Date: 2012 October

October 31, 2012, by
2 comments

by Aislinn Rose

I recently had a conversation with four of the seven Ontario candidates we are endorsing in the current CAEA elections. Voting continues today until 5pm PT.

In attendance: Hume Baugh, Mark Brownell, Vinetta Strombergs and Aaron Willis

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?

AISLINN: To get the conversation started, could you go around the table and tell me who you are, what your relationship with Equity is?

Hume Baugh

HUME: I’ve been a member since 1984, so that’s something like 28 years. I’ve done lots of different things and have worked for larger companies, but I’ve also spent a fair bit of time over the years doing smaller indie theatre and have observed for years that it’s been difficult, next to impossible in many cases to do it without interference from Equity, which is always too bad.

What really got me interested in Council is what happened to me in December when I and three other people tried to produce one of my own plays and it was a nightmare of being forced by Equity to use a higher level of a contract than I could afford to do, and just feeling like there was no way to have any dialogue, and a staff member refusing to meet with me when we reached an impasse. I was outraged.

The issue of indie theatre and the issue of the kind of communication that’s happening with the association is really what got me interested in being on council.

Aaron Willis

AARON: I’ve been an Equity member for ten years. I got hooked into thinking about Equity Council similarly to Hume, when I was starting to create as an indie theatre producer and having similar difficulties and conversations. Basically being dictated to about what should or shouldn’t happen, and then having to sign agreements that didn’t reflect anything about the way that the work was being created.

Rather than running for Council I ran for the CPAG, the Council Policy Advisory Group, in the last term, and I was co-chair of that with Brenley Charkow. Sitting on the CPAG gave me a real picture of how Equity works from the inside. At the end of those three years, I thought this is a severely dysfunctional organization that doesn’t represent its members very well at all. I thought that means it’s actually time to run for council and try to do something about it.

Vinetta Stromberts

VINETTA: I’ve been a member of Equity since the dawn of time, since the beginning of the alternate theatres. I go back to the 70s. I’ve been on Council before Policy Governance, and I got involved with fighting Equity, because that’s what it’s been, since the late 80s with the original group trying to get the equivalent of festival waivers for Rhubarb.

It was those next wave of small theatres, which was the first wave since the original theatres in the 70s. They were fighting Equity to find a way to do mostly the play development festivals like Rhubarb. The Fringe was in there too, so there was a group of us, who basically did what we did this time around, to get the indie agreement negotiation started, we invaded an Annual General Meeting and we put a motion on the floor. After that negotiation started, every time we showed up at Equity to negotiate, there was a different group of people across the table, even different staff members.

Mark Brownell

MARK: I’ve been a member since 1988. I picked up from Vinetta with the Indie in the 90s with Naomi Campbell. The Council at that time had a lot more control over what was going on and I think there was more of an indie-friendly council back then because they recognized there was a problem. In fact, I think Equity has sort of been realizing there has been a problem that needed to be solved, but there’s always somebody there to sort of block it along the way.

I was the one who initiated the resolution that passed 96 – 1. It was basically a bunch of us who invaded the Annual General Meeting… which hadn’t received quorum the last two times, by the way, so they could pass two or three years of minutes. So they were actually pretty happy. They kind of thought, oh, maybe we should engage the indie on this, even though I don’t think they had any idea or intention to fix anything… they were just happy that people were interested. Of course, the people who are interested have pitchforks…

ON AGMS AND VOTES FOR CHANGE

MARK: At that time Equity was blind, deaf and dumb to anything indie. You go back to previous minutes of previous councils and they had no idea what was going on. It really hit them, it was a blind side…

HUME: About what?

MARK: About any kind of dissatisfaction within the indie. It’s been brewing for 20 years…

HUME: But there’s been so much fighting with indie artists…

MARK & VINETTA: But that’s not Council…

AARON: That’s one of the things that came up is this gulf between staff and council…

MARK: It’s huge…

AARON: I said this at the all-candidates meeting: Staff represents Equity, Council doesn’t. When the Indie Caucus started bringing this stuff up, councillors were saying “why didn’t anyone come to us?”. But nobody knows who you are, no one knows who council is, and when you call Equity you deal with a staff member. That’s who you talk to.

