Spotlight on Alumni: Natasha Ladouceur
I haven't done much acting since leaving Theatre @ York five years ago. I have instead pursued a career in criminal law. I studied at Centennial College and obtained a certificate in Court Support and I am now a Criminal Court Registrar at the Superior Court of Justice in downtown Toronto. Theatre and Acting will always be close to my heart but I now utilize my skills learned at York in my current field. The only performing I am doing these days is for a crowded courtroom full of lawyers, judges, and persons accused with various crimes. I wouldn't trade my experience in the theatre department at York for anything in the world as it has become essential in my personal development as an adult as well as a professional who is starting out in a high pressure career. My job presents me with unique challenges that I am better equipped to handle because of my four years at York.
What was the most valuable thing you learned while studying in Theatre at York?
Theatre at York gave me a lot of skills that I've carried into my current career. One of the most valuable gifts York gave me is my abilitiy to self-evaluate. You don't realize when you're a young person how important it becomes to know your strengths and weaknesses. Not only is it a question that's asked at every single job interview of your adult life, you'll be surprised how impressed people are when you can identify and articulate a greater understanding of yourself. You come across as more confident and you tend to be received as far more open, honest and approachable. You can only say, “I'm a really organized person” or “I'm always on time” so many times before it stops being authentic.
What was the most challenging aspect or experience of training/studying at York?
Nevermind the long hours of rehearsal, being on point night after night for whatever show you happen to be doing at that time, or cramming in all your homework on Sunday because that's the only day you could find time to do it, the hardest part for me was leaving. I would have been content to stay and study forever at York. After four years of bonding with the instructors and your fellow classmates you become protected by the bubble that is Theatre @ York. You're so consumed by the material you're studying and you live and breathe the program and it's difficult to imagine yourself without it. The program forced me to take a magnifying glass and look at every inch of my being. Not only look at it but accept it, love it, embrace it. I've since taken that knowledge and used it to my advantage in the “real” world, out from under York's wing and I wouldn't trade my experience for anything.
What is your fondest memory of studying Theatre at York?
Where do I begin with this one? I have so many fond memories at York, it was surely the best time of my life. One of the best was when we would get ready to perform a show and in my year we would do a “Symphony of Sound” before every show. This is where one person starts by making a sound or improvizing a little tune and whenever you're ready you jump in and add to it until you are surrounded by voices and music. It was ususally done in a circle so you could feel the music and voices running through your body and your veins. I remember feeling the most at peace when this was happening because you could hear the music but our arms would be wrapped around each others wastes so you could feel the energy of your fellow actors and I think it made us feel way more connected and present during the performance.
What was your favourite place at York, and why?
My favourite spot at York was the black box aka the Joseph G. Green Blackbox Theatre. It was (and probably still is) a great intimate space to work in. I liked being so close to the audience and being able to see them under the lights. In the bigger theatres it's far more difficult to get that close to your audience. I liked the interactivness it provided.
What was one thing you enjoyed about York that was outside of the Theatre?
York University's main selling point for me was the environment it presented. I had gone and auditioned at various universities all over Toronto but when I went to York and saw the beautiful landscape, people playing guitar outside on the grass, the geese waddling around and just the general calming feeling that the campus seemed to have. I felt automatically at ease when I saw the beauty that surrounded me everyday and no matter how stressful my day has been I could always find a nice quiet spot under a tree and get lost in a book or my music.
What did you do for the first summer out of the program?
I did what many of us did… I worked. I didn't work in the theatre, I worked at many many retail and office jobs and I would audition in between shifts. I did a few student film projects at the Toronto Film School and performed at a benefit that was held by York's alumni for the fight against Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for our troops in Afghanistan.
Do you have any advice or tips for York students just entering the dept.?
You are not perfect. That's the first thing you need to know before entering the department. If you don't go into the program with an incredilby open and flexible attitude it can be very difficult to cope on a day to day basis. I was incredibly stubborn in my first three years at York and was determined the be unchanged by the conservatory program. I learned later in life that this was a big waste of time and energy. Embrace the change and adventure that is awaiting you. I am a completely different person now than when I went into the program in 2004 and I will always owe who I am today to the training I recieved at York.
Do you have any advice or tips for York students just about to graduate? about to join the job market?
Do not get discourgaged. Your classmates may get picked up by agents and other theatre and film professionals after the big Theatre Ontario audition and you may not. This is the reality. The most important thing is to remain grounded and rooted in your own reality and don't think yourself to be a failure if your go through four years of acting training and then decide that it's not for you when you graduate. It doesn't mean you've failed. It means you were mature enough to know that this is not the right path for you. It's painful to let go of a dream you've had for so long but so much of being an adult is making smart and wise decisions. Not everyone will be able to make a full-time career out of theatre (I didn't) and thats okay. Be smart and have a plan and then have a back up plan for that, and a back up plan for that. Don't put all your eggs in one basket and know that there are other options out there for you.
If you had the chance to go back and visit your younger self as you were beginning at York, what advice would you give yourself?
Have fun. I would tell myself to have fun. As much as I enjoyed my time at York I often forgot to have fun. You can get so enthralled with the work and the plays and the analysis and the dialogue and everything really that you forget. I forgot to allow myself to have fun and work hard at the same time. Relax and take the experience for what it is worth.
“You've got to create a dream. You've got to uphold the dream. If you can't, go back to the factory or go back to the desk.”
—Eric Burdon, Singer/Songwriter 'The Animals'