Arts & Culture

Getting out there

written by Robyn Moore
November 15, 2014 4:25 pm

Lessons from a Dalhousie theatre alumni

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Sitting through hours of lecture each week, it can feel like graduation is a lifetime away. But what do you do when it finally arrives? The dreaded question that all university graduates face is “where do I go from here?” The pressure can feel worse if you graduate with a degree that isn’t known for making money.

Ben Chaisson, Dal theatre alumni, ignored all the misconceptions about fine arts grads and jumped right into the workforce. He spent some of his undergrad working in the industry, collecting connections and gaining experience so when graduation day came, he was prepared to face the professional world.

Chaisson graduated from Dalhousie with a BA in theatre technical scenography and went on to work in Halifax, Banff, Montreal and now works in Toronto. For the past four years, he has been working at the Ross Petty Pantomime, a holiday tradition in Toronto that has been running for twenty years. Chaisson is currently working as a designer of the video and projection systems for the pantomime.

Having graduated in 1996, Chaisson adapted to the technological advances of the theatre world.

Thinking back on his time at Dalhousie, Chaisson credited the technical staff of the theatre department for having a big influence on him and helped him to get work. He took what he had learned at Dalhousie and applied it to the changing industry. While at school, he focused on his future career by making connections with people in his industry, and working while studying for his degree. While all of this planning for the future has paid off, Chaisson says “My regret is that I was a little too focused on graduating. I didn’t take as much advantage of the academic opportunity. I ran through my degree. I missed the opportunity to study more.”

The transition from university to the “real world” can be jarring. When asked what the biggest difference between the academic setting and the professional world, Chaisson notes “time … In the academic setting you have more time. In the real world, you don’t. You have 3 weeks of rehearsal to get the show up and the stakes are pretty high. Opening night is happening whether you’re ready or not.”

Chaisson’s advice to current theatre students: “Go see as much theatre as possible, you’re so limited in different aspects in a school you don’t really see what the real world is doing… Seeing more theatre just builds your repertoire better…I advise anybody in the theatre department to make your own work as much as you can.”

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