Rosamund Small — Playwright
Rosamund Small is a part-time student of Woodsworth College, pursuing a major in Theatre, and a minor in both English and Sexual Diversity Studies. She is the Playwright-in-Residence of Outside the March, and the Artistic Programs Manager of The Paprika Festival, a free training program for young artists. Her play, Vitals (2014), produced by Outside the March, and sponsored by Theatre Passe Muraille, won the DORA Award for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Production.
The Varsity: Why do you want to [write plays]?
Rosamund Small: This is something that I tried out in high school and really enjoyed. So, I never really paused to evaluate different career choices; this was just it. I feel a very strong affinity for playwriting; I love books and movies as well, but when I write things, it’s about the collaboration that you get to experience between yourself, and the actors, and the audience.
TV: How do you manage to balance the schoolwork and the playwriting?
RS: I didn’t take five courses after my first year.
TV: Would you recommend that?
RS: You have to work out your finances because you’re paying for extra semesters, but yes, I would recommend that. I would recommend that far and above dropping out of school, which I think is really tempting for a lot of artists, because for some, five courses is impossible. But I would definitely recommend school and learning; however you can fit that into your life.
TV: Have you ever felt as though school has interfered with your art before?
RS: I don’t think so, no. I think it depends on what program you’re in and how many hours it requires. Playwriting requires many hours as well, but I think that for me to be forced, in a good way, to read lots of things that expand your mind, [that] to read some of the best literature ever written and then hear really smart people talk about it, [or] to read about queer studies, gender studies, and gender politics…It just forces you to engage with the planet. I think all people should do that.
TV: How do you think your education has played a role in the works that you’ve produced and in your writing? How do you think that U of T has contributed to your identity as an artist?
RS: I can’t over-praise Djanet Sears. She’s an award-winning playwright and she’s on the faculty at UC Drama. She takes mentorship really seriously. I think sometimes it’s a job for artists to teach, and for her, it’s a gift. She’s gifted at teaching playwriting. She was the official dramaturge on my play, Vitals, which I started [writing] in her playwriting class. That relationship in particular came out of U of T, and she helped me so much on that script.
Dennis Tuyishime — Writer & spoken word artist
Dennis Tuyishime is a third year student at U of T. He is majoring in Global Health and Diaspora and Transnational Studies, and minoring in African Studies. Tuyishime is a poet and spoken word artist. His work can be found on his blog.
The Varsity: Why do you write?
Dennis Tuyishime: It’s expression. That’s how I feel that I can put my feelings out there. When people read my poems, they’re like ‘Dennis, is this even you? It’s someone different.’ It’s my way of expressing my emotions, my feelings, my thoughts — how I see things.
TV: What kinds of things do you usually write about?
DT: I touch on different things, but mostly I find my work going towards a motivational [direction] — making people know what they can achieve, what they can do, and not to look at things that bar them from actually reaching their potential.
TV: How would you say that U of T has contributed to your identity as an artist?
DT: My identity, not as much, but I’ve performed several spoken word [pieces] at U of T, at Hart House. I’ve been in some plays with UC Follies, the WolfPAC, the African Students Association. It’s making me realize that this is what I actually love. I opened my blog when I was at U of T and encouragement from friends just keeps me going.
TV: What’s the dream for you?
DT: [Artists] just want to be heard. That’s basically what expression is. They want to be seen and they want to be heard. They want their message to go out there. I feel like I have a message that I can put out there.
TV: What do you think is the most important factor in succeeding as an artist?
DT: Quality of your work is what makes you stand out, but you have to be hardworking to actually get yourself out there, get people to know what you’re about…I really think hard work, consistency, and believing in yourself is what just puts you out there.
Sarah Crawley — Visual artist
Sarah Crawley is a fourth year History major at U of T, minoring in Art History and East Asian Studies. Crawley is a visual artist who specializes in ink and watercolour illustrations. She is a regular illustrator for Victoria College’s newspaper, The Strand.
The Varsity: Why do you make art?
Sarah Crawley: Part of it is a habit. It was a hobby that I always did. It’s also a mixture of practice and already being attuned to it, like something that your body wants to do. In the end, it’s the way you get stuff out and think things through on a more personal side. Then the more you do it as a practice, the more it gets to be a pleasurable and productive way of engaging with stories and your own thoughts.
