Date: 2011 March

March 31, 2011, by
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Councillor Michael Thompson spoke to an overflowing City Hall crowd before the culture consultation began. City Staff found extra tables, chairs and facilitators while the usual speeches kicked things off.

by Aislinn Rose

On Monday, Praxis co-Artistic Director Michael Wheeler and I attended the only downtown public consultation for the new Toronto Culture Plan not focused on youth issues.

We were armed with our smartphones and the Twitter hashtag #creativeTO, which I had also used at the public consultation in Etobicoke in February. Separately, we made the rounds of the various tables open for discussion and tried to document what we were hearing.

Below is a partial transcript of the event, a 100 tweet summary from the past few days with the most recent tweets at the top,  You can find the full and interactive transcript online here.

And remember, the final public consultation (on youth issues) will be at City Hall on April 7th from 6pm to 8:30pm. I’ll be there with my smart phone and a hashtag. Hope to see you there.

#creativeTO Transcript

March 28, 2011, by
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Jeff Melanson is Arts Advisor to Mayor Rob Ford and Special Advisor to The Creative Capital Initiative. Click on the images to enlarge.

by Michael Wheeler with artwork and text by Jody Hewston

Today the one and only downtown public consultation on the City of Toronto’s ‘Creative Communities Public Consultations’, aka the Richard Florida-themed re-re-visioning of our city’s cultural plan (his theories also provided the basis of the old plan that went nowhere for a decade), will take place at City Hall from 6pm to 8:30pm. (There is also a youth-focussed consultation on April 7th.)

As part of our engagement with the City’s cultural plan, Praxis Theatre will be releasing ‘Hockey Cards’ that give stats on all the movers and shakers that will shape the City’s approach to culture in the years to come. Will this be a team that supports big institutions and sees culture as a means to tourism? Or will it be a team that recognizes the complex cultural ecosystem that makes the City more livable and inspiring for all residents and include a plan that fosters independent and mid-sized organizations?

One way or another – the people on these cards will eventually choose to play for team Massive Organization or Team Ecosystem. This city has bad luck with hockey teams, but I’m still holding out for an upset. (Note: Team Private Donations often refuses to play with team Team Ecosystem so here’s hoping that will be addressed in this plan also.)

Jim Prentice is one of three co-chairs of the Creative Capital Initiative. Click to enlarge

If you can come tonight, (You totally should!) you will have the opportunity to discuss these five questions:

MEASURING & VALUING CULTURE:
How do you measure value in your organization and what have your metrics taught you?

ACCESS, INCLUSION & ARTS EDUCATION:

What tools do you need from the City to improve affordability & access?

TORONTO’S POSITION AS A CREATIVE CAPITAL:
What should Toronto focus on over the next five years to raise its profile as a Creative Capital and what are the greatest barriers to accomplishing these goals?

BIG OPPORTUNITIES AHEAD:
Where can municipal investments in culture make the biggest impact?

QUICK WINS & URGENT MESSAGES:
If you could make one recommendation to the Mayor and Council regarding culture in Toronto, what would it be?

Karen Kain is one of three co-chairs of the Creative Capital Initiative. Click to enlarge

Now I know what you’re thinking:

These questions show a huge bias towards an understanding of culture that places its core value in its direct economic impact. What if I don’t agree that these are the right questions to be asking? What if I think metrics are incapable of capturing the impact of independent artists, and favour major institutions that have paid staff whose job it is to capture metrics, etc.?

There is a stool for you at 'The Duke of The Eatons Centre' (aka The Duke of Richmond) after the event at City Hall

Don’t worry, there will be plenty of people there that agree with you. The overall ideology this language applies, assumes a number of things to be true that governments and studies from around the world have found to be false. Namely that creative economies rhetoric is just a new language to talk about the educated upwardly mobile classes in a 21st Century economy.  Never mind that – it will be fun, and you can always use conversation to address those values and ideas that resonate for you.

Afterwards, Praxis has made a reservation at the Duke of Richmond for a couple of pints. Hope to see you there and look forward to tonight’s conversation on the future of culture in Toronto.