Talking Equity at the Annex CSI cafe

MARK: I have to mention at the Montreal AGM a couple of years ago, we put forward yet another thing that passed again. Zach Fraser was involved in that, and Sarah Stanley… it was basically a reaffirmation of my mine, and Walter Massey stood up, one of the original members of Equity, and I thought oh Christ, here it comes… and he stood up and said “we’ve been facing this problem for a long time and we need it to be fixed”…

AARON: wow…

MARK: One of the original members of Equity said that. And all the people who were against it couldn’t vote against it. They were ready to vote against it. We only had a quorum of about 50 people in Montreal, but suddenly all those councillors who were so dead set against it could not stand against this man who had actually created the union. I was shocked. It was a really wonderful night.

SURVEYS AND PATERNALISM

AISLINN: You mentioned being involved in the writing of the current indie policy and I want to talk about this notion of getting great people working in a room together on what a new agreement should look like, and then this history of these draft agreements moving behind closed doors and what comes out is very different to what went in. Do you see that happening again?

VINETTA: I don’t have a lot of faith in how they are portraying the results of the survey. If you say to people, “Hume, would you rather work for Equity minimum, or work for less?” Duh. Of course, we know what the answer is. However, if you have an opportunity to work on a project you believe in, are you willing to work for less? Yes. But they will skew that result and say, “oh, 98% of the people said they want to work for minimum… and only 78% said they were willing to work for less”.

The point is, nobody says you HAVE to work for less, but they say you CANNOT. So they are preventing people from working, which I believe is unconstitutional. And I’m not talking Equity Constitution. They’re preventing us from doing the work we want to do. And the work that charges us, that makes us better, that fulfills us.

AISLINN: There’s been a lot said about the survey and the poor questions that were asked, because obviously the preference is to work for minimum fees. But I feel there were some very clear results that came out of the survey in terms of what many artists value more than minimums, like the opportunity to work with certain artists, creating stuff that’s their own.

MARK: Aislinn, that is where your document comes in very very handy. Because we now have a benchmark. When the new Indie and Co-Op comes out we can compare the two and say here’s where it meets and here’s where it doesn’t meet the survey results.

AARON: This thing about taking stuff behind closed doors, the first I’d heard publicly at all that there was going to be a new Co-Op and a new Indie was when Kerry Ann mentioned it on Facebook.

Kris Joseph did this great job leading the Independent Theatre Review Committee and now he’s saying “I’ve seen a draft of the agreement Arden is working on”. So Arden’s doing it herself.

I think it comes down to contempt for artists, saying “we know better than you”…

VINETTA: … you mean “hobbyists”…

MARK: There’s a paternalism.

AARON: “We know better than you about how you should do your business and how you should create your art. We’re here to protect you from yourselves.” And I find that deeply insulting. There are so many artists who are entrepreneurial and we need an association that supports that and doesn’t squelch it.

MEMBERS WHO LIE

AISLINN: In the survey there was a number, something around 25% of the respondents, admitted to having lied to Equity about work they had done…

MARK: That’s low… that’s a low figure…

HUME: The lying isn’t new though… it might just be increasing…

MARK: We had a wonderful AGM at Passe Muraille as part of the CPAG a couple of years ago. We didn’t really intend it, but we suddenly had a whole panel that stood up and said “I lie, I lie. You’re telling me I have to do it this way and I can’t afford it so I lie”. And suddenly people in the audience started standing up and saying “I lie too”. At that point I was shaking my head and asking, at what point are these agreements totally pointless? If people are lying, if they’re having to bend the rules every time… and it’s not just members, it’s Equity itself shuffling all these productions into the Co-Op.

AARON: Equity would like to be the gateway to professionalism. You get your Equity card and that means you’re a professional artist. But that’s not true. There are lots of people who create stuff and make a living and who aren’t Equity and don’t need to be.

Hume talking indie theatre

HUME: You also have these individual artists who decide they want to get together to do a project. Maybe one of them got an OAC grant, so now all of a sudden this person has to become an engager. Equity is constantly pitting its membership against each other.

