Taking Centre Stage
As the theatre world grapples with change, U of T Mississauga student Muhaddisah Batool prepares for the spotlight
By Cynthia Macdonald
“When people say ‘you have a knack for acting,’ I think it means you’re more in tune with your emotions,” says Muhaddisah Batool. Photo: Ian Patterson.
The Theatre and Drama Studies program at U of T Mississauga is highly competitive: hundreds of people audition each year, but fewer than 30 make the final cut. One of those recently chosen is Muhaddisah Batool, who’s on the verge of a triple-threat career as an actor, writer and director. This fall, the program will allow Batool (whose first name happens to mean “storyteller” in Urdu) to burnish performance skills while immersing herself in the history and theory of dramatic art. Here, she prepares to step onstage with Cynthia Macdonald.
Did you always want to go into the theatre?
Definitely! At a young age I may not have had a concept of what theatre was, but I knew what it was like to intuit things, to be emotionally sensitive. When people say “you have a knack for acting,” I think it means you’re more in tune with your emotions than other people are.
What excites you most about starting at UTM?
I’m 21 now, so I’m one of the older people in the program. I do think that gives me an edge, though, with the depth of emotion I’ve felt over the last few years. I’ve never experienced such happiness or despair or loneliness. After I graduated from high school, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to go to university. But things have a funny way of working out.
Despite those difficulties, you’ve been able to make a great start in community theatre. Do you have a favourite role you want to play?
Recently I fell in love with the character of Rose in Les Belles Soeurs by Michel Tremblay. I had to pick three different pieces for my UTM audition; each one featured a middle-aged woman with children stuck in a loveless marriage. I have no idea why I picked those. But they’re the roles I feel deeply about.
Twenty-one is still very young. As technology permeates the entertainment world, does your generation see a place for theatre?
Theatre can’t die, but it’s going to take on different forms and incorporate a lot of new things. I was just in The Little Mermaid. We used green-screen technology for the coral, the bubbles and the scene where Ariel swims up to save Eric. On opening night it wasn’t working, and everybody was panicking. But at a pivotal moment it turned on, and we were all cheering as if we’d won the Super Bowl! I think we’ll find new ways to keep theatre alive, despite technology. Or – in some ways – because of technology.
Cynthia Macdonald (BA 1986 St. Michael’s) is a Toronto journalist.