The Essentials:

Tonight!

6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Council Chambers & Members’ lounge (3rd Floor)

100 Queen St.West, Toronto

Also, join us on Twitter @praxistheatre where our Artistic Producer Aislinn Rose will be live-tweeting the event under hashtag #creativeTO. You don’t need a Twitter account to follow along, just go to Twitter and search the hashtag.

March 25, 2011, by
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by Aislinn Rose

Last Friday, unbeknownst to the fine folks at Toronto’s The Only Cafe, they were host to a cross-country conversation between artists, theatre organizations and theatre lovers old and new.

The inspiration behind the Twitter chat came on March 10th, when I caught a discussion happening online about the Opening Night of Catalyst Theatre’s Production of Hunchback at Citadel Theatre in Edmonton. Catalyst and Citadel had invited the audience to “live tweet” the event, and they would be showing the tweets on a display screen with a program called Visible Tweets, as recommended by nearby Shell Theatre.  Shell has been live tweeting their shows since November, 2010 and they’ve found it to be a really effective way to get audiences excited about their events.

When I started following the assigned #yeghunchback hashtag, I caught the following tweet:

I joined the conversation, and asked @lindork what had brought her to the theatre that night, given that she was a self-confessed “theatre newbie”, and she told me it was mostly due to the number of tweets she had seen about it.

A few days later I asked @lindork (Linda Hoang), along with everyone responsible for tweeting for Catalyst, Citadel & Shell, to join me for a Twitter chat about the use of social media tools to develop new audiences, under the designated hashtag #auddev. After we spread the word about the chat, I was pleased to find we were being joined by companies and bloggers across the country, including (among many others) Montreal’s SideMart, Toronto’s Studio 180 and Crow’s Theatre, and the PuSh Festival in Vancouver.

You can catch up on the entire conversation here, with the transcript sent to me by @AudienceDevSpec‘s Shoshana Fanizza out of Boulder, Colorado, who regularly uses #auddev to keep in touch with the twitosphere about issues relating to arts organizations and audience development. I have synthesized some of the main talking points below, but I highly recommend taking a peak at the transcript just to get a better look at the enormous participation we had across Canada and in parts of the United States.

Live Tweeting During Performances:

When I asked participants for their views on allowing tweeting throughout the actual performances, there were definitely some mixed responses. Some thought this would be disrespectful to the actors performing, others thought it would mean the audience would be distracted from the show if they were focused on their smart phones, while some people thought it would be interesting to experiment with the possibilities:

@canadianstage‘s suggestion of live tweeting a dress rehearsal was a popular one, and @macdonaldfest also suggested tweeting a Q&A might be a good solution for involving the audience within the theatre without disrupting the performance. @morroandjasp took up the challenge immediately and offered to include a Twitter/Audience Q&A this week. I am pleased to report that I and a number of Friday’s participants spent a lovely part of Wednesday evening in conversation with Morro and Jasp, the creative team AND their audience after their performance at Theatre Passe Muraille. It was great fun for us, and I’d love to hear what the experience was like for the audience.

Who are you tweeting for?

Many people took this chat as an opportunity to express some frustrations with Twitter and Twitter users in general. There was commiseration over accounts used only for self-promotion, or retweeting everyone else’s content without adding anything to the conversation, and a general poopooing of Facebook pages linked to Twitter feeds where one automatically updates the other. Consensus seemed to be that they speak to different audiences and therefore require a different voice or style, and that your audience wants to feel you’re actually having a conversation with them, rather then just putting forward a constant stream of information and sales strategies. Do you have linked accounts? Would you consider changing them?

Who’s doing interesting things online? Who’s worth following?

