Meet the students bringing Dal history to life in video

- April 25, 2018

It’s not surprising that the Fountain School of Performing Arts actors who are front and centre in the Dalhousie Originals video series found the project to be a great learning experience.

After all, they had to memorize and deliver a roughly one-minute speech about a person of significance associated with the university during its 200-year history.

On top of that, the acting students had to audition for the roles and perform in front of a camera, which was a new experience for some.

Nineteen students in the acting program were enlisted for the ambitious project to produce videos to accompany feature stories about 52 people associated with the school who made an impact on the world.

Those chosen as Dalhousie Originals are being revealed weekly throughout 2018.

Off stage, on camera

For fourth-year acting student Taylor McMillen (BA’18), it all started when a professor put out a call for volunteers to audition for the project.

“She thought acting students should be first in line to participate, so she took a poll and anyone who was interested signed up,” he says.

Taylor, from Lower Sackville, says the auditioning and filming process turned out to be an interesting experience for the budding thespians.

“As theatre acting students, we don’t have much experience acting for the camera. So it was definitely a good experience in terms of getting in front of the camera and learning what an audition is like.” 

Taylor says he picked up one valuable lesson during the shoot. 

“When I went to record one of my Originals speeches, it was filmed in the Ocean Sciences building, the brand new building, and it’s all bare bones, just concrete right now.

“So, I did my first take and the guy took off his headphones and was, like, ‘man, you’ve got to stop shouting.’ I’m so used to having to project in a theatre setting.”

Taylor was featured in three videos for the series, which in his case can’t yet be revealed as the names are being kept under wraps until their debut.

So far the project has released the profiles of Richard Chapman Weldon, Jeff Dahn, George Elliott Clarke, James Robinson Johnston, George Munro, Mayann Francis, Edward Angus Banting, Burnley Allan "Rocky" Jones, Erik Demaine, Eliza Ritchie, Ford Doolittle, Wanda Thomas Bernard, Frederic Henry Sexton, David Precious and Kathryn Sullivan.

Keeping it in the community

The videos were produced with Firefly Digital Media in conjunction with Dalhousie’s marketing department.

Hope McCallum, the university’s marketing director, says it made perfect sense to keep the acting roles in-house.

“The Dalhousie Originals themselves are students and alumni, faculty and researchers, donors and supporters, so it made sense to keep the project within the Dal community by having our own theatre students tell the stories,” she says.

“Involving the Fountain School of Performing Arts students, was a win-win situation — we benefitted from great, authentic performances from people who really cared about the project and the students got a chance to put their theory into practice and add to their portfolios.”

Susan Stackhouse, a professor of voice and speech in the acting program, says she and her colleagues were equally enthusiastic about the opportunity the Dalhousie Originals series presented for the young actors.

“We were quite excited and considered this would be a wonderful capstone opportunity to audition for, and film for, a professional production company.” 

An enlightening experience

Lindsey Ross (BA’18), also found the on-camera work valuable as she prepares for a career in the arts.

Other than three classes with filmmaker and actor Cory Bowles, the acting students have focussed on theatre work, including recent appearances in the well-received production of Drums and Organs, written by Dalhousie alumna Gillian Clark.

Lindsey starred in two videos for the Originals series, which included a promo and a recently released video about Dr. David Precious, a dentist renowned for his ground-breaking work repairing cleft palates.

“Most of us were pretty excited because we hadn’t had many opportunities presented like that.”

Both actors say that along with the technical aspects of working on the project, it was enlightening to find out more about the notable individuals featured in the series.

“Just getting to look back on all of these amazing people, whose work ethic and determination changed the face of whatever their field was; to see the trailblazing work is very inspiring as we get set to go out into the professional world,” Lindsey says. 

“I think it’s very exciting to be part of the 2018 graduating class. It’s a monumental time for Dal.”

The other student performers were Maggie Andersen, Ursula Calder, Andrew Chen, Lisa Corey, Zachary Comeau, Ian French, Claudia Gutierrez-Perez, Kayla Gunn, Stepheny Hunter, Michael Kamras, Brandon Liddard, Zoë Mackey-Boenner, Stephanie Mah, Delany McCormick, Erin McQueen, Michelle Raine and Nathan Simmons. 



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