Recently it seems all my actions are direct responses to Rob Ford’s suggestions to Toronto artists.
Guests at Praxis Gourmet #9 play some pool and enjoy a cocktail in the lounge before dinner is served
A month after Ford suggested at The Mayoral Arts Debate that artists raise more money by throwing dinner fundraisers, Praxis Theatre threw its 9th installment of the $110/plate Praxis Gourmet dinner series. The event was our most successful so far with live jazz, a sneak peek at our latest work Jesus Chrysler and a four-course wine pairing that starred Coq au Vin at an upscale Bay Street address.
Playing close heed to this message from City Hall for independent artists to put their business thinking caps on and be serious about things, I present this lecture and workshop taught by the “intrepid” Cathy Gordon and myself on how to be a theatre entrepreneur.
We have over 10 handouts that break down all the basics to be considered when creating the infrastructure that will support you and your work. This is probably the cheapest we will ever offer this course as a measure to spread the word about how awesome it is, so sign up now for the lecture you cannot AF-FORD to miss. Buh-dum-pum.
PRODUCING AND CREATING INDEPENDENT THEATRE Cathy Gordon & Michael Wheeler / ADAPT services
“Cathy and Michael’s independent theatre creation workshop at University of Toronto addressed topics that most artists fear to even go near in a way that was both fun and engaging. It helped dispel common misconceptions and confusion about how to get my own work off the ground and left me prepared to take control of my career as an artist.”
Yevgeniya Falkovich (University of Toronto 2010, National Theatre School Directing Program 2013)
Sunday December 12
hub14 / 14 markham street (Queen & Bathurst)
To register: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lecture topics include:
*Non-profit v For Profit structures- What Are They
*Toronto opportunities – They Do Exist
*Marketing On A Shoestring
*Grant Writing Tips
*Artistic / Company Visioning
Rob Kempson is the Artistic Producer of the Paprika Festival and on November 28th, the Festival is celebrating its 10th birthday. For the second year now Rob somehow manages to pull together an amazing Festival of new work by young artists. Sure he has help from a stellar executive team, but the guy doesn’t even drink coffee… what gives? Now that’s hot.
Paprika Does Double Digits: November 28th
A collection of work from the past ten years, performed by current participants, artists, alumni and friends of the Festival
Reception at 7pm, performance at 8pm
Tarragon Theatre Mainspace
Limited tickets available, call the Tarragon Box Office at 416.531.1827
The English noun identity comes, ultimately, from the Latin adverb identidem, which means “repeatedly.” The Latin has exactly the same rhythm as the English, buh-BUM-buh-BUM—a simple iamb, repeated; and identidem is, in fact, nothing more than a reduplication of the word idem, “the same”: idem(et)idem. Same (and) same. The same, repeated. It is a word that does exactly what it means.
It seems odd, at first glance, that a noun that we associate with distinctiveness and individuality, with the irreducible uniqueness of each person, should derive from one that denotes (and even sounds like) nothing but mechanical repetition. But once you’ve given it some thought, the etymology of identity makes a kind of sense. At least one way of establishing what something is, after all, is to see whether it always remains itself, and nothing else, over and over again. This is also the case, presumably, for people: you are, endlessly and repeatedly, you, and not some other.
Writer for theatre, tv and film, Bobby Theodore is the co-creator (with Ame Henderson) of 300 TAPES – a bold experiment in storytelling exploring how our memories are shaped (and warped) over time. Created over two years as part of The Theatre Centre’s Residency Program, 300 TAPES merges theatre, sound art and choreography.
300 TAPES by Public Recordings runs December 1-12 at The Theatre Centre, 1087 Queen Street West, Toronto (before heading to Calgary in Feb 2011). 416-538-0988.
The first time they ever let me in a rehearsal room at The Tarragon Theatre was when I was a Script Coordinator during the 2008/09 Season for Alias Godot by Brendan Gall. Two-and-a-half years later, as Director in Training I found myself once again observing a new work by Brendan be brought to the stage during the tech and preview performances of his latest Tarragon play Wide Awake Hearts.