We’re always trying to find out about interesting and innovative theatre companies trying new things both on and off the stage, so I asked for recommendations for companies doing great things with social media:

So I checked out Woolly Mammoth Theatre after the conversation, and I was indeed impressed. In the lead up to their presentation of Mike Daisy’s The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, they had staff members “reporting” from the sales lineups for the iPad2, and audience members could follow along via the hashtag #ShowUsYouriCrazy. They were also offering $0.99 tickets for one day only (the cost of the average Apple app) if you could arrive in person with a “Jobs (Apple)” Foursquare badge. Now, “Jobs (Apple)” + “Foursquare” means absolutely nothing to me, but it’s definitely the kind of thing I’d be willing to look into to see Mike Daisey for $0.99.

How to Handle Staffing & Twitter:

Well, this was a popular discussion, but yielded mostly questions and few answers. Looks like everyone’s still trying to figure this one out.

Has anyone found a solution they’d be willing to share with the group?

Twitter vs. Blogging:

An interesting debate:

Your thoughts?

Some post chat follow-up:

Amazingly, within a few hours of the conclusion of the chat, participant @SMLois had blogged about the event in a piece called On the Canadian Theatre Conversation:

“Today was, in my recollection, the first time that Canadian theatre artists have used twitter to have a nation-wide conversation about the role of social media – in fact – to have a nation-wide conversation about anything. Based on this conversation new relationships between companies and artists have been formed. And this gives me great hope.”

Like a number of other participants in the conversation, Lois was excited by the fact that this conversation was happening at all, and is looking forward to that conversation continuing. She’s also looking for Canadian theatre blogs from outside the main centres, so if you know of any not currently listed in our blogroll, please let us know.

My Chat with Linda:

On Wednesday night I also caught up with Linda (our “theatre newbie) to ask her a little more about her experience attending theatre for the first time. She told me it was intimidating at first, but she got comfortable once she had arrived and could start interacting with the tweets she saw on the display screen. I asked for her perspective on live tweeting during a performance because I knew she had wanted to tweet during Hunchback. I wanted to know if she thought she might get distracted if she were to tweet throughout a performance:

And as for her and her fellow theatre-newbie companion seeing more theatre?

Well, that’s a whole other conversation I think. Who’s in?

March 24, 2011, by
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by Michael Wheeler

1: Billboard Tax Appeal

So if you didn’t know – the billboard tax was recently overturned in the courts. Whether or not the court appeal should be launched will be decided by Planning and Growth Management Committee (PGM) today, Thursday, March 24th, in Committee Room 1 at 10:00am. This will be followed by Council on April 12th.

More info on the BeautifulCity website, but fundamentally if you’re free this morning, your attendance is heavily encouraged.

2: Equity Indie Theatre Survey Is Due

If you are an Equity member, tomorrow, Friday March 25th, is the last day to send in your Independent Theatre Survey to the good people at Leger. It takes 45 minutes and it is worth it! Just do it. Nike. I don’t know what else to say….

My take on the survey, and why it is important is here.

3: Hashtag for Arts and Culture in the Election

The Canadian Arts Coalition has suggested coordinating information on arts in culture an almost-certain federal election through the hashtag #artsvotecan.

For those of us on the internet, but not on Twitter, who would like to follow this newsfeed, you can find it at twitter.com/artsvotecan. The call to action: “Let’s build a national dialogue – one tweet at a time!”

March 23, 2011, by
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Theatre Smith-Gilmour Online is live at theatresmithgilmour.com

by Michael Wheeler

A number of new blog-based websites have hit the Canadian theatrosphere recently:

1 Theatre Smith-Gilmour Online

Over the past few months I have worked with Theatre Smith-Gilmour  to create a new portal that much like our site here at Praxis, runs a blog and social media tools off the home page, while also acting as the main website for the company. This project will be generating a lot of content leading up to Theatre Smith-Gilmour’s presentation of the first ever sino-Canadian co-production LU XUN blossoms at Luminato in June 2010.

2 Art Threat

If I imagine this site as more journalism, with less of a focus on theatre, I guess it would look something like this.  With a staff of writers and editors from across Canada, it looks alike a national online conversation on the confluence of culture and politics is in he mix. From a design standpoint it is impressive how clean and simple it is too.

