Date: 2009 January

January 28, 2009, by
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This week’s federal budget contained few surprises, but there was one item that came out of left field, shocking the cultural sector: Luminato founders David Pecaut and Tony Gagliano, pictured above, have been granted $25 Million to create the Canada Prizes for the Arts and Creativity.

A number of artists have expressed ire that this announcement comes on the heels of the cancelation of the PromArt program, abandoning the federal government’s commitment to promoting Canadian artists abroad. This new money will be used to host a pre-Luminato competition, where prestigious panels of judges will adjudicate international competitors in the fields of dance, music, art, and dramatic arts. The winner gets cash and a slot in the two-year-old festival that recently received another unprecedented $15 Million donation from the Ontario provincial government. New Conservative Minister of Heritage James Moore calls The Canada Prizes “the largest cultural prize-giving in the world“.

What do you think? Is this a genius ploy to make Toronto an international hub for arts and creativity? Is this a genius ploy to to fund culture without rewarding Canadian artists for depriving the Conservative government of a majority in the recent election? How the heck do these two dudes get multi-million dollar grants from any level of government that no one else can apply for?

January 26, 2009, by
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Three questions for any theatre people out there who are using the social networking tool Twitter:

1) How does Twitter help you be a better theatre professional?
2) How do you find other theatre people on Twitter?
3) Who would you recommend Twitter to?

Come to think of it, any thoughts on Twitter and its relationship to theatre would be awesome and of interest.

January 23, 2009, by
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Some company news: Praxis Theatre’s new play opens tonight . . . and just in case you’re looking for some Stranger love before the show, you can find us here:

Eye Magazine: Best Bests: Stranger
The Toronto Star: Small theatres, bold new productions…
Now Magazine: Stage Scenes interview – Michael Wheeler

Opening night is officially sold out. Thank you! But we’ve got lots more shows over the next three weeks. So come on out and get your Albert Camus on.

You can book your tickets online, and find all the info you need at praxistheatre.com.

Thanks again. We think you’re going to like this show.

Existential angst never felt so good.

January 21, 2009, by
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Original Video – More videos at TinyPic

January 16, 2009, by
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Praxis Theatre is thrilled to announce that after more than two years in development, our brand new show is almost ready to go.

The show is called Stranger and it’s based on Albert Camus’ 1942 existential masterpiece novel L’Étranger.

To help you get a sense of the show, we’ve put together a brand new website with production information, photos of the cast, free downloadable wallpaper for your desktop – you can even buy tickets right from the site.

Check out the new microsite here: Stranger.

We’ll be updating the site regularly leading up to the show’s opening on January 23 and throughout the run. Please stay tuned for more details as we get closer to opening night.

Hope to see you at the theatre!

Regards,

Your friends at Praxis Theatre

January 12, 2009, by
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Before becoming a Supervisor with Special Events (Cultural Division) for the City of Toronto, Bridget MacIntosh was the Producer of the Fringe of Toronto Theatre Festival, and Founding Producer of The Next Stage Festival. This made Bridget the ideal person to sit down with Gideon Arthurs, newly minted Executive Director of The Fringe of Toronto Theatre Festival, to have some beers and hear what’s new with The Fringe.

BRIDGET: So I hear January is the new July Gid. Tell me what what’s up?

GIDEON: Everything. I mean everything. I have a new life-affirming/hopelessness-inducing task management system that reminds me that there is simply just no more time for anything. Mostly, that list is filled with the final details and prep for the Next Stage Theatre Festival (Jan 7-18!!!!) There are also one or two notes about the impending final gasping collapse of the world economy and the ensuing disappearance of arts’ funding in Canada and what extreme contingencies we’ll have to roll out if/when that happens. Also, I need to polish my boots before the festival starts and buy brown sugar.

BRIDGET: I made some brown sugar fudge over the holidays. Always good to have brown sugar nearby… but really I can’t believe it’s already time for Next Stage. I still have these moments where I think back and am like, “Wow! Did that really happen?” As the second instalment of Next Stage begins, just what kind of festival do you think you’ve inherited with Next Stage?

GIDEON: A fresh, full of potential, important festival. A festival that is a new, but deeply pure and true, incarnation of the Fringe’s principles. A brave, crazy one too – mid-January, a tent, no lottery… what the hell were you thinking? On a personal level, I’ve felt that NSTF has also afforded me the greatest sense of possession since I started at the Fringe almost a year ago. It’s been harder to understand and personally affect the massive beast that is our summer festival. With 20 years of institutional structure behind it, I sometimes wonder who the hell I am to try and improve it… But with NSTF being so young, and so full of potential for growth and creative input, I have a real view about what this festival can become, and how our team can make that view a reality.

