Thursday, October 6, 2011

Douglas College SET Coordinator takes top theatre award

David Denofreo photo
By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor

When Drew Young got the news he was receiving an award recognizing his contributions to live performance in Canada, the Coordinator of the Stagecraft and Event Technology Program couldn’t believe his eyes.

“I was completely taken aback. Even though you’re always working to stay connected, you still feel isolated because of all the time you put into shows. You never get a feeling that anyone really knows what you’re doing – not that that matters, because you’re focused on doing what you do – so to have someone from the head office in Montreal email and say, ‘Hey, you won this award,’ I felt very proud and surprised.”

Drew received the 2011 Canadian Institute for Theatre Technology award in August. The award recognizes an individual’s longstanding career achievement as an educator in a technical or related discipline, while preparing students for work within the Canadian live performance industry.

Drew’s career in theatre began when he graduated with a degree in theatre from UBC in 1982. After a stint as house technician at the F­irehall Arts Centre the following year, he came to Douglas to teach technical theatre courses to acting students. He left in ’85 to work as technical supervisor for street entertainment for Expo 86, which meant everything from ensuring that areas were roped off for fire jugglers, to securing a heavy-duty picnic table for a group from Eastern Europe who planned to smash it with pikes and spears.

But Drew says he had the most fun with Phillipe Petit, the French high wire artist whose Expo act would be to walk on a tightrope across False Creek.

“He had to have these tie lines that come down to keep the wire from bouncing back and forth, and in order for those to cinch tight, you need these huge ratchets. So we had to get like 12 of these things and find places to anchor the wire. So we did all that, everything went fine, and he did his act and then left. The thing is, he picked the lowest tide of the year in order to give himself the most height. By the time we got there to clean up, the tide had come in, and it wasn’t going down to that level for another year. We had to hire scuba divers to get all of the gear because it was underwater.”

When Expo was over, Douglas came calling again. The Dean of the Academic Division had been pushing to establish a stagecraft program, and asked if Drew would come back and help get it off the ground. Once it was, Drew applied for the position of Program Coordinator, and got it. That was in 1987, and he’s been here ever since.

“I’ve stayed for lots of reasons, some of them mundane. But the real reason I’ve stayed is because it’s still working in theatre and teaching theatre. You know, you start talking to people outside the entertainment industry, and they say, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are.’ And it’s true. Sometimes you need someone to remind you of how wonderful it is to enjoy your work and work in an area that still gives you energy and in some way pays you back each and every day.”