but no she only teaches she doesn't perform so I suppose she must falls into the talented category only. Who would dare dismiss these individuals as not professional? You can see how complicated this gets. The Stephenville Theatre Festival was established 30 years ago and is one of Canada's oldest professional summer theatres. It was created to foster talent in the area and create performing art. With all this amazing talent to draw upon, how lucky we are!