The whole first 20 years of my career we’ve kind of accepted that this is way Equity is and you just have to fight or lie, but in December it was absolutely insane that when I was producing a show the only organization I had trouble with was my own association, that’s crazy to me. I pay my dues, and I spend this whole time being treated like a criminal, or a shifty kind of person.

MARK: I belong to four associations. Equity is the only one I don’t feel has my back.

WHAT THE HELL IS POLICY GOVERNANCE?

AISLINN: You were saying before that there’s a disconnect between members, council and staff, that council is out of the loop. As four of the seven looking to fill the seats in Ontario, if you get elected, what do you want to do to change that?

MARK: Policy Governance is the biggest barrier between Council & membership.

AISLINN: Can I stop you there, because I wonder how many members know what the hell that is?

AARON: Essentially, Council cannot tell staff what is good or not good about an agreement. If some of us get on Council, people who have worked in this way and have useful things to say about what is good or useful in an agreement… all we can do is write policy that Arden will interpret to fix the thing she’s writing.

There’s this idea in Policy Governance, that Council only looks at the Big Picture, not at the details. And then Council has to speak in one voice and present a united front, as opposed to advocating for specific things that need to happen.

What I would like to do once this new indie agreement comes out, if issues come up, I will say “I think there are things that need to be changed”, even though, technically under policy governance I’m not supposed to do that.

MARK: That’s how we can represent the membership.

HUME: I can’t imagine if I was elected, thinking about doing anything else. How would you be able to sit there is somebody brought forward something you disagree with and not say “I disagree”?

Mark, Vinetta & Aaron

MARK: When the door is closed and you’re in Council, you speak your mind. The moment there is a decision made by Council, all Council is supposedly in agreement.

VINETTA: I’ve been asking around in the community and various organizations to get a sense of what others think of Policy Governance and they say it’s for the corporate world, and it doesn’t even necessarily work there.

AARON: It prevents the people who are elected from actually communicating with the membership.

Jason Chesworth [one of the other Ontario candidates] wrote a great piece on facebook about all the things he would do as outreach to membership, and under Policy Governance, he wouldn’t be able to do any of those things.

MARK: One of my biggest interests is advocacy, but under Policy Governance I can’t do it. I can only put it into policy to make Arden/staff do it. But Advocacy should be a core value.

WHAT EQUITY COULD BE

AARON: As an organization that is not a union, but something that represents a bunch of self-employed contractors, what Equity’s role could be in helping the ecology of theatre grow is finding ways to not just defend us as workers, but to also advocate, defend and encourage us as entrepreneurs.

A trade association is a bunch of members working together to grow and prosper, and Equity could be leading that.

MARK: It all comes down to pride in membership. Equity should be bending over backwards so that members finally say, “I’m proud to be an Equity member”. Currently that’s not the case. That is Equity’s main challenge.

Follow Aislinn on Twitter: @AislinnTO

October 25, 2012, by
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by Michael Wheeler

Tomorrow, The Theatre Centre will host an official TEDxToronto viewing party. This is a no-cost event with FREE LUNCH to watch and discuss the Ted Talks that will be broadcast live from The Sony Centre.

Anytime from 9am – 5pm you can drop by throughout the various talks. We’re hoping to learn something new, meet other interested people, and just hang out to think and chat about the concepts a day of exploring challenging ideas inspires in us.

The Theatre Centre will also be live-streaming TEDx tweets at the venue and on The Theatre Centre blog for people who want to know what we’re talking/thinking about, but can’t make it.

TEDxToronto Salon Series

Our stream will include tweets using #TEDxToronto as well as our venue specific tag #TEDxTOTC – for if you want to say something specific to The Theatre Centre crowd or experience.

If you ARE coming by at lunch time (noon -1:30pm) – we ask that you register so we know how much food to get. If you aren’t coming at lunch –just drop on by.

You can register by clicking here. Be sure to select “The Theatre Centre Pop-Up” from the pop up menu at the bottom of the page.

Here’s the list of speakers with intro videos.

Here’s the schedule for the day.

