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Melissa Rood

Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design

Degree: Theatre Arts, Technical Production

Year of graduation: 1996

No one is alone: Stratford stage manager Melissa Rood on the importance of community

From driving a dogsled to paddling a dragonboat down the Avon River, Theatre Arts, Technical Production grad Melissa Rood isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty or dive full-on into a task — skills that serve her well as Stage Manager at Ontario’s Stratford Festival.

Rood, who is in her 16th year at the festival, has worked on shows ranging from a monochromatic Into the Woods to the Des McAnuff’s flamboyant staging of The Who’s Tommy. “People think that stage management is all about paperwork, but it’s more about people,” she says. “We’re translators for a lot of artists who speak in very different ways.”

Rood is currently working on Stratford’s production of Shakespeare in Love and The Aeneid, both of which run during the 2016 summer season. As one of many Sheridan grads that have come through The Stratford Festival, she believes not only in the importance of Sheridan in her career path, but also in the absolute necessity of being a mentor in the theatre community. “People in theatre make time for people. That’s how most of us got into it, and that’s precisely what happened to me — someone made a phone call,” she says.

One of the people who supported Rood in her career is Debra McKay, Sheridan Professor of Technical Production for Theatre and Live Events. Rood still periodically heads back to guest lecture in McKay’s class, coaching stage management students. “They don’t quite know what to make of me when I show up in big blond pigtails and giant pink boots,” she laughs. “I’m as tough as nails but a lot of fun, too.”

Today, twenty years after she graduated, Rood tries to give back to the community that brought her into its fold early on. She uses the lessons she learned at Sheridan, along with a later B.A. in Social Development studies from the University of Waterloo, towards her work in community development projects, including one developing dance therapy.

She strongly encourages new grads to get involved in the industry as soon as possible, and to find a mentor that will advise them, even if the opportunity is unpaid. (Rood worked picking greens at an organic farm when she was apprenticing in Stratford.) “It's more important to meet the right people and learn the important skills than be paid at the beginning,” she says. “Later on, get paid, but keep the mentors. The learning never stops.”

Rood, who has worked in theatres across Canada, tells students to travel and expand their horizons. “Don't even think of getting comfortable for the first five years (this is exactly what I was taught at Sheridan and it is still true),” she says. “The moment you want to quit is when you might possibly know a bit about what you're doing and it gets fun again.”

Learn more about Sheridan’s Technical Production for Theatre and Live Events program

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