Theatre students with designs on New York 

By Barbara Black

Raymond Marius Boucher knows that theatre is international, so you have to go where the action is. He just returned from New York, where he took five theatre design students to be interviewed for plum seasonal jobs and sought-after places in graduate school.

Every winter, a key organization called the University/Resident Theatre Association (U/RTA) holds auditions and interviews for outstanding undergraduate and advanced theatre students from the United States and Canada.

The New York auditions took place Jan. 26 to 30, followed by Chicago and Las Vegas. More than 1,200 candidates were reviewed in acting, design (scenic, lighting, costume, sound), directing, theatre technology, stage management, playwriting and theatre management.

Theatre design students in Manhattan Magnifying glass

Theatre design students in Manhattan

Boucher says U/RTA officials look forward to meeting the candidates from the Concordia because they have a more original, artistic and conceptual approach to design than schools that tend to concentrate on technical expertise.

“Some of the students had 10 to 15 interviews,” Boucher said with satisfaction.
Some students really take off with this opportunity. Azra King-Abadi, a recent graduate, is now a member of the California Repertory Company in Long Beach, and has worked with the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto.

While the U/RTA people examined the students’ portfolios and reflected on the interviews, the students were out exploring the New York theatre scene. One show they particularly wanted to see was Spring Awakening, the biggest draw of the Broadway season. Concordia alumna Christine Jones got a Tony nomination for her stage design for the musical.

Twice, in 2003 and 2007, Boucher has taken groups of students to the Prague Quadrennial, a truly international forum for theatre design, where 60 counties are represented.

“It was breathtaking for the students,” he said. “It simply wouldn’t happen here. It is really, really motivating for them.”

Boucher is well connected in the milieu. He designed the Canadian exhibit for the Prague Quadrennial in 2003, and he is currently interim president of APASQ, the Association des professionnels des arts de la scène du Québec.

Sometimes seen as working “behind the scenes” and therefore less important than the actors, designers can be exploited, Boucher said. Since becoming an accredited union, APASQ has been able to reduce this danger for its members, but not altogether.

Nevertheless, he realizes that these days, dazzling originality is highly prized, on the stage, in the TV or film studio, or in the arena. “We’re in an entertaining world, and it shows!”


Concordia University