Before boarding the bus for our trip to Stratford, I was nervous about what awaited me.
A little context: in the eighth grade I was absolutely certain that one day I was going to become an actor. So certain in fact, that I applied to Stratford’s Queen’s Company Program to “network” and “develop my craft”.

When I got there, things quickly tumbled downhill. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Stratford put together one heck of a program—it’s just, among all the voice exercises, physical warm ups, summer romances, and Shakespeare monologues, I found myself feeling totally out of place, and was eventually hit by a glaring moment of truth: I am not an actor.

Now it’s been a while since the eighth grade for me, and since then I walked into design by accident and fell completely in love with it over the course of my first year at NTS. But for whatever reason, as the hour hit 2 o’clock and we filed onto our buses and took what would be our seats for the following eight hours, I felt butterflies… They didn’t last long, however… How could they around the francophone design and production students, who filled the time with lively discussion about circus projects, French plays, Romher, Pulp Fiction, mayonnaise and tomato sandwiches, and a terrific game of “si il/elle etait un(e)…”

Along the way we made a pit stop at the Big Apple to buy ciders and talk to donkeys, before reluctantly re-boarding for the last stretch of the ride.

By the time we got to Shakespeare, Ontario it was pitch black and we all needed to pee.
As soon as we walked into our room Joline pulled out five Korean Sheet Masks, to everyone’s giddy surprise. And as we smoothed on the gooey sheets that promised us radiant and soft-as-a-baby’s-bum skin, I realized something very important, and that was: if you want to bond with someone, apply face masks together.

The next morning, we groaned as the 7AM alarm went off. Back on the bus, but not for long before we made it to dear old Stratford for a jam-packed day of incredible talks, and two very interesting shows. The first one we saw was the much-anticipated Coriolanus which awed the audience with its magical and cinematic set design, and we ended the day with Julius Caesar.

The next morning we began with a tour. As we strolled through the prop shop and costume warehouse, I felt at ease. I was excited to learn about what was used to build props, and to discuss why they used certain fabrics for certain costumes. Visiting the fabric room was like walking into a fairy tale. As we watched The Tempest and Paradise Lost, I was able to spot design choices. The crow in The Tempest blew my mind!!! And for a moment, walking along the pond as I had a few years ago, now listening to my friends discussing what they liked and didn’t about the theatre they had seen, I noticed that I wasn’t miserable like I had been. In fact, I was having a lot of fun!

When we boarded the bus back, I no longer felt butterflies. It sounds cheesy, but while watching the passing fields glowing golden in the sun, I had a thought… In the same place I had learned all those years ago that I was not to become an actor, I realized this time around that I am completely proud to be becoming a designer. And I am so grateful for that thought. Thank you Stratford, thank you Ada Slaight, thank you NTS.