May 14, 2018

Spotlight on Alumni: Adriana Dimitri

Adriana Dmitri
Adriana Dimitri

Adriana Dimitri (B.F.A Production and Design, 2013) has spent her time since graduation working as a stage manager in theatre and opera. She has also worked around the world at the Prague Quadrennial, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and The Centre for Opera Studies in Italy. Before deciding to move away from theatre, Adriana worked on shows such as Kinky Boots (Mirvish Productions), Banana Boys (Factory Theatre) and spent three seasons with the Canadian Opera Company.

What is your fondest memory of studying Theatre at York?

While at York, I would be up at 4 AM, work at Starbucks from 5:00–9:00 AM, commute to school, go to class from 10:00–5:30 PM and work crew from 6:00-10:00 PM and then commute home. So naturally, my fondest memory at York would have to be being in the empty drafting room, in between class and crew starting, curled up in a ball on one of the desks, using my sweater as a pillow…and having a professor walk by, turn off the lights, and shutting the door.

This may seem like such a small memory, and even more than the precious sleep and rare moment of rest, I love it because I think it sums up everything about this program. Namely, it is A LOT and it’s overwhelming, and sometimes it may seem like your professors are being too hard on you, and other times you are being too hard on yourself…but at the end of the day, we have each other’s backs. Compassion, genuine connections, that’s what makes theatre great, and magical, and the reason we run ourselves ragged for it.

What was the most valuable thing you learned while studying in Theatre at York?

I think the most valuable thing I learned while studying at York was how to think on your own. There can be more than one way to tackle a problem and you don’t have to be afraid to collaborate with your professors if you see another way to do things. I was working a gig (my first SM job out of graduation) and my partner on the job said “the person in his program who didn’t do it the way the professor said was thought a fool by everyone else, and the professor’s word was god.” In that moment, I thought to myself how I couldn’t disagree more. Learning how to think for myself, analyze and assess a situation, then devising a solution (which may have been different than my professors) was probably the single greatest thing I could take away from York. That is not to say don’t listen to your teachers, but that is part of the collaborative nature of this program, of this industry, and is what is going to aid you in every challenge you face, in theatre or not.

Do you have any advice or tips for York students just entering the dept.?

To students just entering the department, I would say do the things that scare you while you have the chance. In my last crew placement at York, I looked at the positions available and thought “which of these terrifies me the most?” …and then I asked for that one (it was Head LX, by the way). Yes, we are looking to get good grades, and crew can be challenging enough even when you are working in a position you feel comfortable in. But you’re in a safe place where you have instructors who you can ask a million questions to and a support system that you wouldn’t otherwise have in “the real world,” so take advantage of it while you can.

Adriana Dmitri, Head of LX
Adriana Dimitri, Head of LX

Do you have any advice or tips for York students just about to graduate? about to join the job market?

Aside from telling you to apply and volunteer for all of the things, I think the biggest thing I could tell you is do not be afraid to tell people what you want.

I was working in opera and when people asked what I wanted to do, I felt I had to say “Oh, I want to work in opera,” or “whatever comes my way,” even though I knew I always wanted to work on large scale commercial musicals. Eventually when people asked me what I wanted to do, I was honest. You’d be surprised at the connections some of your connections have and how much people want to help. This is what led to working on Kinky Boots, and some of my other favourite jobs, and working with some of my theatre idols.

I would also supplement this, however, with don’t be afraid when what you want changes. We grow as artists and as individuals, so if the little voice in your head or that feeling that is buried so deep down, is trying to take you somewhere you didn’t realize you wanted to go, I implore you to have the courage to follow it.

Adriana Dmitri in the Mirvish rehearsal hall for Kinky Boots.
Adriana Dimitri in the Mirvish rehearsal hall for Kinky Boots.

If you aren’t still working in Theatre or related Arts, what are you doing? In which ways has your education at York, and in Theatre in particular, helped you in work and life?

I am actually no longer working in theatre, and that is something I never thought I would hear myself say (deciding to move away from theatre might have been the scariest decision of my life to date). Currently, I am the Event Coordinator AND Executive Assistant at Porter Airlines, though I started as the Receptionist.  My training from theatre has helped in every way, since previously, these were two separate full-time jobs (and doing both jobs still doesn’t compare to tech week). What I do right now is basically stage managing though—instead of a chorus of 80 people and a children’s choir, I have 4 executives and it’s my job to make sure they are where they need to be, when they need to be there, with what they need while they are there—and I get to plan the parties and recognition programs too.

Never mind being so impressively organized, efficient and creative, but being in tune with emotions, reading the room, anticipating needs, making an entire company feel at ease and familial—it’s all from theatre. My Porter family has definitely learned to accept my little theatre quirks too—when I refer to the kitchen as the green room, or my calendar of events for the year as the season plan, having every colour of highlighter and sticky note, or asking for specifics regarding the type, size, and colour when they come looking for tape—you can take the girl out of theatre, but you can’t take the theatre out of the girl. Though, all kidding aside, most importantly, thinking outside the box, being innovative and solution oriented, juggling 1001 projects all on the go at the same time, is bringing my theatre training to my job every day.

Adriana Dmitri in the cockpit of a Porter Airlines plane
Adriana Dimitri in the cockpit of a Porter Airlines plane