3 Chesterfield Productions

Andrew Zadel has written three and performed in two Praxis Theatre productions over the years. Recently he returned to Canada after working with Solidarites International abroad and re-established his Montreal-based company Chesterfield Productions, which he runs with this sister actress Lydia Zadel. With a new production planned for fall/winter 2011, this is the company’s new site.

4 {The} Original mb

This is a personal blogspot blog run by Marie Beath (pronounced Mary Beth),  a theatre artist living in Toronto who uses her site to communicate, “a collection of lovely, quirky, spicy intersections”. She was likely unaware of our unofficial policy that anyone who posts grade five diary entries about the Toronto Blue Jays is welcome to free promotion on this site. (P.S. Mary Beath – Brett is his last name: You were most likely writing about George Brett.)

*Interesting sidenote: In his final at bat, George Brett hit a single of long-time Blue Jay closer Tom Henke. (What? Sue me. I have like 4 boxes of this stuff from back then.)

March 17, 2011, by
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by Shira Leuchter

Click to enlarge

Earlier this month, the amazing women who created Montparnasse invited me in to one of their rehearsals to observe their process for this series. Just in time for their preview performances starting tonight, I’ve finished a piece that responds to what I observed that day.

I created this piece using transparent layers of vintage sewing patterns, paper ruffles hand-sewn with embroidery thread, wood veneer and ink tracings of an etching of St. Basil monastery c.1757.

It was a joy to be in the room with Andrea Donaldson, Maev Beaty, Erin Shields, Kristy Kennedy and the other folks who are bringing this piece together. I heartily encourage you to make time to see Montparnasse during its run at Theatre Passe Muraille.
______________________________________________________________________

Shira Leuchter makes performance stuff and other art stuff. She is currently working with UnSpun Theatre on a new piece that will be performed as part of Harbourfront’s HATCH program this April. She collects all of her shallowest thoughts here.

Click here to see “Your process is showing: an introduction”.

March 16, 2011, by
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Click here to learn more about how MyHairCares can work with your hair to make a cleaner, safer planet for fossil fuels.

March 14, 2011, by
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Laura Nordin has been involved in a lot of projects with Praxis Theatre over the years with roles in The Master and Margarita, Dyad, and Stranger, as well as assistant director of all our various performances that have resulted in Jesus Chrysler.

Not content with just creating independent artist driven theatre, she is also a core member of this independent film coop which is shooting scenes from a television show she is considering creating.  Additionally – today is her birthday.

Way to hustle and Happy Birthday Laura Nordin!

March 10, 2011, by
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This is an animated news story that relies heavily on metaphor about a live performance based on an animated character who was appeared first as a series of static images.

March 9, 2011, by
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Olga, Masha and Irina must work, work, work, or they will never get to Moscow

by Michael Wheeler

Last week The Toronto Star pushed the boundaries of contemporary criticism when they sent two neophytes to review the heavily anticipated musical Billy Elliot in Toronto. The sole qualification they possessed as critics?

They were both human beings that shared their name coincidentally with that of the production . (They both had two “t”s in their name and the show only has one “t”, but whatever.)

Inspired by this bold choice to gain insight into and communicate the merit of the performing arts, Praxis Theatre  announces that effective immediately, we will  be abandoning our no-review policy for the website if any of the following people can be found to review the following shows:

  • An Anne Frank to review The Diary of Anne Frank.
  • Drew Barrymore to review Barrymore.
  • A busload of 12-year-old males from Newark to review Jersey Boys.
  • Spiderman to review Spiderman.
  • Kim, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian to review Three Sisters.
  • Nikki Yanofsky to review Torch Song Trilogy.
  • Jesus Christ to review Jesus Chrysler.

Pushing the envelope, but worth considering:

  • Tony Nardi to review The Misanthrope.
  • Prince William for Kiss Me, Kate.
  • Sirhan Sirhan to review Assassins.
  • Kevin Bacon to review Six Degrees of Separation.

Please get in touch through the info@ address above if you are interested in writing a review for our website and you are one of the people listed above.

If you have any similarly themes suggestions please feel free to leave them in the comments!