BRIDGET: I know you know my thoughts on this but how do you think the Next Stage fits into the overall role of the Fringe of Toronto Theatre Festival?

GIDEON: I think it fits perfectly – more than an extension of what we do, it’s an evolution that makes sense. After 20 years, the Fringe is really in a place to claim its leadership role and continue to represent our constituents in new and innovative ways. Sometimes, talk like this frustrates me, but I find myself saying over and over again “Why don’t they know!? We’re at 58,000+ in attendance, we’ve given out $4 million over twenty years to thousands of artists, we employ over 100 people a year, we’re spread out to 30 different venues, we were the launching pad for the two most successful productions in Canadian Theatre… why aren’t you taking us seriously!!??” With Next Stage I honestly believe we’ve shown that we’re responsive and capable of growth, and therefore more “serious”, more confident, more capable. My hope over the next few years is to see the Fringe become THE voice for emerging and independent arts, a nexus of creative voices that cumulatively are stronger and louder than when alone, and who’s ranks include artists AND patrons as advocates for culture in our city.

OR

In Naval terms, Next Stage is the Cruiser to the Fringe’s Battleship.

BRIDGET: Or in bad 80’s movie terms, the Goose to the Fringe’s Maverick?

GIDEON: (silence)

BRIDGET: (silence)

BRIDGET: Next Stage is such a huge step in the evolution of the Fringe. With such a dynamic festival so you have any particular hopes or goals for the Next Stage over the next few years?

GIDEON: I’m trying hard in this yuletide season to only make qualitative goals, but I can’t help getting a little quantitative right now. Goal 1 – more people, more people watching plays, more plays made successes, more art-time for artists, more money for artists, more acclaim for the festival and participants, more patrons who can’t stop talking about the festival. More. Goal 2 – better operations, better funding, better understanding of what goes into making art by commenters on newspaper websites, better opportunities for our artists . . . better.

BRIDGET: Hey, you’re also coming up on your first year anniversary at the Fringe and we’ve still been playing tag with meeting up for steak. Although having beers and talking about theatre are great, just when is this meet for steak thing going to happen?

GIDEON: 2016

BRIDGET: (silence)

GIDEON: You know, my Mum’s flank steak was always my favourite, but it takes too long to marinate so I never make it.

BRIDGET: Any other challenges you’d like to talk about?

GIDEON: This job has truly been the challenge of a lifetime. In my four year plan, year 1 is labelled “Survival”. One of the major issues, that I think many of us in the arts face, is that there is infinite work to do. There is no ceiling, no control, and achievements are intangible – it’s that old “bringing back a 96% on a test and your parents asking you where the other 4% went”. No matter how many people come to the festival, no matter how much money we raise, there’s always more. No matter how many new programs we implement, we could implement more of them or make them bigger…The only limit is the exhaustion line, and when my wife tells me to come home. The first 48 hours of the ’08 Festival were possibly the worst 48 hours of my life. I was in so far above my head, I can’t even really remember what happened after we discovered that our ticketing software had crashed opening morning and none of our walkie-talkies worked.

BRIDGET: I once burned myself on a faulty festival cell phone.

GIDEON: (silence)

BRIDGET: I’m a *bit* biased here but I’ve always felt that the Fringe senior staff have been, and I’m sure continue to be, one of the finest festival staffs you can find. Graciousness aside, now, between you and me….if your entire Fringe senior staff were a street gang, how would you describe their individual fighting styles and who would come out on top if pitted against one another in a death match? I’m just saying, it’s like I’ve though about this before or anything.

GIDEON: We tried to arrange this one fight once with SummerWorks but we would have had to lend them our weapons and several of our staff, so it didn’t seem worthwhile. I see my staff/gang as more of a post-apocalypse urban gang than dance flick or 80’s gang. Paula “Silent and Violent” Forst, our Producer, is definitely the muscle – I’d say she’d do well with two giant mallets for some crashing and smashing. Adam “Grasshopper” Kirkham, our fundraiser, is quick on his feet and packs a wallop with a sock full of dimes. Lindsey “Voluntold” Clark, doing our volunteer coordinating, doesn’t engage in hand to hand herself but commandeers a legion of blood-thirsty volunteers to do her fighting for her. And then there’s the techs and box office staff, who to be honest will do anything for beer…They’re the group that shows up just when it looks like we’re outmuscled in a fight… the cavalry if you will. When push comes to shove though I’d have to say I would win in a fight against all of them, only because I’m an expert at driving people into a blind rage that allows me to take advantage of their weaknesses.