Here’s where we’ll be all day long (1095 Queen St West at Dovecourt)

Hope to see you there!

October 23, 2012, by
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AND NOW A MESSAGE FROM STAF:

Click to go to the STAF website

Competition for TAC & OAC Theatre Project grants is fierce. The pass rate for Project Grants sits at below 35% and isn’t changing.  Let us help.

STAF will assist with the writing of your grant application, helping you to gain the upper hand. We will work collaboratively with you to create a clear, concise and compelling application. By taking the time to work with a trained eye you will be able to identify the strongest artistic argument for the councils to fund your work.

If a full application preparation seems like it’s out of your price range, talk to us about a grant review. We can give you detailed notes and suggestions that will strengthen your request and isn’t as hard on the wallet.

As always, STAF works collaboratively with you to help you stay within your budget.

Contact us before December 1 and we’ll give you a 15% early-bird discount on grant writing services for the upcoming TAC & OAC Theatre Project deadline (February 1st, 2013).

Our grant writing spaces fill up fast – should you wish to take advantage of this offer, contact Emma Mackenzie Hillier, emma@theatreadmin.com or 416.703.2773 x200.

October 22, 2012, by
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Trey Anthony speaks at TEDxTO 2010

by Michael Wheeler

There are two upcoming events I am organizing that emphasize conversation and online interactivity in a performative context. You are invited!

One is free and includes lunch – the other is very reasonably priced and perhaps you work for an organization that has a budget for there types of things anyhow…

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Working with The Theatre Centre to create an interactive and friendly space to engage in dialogue surrounding TEDx Toronto: an independently-organized, one-day conference, designed to give communities, individuals and organizations an opportunity to stimulate meaningful exchange. TED Talks bring top minds from technology, entertainment and design together to share ideas, inspire movements and ignite change.

This year’s TEDx Toronto is on October 26th, 9am-5pm and The Theatre Centre will be hosting a Live Viewing Party at the POP-UP. Join us as we live-stream the conference, bringing the TED experience to you by providing an opportunity to engage with other viewers and share ideas online and in-person.

This event is FREE and lunch will be provided – BUT you have to RSVP if you’re going to be there around lunchtime (so we know how much food to get):

HASHTAGS: #TEDxToronto for city-wide conversation & #TEDxTOTC for location specific conversation.
WHERE: The Theatre Centre POP-UP @1095 Queen West
WHEN: Friday, October 26, 9-5pm
RSVP: Viewing party RSVP form (please select The Theatre Centre POP-UP from the list of locations at the bottom of the page)

Praxis workshop @ Social Media Week

Praxis Workshop @ Fringe Creation Lab for Social Media Week 2012

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Partnering with Theatre Ontario to create a workshop on Live Performance and Community Engagement.

Looking at examples from work with The Electric Company, Volcano Theatre, The Shaw Festival, The Theatre Centre, Praxis Theatre and The Wrecking Ball, this workshop investigates imaginative expression and best practices in performing arts and online integration.

Questions the workshop poses:

  • Where does your social media content come from?
  • What ‘voice’ should you use to represent your organization online?
  • What’s the latest with live-blogging / live-tweeting?
  • How can online tools and presence assist instead of distract from the work?

Participants will emerge with:

  • A better idea of your organization’s potential relationship to social media
  • A clearer idea of which social media is right for your organization
  • Information to inform your social media strategy
  • Ideas for social media content and where to look for them
  • A better understanding of trends and developments in social media
    HASHTAG: #THEATREON
    WHERE: 215 Spadina Avenue, Suite 210. Toronto
    WHEN: Tuesday November 27, 6:30pm to 8:30pm
    RSVP: Theatre Ontario Registration
October 19, 2012, by
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by Aislinn Rose

This is a continuation from Tuesday’s post about what the new Indie Policy should look like, and how that policy would reflect the will of Equity members. Today I’m arguing why the Co-Op Policy should be put out of its misery, based on the same final report I referred to on Tuesday, created by Equity’s Independent Theatre Review Committee.

