Last June, theatre artist Taylor Sutherland led a Russian Theatre Workshop at HCA that drew a variety of people – musicians, actors, and individuals who wanted to explore their creativity and try something new. Through music, movement, choral work, and text analysis, participants worked together as an ensemble over four weeks.

This January, Sutherland returns to Hamilton for an eight-week exploration of Chekhov’s one-act play The Wedding, which begins in March and ends with a performance in HCA’s historic Recital Hall come May.

Taylor Sutherland studied Text and Performance at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and King’s College London, has worked as a performer with several Russian directors and theatre troupes in NYC and Russia, studied with renowned playwrights David French, Stephen Jeffreys and Edward Albee, and was the recipient of a 2008 Playwriting Fellowship with the Edward F. Albee Foundation in New York.  He is also an accomplished musician who runs a private studio in Toronto.  He brings his diverse range of artistic experiences to all of his courses – and leads using collaborative theatre techniques.

Sutherland is currently wrapping up a Chekhov unit at his alma mater, Etobicoke School of the Arts. Students explored The Cherry Orchard in a multi-month workshop. “Teenagers are sometimes not keen on the idea of Chekhov – that is, until they read his writing,” Sutherland. “I was in tears this week watching their scene work – so open and playful, intelligent and full of tenderness.”

Sutherland sings the praises of Chekhov’s endearing theatrical legacy. His plays were written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but his sensitive portrayal of the human condition is timeless. “Chekhov understood humanity,” Sutherland says. “He championed the unrealized dreams, broken hearts, and the comic futility of pursuing goals in a world often reluctant to grant them. His characters are filled with so much love and hope and riddled with faults, a treat for actors to explore. There’s nothing lofty or inaccessible about his characters; they’re all people you already know.”

Taylor Sutherland directs two participants in HCA’s Russian Theatre Workshop last June.

During the upcoming course at HCA, participants will be cast in Chekhov’s The Wedding. The play is “charming and fun, yet it also carries some weighty commentary on society,” Sutherland explains.

Sutherland emphasizes that there’s no need for participants to have any prior theatrical training or knowledge of Chekhov. He encourages people to get out of their comfort zone, take a leap of faith, and sign up. “You don’t have to be an actor to act Chekhov. You just have to be human,” he says.

Participants are encouraged to bring their ideas to the table and play, building scene work in a physical and musical way. As a teacher, his philosophy is to tap into the hearts of all those involved, explore the human condition through art, and provide acting challenges for participants. Come join “The Wedding” at Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts.

HCA is currently taking registrations for Chekhov Intensive: “The Wedding.” Check here for course details. 

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