Spotlight on the Next Generation of Artists: Anne Hamels
This article was produced in partnership with the University of Ottawa’s Department of Theatre and Faculty of Arts.
In order to respect Anne’s non-binary gender, the pronoun used will be “they/them”.
In its 53 years of operations, Théâtre français de Toronto (TfT) has built a solid track record of developing programs designed to ensure the growth and cultural education of the next generation of artists. In fact, this fall, the writing competition Les Zinspiré.e.s will celebrate its tenth anniversary. Theatre is a limitless source of creativity and discoveries and we try through our programs to introduce this art form to as many youths as possible. But some of them naturally turn to theatre, without anybody’s input, and even decide to make a career out of it.
This is the case of Anne Hamels, a young Franco-Ontarian in their final year at the University of Ottawa’s Department of Theatre. Born in Belgium, Anne discovered the circus arts at an early age, their first introduction to live performances. After moving to Canada, they continued their education at De Lasalle High School in Ottawa. During this period, they found themselves hosting a juggling activity as part of a Franco-Ontarian festival. This activity reaffirmed their interest in public performances. Indeed, Anne became very intrigued with the process of building a character and coming face to face with an audience. Following this piece, they took on a new project and assume the role of stage director. This is where they realized “how the text inhabits us and the actors. There is a very human side to theatre, I decided to practice it because I am interested in others, in their physicality and their emotions.”
After these initial years of discovery, Anne ultimately decided to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Acting in order to “invest fully in a training program that would give me the physical, vocal and creative tools to do the projects I wanted to do.” They say they are one of those young people “who want to carve themselves a place in this world and exist”. Anne had the chance to explore the creative process before the pandemic, when theatre was a celebration of emotions and human contact. “Contact has healing properties” they say.
Theatre during COVID has had to adapt, but so has theatre education. TfT is well aware of this and the company has had to make changes as well, like moving its writing competition Les Zinspiré.e.s online. The artistic community is going through such a unique period of reinvention.
For the past two years, like everyone else, they have been living in a world of mask mandates, lockdowns and uncertainty. A period when, according to Anne, energy is focused on sanitary protocols and logistics rather than on creating. An artistic process especially hard when the number of creators allowed to gather up in a room is strictly limited. But they say they’re optimistic, “I have all the tools. I can create and I can be proud of that”.
It is certain that we will see Anne again on the francophone stage in the near future, whether it be as a director, on stage or backstage. We’ll be following their career with interest and, one day, TfT will be delighted to welcome them.