It’s no secret that there is a healthy amount of tension between Anglophone and Francophone cultures in Montreal, but one place the two co-exist beautifully is at NTS, a school that fosters the acting, writing, and directing talents of young people of both languages.
Canadian actor Colm Feore graduated from the National Theatre School (NTS) in 1980, and last week received the 2013 Gascon-Thomas Award for his contributions to Canadian theatre and his status as a role model to students.
Although the award is an honour for Feore, it’s also a reminder of how long he’s been acting—and of his age.
“If you’re still doing it at my age, they think, ‘Well we better give him something,’” Feore laughs. “[However], it’s encouraging to younger people, I suspect, that you can keep working and making a living doing this.”
After over 30 years in the business, with success on the stage, TV, and in well-known movies such as Chicago and Bon Cop, Bad Cop, Feore is the perfect example of a Canadian actor who has been able to diversify and adapt to different roles, while also remaining true to his roots.
“If you want to be Canadian, you need to start where you know,” says Feore. “The great advantage of being in Montreal is you have those two elements—French and English—that give you a better sense of who you are, and where you’re from. You can go to America and put on an American accent, but there’ll be 50 million people there already doing that.”
Having been determined to become an actor since a young age, Colm Feore unwaveringly pursued his career in the arts. However, he too had some doubts.
“I had applied to universities out of high school [….] I was an indifferent student, and when I got accepted to the Theatre School I took it as an endorsement of what might be possible [….] I thought ‘I should try this, and if it sucks I’ll go back to school and study something serious,’” he says.
It is because of this honesty, among other things, that Feore was one of the best possible role models to confront the National Theatre School students about the reality of finding a job as an actor, and the amount of hard work it takes to succeed in such a cutthroat environment.
“There are many, many more people trying to [act] now,” Feore explains. “Some people get famous fast, and everyone else thinks, ‘Oh, it can work!’ But it doesn’t work like that; it’s horribly difficult and restrictive. If you don’t have a foot in the door, or a friend on the inside who can guide you, you don’t have a chance.”
However, he believes that a school like NTS can help young actors get that footing, and actually have a chance—and that his schooling definitely helped advance his career.
“One of the things about NTS is that it has a reputation around the country. It started in 1960 and churned out the best people in the theatre,” says Feore. “The reputation rippled across the country and the rest of the world that this was the best place to be.”
While NTS fostered Feore’s career when he was young, a certain playwright helped inspire it—Shakespeare. Feore is adamant about the importance of keeping the bard relevant in schools today, especially because his writing can often seem inaccessible to an untrained reader.
“The best thing to do is study the best thing [Shakespeare], because then you know that all the effort that you put into it will be rewarded,” says Feore. “If you have muscled your way through King Lear, or Othello, or Macbeth […] you have a foundational understanding of what a good play is [.…] It becomes a foundational canon of your reference material.”