Spotlight on Alumni: Elyssia Sasaki
Elyssia Sasaki (BA Special Honours, Devised Theatre, 2013) has split the last 5 years of her life between Toronto, Atlantic Canada, Australia and as of a year and a half ago, north of the 60th parallel in the Yukon. After graduating from York, she helped produce the second iteration of KATA (Theatre Parallax) which went to Cardiff, Wales for the World Stage Design Festival (Sept 2013), devised a show, Idle Lessons (Raw Matter), with 6 of her creative soulmates from her graduating year (May 2015), hopped on a bicycle with The Otesha Project to promote sustainability and social justice to youth (Fall, 2015), and now works as the Programming Coordinator and Production Assistant for the Yukon Arts Centre.
What is your fondest memory of studying Theatre at York?
Ahhh so many. Creating a multimedia adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest in my second year of university under the direction of Laura Levin was definitely one of them. I remember this show felt like a lightbulb, illuminating, to me, what bizarre, layered stories theatre could tell. Also illuminating because we used all the lamps from Wesley’s apartment in the Village to light that show. I love that kind of constraint, the kind that forces you to be creative with your workarounds. I would also say that Artistic Directing playGround with Anthony Di Feo in 2013 was really fun. We turned 21 the same year playGround turned 21 and thought it fitting to put on party hats and eat birthday cake during our introduction for all six shows.
What attracted you to York in the first place?
The foundational first year where we learned a bit of everything. I knew I wanted to do theatre, but I didn’t know what that meant, and I was afraid of choosing, locking myself into something. You might think that all you want to be is an actor, or a writer, or a designer, but what you learn in the classes you consider to be ancillary will set you up for success. Theatre and live performance can be a very gruelling process from page to studio to stage, and everyone, from the actors onstage to the accountants sitting in a 9-5 office, is a part of it. The more you understand about what other people go through to create, perfect and perform their own craft, the more compassionate you will be as a theatre artist, within your own practice and in respect to the practice of others. People notice that sort of thing.
What were some of the things about Theatre that you believed to be true but found to be either false or fluid?
I remember, at the age of 17, believing that if I wanted to be involved in the theatre, I HAD to be in Toronto. Though it is undeniable that Toronto is a major hub of creation in the country and an incredible marketplace of new works and ideas, there is so much more that Canada has to offer. Working in Yukon over the past year and a half, I have had the pleasure of meeting master puppeteers from the Okanagan in BC, dancers from Cambridge Bay, NU, Singers and Songwriters from Yellowknife, NWT, and, of course, the many talented musicians, theatre-makers, dancers and visual artists that call Yukon home.
Did connections, friendships, relationships you made at York help you afterwards?
Of course. Some of my favourite people in the world were in my classes at York. You don’t spend 3 years rolling around on a studio floor together for nothing. I owe my first conference experience to Peter McKinnon (Prague Quadrennial). My first experience touring a show (might I add, internationally) to Ian Garrett. I owe my job up here in the Yukon to the willingness of my peers and my teachers to write recommendations and letters of support for my application.
Can you tell us a story of a moment where your training at York was clearly useful?
I recently helped produce a conference that YAC had taken the lead on. It was just like managing a production – many moving parts, with many aspects being a variable. Having organized lists, knowing how to speak a technician’s language, knowing how to treat an audience, ability to source solutions and familiarity with troubleshooting a projector all came in handy.