Dear RTS building: a love letter

Members of Ryerson Theatre School's class of 2011. (Courtesy Jessica Way)

Members of Ryerson Theatre School’s class of 2011 on convocation day. (Courtesy Jessica Way)

To my dear theatre school building,

For four years, 44 Gerrard St. was my sanctuary. Looking back now, it was the place where I grew into myself, where I fell in love with people and ideas, where barriers were torn down, bonds were built and pains led to rewards.

Now that the time has come for the program to move spaces and for the building to close its doors, it deserves a tribute.

It’s the end of an era.

I first walked through the doors of the theatre school building as a high-school student with the dream of becoming a performer. I wanted to act. I wanted to be on stage and Ryerson Theatre School (RTS) was the place. It was where young artists, actors, dancers and producers wanted to go. The audition led to my callback. The callback led to my acceptance. And so, it began.

As an undergraduate student, the building was a safe place, a hub, a bubble for me and my peers to rehearse and perfect. It was where we gathered, watched each other and learned from one another.

For my small acting class of 20, the school was where we grew up together. It was where we fell in love with one another.

If the walls of RTS could talk, they might say: we witnessed you.

The walls might recall the moments when my classmates and I first tackled the weight of Shakespeare, the height of Greek tragedy or the vulnerability of putting on our clown noses during, yes, the term we studied clown. The walls will remember the times we collapsed from exhaustion on the green room couches between rehearsals. They saw the massage trains, the breakdowns and all of the warm embraces.

The acting class behind the scenes during the run of Clown 2009, directed by Leah Cherniak. (Courtesy Jessica Way)

The acting class behind the scenes during the run of Clown 2009, directed by Leah Cherniak. (Courtesy Jessica Way)

It was a special university experience.

I remember our movement teacher asking us to dab at the air while moving barefoot to music in Graham studio … I remember lying on the floor humming, as instructed by our voice teacher, working to feel my voice vibrating through my whole body from my head to my tiptoes … I remember spooning with my classmates on a particularly exhausting morning in the middle of a particularly difficult semester. We needed it. We needed each other.

It was intimate. My classmates saw me at my best and they saw me at my absolute worst. And the theatre school was our home. It’s a sad thing that the building will no longer be.

Now, I’m a journalist. I’m not acting anymore, but the lessons learned at theatre school continue to serve me in my life and in my work. I learned how to be present. I learned how to listen and how to be heard. I learned how to live in my body and how to take up space. Theatre school made me a better human.

As for my classmates and I — we’re all scattered now, in different places, doing different things. Some of us are still acting. Some of us are not. Years later, many of us are still close. Despite the separate paths we’ve all taken since leaving RTS, our hearts and memories are still intertwined because for four years, we were a family.

An embrace outside the theatre school on convocation day. (Courtesy Milena Georgieva)

An embrace outside of the theatre school on convocation day. (Courtesy Milena Georgieva)

It is comforting to know that somewhere in time, we will always be in a huddle, giving one another love and encouragement before taking the stage to perform another show, promising to give it our all, to be out there for one another, ready to catch.

And thus, with some heartbreak, and so much respect, I bid you farewell, my darling theatre school building. May the program’s new space on campus serve as a home for its students the way the theatre building did for me. May future students continue to find communal couches to nap on, comforting floors to warm up on, and lifelong friends to rely on.

As your days come to an end, I just want to tell you that I love you, and thank you. Thank you for being the nest in which I grew into a woman. Thank you for introducing me to some of the most amazing humans I know. Thank you for being the space in which I tackled so much, and cried so much, and spooned (yes, spooned) so much. I will hold the lessons learned and the memories made deep in my heart.

I kiss your walls for containing us, and I salute your doors for being open to us.

With all my love, thank you for being my home for a time.

Yours,

Katerina.

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