For the second straight year, Maya Branyik-Thornton has a lot of stories to share on how she spent her summer vacation.
The Grade 12 student at Lampman School was able to participate in the three-week Theatre Performance Intensive program offered by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in the Canadian theatre hotbed of Stratford, Ontario. She was in a two-week program in Stratford last year.
Much of the program focused on exercises that dealt with knowing a performer's surroundings, and being able to respond to unforeseen situations or challenges, such as when something goes wrong while on stage.
“Then you can easily play off that, while still being in character,” said Branyik-Thornton.
Branyik-Thornton and other youth in the program also participated in many special workshops with highly esteemed actors from the company that runs the Shakespeare festival. She was able to perform Tamora's monologue from Shakespeare's “Titus Andronicus” on the festival stage, which she said was a huge deal.
And she was able to attend all the plays that are part of the festival – Shakespearian productions, contemporary shows and musicals.
“There were a lot of amazing shows on that I got to see,” she said. “It adds on to what you're learning, and it shows the result of what you're learning. It's very amazing to watch all of these great Canadian actors put on Canadian theatre, and that's what I want to do, put on Canadian theatre.”
Branyik-Thornton spoke with several Canadian actors to find out how Canadian theatre has shaped their careers, and prepared them for performing elsewhere.
The two trips to Straftford have left their mark on Branyik-Thornton. In addition to her on-stage coping skills, she has learned how to memorize lines more efficiently, work under pressure and form bonds with castmates, so that they're able to work together in a better fashion.
Branyik-Thornton said she has already noticed the difference when she has been involved with productions locally, such as the Triple Threat Community Theatre's production of “Hairspray” in Estevan last year, and the Lampman School drama productions.
She is looking forward to her school drama department's rendition of “The 25th Annual Putnam Counting Spelling Bee,” which will happen in November or January.
From there, she'll be looking to further her acting skills in university. She said the University of Alberta in Edmonton and Ryerson University in Toronto are two Canadian universities with outstanding drama programs.
Branyik-Thornton encourages anyone in the southeast with a passion for acting or theatre to travel to Stratford or another summer camp. She received $200 from the Estevan Arts Council to help with the expenses of her summer theatre program. Just because someone is from a small town, it doesn't mean they can't become a professional actor, she said.