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UTSC students win iconic Dora Awards for outstanding theatre work

The award-winning cast of Vitals included three UTSC connections. Included here are UTSC student Jesse Watts (back row, centre) and UTSC alum Katherine Devlin Rosenfeld (centre row, centre, in black). Absent from this picture is UTSC alum Zoe Danahy. (Photo courtesy of the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts)

 For University of Toronto Scarborough alumni Zoe Danahy and Katherine Devlin Rosenfeld, and current student Jesse Watts, being proactive led to unforgettable achievements and lifelong friendships that began in the Arts Management and Theatre & Performance programs.

On June 23, Danahy, Devlin Rosenfeld and Watts could be found onstage at the 35th Annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards, receiving a Dora Award for Outstanding Production in Independent Theatre for Vitals, an Outside the March Production sponsored by Theatre Passe Muraille. Watts took the stage a second time, to receive a Dora Award for Outstanding Performance-Ensemble in Independent Theatre for Passion Play. Produced and presented by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, the Dora Awards honour the creators of more than 200 productions in six major categories and recognize excellence of those who bring live performance to communities throughout Canada.

Devlin Rosenfeld met Danahy through the Theatre and Performance Studies program at UTSC and connected with Watts when she was a guest speaker in an Arts Management course; Watts listened intently and sought out opportunities to work with Devlin Rosenfeld, who later hired both Danahy and Watts as producing apprentices and provided them opportunities to learn more about the industry.

Devlin Rosenfeld believes in the importance of practical assignments and experiential learning. The opportunities at UTSC, along with faculty and staff guidance, helped her harness a passion for both theatre production and performance. “I really wanted to excel in everything I did, so I took every opportunity to get out in the industry and meet people,” she says.

Danahy found professors and staff at UTSC to be invaluable resources when it came to securing internships and jobs. During her years at UTSC, she worked at the Toronto International Film Festival, Canadian Stage, and with the Canadian Opera Company, all opportunities she found through UTSC. Both Danahy and Devlin Rosenfeld credit Sherri Helwig, senior lecturer and program director of Arts Management, with supporting their work in and out of the classroom and providing much more than theory-based learning.

“We do everything in our power to create opportunities for our students to engage in the essential conversations of the field,” says Helwig. “This takes the form of case studies in class and work placements outside of class, of course, but also of current, real life issues brought into the classroom and meaningful connections made between students and the arts community.”

Their hard work is taking them in new directions. Danahy is moving to Glasgow to pursue a master of arts in acting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland; Devlin Rosenfeld continues her exciting roles in the theatre community; and Watts is finishing his degree at UTSC, and also appearing in a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream by Convergence Theatre and Outside the March, and writing a play that he plans to enter into a theatre festival.

© University of Toronto Scarborough