For me the biggest difference between the two experiences was not going to have a smoke every 1.5 hrs as Brendan and I did pretty much like it was our job regardless of weather during Alias Godot. I don’t know if he’s totally off the rockets, but where there was smoking actually, there are now lines in the play about not smoking:
When busted for abandoning his partner “D” played by Maev Beaty, Raoul Bhaneja’s character “C”, explains: “At least I’m not smoking.” “What do you want a medal?”, she replies. “I don’t know. Can you smoke medals?”, he counters.
I always liked that part, even if it made me want to start smoking a bit – or maybe just try to smoke a medal. They gave me one for finishing the half marathon this fall and it would be a beautiful irony if after using running to get off cigarettes, I then got addicted to smoking the medals they give out to runners.
Anyhow, I asked Brendan if we could chat about the processes and experiences of bringing these plays to the stage on G Chat and turn it into a blog post. He said “yes”. This is the (lightly edited) result during which I entirely forgot to ask him about or bring up the smoking thing:
9:03 PM Brendan: There you go.
me: Cool so this works?
9:04 PM Brendan: Yup.
me: Great. I might pause to copy/paste.
Brendan: Got it.
me: Im also a shitty typer
Brendan: I might pause to pour tea.
Or take out my contacts. They’re really bugging me.
me: S’all good. Here we go.
9:05 PM Brendan: K.
me: Before we talk about the rehearsal room, I wonder if there was any major differences in how you approached writing the two plays?
Brendan: The plays themselves? Yeah, definitely.
9:06 PM Alias Godot was pretty freewheeling in terms of structure compared to Wide Awake Hearts.
9:07 PM In AG, other than obeying the basic structure of entrances and exits – ie. Vladimir & Estragon are visited by Pozzo & Lucky once in the middle of the first act and once in the middle of the 2nd act, I pretty much just wrote intuitively.
9:08 PM In WAH, I decided that I wanted to see if I could write using structure as a much stricter principle.
9:09 PM So I wrote out all the possible character/scene combinations for a 4-hander: 4 monologues, 6 dialogues, 4 trialogues & 1 scene with all 4 of them.
Then I tried to figure out some sort of balanced arrangement of these scenes.
9:10 PM I ended up using a sort of palindrome with the 4-hander scene in the middle and the second half mirroring the first. Also, I made a rule that there always had to be one carry-over character from the previous scene, so that someone was always getting ripped away from what they were doing and thrown into the next thing. I figured out that structure before I wrote a word and then stuck to that without fail, even when it was super-annoying.
9:11 PM Also, I misspelled palindrome.
You’re gonna spellcheck this right?
Don’t make me look dumb, Wheeler, or I will burn you to the ground.
9:12 PM Getting tea. Keep typing.
Tony Nappo, David Ferry, Alon Nashman, Geoff Pounsett, and Paul Braunstein in Alias Godot.
me: So when Gord Rand’s character A in Wide Awake Hearts says” he doesn’t write from theme” that was semi-autobiographical in terms of how you approached the play?
Brendan: Yeah, although we cut that line during previews.
One of the murdered darlings I miss most.
I think it’s still in the published version.
9:15 PM me: I liked that line, but I also thought the play was way better on opening than in previews, so all those little cuts added up to something good. How did you find the process of whittling away in previews differed between Alias and WAH?
9:17 PM Brendan: Well, again, because Alias was so much more “open,” I think it was a lot easier to cut and add willy-nilly (if I can say “willy-nilly”), and I think I initially got quite excited by that, the romantic notion of making changes very quickly, on the fly as it were, and then ultimately found that quite overwhelming.
9:18 PM I think it’s easy with a new work and the writer in the room to default to solving problems with re-writes, and very quickly, but I’m not always sure it’s the best thing to do.
9:19 PM Of course often it’s going to be the script, but sometimes I think even if it IS a problem, it’s maybe a good problem for actors or a director to have.
I think if you get rid of all the problems you can end up with a very smoothly functioning boring play.
I don’t think Alias Godot was boring, but I also am not sure how well it functioned.
I think I just made too many changes ultimately, and lost the plot a little – figuratively and literally.
9:20 PM This time around I was adamant that I not deviate from my design structure, so there were certain things I just wouldn’t do.
