The University of Winnipeg



UWinnipeg students and alum helping bring MTC’s Orlando to the stage

Sophie Smith-Dostmohamed & Em Siobhan McCourt in Orlando

UWinnipeg student Sophie Smith-Dostmohamed and Em Siobhan McCourt in Orlando. Set Designer: Linda Beech, Costume Designer: Leanne Foley, Lighting Designer: Hugh Conacher. Photo by Dylan Hewlett.

Live theatre is back, and University of Winnipeg students and alum are working on-stage and off as the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (MTC) brings Orlando to the John Hirsh Mainstage. 

This is the first MTC show since the pandemic and UWinnipeg student Emma Welham says the chance to create theatre for a live audience again “feels like a balm for the soul.”

Emma Welham says the sense of rigour she learned as a UWinnipeg student equipped her for the work that goes into bringing a show to the stage. Photo credit: Kristen Sawatzky.

She says she will never forget the first day of rehearsal when MTC said it had been almost 600 days since they had welcomed a group of artists for an in-person show.

“The applause and joy that erupted in that moment is a memory I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” she said. “While I have enjoyed exploring digital theatre during the pandemic, it is wonderful to see the audience react. Their laughter and energy is something I have missed greatly over the pandemic.”

Welham is working as Orlando‘s production dramaturge; a literary editor whose job is to research, interpret, and provide context during the show’s production.

“It’s my job to bring forward research to the team, and my time at The University of Winnipeg has taught me how to search for and bring forward information to flesh out the world of the play.” she said.

She is thrilled to be surrounded by so many members of the theatre community whose roots are at UWinnipeg.

“I have always been amazed by the talent of the people who graduate from UWinnipeg,” she said. “Based on our roles, each of us has a different way that we came to be involved in the show, but it’s pretty cool to look around a room and know that many of the artists in the room have attended the same school as you and are now crushing it in the professional world.”

UWinnipegers whose names you’ll find in the credits of Orlando are:

  • Ivy Charles (Student, 2014-2017) is an Actor
  • Samantha Desiree (BA Hons, 2021) is Apprentice Stage Manager
  • Ali Fulmyk (BA Hons, 2013) is Assistant Stage Manager
  • Kate George (completing BA Hons, 2022) is Assistant Set Designer
  • Melissa Langdon (BA Hons, 2017) is Assistant Director
  • Jacquie Loewen (BA Hons, 2005) is Fight Director
  • Sophie Smith-Dostmohamed (completing BA Hons, 2022) is an Actor
  • Emma Welham (BA Hons, 2021) is Production Dramaturge
  • Liam Zarillo (BEd, 2018) is Gender Consultant

Christopher Brauer, Chair of the Department of Theatre and Film, loves that he can walk into any theatre or onto any film set in the province and find past students bringing stories to life.

“And it’s not just one or two grads, you’ll find numerous graduates of our program working in every possible capacity,” he said. “What could be better than knowing that The University of Winnipeg gave the students the knowledge and skill to complement and support their talent and that they are hired by the best-of-the-best to create meaningful work in challenging times, like this amazing group collaborating on Orlando.

Based on the Virginia Woolf novel of the same name, Orlando is an inventive, time-travelling love story that pushes the boundaries of gender, identity, and art.

“I love this adaption of Orlando because of how it invites in artistry and possibility,” said Welham. “Sarah Ruhl, who adapted the story from Virginia Woolf’s novel, has set no specifications for set, costumes, cast size or even, in the case of the chorus of the show, who says what lines. The only limit is the artistic team’s imagination, and coming out of a time of isolation, it has been freeing to work with a team who love this show passionately and who bring bold, theatrical ideas to the table every day.”

Performances of Orlando continue until December 18. Visit the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre for more information.