Alisa Palmer, Artistic Director of the English Section and Director of the Acting and Residency Programs, delivering a passionate graduate's speech, May 1st, 2022.
Graduates of the English Section,
When each of you arrived at NTS, the theatre world was “normal.”
“Normal,” back then meant there were challenges; who was coming to the theatre? Who was making the theatre? What were the stories being told and why?
When you started at NTS in the fall of 2019, theatre desperately needed an infusion of fresh blood, new perspectives, and bold talent. You were the artists who were going to respond to this clarion call #futureoftheatre. No pressure.
Then in 2020, the world experienced a shock. Nothing was “normal” again.
While every class’ experience is unique, the journey of the graduating class of 2022 is like no other in the history of the school. You have been faced with obstacles that no one ever imagined any theatre artist would encounter. Medical masks? Social distancing? Hand sanitizer? Zoom? The last two years also presented challenges that struck a deeper chord as our world reckoned with the violence of inequity in our communities. We found ourselves separated from each other at just the moment when our most vital conversations needed to happen.
We, your program directors, and the community of teaching artists, coaches and associates know how hard you have worked and how dedicated you continue to be to your training and to your art.
We were and continue to be inspired by the power of your commitment, by the breadth of your imagination and by the depth of your passion for your future.
In a time of unprecedented need, NTS moved quickly to provide unprecedented support to both students and colleagues. NTS was able to reach out and hire more professionals; able to share our resources with artists who had, as a result of the pandemic, instantly lost their livelihood; in turn, we benefitted enormously from their presence as they came to help. We doubled our teaching teams over the past two years; we expanded the table to provide more voices, more guidance, and more support. We all shared. We all struggled. And we are all stronger and more empathetic for it. I believe our art will benefit. I know our world is better as a result.
I want to thank everyone behind the scenes in administration, as well as our colleagues in the French section who have worked so diligently and so generously to help keep us all safe and moving forward together.
Thank you to the families and communities who have supported you as well. Your faith, patience and love have been instrumental in getting this class to where they are today.
And above all, I want to thank each and every one of you, the graduates of 2022.
As you head out of the school, I want to acknowledge the incredible challenges you met together; the meaningful conversations, the brave responses to a relentlessly, ever-changing context; the art that you created on our stages and in our classrooms – works of beauty, bravery, and passion. The work you created is not despite the rigours of your unique journey. It is because you met the challenge that your art is uniquely powerful.
It may seem overwhelming to enter this profession at this time but look on the bright side; the pressure is no longer on you to become the #futureoftheatre. You ARE the future of theatre. No hashtag required.
The knowledge you have, the lived experience, hard won to be sure, has transformed our theatre already. You are the first class to graduate with lived experience of how to build theatre in these times. Because you did it.
Each of you, along with the teams of generous professionals who supported and challenged you – each and every one of you knows how to make the theatre of the future. A future that will be shaped by your courage, generosity and ingenuity.
As you head out into your professional lives, you are the transformation that theatre needs.
We’re depending on you.
Pressure, no pressure. I’m proud of you all.