Traditionally, the Equity Co-Op Policy has been used for collectives made up of members to create their own work. All members of the collective are assumed to be carrying equal weight and responsibility, and therefore any split of the box office is divided equally among participants.

So why put an end to the Co-Op?

Simply put: it’s irrelevant and unnecessary.

As I wrote in Tuesday’s post, the ITRC Final Report revealed that the Festival Policy was the most popular policy among members, engagers, AND staff. While more than half of the members and engagers expressed some level of satisfaction with the Co-Op Policy, the level of satisfaction is much lower than for the Festival Policy, particularly among members. Stated issues included:

  • Difficult application process
  • Three production limit rule
  • Quotas of member vs. non-member participants
  • Co-Op roles & responsibilities being rarely equal for equal shares

The “three production limit” means that collectives who’ve gained acclaim and reputation for their work under one name are forced to either change their name or use another agreement they (likely) cannot afford when it’s time for a fourth production. Another complaint is that collectives who have “graduated” to another agreement like The Indie, were not allowed to then move “back down the ladder” to the Co-Op. It is a policy that assumes a theatre company that has money once will have it in perpetuity, or it should die.

Convergence Theatre's Yichud

These kinds of restrictions have resulted in some companies having to invent new identities for themselves, while others have fought those restrictions in order produce under the name for which they are known. After all, Convergence Theatre does not get to be called “The Best Site Specific Theatre Company in Toronto” by NOW Magazine if they don’t get to be called “Convergence Theatre”.

According to the survey, some members see the Co-Op Policy as outdated and needlessly complicated, and that it doesn’t reflect the way theatre is now made. The final report also indicated that Equity Staff themselves find the Co-Op Policy labour-intensive, and agree that Co-Op projects are not often true collectives.

SummerWorks 2012 provides two examples of different creation and company models: Terminus, produced by Outside the March, a pre-existing successful company in Toronto, and Iceland, produced by The Iceland Collective, which was created for the purpose of putting on that show. They were two very different projects, created by two very different company models, one with an existing text and one with a new text, both of which used the very simple Festival Policy to produce their work and engage CAEA members. Both productions have been picked up by established companies for FULL EQUITY remounts in the 2012/2013 Mirvish and Factory seasons.

This is the beauty of the festival policy, as well as the new Indie Policy I am recommending. Rather than having a document that demands you fit into a certain mold or model, you have a document that asks who you are, how you’ll make your work, and whether all the members have signed off on that agreement. It fits to your model, not the other way around.

Rebecca Northan: Not a hobbyist

For those who think Equity should stay out of small-scale theatre entirely, I would argue that a signed contract with agreed-upon terms assures that everyone around the table, everyone working in the room, acknowledges that work as a professional pursuit, whatever the reasons of the individual participant, and ensures that members are protected while engaging in that pursuit.

Any new agreement about to be revealed by Equity staff that continues to include minimum fees, does not not allow members to determine payment & working conditions amongst themselves, or persists in administering the outdated and irrelevant “Co-Op”, is a proposal that does not reflect the will of the membership, and instead reflects the will of an organization saying “we know best”.

What say you?

Follow Aislinn on twitter: @AislinnTO

October 17, 2012, by
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Doc Wuthergloom wants you to avoid your inevitable destruction at the demonic hands of the vile phantoms, which plague your soul unseen - by clicking here!

by  Michael Wheeler

Surprise! The theatrosphere has been a busy place with a number of interesting conversations to take note of:

  • The Canada Council is launching “a dialogue about how the arts bring value to the lives of Canadians”. Vice Chair, and No Culture, No Future author Simon Brault has written a blog post about this policy initiative titled, “Arts For All!.
  • U of T Prof Holger Syme continues to put out complex posts that challenge conventional wisdom driving TO theatre. In his post “Theatre does not tell Stories” he summarizes his critique as, “theatre can’t tell stories, because stories are always necessarily retrospective. And theatre isn’t about the past. It’s about the present.

