For this director of The Merchant of Venice, Cegep is the place to make things happen
Cegep is a place to try new things, stretch your limits and learn about what you want to do in life. That certainly was true for Science student Lu Yao, whose interest in theatre led her to start a theatre troupe at Vanier and direct a production of The Merchant of Venice. “We wanted a play that was more than just a comedy or a love story. We wanted one with a social commentary. So we chose The Merchant of Venice because anti-Semitism is still a problem in our society.”
Starting a theatre troupe
When Lu Yao first came to Vanier she knew she wanted to do theatre so when she discovered there was no theatre club on campus she spoke with friends and set about creating a theatre troupe. “I thought no one would be interested in joining, but we had more than 100 people sign up! Some dropped out but in the end some 50 people stayed on and worked on the play.”
The Merchant of Venice: a big project
Auditions were held in mid September. From then on rehearsals and preparations took place until the performance of the play in early spring. The play had 19 actors, a technical team of six and some 30 other supporters who worked on publicity, music, costume design, sewing, set design and construction.
“We put on a traditional production set in the 16th century, complete with historical costumes,” explains Lu. “In all, we had to make 25 costumes and build three sets. But we chose to use a modernized text that we cut down to two-hours.”
The challenge of directing
This was not Lu’s first foray into directing. She was bitten by the theatre bug in high school when she directed Hamlet at l’École internationale de Montréal. “The hardest part of directing was getting all the troupe members to work as a team and keeping them focused after hours of practices,” she says. “But I put them through acting exercises that felt like a game, and food always helps. I learned from high school that food does it all when it comes to kids!” she states with a laugh.
A Play to be proud of
Lu Yao is rightly proud of the production. “It’s been 10 years since Vanier put on a play and this production is the result of the effort and dedication of a lot of people. It’s been an experience full of surprises. Like the day of auditions when I found my lead actress. We’d been auditioning for three hours and I was tired, and then this girl stepped onto the stage and as soon as she opened her mouth she had confidence and was perfect. I knew I’d found my Portia!”
Why did she choose to come to Vanier?
“Compared to other cegeps I visited, Vanier seemed more professional, and the Vanier teachers I met were more education-oriented. I also preferred the atmosphere there. There are fewer distractions than elsewhere.”
What does she like most about Vanier?
“The spirit – people at Vanier are friendly and open and joyful! For instance, the theatre troupe didn’t take a lot of time to bond. It happened immediately!”
What’s the most important thing learned in Cegep?
“You learn about yourself. Vanier focused my interest in theatre and because of my experience with The Merchant of Venice, I know that I definitely want to make theatre part of my career and my life. But earning a living is the problem.”
“I have a few options. But I’m planning on attending Université de Montréal either in Biology or Kinesiology . And later on, I may go into Law – pleading cases is very theatrical.”