9:21 PM If this was the place where A did his monologue, I knew that would always be true. The monologue could change in content and execution, but it always had to exist and its placement could not change. I think those obstructions helped me a great deal.
9:24 PM me: I remember as Script Coordinator that I was very, very busy during previews of Alias giving out copies of Page 46E and the like, things definitely seemed more measured during WAH tech. Do you think you will continue to anchor yourself with structure on the next play you write? What about palindromes? I am partial to palindromes myself. Just a one-off or are their more palindromes in the future?
9:25 PM Brendan: Oh, well, I could never say goodbye to palindromes forever, I would never paint myself into a corner like that. But surely there are other hidden nerdy structures I could adhere to…
I dunno – I’ve always been quite intuitive with writing, but lately I’m starting to think that’s maybe not the best way to be.
9:26 PM I think I will always have to procrastinate before I write, but maybe I will start procrastinating with some prep-work, like figuring out what the hell the thing’s gonna be about.
I should say though, even though I had this structure in WAH, I still didn’t necessarily know what would be accomplished in each scene. I wasn’t that advanced.
I was still writing my way through a series of dark rooms.
I just knew the layout of the building.
Raoul Bhaneja, Maev Beaty, Lesley Faulkner and Gord Rand in Wide Awake Hearts
9:29 PM me: You got your start in The Fringe with A Quiet Place. Now that you’re getting produced by other theatres, what one thing do you wish you knew before you started having your writing produced and developed by other people?
Brendan: Oh man…
9:30 PM me: I had to deliver one non-softball.
Brendan: No, no, keep ‘em coming.
I just can’t think of an answer.
9:32 PM me: How about this. What does an aspiring playwright need to do to keep his or her voice intact and get produced by imaginative professionals?
Brendan: I think I wish I had known that sometimes the way to be the best collaborator is to occasionally be absolutely stubborn and unbending about something. Not always, but every once in a while, I think this is very useful.
Right, well there you go.
Don’t show your work to people until you are ready to have it torn apart.
Make sure you know what’s important to you and what you’re not sure of.
9:33 PM Let people help you with the latter and don’t let anyone fuck with the former.
I’m still learning how to do that.
Surround yourself with collaborators you trust and trust them.
That sounds contradictory, but I don’t think it is.
You’re a collaborator too.
9:34 PM And sometimes you have to trust yourself.
And I think good casting is 75% of the work.
me: That’s a pretty good list. I have to take a sec to copy/paste so I don’t lose this.
9:35 PM Brendan: I’m not sure of that percentage.
It might be higher.
Possibly as high as 95%.
But really, good actors will carry you to the promised land.
9:36 PM And bad actors will kill you dead.
I’ve been very lucky with that.
me: Yes. As Director in Training this fact has been drummed into me consistently by all parties.
9:37 PM Brendan: Well. It’s true.
There’s that addage: if you take a barrel of sewage and add a teaspoon of wine, you get sewage. Whereas if you take a barrel of wine and add a teaspoon of sewage… you get sewage.
9:38 PM me: Yes, you have been insanely lucky with that. Even A Quiet Place your “Fringe Show” starred Christopher Stanton and James Cade. Excellent addage.
9:39 PM Brendan: Yeah. I’ve also been very lucky to have directors who trusted me, casting-wise. From Pounsett to Richard Rose to Gina, they all trusted me. I don’t think Pounsett even knew who James Cade was at the time. He might not even have known Stanton, I forget.
9:40 PM Likewise, I don’t think Gina really knew Maev’s work, but those two got on like a house on fire.
9:41 PM I just noticed that Google Chat has an “off the record” feature.
9:42 PM me: That’s great to know: Everyone met for the first time somewhere. I think it’s unlikely many directors will be unaware of Maev’s work much longer. Okay this seems good. Do you want to take a pic of yourself with your computer I can use with this? Thanks for being the guinea pig.
Sean Dixon is the author of the play/novel ‘The Girls Who Saw Everything‘ which was just produced (play) by Ryerson Theatre & longlisted (novel) for CBC’s 2011 CanadaReads. He’s currently writing a show around the banjo for Crow’s Theatre & has a new novel coming out with Coach House Press in the spring.
