October 1, 2014

The Gathering Project Launches the 2014/2015 Theatre Season @ York

On Tuesday, September 15th, the Acting Conservatory, Devised Theatre, and MFA Theatre students came together in the Joseph G. Green Studio Theatre to perform the 27th annual Gathering Project. Rehearsals for this performance take place during the first week of classes, and the show only runs for one night. Coming up so fast in the academic year, many people are left wondering: What is the Gathering Project?

Gathering Project Audience

According to Jamie Robinson, an MFA director, The Gathering Project is, “a chance for the Theatre Acting and Devised area to meet early in the year, and to create a collective piece of theatre based on a yearly theme. This year it was ‘Faith’. The students are divided into five groups, each with a different director from the Graduate Program. From here, it is their job to meld these images into an 8-10 minute collage that honours each interpretation, while striving to maintain a cohesive narrative, however abstract that may be.”

The pieces were oftentimes dreamlike, but very clear in their intention. Autumn Smith is an MFA director who found the theme of “Faith” very difficult to tackle. She explained, “After watching all of the pieces that my group shared it was evident that we were all in a state of questioning our beliefs.  This was the motivator that took us to our darkest hour of having lost hope.  The final question being: When all faith is gone, is there one thing that can make you believe again?” Anyone who had the privilege to see The Gathering Project would agree that these ideas were not only relevant, but beautiful to watch.

Although the theme of faith was a serious one that dealt with real issues such as death, infidelity and the afterlife, there were also moments of humour and playfulness. Jamie Robinson’s piece included a moment about the faith of dogs to their owners, in which the actors became a group of dogs barking and playing in a park.

When asked about the creative process, 3rd Year Acting Conservatory student Raechel Fischer had said, “It was all about finding the common ground and working from there” this allowed for a piece that she described as “something we were all on board with and connected to”. Because every student had the opportunity to contribute their own ideas, each of the performances was unique and specific to the groups’ experiences.

Gathering Project Production PhotoAlthough every performer enjoyed being on stage and watching their peers perform, Terrah Nitkin, a 3rd year Acting conservatory student said her favourite part was,  “Sitting around in my group and throwing out ideas, laughing and making the experience super fun, fueled by the excitement of what our piece was going to look like in the end.”

A unique aspect of the Gathering Project is also that it includes Devised Theatre students who wish to participate. Emily Cornelius, a 3rd year DT student, expressed her appreciation to be a part of this performance. When asked about her involvement she said, “When you are in Devised Theatre at York, you sometimes feel like you are in your own little world. This is a chance to get involved with the rest of the department, so why not use that chance to show the skills you learn in DT!” She recommends the experience to all Devised Theatre students interested in getting more involved with what Theatre @ York has to offer.

Gathering Project Balls in the AirWhen asked why the Gathering Project is important to the Theatre @ York community, Autumn Smith said, “I think it breaks down the walls between departments. Undergrads, grads and devised all come together with no superior status. They welcome each other in. They share. They do not get graded, so they can create freely. The work, therefore, is honest and raw.”

If you did not get the chance to see this year’s Gathering Project, you can see many of the acting and MFA students’ work in the first unmounted show Love and Information by Carol Churchill which stars the 3rd year Acting Conservatory students, and is directed by both Jamie Robinson and Autumn Smith. The show runs from October 23rd-25th.

Photos: Megan Apa