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DAREarts Leadership Award Recipient Steps into the COC Spotlight

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Mariba Douglas, a star in her own right

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DAREarts graduate Mariba Douglas, 19, is currently a supernumerary in the Canadian Opera Company’s “A Masked Ball” by Verdi at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto. The production runs from February 2 – 22, 2014. Enjoy Mariba’s insights on her experience with the COC.  

DAREarts: What character are you playing?

I play a hotel server who also doubles as part of the first lady’s entourage.

DAREarts: What strikes you the most about the opera in which you’re performing?

The fact that every individual, from the stage crew to the principals, is so welcoming and amicable.  This formed my first and the most lasting impression upon starting my journey as a supernumerary. 

DAREarts: How much direction do you get from the director?

I was surprised to find that the directors encouraged each person to exhibit their role as they saw fit.  Jossi Wieler, Sergio Morabito (director) and Samantha Seymour (revival director) would simply inform the cast of the intended result and essentially leave us to express each emotion, reaction and interaction naturally.  Despite wanting to ensure the production was executed in a way that reflected well on all involved, they never appeared demanding or importunate.  Their approach to leading the cast generated an atmosphere that was fun and entertaining.  The conductor, Stephen Lord, was a pleasure to watch.  He, too, was aware and appreciative of the directors’ needs, but was very successful in his ability to establish a coherent structure in the way the music was presented.  He was extremely approachable and helped the cast to define their roles by employing all available skills to undertake the work at hand.

DAREarts: Did you audition for this role?

An audition was not required for the supernumeraries; however, I would say that I underwent a probation period.  This phase was never explicitly announced, but due to the replacement of a number of the supernumerary women, I was well aware that I had to maintain a sense of professionalism in order to solidify myself as part of the opera, “A Masked Ball.”

DAREarts: Are you getting a sense of community in the rehearsals?

There is definitely a communal quality during rehearsals, and it is a testimony to the humble and pleasant nature of all involved with this production.  I am not as familiar with the world of opera, and was shocked to find out that the same people with whom I was frequently engaging in casual conversation were superstars in their own right. 

Mariba Douglas and  Ballo chorusDAREarts: Have you made new friends?

I have definitely established relationships with many of my co-supers.  Having spent most of the last two months together, we have created bonds that are unique to us and are particularly helpful when we are supposed to look very acquainted on stage.  What’s more, is that I have met two fellow DAREarts enthusiasts.  One is a young super Connor,  who plays the son of one of the hotel’s cleaning employees, and the second is part of the chorus, Artist/teacher for the DAREarts’ All the Arts Program Sam Chung.  Both have been a joy to work with, and having a shared history with DAREarts instantly fostered a great fellowship.

DAREarts: When you were starting out in DAREarts, what future did you see for yourself, and does this moment fit that vision?

I remember my first day as a DAREarts participant in fifth grade.  I entered the program with an open mind ready to soak up all the fun the foundation had in store for me.  The excitement I felt derived both from the effort I had put into being selected by my school to attend, and the prospect of learning a multitude of new things with kids who were just as passionate about the arts.  I can’t say that I had a clue of where my involvement with DAREarts would take me, but I always found myself eagerly anticipating what the subsequent arts centered event would entail.  Presently, I find myself feeling so blessed as a result of the several opportunities DAREarts has made available to me.  I have been able to integrate the skills I’ve acquired into a myriad of social and intellectual settings, and I hope to continue helping DAREarts wherever I can to ensure many more youth are provided with the same wonderful experiences.

DAREarts: What did you feel like when you first stepped on that beautiful stage? Scared? Excited? Did you want to throw up? Or dance around?

I was in awe, as I had never found myself on the stage of something so grand.  Without the audience, costumes and make-up, I still felt so privileged, and yet so aware that it was now my responsibility to help the audience experience the plot vicariously through me.  Two other supers and I did indeed bust a move on the stage after our initial sentiments of wonderment.

DAREarts: Do you have a part time job during rehearsal?

No, I did not have a part-time job while I was rehearsing for “A Masked Ball,” although I had been looking for one prior to committing to this production.  Interestingly enough, I was not successful in securing a position.  Everything happens for a reason, because had I been granted a position elsewhere, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in the opera.  I have approached this opportunity as seriously as I would any other job and intend to continue doing so.

DAREarts: How’s school? Is this experience a challenge or is it making it easier?

I am currently a full-time student specializing in the International Development Studies Program at the University of Toronto.  I am very pleased with the program thus far, and am pretty sure that this is the path for me.  Going to school and rehearsing has not always been easy, as I attend school at varying hours, and sometimes both responsibilities conflict.  Nevertheless, I have been able to manage my time more effectively as a result. 

DAREarts: How is this experience preparing you for your future life?

Although I am not receiving any formal theatre training, I would consider the rehearsals to be a form of preparation.  As eluded earlier, due to the supportive and welcoming make-up of the cast, I have felt free to let myself interpret my role as I see fit.

DAREarts: What is your career path?

I intend to pursue a career in economics, specifically in international economic law.  It is not a part of the arts in an explicit sense, but I have always considered economics to be the art of how we, as a society, aim to satisfy our infinite desires whilst managing scarce resources.  

DAREarts: How has DAREarts helped you achieve this rare opportunity?

Ms. Field, the President and Founder of DAREarts, is keen on maintaining relationships with the alumni of the program.  Upon hearing a need for individuals to play supernumerary roles in the opera “A Masked Ball,” she asked if I would be interested and I gladly said “YES!”  I am aware that this opportunity is few and far between and I am so grateful to have been considered. 

If you would like to support Mariba and the other DAREarts “Supers”, purchase tickets at the COC Box Office

DAREarts acknowledges the support of: our lead sponsor, Northbridge Insurance, BMO Financial Group, Guy Carpenter, Scotiabank, CIBC Children’s Foundation, HUB International, Noront Resources, Telus Toronto Community Board, TDSB, TD, Ontario Arts Foundation, Ontario Arts Council, Ontario Trillium Foundation, and the Government of Ontario.

Visit www.darearts.com for information on how you can get involved.

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