The Newborn Theatre Breathes Life Into Toronto’s Stage Scene

The Newborn Theatre is a new company in Toronto with a pretty refreshing mandate: open up the theatre experience to young people. Newborn wants to engage people on both sides of the curtain, recognizing that the cost of going to see productions is a large reason the under-30s crowd don’t make it out for plays.

Say you’ve written your first play… now what? Newborn offers help and encouragement to would-be and experienced playwrights from the workshop to production stage.

I sat down with Artistic Director and mother hen, Rachel Ganz, to ask her about founding a theatre company, what about her work gets her excited, and what makes Toronto so good for this kind of venture…

Who are you?

Has anyone ever told you how difficult this question is?
Professionally and for the purposes of this interview, I’m the artistic director and founder of Newborn Theatre.
However, since I’ve yet to produce anything under that title, I can really only claim to be a playwright/director/actress come-producer once I complete our first-ever Odds and Ends Festival this August at the Tarragon Theatre.

What do you do?

My current mission is to encourage as many young people as possible to write plays with the offer of funding and facilitating either a 2-3 week full-scale production or a one-night-only workshop production of their show.  In the first place, I’m trying to encourage writers, whether they self-identify as playwrights or not, to explore theatre as a medium for expression.  I know a lot of creative-writers who fantasize about writing for the screen or writing entire novels without ever considering the benefits of writing for a live audience.  I think all writers everywhere can benefit from a live reaction to what they are writing, be it laughter or applause or silence or whatever, it’s instant feedback and it’s priceless. Newborn Theatre is an organization which is built for the purposes of affording young writers the opportunity to experience live feedback as part of their writing process.  It is my job to look for new, young writers who I think could benefit from this experience.  I am also making it my job to make sure the experience is as professional as possible.

What gets you excited about what you do?

So many things!

Anytime I see a play, I’m excited and honoured just to be part of the industry. As a producer, or any kind of theatre artist, it’s hard not to think about all of the elements that go into a single production and when I think about it, I get really excited.
Mostly, however, it’s watching student productions.  I am committed to booking professional, high-profile, spaces for all of our shows because I know that student artists rarely take for granted the opportunity to work at a professional level, even if it means working for free.  For example, last night I was scouting writers at an improv set.  The three warm-up teams were students and, speaking with them after the show, it never even phased them that they were performing to an empty bar. These students were grateful to be on stage. Period.  Watching that reminds me that Newborn Theatre is really helping fulfill the ambitions and reward the hard work and training of young artists and writers.

What do you love about Toronto?

I love that we have one of the  most supportive theatre communities I’ve ever been lucky enough to walk into.  Between the Tarragon, Playwrights Canada Press, The Factory Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, Alumnae Theatre, Young People’s Theatre…. I could keep going but I don’t think I have to.  I haven’t spoken to a single person that wasn’t happy to help me.

Aside from that….I love patio season in Toronto.

Is there a well-kept secret in Toronto that you think everyone should know about?

The Festival of New Ideas at Alumnae Theatre! I went this past March for the first time and I plan on going every year from now on: three weeks, all new works, mostly experimental and all fantastic.

The Odds & Ends Festival will be the non-for-profits company’s first real endeavor. The festival runs from August 30th – September 2nd at the Tarragon Theatre.  To help get the festival off a running Newborn is hosting a fundraising night at the El Mocambo this Friday the 13th. It promises to be a night of comedy, performance and funky beats.

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About Yuli Scheidt

Yuli was born at the exact moment in 1986 when the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded and rained down on the ocean. As a child she believed this meant she was destined for greatness in the realm of space travel and radioastronomy. Nothing remotely as awesome as that has happened so far. Instead Yuli, at the age of 18, relocated from Calgary to Ottawa where she studied photography, life sciences and graphic design before moving to Toronto. [More by Yuli]