Clayton Baraniuk will never forget the day that Sophia Tremblay, one of his classmates at the Canadian College of Performing Arts, made a prediction out of the blue about how his career would likely take shape.
“She looked at me and she said, ‘You’re going to do something edgier than this,’ [or words to that effect] and that stuck with me,” said the College alumnus, recalling his encounter with the Quebec student.
It was 17 years ago, and Baraniuk was 20-years-old, certain that he would use his talents as an actor, singer and dancer to pursue a career onstage in the performing arts. Tremblay detected Baraniuk’s other strengths, however. It got him thinking about how he might someday use those skills – his humanity, arts knowledge, drive and organizational aptitude – in other ways while capitalizing on his performing arts education.
“What am I doing with what I’ve been given, my various talents and how is that having an impact on the world, on other people?” wondered Baraniuk, who before enrolling at CCPA attended Courtenay’s Georges P. Vanier Secondary School, where he appeared in productions alongside students with disabilities. He has subsequently worked with children and adults with autism as an educator and artistic advisor.
“Since graduation from CCPA [in 2002] that’s always been a factor in my thinking about my career. What is the meaning of all of this?”
The New Westminster-born artist has put to good use his acting, directing and musical talents that he honed at the College. He has performed with companies including Atomic Vaudeville, Theatre SKAM, the Belfry Theatre, and Gotta Getta Gimmick, the musical theatre company that began life as a Career Management course project with an ad hoc group of CCPA students.
Co-founded by Baraniuk with fellow alumni RJ Peters and Jane Gaudet with the help of Shane Snow and Brad L’Écuyer, the non-profit enterprise is best known for the shows it presented each year at the Butchart Gardens, and a popular series of musical-theatre cabarets.
Baraniuk, now the Artistic Producer for Vancouver-based Electric Company Theatre, eventually decided it was time to switch gears.
“It was a conscious decision [to become a producer] because life as a performer is not an easy one to finance,” he candidly recalls.
“Over the years I’d developed all these skills with Gotta Getta Gimmick and my career as an administrator and producer that I got a lot of joy out of and through which I could help other people. I was driven initially by finance but it was also an area I was naturally heading towards.”
Baraniuk, 37, has since worked as Company Manager with the Belfry Theatre and as Associate Producer of English Theatre for four years at the National Arts Centre, where his portfolio included working on a research and development initiative on Canadian theatre. He worked as Associate Producer on the 2015 Study of Indigenous Theatre in Canada and the 2016 Summit on Deaf, Disability, Mad Arts and Inclusion in Canada.
Through NAC’s partnership with British Council Canada, Baraniuk was trained as a Relaxed Performance consultant whose mandate included encouraging arts groups to make cultural events more accessible to people with disabilities and others who might feel unwelcome.
Baraniuk’s other notable credits include working as Associate Producer of Spiderwebshow.ca, billed as Canada’s only online theatrical space.
“It started at NAC as an experiment on how to work online in a creative capacity,” he said. “It continues to be a place for national creative communities to gather and be creative and share knowledge.”
His position as Artistic Producer with Electric Company Theatre presents a different but no less satisfying set of challenges, he said.
“The workload is mad and it’s a change from the institutional job I had at NAC but it’s given me so many new tools and experiences and knowledge about arts-making. It’s an incredible experience.”
Baraniuk, also a member of the board of the Canadian Heritage Arts Society, credits the College for teaching him the importance of having a strong work ethic so essential to managing such a demanding job.
He said the College’s six-day-a-week schedule prepared him for the professional arts world, because it’s the industry standard.
“It’s a huge part of anyone’s learning curve. First there’s the level of commitment and then the work ethic you have to have. To maintain that level of commitment to the work is phenomenal, and that is something that needs to be taught through practical applications.
“It’s a great test for anyone who wants to do this as a profession. You have to ask yourself: ‘Is this something I want to be working on, how I want to spend the bulk of my time?’ There is no time clock in the arts.”