Like most high school students, Doug Floyd Vic 0T2 wasn’t sure which university would be right for him, so he sought guidance. “My history teacher, Mel Greif at Humberside Collegiate, was one of those educators whose advice came with real gravitas,” he recounts.
Victoria College was the resounding response. “Mr. Greif told me this was a well-rounded, liberal arts college and a supportive community,” says Floyd. “He was right. Victoria was a very welcoming environment that became my home base.”
He was, admittedly, shy in first year. That abruptly transformed in second year after a life-changing event in an unassuming location: the washroom of the Pratt Library where he spotted a poster urging students to audition for the UC Follies’ production of Guys and Dolls at Hart House Theatre.
He had seen the musical at Stratford so, throwing caution to the wind, he auditioned and earned a spot in the chorus. (He had one line, which he remembers to this day: “Where’s the game?”)
“It exceeded all my expectations,” he recalls. “It was a fun show with a talented cast, many of whose members went on into show business.”
More than this, the show created a sense of community. “I think that's what I needed: to be part of a group dynamic,” he states.
Comparing his first year to his second, “It was like night and day. I became a much happier and more engaged person.”
Floyd continued with UC Follies, jumping headfirst into Cabaret then Fiddler on the Roof. Over time, he became more interested in producing, marketing, publicity and media relations rather than acting.
This realization further shaped his trajectory. He was approached to produce A Man for All Seasons, so he put together a partnership of Hart House Theatre, Hart House Drama Society and what he called the University of Toronto Stage Company, his own start-up student company.
This production showed what the future could hold for student theatre.
After graduation, armed with the experience he had gained shouldering governance, marketing, financial and sponsorship responsibilities in tandem with the pressure-cooker expectations of filling a 450+ seat auditorium, Floyd secured coveted marketing positions at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and Tribute Entertainment Media Group. He was also the co-founder and executive producer of the Canopy Theatre Company, which co-produced outdoor summer seasons with the Theatre on Philosopher’s Walk no less than 11 seasons.
Today, the Victoria alumnus is Hart House Theatre’s general manager.
Looking back, Floyd firmly believes that experiential education played a key role. Indeed, Hart House Theatre facilitates priceless, outside-the-classroom opportunities because it focuses on the development, training and showcasing of young emerging artists.
He specifically credits the informal mentorship he gained in this environment and loves the fact that he can provide that kind of support for students now.
Generous of spirit, Floyd has a few nuggets of advice for students: “Take risks. Take an audition. This experience is really important, even if you don’t get the part. There’s huge value in trying new things, testing your limits. That’s the biggest part of the university experience.”
Emphasizing that Victoria is the ideal place to grow as a person, Floyd adds that the College offers many opportunities for students via the Isabel Bader Theatre, which he describes as “a beautiful venue.”
Theatre at U of T is galvanized by the Drama Coalition, administered and supported by Hart House Theatre. The Coalition is made up of the many student dramatic groups at U of T, including but not limited to St. Michael's College Troubadours, Trinity College Dramatic Society, UC Follies, UTM Drama Club and the Victoria College Drama Society.
The annual Hart House U of T Drama Festival is a focal point for student drama. Hart House is also the setting for the U of T Drama Coalition Awards, now in its 10th year and affectionately called the ‘Dougies’ in his honour.
“It's all about celebrating the community,” he says humbly—a community in which he clearly flourished after having spotted a seemingly random poster at Victoria College more than two decades ago.