(l-r) Metcalf Arts Policy Fellow Shannon Litzenberger, Paul Gross, and Toronto Arts Council Executive Director Claire Hopkinson at The Canadian Conference of the Arts in Ottawa
by Michael Wheeler
Here’s a rundown of somewhat-related, hopefully interesting, and only partially self-serving, events and ideas that have been going around the internet lately:
Over on The Arts Policy Diaries, Shannon Litzberger reports on Arts Day, organized by The Canadian Arts Coalition on Parliament Hill. Advocates took meetings with a number of Cabinet Ministers, while Shannon steered her X-wing straight for the main reactor to have an hour-long chat with Heritage Minister James Moore.
Also in Ottawa, The Canadian Arts CoalitionCanadian Conference of the Arts, organized a series of seminars on all things arts related. The big bombshell: CBC reports that the guy who compiled statistics for Richard Florida’s seminal works thinks it’s time to move past this whole “creative economy” idea, noting that leading policy makers to look at the arts as “dollars and cents…has been a trap”.
“The insurgent… and uncategorizable” Cathy Gordon and myself taught a workshop at University of Toronto last weekend titled, Producing and Creating Independent Theatre. More info soon on a non-U of T version available to everyone.
The Siminovitch people have published Kim Collier’s acceptance speech and it is, well, here just read it. The Electric Company has already destroyed any reputation I have for objectivity on this website. Still, you should probably read it.
Still bummed about the swath of uninspiring choices that presented themselves candidates for Toronto Mayor? Eye Weekly has a great piece on how a Ranked Ballot (RaBIT) could change the quality of candidate and tenor of debate next election.
Speaking of which, Wrecking Ball #11: Now What? is coming to The Theatre Centre on December 6th, the evening before Toronto’s new City Council meets for the first time at City Hall. More details as they become available on The Wrecking Ball website.
With the release of ex-US President George W Bush’s memoirs Decision Points, comes a new Facebook group dedicated to subversively taking the book and placing it in the crime section of bookstores. Don’t ya like it when things are funny cause they’re true?
So do those arrested under fictitious charges and draconian bail conditions that are a blatant attempt to criminalize dissent. Disagreeing with the government is not a crime. Preventative arrest disregards many of the basic tenets of a legitimate democracy. Police officers that remove their name tags while assaulting peaceful demonstrators in a government sanctioned protest area face at worst a $300 fine, while social justice advocates who engage in their democratic rights face tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and an uncertain future.
If you got 50 bucks – democratic principals and rule of law ain’t going to restore themselves.
A scene from The Middle Place: Kevin Walker and company
By Catherine Murray
With every one of our initiatives or creations, Project: Humanity (P:H) has endeavoured to expand awareness of local and global human issues using the arts. We’ve aspired to works that can serve as reflecting pools – allowing audiences to see themselves a bit more clearly, a bit more as part of a community. Our documentary-style play The Middle Place by Andrew Kushnir is currently playing at Theatre Passe Muraille and looks to broaden audiences’ perspective on homelessness and further introduce them to our company’s socially-minded aesthetic.
This current incarnation of the piece has been three years in the making. In 2007, we invited Andrew to join us in the youth shelter system, where Project: Humanity had started to provide day-programming in the form of drama/improv workshops. Andrew had felt compelled to do one-on-one interviews with some of the youth living there and hoped to create a piece of verbatim theatre employing their words (something he had never done before as a playwright).
Company member Akosua Amo-Adem
The members of P:H had all been affected by the shelter populace in much the same way – these at-risk youth had us seeing anyone and everyone’s proximity to homelessness. As one caseworker told Andrew: “Sometimes it just takes one event…one thing that does or doesn’t happen to you, that decides whether you’re on this side or that side.” Our work with them had us shedding our preconceived notions of what a homeless youth was and Andrew wanted to build a play that would replicate that experience for the uninitiated while validating the community-of-origin.
