Studio 58 at Langara College is in the business of creating theatre artists—in every aspect of this art form.
According to the school’s associate director, David Hudgins, actors learn about production, and those who aspire to careers in production learn about acting.
It means that no matter which career focus they choose, they’ll have a bigger view of what theatre is.
“One of the signatures of our program is the integration of the technical production side with the acting side,” he said.
Students create their own work, even from the beginning.
“As they exit the program, all the students, including the production students, do a 20-minute solo show,” Hudgins said. “It’s the last thing they do.”
That involves writing and developing the concept and figuring out the technical requirements. He noted that this cements the notion that they’re working as theatre artists, not just learning technically how to be an actor or a lighting designer.
“It’s how to be part of the community that’s out there,” Hudgins added.
Studio 58 began in 1965 and since then has grown to become a premier training ground for theatre artists in Western Canada. It conducts auditions in several Canadian cities in late April and early May and then the school chooses two intakes of about 16 students each.
In September, according to Hudgins, they’re all acting students. The January intake also includes production students.
Actors study for three years with two summers off, whereas production students attend for two years with two summers off. There’s no differentiation in the course work in the first term. And in the first three terms of the six-term acting program, students are still doing crew work after their classes.
“In doing that, they get a good sense of backstage; they get a good sense of the different departments and what that is like,” Hudgins said. “So you don’t get that separation that is common: ‘Oh, you’re an actor; you’re a techie.’ ”
In the fourth, fifth, and sixth terms, the acting students are on-stage. Hudgins explained that the first project in the fourth term is “kind of risky and more experimental”, coming from the students, but it’s overseen by a professional director.
“All of the projects in the upper terms involve working professionals who come in from outside the school to direct,” he revealed.
Professional designers and technical personnel also serve as mentors to the students. Studio 58 presents two indie-style and four full-length productions a year, and there’s a wide range of performances, including musical theatre.
“We just did Cabaret, which was a big hit here,” Hudgins said.
Another production, Mortified, received rave reviews. And there’s a daring new initiative, Hot House, launched this year, in which all the students collaborate on original productions. Hudgins said that they enjoy it because they’re getting a range of experience by taking on different tasks, including writing and directing, at a higher level than is the norm for students.
Studio 58 provides instruction no only in physical theatre but also in other forms of movement, including dance.
In addition, there are instructors who specialize in playwriting, voice, costume design, set design, street theatre, choir, technical direction, and lighting design. There is also a weekly class with a film and TV actor to help students gain insights into both big and small screens.
“We’ve had a lot of agents who say, ‘I love Studio 58 actors. They’re so well trained,’ ” Hudgins said.
The school has also been a leader in advancing women in theatre and in countering sexual harassment, thanks in part to artistic director Kathryn Shaw.
In a statement issued last year, Shaw said students, faculty, staff, and visiting professionals must speak up and stand together if problems arise.
“Since Studio 58 is a training program that mirrors the profession, we are choosing to adopt the professional standards set out in Equity’s antiharassment campaign, developed to stop harassment before it starts,” she declared.
The most famous graduate is probably Colin Mochrie, Hudgins said, but there are many other well-known alumni, including set and costume designer Drew Facey, Electric Company Theatre cofounder Jonathon Young, and actors Luke Camilleri, Jane Perry, Byron Noble, Lara Gilchrist, Scott Bellis, and many more.