Spotlight on Alumni: Scarlett Larry
Scarlett Larry (BFA Theatre Production and Design ’17) is a freelance stage manager, lighting designer, technician, and the artistic director of What She Said Theatre. She has worked for companies across Canada that include Tarragon Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, Drayton Entertainment, and Carousel Theatre for Young People. While at York, she wrote and directed a feminist satire called The Stage Manager’s Guide to Dating Assholes, that was originally workshopped at York’s playGround Festival, then fully mounted at the Toronto Fringe and just last summer was produced by York at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. In February, Scarlett was a lighting design intern on Come From Away at Mirvish Productions, lighting designed by Howell Binkley. The opportunity was given to her by Siobhan Sleath, a York graduate and Binkley’s associate lighting designer.
What was the most valuable thing you learned while studying in Theatre at York?
I came to York, like many students, with the intention of acting. Before starting university, I had convinced myself that acting was the only thing I could do. What I learned in my first year, however, was that there are so many other possibilities not only within theatre, but the performing arts as a whole. Suddenly, I didn’t just want to act: I wanted to write, direct, manage, and design. While acting remained an important part of my life in first year, it was no longer the only part. When I got into the acting program late in the summer before second year, after having been waitlisted, I looked back at my time at York and realized I was happiest when I was learning about production. This revelation influenced me greatly in the next 3 years. I pushed myself to have as diverse an education as possible, jumping around constantly from stage management, to lighting design, to technical aspects of performance. I broadened my horizons into dance and art history. My world, professionally, academically and culturally is broader now because York taught me not to limit myself to anything.
Do you have any advice or tips for York students just about to graduate? about to join the job market?
Jump in before you graduate and network as much as humanly possible. While it’s never too late to start, it’s also never too early. I have gotten a large percentage of my work in Toronto because of The Bellows, a monthly theatre production mixer, which happens to be organized by a fellow York grad, Rebecca Hooton. I got my first stage management apprenticeship because I went to the CITT Jobs Fair that happens every January. You can fill out job applications until the cows come home but most theatre professionals work because they have connections. Start making them now.
Did connections, friendships, relationships you made at York help you afterward?
Last year, my friend Cole Vincent (BFA ’16) got a job as an assistant lighting designer to Howell Binkley. He got the interview for the job because the associate lighting designer, Siobhan Sleath, asked York to recommend someone as she prefers to work with fellow York grads. When Siobhan asked Cole for a recommendation for a lighting design intern the following year, he gave her my name. Had I not gone to York, I would not have interned on Come From Away. From there, I subsequently became Siobhan’s assistant on her design of Anandam Dancetheatre’s Contemporaneity 2.0 at Progress Festival.
There are a lot of other opportunities I’ve had because of my connections at York through professors and students alike. This month, in March, for example, I will be lighting designing a dance show at the Winchester Street Theatre, created by a York PhD candidate and produced by York professor.
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?
Explore as many aspects of theatre and yourself as you can. Never pigeon-hole yourself into one area of theatre. You have to opportunity to learn about theatre and the world: take those opportunities.
I wish I had taken more time in my first and second year to appreciate the educational opportunities that were in front of me, especially the international ones. I would have loved to do a year abroad but I did not slow down to fully see the bigger picture of my education until my third year.
What surprised you about YOU by the end of your time at York?
When I first got to York, I was interested in design, but a physical disability affecting the motor functions in my hands meant that my attempts at drawing were laughable and the thought of trying to glue toothpick legs onto a tiny chair in 1/4” scale gave me nightmares. When I started doing production classes, I asked to be excused from a lot of assignments involving the saws or industrial sewing machines. Using the sliding compound miter saw was particularly intimidating. However, instead of excusing me from carpentry class, the professor said he thought I could indeed use this scary looking device. To my surprise, he was right. This was the first step for me in exploring what else I could do in theatre, and not think about myself as being limited by what I couldn’t do. You don’t need proper motor functions, for example, to call a show. And to my delight and amazement, you also don’t need to draw or build maquettes to be designer, if your paint brushes are light fixtures. Fast forward a few years, and now I can truly call myself a jack-of-all-trades, working professionally as a stage manager, lighting designer, and technician, as well as creating and producing my own work.