Not only did the shelter administration go for it (they had a long-standing interest in raising awareness about youth homelessness to the greater community) but much of the youth population embraced the opportunity to anonymously relay their experience. It was explained to them that their real names would never be known and actors would communicate their words to an audience. And this ensured anonymity coupled with the trust we had built up through our drama programming factored heavily in the intense candour we encounter in the play.
The voices in The Middle Place do humanize a stigmatized group in our community – but P:H wanted to advance that experience. For our current run at Theatre Passe Muraille, we’ve created an installation around the play called the Urban Youth Experience (the UYE). The UYE includes a number of physical installations such as art created by homeless youth through our partnership with SKETCH as well as a shelter photo installation by photographer Shaun Benson. We’ve programmed numerous post-show events including talkbacks with shelter caseworkers – kicked off at last week’s benefit performance for Youth Without Shelter. We’ve partnered with researchers at University of Toronto OISE who are offering audience members a chance to turn the camera on themselves and participate in a post-show interview to share their (verbatim) response to the play. Our goal has been to expand the traditional theatre setting into a community setting that encourages reflection, expression, and discussion.
One of the things we’re most proud of us is P:H’s free City Resource Guide. Each and every audience member can walk from the show with a guide we created listing numerous organizations that provide assistance to youth in need, as well as organizations that offer the general public a way to get involved and help.
Check out these links to learn more about the Urban Youth Experience and Project: Humanity. The Middle Place runs at Theatre Passe Muraille until November 13th and has shows Thursday – Saturday at 7:30pm, with 2:00pm matinees on Saturdays. A special “Suitcase Showcase” performance has been added for November 22, at 7pm.
Catherine Murray is a co-founder and Program Director of Project: Humanity. A graduate of the BFA Dance program at Ryerson University, Catherine has been doing arts facilitation within the youth shelter system for over 3 years.
There is no more prestigious or lucrative prize in Canadian theatre than the $100,000 Siminovitch Prize. The annual award cycles through directors, playwrights and designers each year. This year, it was awarded to a professional director who advances Canadian theatre through a body of work achieved in recent years, while influencing and inspiring younger theatre artists. $25,000 of the award must be awarded to a protege of the winner’s choice – this year Collier chose director and The Chop Co-Artistic Director Anita Rochon.
Both Rochon and Collier work out of Vancouver’s Progress Lab 1422, where Rochon is also Associate Artistic Producer with Rumble Productions . Neither director is stranger to Toronto: Collier’s No Exit dazzled at Buddies last year while her Studies in Motion comes to Canadian Stage in November. Meanwhile Rochon’s Kismet One to One Hundred wowed audiences as part of Free Fall last year at The Theatre Centre.
Congratulations to both, and indie theatre in Vancouver a little bit too.
Prior to her career as a director, Kim studied acting at the University of Victoria, physical theatre at Mime Unlimited in Toronto and in 1994 graduated from the 3 year acting program at Studio 58 in Vancouver. A year later she co-founded Electric Company Theatre whose work quickly became recognized nationally as a driving force behind the resurgence of activity in Vancouver’s independent theatre scene.
Under the direction of Collier, the company has created a dozen original works through an intensive collaborative process including three landmark site-specific productions. Kim also has a growing presence on major stages and festivals across Canada with productions at Theatre Calgary, Festival TransAmerique, National Arts Centre, the Citadel Theatre and Canadian Stage. In 2011 her live-cinematic interpretation of No Exit is being presented by the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. Kim is the recipient of multiple awards including three Jessie Richardson awards for directing, a Betty Mitchell for Best Production and in 2009 the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award.
Previous Siminovitch Prize Recipients:
Toronto director, Daniel Brooks in 2001;
Montreal playwright, Carole Fréchette in 2002;
Montreal designer, Louise Campeau in 2003;
St. John’s director, Jillian Keiley in 2004;
Toronto playwright, John Mighton in 2005;
Toronto set and costume designer, Dany Lyne in 2006;
Montréal director, Brigitte Haentjens in 2007;
Toronto playwright, Daniel McIvor in 2008;
Calgary and Toronto designer, Ronnie Burkett in 2009.
“After the years and years of weaker and waterier imitations, we now find ourselves rejecting the very notion of a holy stage. It is not the fault of the holy that it has become a middle-class weapon to keep the children good.”