4 Questions: Mitchell Marcus
This article is part of our series 50 Years of Disruption, in celebration of the Department of Theatre’s 50th Anniversary. In it, we’ll ask each participant four questions about themselves and their time at York.
1. Who are you?
I’m Mitchell Marcus (BA, Fine Arts Cultural Studies, 2004), an actor turned theatre producer who also dabbles as a husband and father in his spare time. I started York as a working actor wanting to get a BA as a back-up plan. By the time I finished, I had realized a passion for arts management and had a basic business plan to start a theatre company dedicated to musical theatre in Toronto—my favourite discipline and one that lacked a home in our city. Fifteen years later, The Musical Stage Company (originally called Acting Up Stage Company) has grown into the largest and leading not-for-profit musical theatre company in Canada. I believe passionately in the potential of musical theatre as art. In those rare moments when music, lyric and spoken word come together to create a unified voice, songs give us a new and profound dimension into the characters we are watching. We can literally feel what they are feeling. And that—for me—is the magic of theatre. To build empathy by looking deep inside characters who aren’t like us and making us all recognize ourselves in their experiences.
I stopped acting shortly after graduating from York, realizing that I was a far better producer than actor. Along the way, I also had the chance to work on many, many different extraordinary projects including 6 years of producing at Luminato, a year producing the Dora Awards, a couple of years working on a star-studded variety show for Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto, and two years producing the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction. Meanwhile, I got married in 2009 to a wonderful guy who—thankfully—does not work in theatre, and we welcomed twins into the world in 2013. One of them loves to perform. The other would rather play soccer.
2. What was your favourite moment during your time in the Theatre Department, and why?
I got permission to do an independent study as part of my final year. Peter McKinnon was my staff mentor and I chose to produce a play. It was a production of Salt-Water Moon and we ran for 7 performances at The Theatre Centre. I also acted in it (and it was the last time I produced and acted simultaneously). I was very proud of that sweet little indie production and proving to myself that I could actually produce.
3. What comment, quotation, statement, or action that a professor—or classmate—offered had the greatest impact on you?
Sherri Helwig taught an introduction to arts management course that I took in 2nd year. It was my first introduction to arts management and it was my “lightbulb moment”. The class was on Tuesday nights from 7pm-10pm. I’d come home and be up until the early hours of the morning thinking and plotting. It was a very remarkable time, figuring out what I was going to do with my life.
4. Is there a way you incorporate a particular aspect of your theatre training in your current work?
Roll downs from first year acting. I still use them on stressful days.