BRIDGET: Nicely played there buddy.

GIDEON: That blind rage stuff though. It’s true.

BRIDGET: Hey since we’re not doing the steak thing for a while, might as well tell me what you’re doing in the meantime. I hear that there are some new activities afoot? Do tell.

GIDEON: I’m incredibly excited about what we’re calling our new “initiatives”. We’re hoping to make official announcements soon, but they go as follows:

The Fringe Evolution Fund – to encourage remounts of successful Fringe shows, we’ll be giving out grants to help cover production costs for Fringe shows re-produced by the original company within five years of first appearing at the Toronto Fringe. We’re hoping to be able to give out as much as $10,000 within three years.

The Charrettes – inspired by design salons of the 19th century, this is a series of five meetings with relevant stakeholders to propose solutions to problems facing the performance community. Our first Charrette, about the shortage of rehearsal and performance space for small companies was a great success. Our next one is about adapting fundraising techniques for larger institutions to suit small companies… stay tuned for details.

Office Residencies -we have all the resources in place to welcome small into our offices during our down periods, to help bring their producing out of their kitchens and into a creative hub with other arts administrators.
OTICs (Online Ticketing for Independent Companies) – we’re offering subsidized access to our new online ticketing systems for small companies.

The Fringe/Paprika Festival Partnership – we’ll be working with the Paprika festival to make sure their youth get out to the Fringe as well as inviting one production to perform at the Fringe in 2009

BRIDGET: Love it. I think its important to get he word out about programs like these. To that end, this will eventually end up on a theatre blog. Any random thoughts on theatre blogs?

GIDEON: Isn’t the internet going to save theatre? Sometimes, I think we want to think that because the internet’s cheaper than everything else and is all we have… Now excuse me, I have to check my Facebook… for professional reasons.

BRIDGET: Oh yeah, sure no problem.

(2 HOURS LATER)

BRIDGET: Poked a lot?

GIDEON: (silence)

BRIDGET: Well Gid, thanks for the chat. Any words of wisdom to end off on? Any overall posits in the state of the performing arts?

GIDEON: I keep on trying to come up with different ways of saying this that don’t make me sound like I’m commoditising the creative process, but I give in. Money. Money is the challenge of the moment, not because money makes good art, and certainly not because we make art for money, but because without funding we are forced into impossible, un-artistic situations. I’m very afraid of what sort of art will be made when what seems to be brewing in arts funding comes to pass…

January 2, 2009, by
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The Rake’s Progress: Do You Know Where Tom Rakewell Is?
Who: MacKenzieRo
Where: Factory Theatre Mainspace, Toronto, Canada
What: Adapted from the opera by Igor Stravinsky and the original engravings by William Hogarth, this show charts the course of Tom Rakewell through a loutish and debauched London.
Why: The 18th century engravings of The Rake’s Progress alarmed and thrilled, the 20th century opera’s lustiness astonished the 1953 Edinburgh Festival, how will 21st century audiences react to this updated evolution?
Web: MacKenzieRo Website
Hype: MacKenzieRo’s previous production of DISCO PIGS was a hit at the 2007 Toronto Fringe, followed by a highly successful remount at Alchemy Theatre in 2008.

Reesor
Who: Reesor Collective
Where: Factory Studio Theatre, Toronto, Canada
What: Combines live music, performance, shadow-puppets, baking and a man in a bear suit to tell the story of a ghost town in Northern Ontario.
Why: In 1926, 400 people called Reesor, Ontario home. Now, all that remains is a pile of stone.
Web: Reesor Myspace Page
Hype: Toronto Fringe 2007 Best Overall Production, Best Music, Critic’s Pick – NOW Magazine, “Best of the Fringe Series” – Diesel Playhouse

Humans Anonymous
Who: The Anonymous Co-op
Where: Factory Theatre Mainspace, Toronto, Canada
What: One is afraid of loneliness. Two is afraid of happiness. Three is afraid of ignorance. Four is afraid of judgment. Five is afraid of gremlins – even the nice ones. One loves four; three loves one; five loves cats.
Why: Returns to Toronto with new material and a New York run under its belt with the Bridge Theatre Company.
Web: The Official Kate Hewlett Fansite.
Hype: Not only did this 2006 Fringe show garner enough attention to transfer to New York, but playwright Kate Hewlett’s subsequent fringe play, The Swearing Jar, was also a hit at the 2008 Toronto Fringe.