We sat down with Mitchell Marcus, Artistic & Managing Director of Musical Stage Company, to learn more about his work.
What's your approach to leadership?
I think for me leadership is about collaboration, integrity, and transparency. I've been very lucky to have the privilege to work with outstanding people in a hugely collaborative art form. The goal every time is to treat people with respect, give them all the information they need so that these multiple voices can create a unified whole, and then to stand back and let smart people be fantastic.
What's the future for Musical Stage Company and where you see the the organization going?
Right now, Musical theatre in Canada is having an explosive moment, and this art form I think has struggled to find its footing as an ingrained art form in Canada. Certainly, something like Come From Away has been a great help in shining a spotlight on Canada and demonstrating what is possible when the work is really good. The Musical Stage Company is well positioned to become one of the dominant homes for writers who are creating exceptional, thought-provoking contemporary musicals. Through their involvement with our company we can help develop the work to bring it to life for the first time, and then play a role in ensuring that it has a long life both in Canada and the US and so that Canadian musicals become a significant part of the musical theatre canon.
What does it mean to be nominated. What is it feel like?
It was kind of shocking. I knew that the nomination was being put in, but I had frankly told the person not to waste their time because this particular award is a music award and I work in an art form that sometimes gets both theatre people and music people turning their noses up at it. It was really extra meaningful to feel that within the context of looking at music accomplishments in Toronto that my work and the work of the company would be recognized on that list. So very humbled and very excited at the same time.
One Song Glory and Make Me a Song are initiatives that provide quality musical arts education to youth. Why is it important to engage youth through the arts?
The reason Musical Stage Company focuses on musical theater is that I think music is uniquely positioned to share universal stories, and I that I think music is a powerful universal language. When you apply it to storytelling, it becomes a great way to transfer experience and to understand the insights of a character; the interior world of a character. Because of that, youth work has always been really important at Musical Stage Company. There's so much going on, on the inside of young people, and we're offering these tools for them to be able to share their stories in a way that is going to resonate with listeners. It's a really unique and extraordinary opportunity and I think the hope is that simultaneously we can build empathy by having young people hear each other's stories and share their own stories through music while also giving them that kind of outlet to share. To be creative in a way that will help them be successful in whatever they do in the future. We feel like our youth work both builds the artists of tomorrow, but also the audiences of tomorrow, and, hopefully, the citizens of tomorrow who will start to understand each other and the world a little bit better through this unique artistic medium.
How did your love affair with musical theatre begin?
When I was five and a half, my parents had tickets to go to the Royal Alexandra Theatre to see the Buddy Holly Story with my aunt. My aunt got sick and so I got to use her ticket. I was the only five-year-old at Buddy and it was just one of those things from the minute the lights went down till the curtain call at the end: I was hooked. In the years that followed, I continued to go see whatever the major shows were in Toronto. I think for me as a creative and a really curious kid, it opened it all up: I understood the world. I learned that the world, whether it is history, or how people interact with each other, or social issues - so much of my learning was through musical theater. It's been a part of my DNA.