Spotlight on Alumni: Mel Hague
Mel Hague (BA Theatre 2009, MFA New Play Dramaturgy 2011) tells us about her experience working in new play dramaturgy, and about what she carries with her from her time as a student at York.
I'm the dramaturge at Obsidian Theatre Company, working with Black Artists developing plays. I was the Associate Dramaturge at Factory Theatre, and I’ve worked with many companies in Toronto and beyond in new play development including fu-Gen Asian Canadian Theatre Company, the Shaw Festival, the Paprika Festival, the Rhubarb Festival, Mulgrave Road Theatre, Eastern Front Theatre Company, and the Banff Playwrights Colony.
What was the most valuable thing you learned while studying in Theatre at York?
I went through the Playwriting Stream with Prof. Judith Rudakoff. She introduced me to new play dramaturgy, so clearly that has been quite valuable to me as it’s pretty much what I do exclusively now. But what’s more, she encouraged me to find the companies and artists that I wanted to work with while still studying at York. So, while I was finishing my degrees (I have my BA in Theatre and my MFA in New Play Dramaturgy) I was networking heavily with companies downtown, meeting artists, getting to know who was doing what in the Toronto Theatre scene.
Her encouragement to do this in tandem with learning the skills I would need to work while at York is one of the main reasons I was able to know what to do when I graduated, because I knew who I was going to find work with.
What was one thing you enjoyed about York that was outside of the Theatre?
York has many fantastic departments outside of theatre, so when I was choosing my electives I opted to choose what was interesting to me, I took Caribbean History (which I failed miserably and had to drop, but I have the textbooks which I still go back to often today) African Literature and Drama, Post Modern Literature, Adaptations of Greek Mythology, all of these electives have had a wonderful impact on the breadth of my knowledge and have been very useful to me outside of York. So, basically, choose your electives wisely because they can come in handy if you pick good one.
Did connections, friendships, relationships you made at York help you afterward?
I am still very close to many of the friends that I made in Theatre at York, they are my core support, and a circle of people I can turn to for anything. But when I graduated I rarely worked on theatre with people that I went to York with. Sometimes I would meet other alumni in my professional travels, but I was rarely working with my fellow students. I think that this has helped me to develop professional relationships beyond my York connections. I believe that working with artists that have had different training to me has helped me to evolve and adapt my practice. Now, after a few years have passed and I have become more confident in who I am as a professional artist outside of York, I find myself returning to those classmates with whom I share a mutual artistic bond beyond friendship to work on projects.
It’s a difficult thing being a professional artist these days. But then again it always was difficult. Professional Theatre is a business just like any other business, so networking, putting yourself out there, all of the things that you should do when you are investigating any other field are paramount to becoming that theatre “professional” you may want to be. Sometimes it requires you to put your friendships aside and try “working up” ie. working with those who have more and different experiences than you.
Do you have any advice or tips for York students just entering the dept.?
Don’t let your degree define you. You are a unique individual amongst many, and your job at York is not to fit in the best to the mold, but to find what makes you, you. You are at the beginning of a long journey, and the things that you want will change and shift, so the best you can do is try and stay in touch with what will make you happy.