BY RAEJHON JOHNSON
David Connolly is the associate artistic director of Drayton Entertainment, one of Canada’s largest not-for-profit professional theatre companies. In this edition of Life after Sheridan, we cover the 1989 Sheridan grad who found success from Sheridan’s Musical Theatre Performance program.
Connolly was born in 1968 in Sydney, Nova Scotia where he developed a passion for dancing in his early childhood. In 1986 he decided that he would pursue Musical Theatre Performance at Trafalgar.
Sheridan Sun: What inspired you to pursue that program?
“Greg Andrews, who is still a professor there, saw me in a show at Kitchener, Waterloo,” said Connolly. “He came backstage after my show and encouraged me to audition for the program. I didn’t even know people studied performing arts. It just wasn’t really a thing yet. So just him saying come audition for this program made me wonder, people study this in college? But actually, Sheridan was the first college to offer Musical Theatre Performance in Canada.”
Connolly was a standout performer from the jump, basically being recruited by Andrews, head of the Music Discipline in the Bachelor of Music Theatre Performance. However, Connolly found Sheridan as an opportunity to learn and sharpen his skills.
Sheridan Sun: What skills did you develop while studying at Sheridan?
“I would say resilience and it continues to be that,” said Connolly.
To this day Connolly is still a student at Sheridan, even at the age of 51 he wanted to get a degree in Musical Theatre Performance to add to his accomplishments.
“Sheridan offers a degree completion program because once it becomes a university they offer former graduates to get a degree because I only got a diploma,” said Connolly. “So I’m still a student! In my last term but I’m getting my degree. But both rounds, resilience is key, I would say in any business but especially in the performing arts. You gotta bounce back from rejection and trials and all those things.”
During his time at Sheridan, Connolly won the Jerry Foster Memorial Triple Threat Award for his performances in singing, dancing, and acting and the Ben McPeek Award as “Most Outstanding Performance Graduate”. He stood out from the rest as one of the most talented in his class but noted that kindness will get you the most out of your program. Some employers, such as Connolly himself, feel that kindness is just as important as being talented in musical theatre performance.
Sheridan Sun: What advice would you give to people in your program to help standout?
“Kindness. I think that you need the talent to get into the program because I teach there as well, I’ve directed there many times,” explained Connolly. “Everybody has talent, but the thing that separates them from the pack is kindness towards everyone, including themselves. I get to know students at Sheridan and then I subsequently hire them because I’m a director. And I would say all the people that I pluck from the program are the kindest. If you have a choice between someone who’s talented and kind or talented and not kind… I’d take the kind one.”
In Connolly’s third year of his program, he auditioned for a show that ended up on Broadway in New York. It became his first job and was a huge opportunity as it wasn’t normal for someone to land that job while still being a student. In 1995, he moved to Los Angeles chasing his dreams and worked with Anita Mann Productions as a contract performer on cruise ships. He worked his way up the ladder and helped choreograph Miss America Pageant, which earned an Emmy for Outstanding Choreography.
Connolly lists one of his proudest achievements as his youth musical training program in Cambridge. He developed and runs the program and caters to about 500 kids a year and have just finished their third year. He’s now slated to direct the professional Canadian premiere of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Disney’s Newsies musical next year.
“I’m very excited about Priscilla because of its inclusivity, I get to share the message of this event,” said Connolly. “And Newsies because it will be the first professional company to do it.”