Bachelor of Arts, 1988
You are in a room with the people who are making the art and with others who are experiencing it at the same time, you can’t beat that experience.
Pamela Halstead can tell you how tough it used to be in the world of Canadian theatre.
“I have a playwright friend who jokes that there was a time when he couldn’t get his work produced because he didn’t have a coal miner or fisherman or fiddle in it.”
Those days have changed.
“The Canadian voice across Canada right now is hugely diverse,” she says. “Not just in the stories being told but how they are being told.”
Pamela has seen this first hand, many times over. She has acted in, directed and produced Canadian theatre from the Maritimes to the Prairies, from Parrsboro’s Ship’s Company Theatre to Calgary’s Lunchbox Theatre.
”It is no longer the white settler voice. It reflects the diverse country we have.”
Pamela came from St Stephen, New Brunswick with the help of the Don Towers Bursary. It required that she register at King’s, live on campus, but allowed her to take all her courses at Dalhousie University. Theatre classes filled her days.
“I didn’t take the Foundation Year Program (FYP),” she laments. “But I always joke I took FYP by osmosis. The girls on my floor in residence were taking it and there was always much discussion about the topics for their essays and tutorials.”
And the osmosis didn’t end there. “For me as an artist there were lots of incredible debates with people in FYP and Journalism. Whether it was at a meal in Prince Hall or just shooting the breeze in the Quad.”
Still, Pamela thinks theatre students should take FYP as part of their degree (which they can) because “it covers a lot of background of western civilization.”
Pamela paid her way through university doing dinner theatre and after graduation developed her acting chops with Theatre New Brunswick, Victoria Playhouse, Ship’s Company and Mulgrave Road Theatre. Then, like so many artists moved on to Toronto. There she got interested in directing.
“To be able to see a production from its inception to completion, to find the right team and watch it all come to fruition with the vision that I had is amazing,” she says. “More so if it is a brand new script. You are literally working with the playwright to help them get it out of their brain.”
And even with all the competition from TV, Netflix, podcasts and film, she sees only growth for Canadian theatre.
“You are in a room with the people who are making the art and with others who are experiencing it at the same time, you can’t beat that experience.”
Posted: Apr. 2016
Photo credit: Jonathan Castellino