The good ship Guild Hall has a new skipper at the helm and she came by way of Down Under.
Katherine McCallum, the new artistic director, comes with a bachelor of arts degree from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and has also studied in Germany and Japan.
Then she spent a year as a golf caddy in Japan.
Finding she was unhappy half the time and having a lot of time to think while on the links, McCallum decided she wanted to be an actor.
“When you really want to do something so badly, you just have to do it,” she said.
After applying and getting accepted into a prestigious school of acting then being told her “windmill wasn’t truthful enough,” McCallum decided method acting was not for her.
She then studied with David Mamet, William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman and others at the Atlantic Theatre Company in New York.
McCallum toured with the Bell Shakespeare Company in Australia for a year; touring the schools throughout the country.
She produced independent theatre in Vancouver for three years with the Ah Um Theatre Company from 1999 to 2001 before coming to Whitehorse.
“Ironically, I get here and I end up being more creatively satisfied in Whitehorse than I have ever been anywhere else,” McCallum said.
McCallum worked with Nakai Theatre as production co-coordinator for the production So Many Doors in Whitehorse before joining the Guild Hall.
She has been the production manager at the Guild Hall since last September has been guided along by what needed to be done, she said.
She will continue as production manager as well as being the new artistic director.
“The past year working as production manager during Eric Epstein’s last year as artistic director has been amazing,” she said
“I really enjoyed this season, I really did. I enjoyed working so closely with people; I was forced to meet people.”
As for her vision as artistic director for the Guild, McCallum doesn’t want to re-invent the wheel.
“There has been 30 years of building the Guild to what it is today,” she said. “It works too well the way it is.
“My hope would be to continue with what the Guild has been doing, which is amazing quality; and the production standards are so high.
“Professional directors have played a huge role in that. They can really bring a lot out in actors. I don’t want to rule out using local directors, I haven’t had time to meet everybody yet.
“The Guild is a community theatre, but I have always held the belief that Whitehorse is an incredibly creative city. We can continue to involve the community at a really high level without sacrificing any of our production quality.”
In larger cities, there are three levels of theatre; professional, independent theatre, which tends to be professionals producing their own material, and amateur.
“The Guild is a blend of all three,” she said.
It involves people who don’t have a lot of experience coming together coming together with those who have lots of experience.
“There is a great resource of people with professional experience. I am struck by the innate cultural intelligence in this city.
“I think the Guild is a lovely mix, so we’re challenged and pushed.”
The level of support people are willing to lend as volunteers is impressive, she said.
“It’s a capital city, but it’s a small town. People are there when you need them.”
It’s important to have somewhere where people can go to try acting and other theatre work, she said.
“Casting can be an issue here”, she said, adding she is very thankful for those who come out.
“The response I got to the media release for the last production was fairly overwhelming,” she said, adding that a lot of people called to say they want to be involved.
“The ArtsNet is amazing,” she said, “it’s the only way to survive production managing,” referring to a locally operated online arts forum.
“Every day, I get e-mails and phone calls from people who want to donate their time in some way.”
McCallum wants to have a major focus on volunteer appreciation.
“It’s a volunteer organization and we rely on volunteers and want them to come back,” she said
“Walk in the doors and say, ‘Hello.’ Get to know the Guild and be part of it.
“To me, it’s important for people to know that this is a welcoming place. I want people to walk away thinking, ‘That was great, let’s do it again.’
She’s trying to lure new recruits through the Guild’s website.
“My intention is to make (the company) accessible to everyone and still maintain the high quality.”
The most “incredible moments of gratefulness” this past season have been realized when someone shows up just to accompany a friend to an audition and stays to help in some way, she said.
She believes it is important to keep the community informed.
“We want the media to review the shows,” she said. “Let Whitehorse know what’s going on.”
“I would like to produce something with a high quotient of youths,” McCallum said, referring to people between 15 and 25 years of age.
This would allow designers to take youths on as interns and teach them.
“Thankfully, in this town there is the amazing MAD (Music, Arts, Drama) program where these kids do get that kind of experience,” she said.
When asked if she will be acting in any productions in Whitehorse, McCallum responded, “Maybe someday I will tread the boards again, when the time is right.”
The website for the Guild Hall is www.guildhall.ca .
Norm Hamilton is a freelance writer and photographer based