Kathryn Westoll is the Managing Director of Fringe Toronto, a position she has held for two years. She is well-suited for the role with thirteen years experience as a Stage Manager. The question isn’t which theatres in the city have Westoll Stage Managed for; but rather which hasn’t she? Her experience includes working on productions for Nightwood Theatre, Young People’s Theatre (formerly Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People) , Tarragon Theatre, Volcano, Soulpepper, Canadian Stage, Factory Theatre and SummerWorks.
Westoll describes her role as Managing Director essentially as the logistics person for Fringe Toronto. She is the liaison person for the 1,200 artists who make up this year’s Fringe Festival and responsible for coordinating the theatre venues and suppliers—everything from porta potties, to tents and of course, beer.
Most importantly, Westoll has the daunting task of scheduling the entire festival – 155 shows – which she admits can be “a logistical nightmare.” She explains, “There is the model, then… there’s the reality.” When an artist asks to reschedule a particular show, it can mean Westoll rejigging multiple other shows to accommodate that request.
What Westoll says makes her good at her job is the ability to be incredibly organized, multitask and stay calm under pressure. Though she does admit, “Sometimes I yell at the computer. A lot.” Often artists involved in the festival are usually very focussed on their own works and part of Westoll’s job is to expand their vision to the festival as a whole.
Westoll studied drama and English at Queens University. When she didn’t get a role in the third-year play, she took on the position of Stage Manger instead. “I realized that was my skill set,” says Westoll, who then went on to the National Theatre School to study technical production.
After having her daughter three years ago, Westoll wanted to be there for her child and not have “someone else put her to bed for 6 weeks” while stage managing a show. Working as a Managing Director for a visual arts organization, Westoll desperately missed being part of the theatre community (though she also admits to being a bad audience member – noticing if a prop isn’t right, for instance.) When her current position came up at Fringe, Westoll says, “everyone and their dog told me to apply. And here I am.”
Westoll attributes her success in her career partly due to her maternal nature – providing support to artistic personalities and offering a practical brain, instead of an emotional one. Westoll also credits her parents. Her mom instilled in her the ability to balance a budget (and was a bookkeeper for a convent in Oakville for many years), while her dad said to do whatever you want for a living, even if it’s hard.
Like a good Stage Manager, the Managing Director brings organization and cohesion to the Fringe. “I create the environment where the magic happens.” says Westoll. “I still do that in this job – provide the environment where people can safely tell their stories. “
How in your life are you “on the Fringe?”
“Probably in high school, I was a member of the music department. I was on the periphery of being popular.”