This spring Ottawa School of Theatre will celebrate 35 years of providing theatre education. Throughout the years, we have seen students and families grow and mature. We always say “theatre skills are life skills”, and that is evident when we look at past students. From team building to public speaking, we cover an array of abilities which prepare our students for their futures, no matter where they may go in life.
For some students, taking classes at OST lights a spark, an undeniable passion for theatre. Two such students are Sarah Allen and Katie Webb.
Sarah Allen has always been a performer. While she tried many different activities to channel her energy, it wasn’t until she came to OST when she was around 8 years old that it clicked. She started taking one class and was in an All Ages play, and over time she took more classes and got more involved in the school. “I’ve been so fortunate…to wear many hats!” She started helping teachers with younger students, working her way up to camp counsellor and volunteering.
“I’ve taken a whole lot of different classes at OST growing up. All of them have left their mark on me,” Sarah explains. “I think that getting to work with so many people has really helped as I feel that I can interact with anyone! I think that the collaboration and communication skills have always proved so useful and I would not have them if I had not been involved in the very active community that OST has.”
Sarah hopes to teach theatre to children, after discovering a passion for it when she was invited to be an instructor for our summer camps. Before focusing on being a theatre educator, she hopes to open a theatre company in Toronto. “[I want to] put on as many female empowering plays that I can. In a dream world my plays would have an entire female design staff and would be put on all over the country.”
For anyone starting out, Sarah believes there is something to learn no matter what part you are cast in. “With every character that you take on,” she explains, “everyone has a lesson you can take with you to the next role. We are constantly learning and growing and the best way to get better is by trying.” She also stresses the importance of putting themselves out there. “It can be scary to try new things, but the theatre community is loving and inviting!”
She also stresses the importance of having supportive parents. “Just knowing that, no matter what, you’ll have someone there to support you and cheer you on is so special. Theatre is the best thing you can do for your kids, it brings out a confidence that is unreal and prepares them for the world. It’s amazing the power the stage can hold for kids and the lessons it can teach.”
Sarah is currently studying Theatre in the Performance Creation stream at York University. She was the first recipient of the Kathi Langston Scholarship.
Katie Webb began her journey with OST when she was 9. What started as a fun day camp, during a PD day, became going to summer camp for two years. “I wasn’t particularly passionate about being onstage. Then when I was 11, I saw their production of the Nutcracker…it’s like a switch clicked and suddenly I just had to be up there with them.” After her first All Ages show, Mary Poppins, where she played Barbara Banks, she “made sure [she] was in every show and started taking classes,” which turned into volunteering when she wasn’t in class and teaching at camps.
Katie is currently studying Production Design and Technical Arts at the National Theatre School of Canada. “There’s nowhere I’d rather be during a show than backstage. I just love being right in the middle of it all. You’ve got actors rushing around to not miss their cues, crew members ready to change the set and stage managers trying to keep track of every person and prop in sight.” Her ultimate goal is to work for Cirque du Soleil and continue working in the industry for as long as possible.
“My years at OST have had such a huge effect on the rest of my life,” says Katie. “It’s the perfect place to be curious…I don’t think I’d be where I am right now without having asked so many questions.”
Her biggest advice to students is to not be afraid to ask questions or make mistakes. “If you’re confused or curious, take the opportunity to voice it. Everyone will be thrilled that you care enough to learn more. And as for mistakes, the beauty of live theatre is that no two shows are ever the same. There is a whole team…and they’re all there to help support you.”
And to the student’s parents, “I’d like to give [parents and guardians] a very big thank you. Thank you for signing your children up for theatre. Thank you for driving them to rehearsals, running lines with them, coming to see them perform, and thank you for giving them this opportunity.”
More recent graduates who have gone on to study theatre in post secondary are Michael Coghlan, Quinn Carter, and Avery Campbell. We thank all our past and present parents and students for being a part of our 35-year journey. It is an honour to see our students grow into amazing young people.