What do the latest winner of The Amazing Race Canada, “Cosette” in the Broadway revival of Les Miserables and the writer/lead actor of My Big Fat Greek Wedding have in common?
Catherine Wreford, Samantha Hill, and Nia Vardalos were all beneficiaries of the Jean Murray-Moray Sinclair fund at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.
Jean Murray and Moray Sinclair were influential Manitoban actors who were instrumental in MTC’s early development. The original mandate of MTC included education, and so since 1964, donations have been collected in their names to fund scholarships. These are awarded to Manitoban students studying theatre full-time at the undergraduate or graduate level, in performance, production, playwriting, design, theatre practice and more. In some programs, students are not allowed to hold a job in addition to their studies, so scholarships such as the Jean Murray-Moray Sinclair help cover their expenses.
In 1995, MTC also began to offer apprenticeships, also courtesy of generous donors in Murray and Sinclair’s names. An apprenticeship is a part-time, paid, job-auditing experience for emerging artists and craftspeople, allowing them to gain exposure to professional theatre. An apprentice shadows an established artist and observes their role on a particular production or may be asked to do tasks related to the field. Often, apprentices are recent graduates of post-secondary theatre training, but MTC acknowledges that theatre artists can come from all kinds of backgrounds. Therefore, those who have theatre training and experience in one area who are looking to branch into another, like a stage manager exploring directing, or a background in artistic disciplines outside of theatre, like a fashion designer interested in costume, are also welcome to apply. Apprenticeships offer the opportunity to make valuable connections as well as an understanding of the creative process at a regional major theatre. Past apprenticeships have included placements in directing, properties building and buying, choreography or set, costume, and lighting design.
To date, more than 1,000 scholarships and apprenticeships, fully funded by donations, have been awarded to over 560 students and emerging artists from our province. While the earlier examples, Wreford, Hill, and Vardalos, have worked outside of Winnipeg, many recipients continue to make their careers in Manitoba. If you’ve been to a production at MTC, chances are you’ve seen the work of many apprentices or scholarship recipients. In the 2022/23 season, 32 actors, stage managers, directors, and designers are past or current scholarship or apprenticeship holders, and that’s not unique to this season.
The set and costume designs of Brian Perchaluk have graced MTC’s stages over 75 times since he attended the National Theatre School with the help of a Jean Murray-Moray Sinclair scholarship, and he has often mentored apprentices in positions made possible by the same fund. One of those apprentices who shadowed Brian, Jamie Plummer, became the Head of Props at Royal MTC in 2020. Along with Jamie, there are seven other Jean Murray-Moray Sinclair recipients on MTC’s full-time staff: the Associate Artistic Director, Company Manager, Front of House Manager, Education and Enrichment Manager, Winnipeg Fringe Festival Manager, Master Carpenter and a props builder/buyer.
The Jean Murray-Moray Sinclair fund does not only benefit MTC, but Canada’s whole theatre community. The artistic directors of Rainbow Stage, Shakespeare in the Ruins, and Theatre Projects Manitoba are all past recipients, as are the Associate Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival, co-artistic director of Carousel Theatre, the staff of Red Rover Entertainment, and independent performers, directors, designers, intimacy coordinators, technicians, educators and creators of all kinds.
Applications for the 2023/24 season of Jean Murray-Moray Sinclair Scholarships and Apprenticeships are open until March 27 - details at RoyalMTC.ca/Scholarship or RoyalMTC.ca/Emerging. MTC’s Education and Enrichment Manager can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 204 954 6413 with any questions. If you would like to contribute to help the Jean Murray-Moray Sinclair fund continue to support Manitoban theatre artists, donations are gratefully accepted at https://tickets.royalmtc.ca/donate/q/17; any questions related to making a gift can be directed to Patrick at email@example.com or 204 954 6412.