Cultivating Creativity: Creating a career in the arts

“No matter how many years you’ve been working in the arts, you never stop learning,” says Lawrie. “I am deeply inspired by the people I’ve learned from, volunteered with and worked with throughout my career.”

By Jane Gardner

When students express an interest in the arts, their involvement doesn’t have to end after graduating high school. There are many paths to a fulfilling career in the performing arts; just look at Marilyn Lawrie.

In high school, Lawrie never knew of all of the career possibilities in the performing arts until she got involved in extra-curricular musicals and plays. Then at Sheridan College, she pursued studies in Media Arts with hands-on courses in film, theatre, production, and acting with teachers who were great mentors.

“When Sheridan’s production manager suggested I stage manage one of our class productions, it ignited my interest in technical theatre and led to a summer job in stage management at a Montreal theatre, followed by school tours of Sheridan student productions in Ontario,” says Lawrie. After graduation, she was offered the job of theatre manager for Sheridan’s newly opened theatre facility, and then over the next 18 years, she assumed various production, administrative and teaching roles. “The things I learned in film class at Sheridan many years ago and from social media workshops offered locally have helped me in my current work as Digital Media Manager for Stirling Festival Theatre,” she says.

Lawrie suggests that students get involved with local organizations as a volunteer, as that can give them a better insight into the world of music, dance, theatre, media arts and special events. “There are so many volunteer opportunities in our community,” says Lawrie. But volunteering is just the beginning: “Although I started as a stage manager working in theatre and opera, I developed a network of great contacts, mentors, found workshops, webinars, online courses and opportunities to build new skills.”

Lawrie has had many memorable moments over her long and varied career: “Working as a special event stage manager took me to Parliament Hill in 2011 for Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa attended by William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. My position stage left gave me a close view of The Royals,” she says. Other career highlights include stage managing the musical created by artistic director Caroline Smith that opened the Stirling Festival Theatre. As Executive Director at Quinte Ballet School of Canada, she and Catherine Taylor created, in just four months, a show featuring Quinte Ballet dancers and local performers at the Empire Theatre. She credits her two-year term as Executive Director at the Quinte Arts Council for connecting with, and promoting, so many artists. And, her time as Director of Production at Opera Lyra Ottawa and as the General Manager/Concert Manager at Quinte Symphony fostered a “deep respect for musicians.”

“No matter how many years you’ve been working in the arts, you never stop learning,” says Lawrie. “I am deeply inspired by the people I’ve learned from, volunteered with and worked with throughout my career.”