by Thomas Swayne
Moving to Toronto in Fall 2008, my only life ambition was to complete my acting degree at Ryerson University and become a successful Canadian actor. While my focus was always on straight plays and film/television, I had a soft spot for musical theatre, specifically contemporary works. My favourite composing team at the time were the young Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. I followed their development closely and listened to everything they released. It just so happened that in that same fall of 2008, a relatively new musical theatre company was producing a much beloved song cycle by Pasek and Paul called Edges.
While I had no interest in arts administration nor had any idea about what producing was, I reached out to Acting Up’s Producer, Mitchell Marcus, and asked if they needed any help in exchange for a free ticket to the show (I was a broke student at the time, after all!). He offered that I could join the Edges team as they distributed postcards and posters around Toronto and it was that moment that my mind slowly began to look towards a life in the theatre beyond performing.
Since then, six years have passed working for the company on and off as both a volunteer and employee. During my tenure at the company, I’ve seen new Canadian musicals in development and in workshops through NoteWorthy, high school students grow into emerging performers through One Song Glory, and witnessed some of the best theatre productions to ever be staged in Toronto (shout out to Caroline, or Change…that show changed my life). All of these experiences shaped me from a no-nothing poster boy to a passionate aspiring producer.
While the staff at the company has always been top notch, I owe almost all of my development as a producer to Mitchell. I don’t know of any other leading Toronto Artistic Director or Producer who invests so much time and effort in to giving young people a chance whether they are actors, writers, directors, choreographers, or producers.
I am so proud to have been a small part of such an innovative and bold company that has done so much to develop musical theatre in Canada. Working in the arts in this country is incredibly difficult yet Acting Up Stage continues to grow and thrive. I’m very excited for the next step in my theatrical career, which will see me working in London, England.
Thank you to all the donors for supporting this company.