TV: Why do you enjoy it?
SC: It’s how you express yourself. But I also think sometimes it’s just a tactile thing. I like producing images and working with watercolour and ink, and in that medium seeing ways I can lose control over the medium and bring it back and form a certain image that I have in my head. But this also creates new images along the way, so it’s a surprising thing to see what you come up with through the creating of it. It’s a very cool and therapeutic process, with very definite and satisfying results.
TV: What would you say is the dream for you?
SC: The more I worked [for] The Strand for illustration, I realized that I want to do this forever. Illustration is my thing. There’s a program at UTM called Biomedical Communications, which essentially is medical illustration, but it also involves graphics, different animations, software programs and you learn those in order to create animations, images, or graphics of anatomy, medical processes, or biological processes for legal work, teaching, or advertising. So I’m going to come back next year to do some biology courses needed for it, and then hopefully get in! The dream is to do that as a way of doing illustration.
TV: What got you into illustration?
SC: In high school, I was at an arts high school, I got into a zine club. Illustrating my own work made me realize how much I enjoyed the style, as well as the idea of getting across a narrative or illustrative message. Publication stuff is what I have done the most of. That’s the sort of stuff that inspires me most in the illustration field as well — storybook or magazine illustration.
TV: Have you ever felt like school has interfered with your art?
SC: Yes, totally. Sometimes I wish that I didn’t let school impact it as much and even if the reverse were true, I wish that I made myself do more art on a regular basis. You can manage, but it’s really hard and you have to accept that some things are going to be pushed aside a bit. I feel like if people didn’t push me, if I didn’t have that deadline or that need from someone to make a piece of art, I wouldn’t do very much. [Coming] from an arts high school where you’d have one or two hours a day to just make art, you stop realizing how amazing that is once you don’t have that anymore. In first year, I realized how hard it is to do that on your own, and set time and goals for finishing projects, for me anyway. School cuts in even if you have the obligation to get work done, through a paper, journal or school gallery show, but they help. If you’re doing with other people and collaborating, then it’s so much easier. But it’s still hard.
Brianne Katz-Griffin — Dancer
Our cover model, Brianne Katz-Griffin is a full-time Political Science Specialist at U of T. She has been dancing in a variety of styles for 18 years, including ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, lyrical, acro, and contemporary. Katz-Griffin currently is a dancer for the U of T Dance Team.
The Varsity: How long have you been dancing and how did you get into it?
Brianne Katz-Griffin: I have been dancing since the age of 2 and I am now 20. It feels weird to say I have been dancing for 18 years. I come from a family of artists of all sorts. My parents are both musicians and encourage all art forms; they taught me to do the same. I always looked up to my sister and followed whatever she did. At the age of 2, I told my parents I wanted to dance just like my sister. My parents put me in dance that year. I began competing at the age of 6.
TV: Do you want to continue dancing professionally?
BKG: For the longest time, I was planning on being a dancer for life. I was going to get a degree in Dance at Ryerson or York (the only places in Ontario with dance programs). I am already a certified teacher and have taught for years. I guess my dream with dance would be to get hired in an amazing dance company and make a living by travelling the world and dancing. When I was about 16, I became interested in law, justice, and politics. This is when my career path slowly curved. I am now in school for political science at the best university in Canada studying something I love. I do sometimes wonder what it would have been like to be at school for dance though. I am starting to think about a way I could incorporate dance with justice. Who knows, maybe I will create a dance company which travels the world to bring awareness to injustices. A political science degree could only help.
TV: How do you manage to balance dance with your schoolwork?
BKG: Right now, I am on the U of T Dance Team, which is where I do most of my dancing. With a team full of university students, our practices are at night after classes are done. It is great working with a group of dancers who are passionate enough to continue dancing through the craziness of U of T. I am also the social director of the Innis College Student Society. You can say that all my days are scheduled to the hour. I continue [to] dance and I continue [with] student politics because I love them. It is hard to balance, and some weeks are worse than others, but dance is always a couple hours out of my day that I can focus on creating art. Dance is my escape from the craziness of U of T, and it helps me relax.