    Howard Shalwitz speaks on theatrical innovation

  • Meanwhile Theatre Passe Muraille Artistic Director Andy McKim was on to a similar critique of contemporary drama when he reblogged (with an intro) a speech by Woolly Mammoth Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz at the at the TCG American Theatre annual AGM titled Theatrical Innovation: Whose Job Is It? Core takeaway: innovation in North American theatre is way behind what’s going on in Europe and it is hurting the art form, which is attached to outdated models. Time to move off the ‘assembly line’ of play creation and into a laboratory in which collaborators reinvent the medium.
  • Luminato AD Jorn Weisbrodt has started blogging on the festival’s website. His post titled Postcards from the Pool documents an exclusive trip he and husband Rufus Wainright  took to the Hearst Castle where the newlyweds recieved VIP treatment while lounging poolside – complete with shirtless photos! In the post he reflects on his good luck to recieve an invitation to stay overnight in a period where the castle was closed to tourists. Weisbrodt was able to experience, “Hearst’s overwhelming vision, his desire to change reality and make this place the greatest private residence in the world.”

    Vancouver affordable housing zoning

  • My recent post  Mirvish blows up downtown Toronto theatre, argued that the Mirvish/Gehry re-development on King St. could be a good thing if it included a 500-seat venue and mixed-income housing. Globe critic Kelly Nestruck and National Post Political Journalist Jonathan Goldsbie both wrote in support of a smaller venue recently, while The Grid’s Edward Keenan came out in support of inclusionary zoning, noting it is already the law in places like Vancouver and San Francisco.
October 16, 2012, by
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by Aislinn Rose

Last week I wrote about the CAEA elections and introduced you to the seven Ontario candidates running as a slate with three main areas of concern:

  1. A new Indie Agreement that reflects the will of the membership
  2. Drastically improved communication between staff, council and the membership
  3. A re-examination of the role Equity plays within the performing arts ecology

This week I want to focus on the first item of their collective agenda:

A new Indie Agreement that reflects the will of the membership.

This is an important distinction to make: an agreement “that reflects the will of the membership”. For years now, Equity and a good number of its members have been at odds when it came to how independent theatre ought to be made in this country. These two articles offer quite a bit of history on this issue, including the votes by members to demand a new agreement, and the creation of the Independent Theatre Review Committee.

The ITRC conducted a nation-wide survey of Equity members, which resulted in an excellent final report, summarizing the responses from artists and engagers alike, and offering several key recommendations. When it comes to “the will of the membership”, that information is readily available, and I applaud the ITRC for their efforts in compiling the data.

Below I offer you my own recommendations of what the new Indie policy should look like, and exactly how that policy addresses all of the major recommendations put forward by the ITRC. I have also used the information in that report to argue for the death of the Co-Op agreement. These are my personal views based on my understanding of the final report and my work as an independent theatre producer working with many Equity members and several staff members over the past few years.

This is what the new Indie should look like:

1) The new Festival Policy should be put forward as the new small-scale theatre contract. You can see the current festival policy at the bottom of the post.

I recommend not calling it an agreement, as there is currently no bargaining organization that exists in the way that PACT bargains on behalf of its companies for the CTA.

Click to enlarge

2) An “agreed upon terms” document, similar to the one included in the Tangerine Project, should be included as an addendum, allowing artists to bargain on a per-project basis, key terms including project ownership, first right of refusal, etc. An additional section could be added regarding agreed-upon fees, where artists & engagers opt for either a share of profits, or a set minimum fee, as determined by the group. Again, this would be on a project-by-project basis.

Let me be clear: the only role Equity would play in the creation of this document would be to ensure it has been filled out and that all participating members have signed off. At that point, it goes into a file.

3) Finally, a jury of peers (mostly members, with some non-member engagers) should be created (perhaps via the new CAEA Indie Advisory Committee) to assess contracts that may bleed into the harder to determine engager category.

There were some contradictions within the survey results regarding which engagers should be allowed to use the new Indie, based on project budget, and or a company’s core funding. Such a committee of peers could assess these situations should they arise. It is essential that the committee be made up of peers as those peers are actively working in the community and have the best sense of who these companies are and what their resources might be.

Notes on how this policy addresses the ITRC’s Overall Conclusions and Major Recommendations:

ITRC Conclusion #1: The survey revealed that of the small-scale agreements, only the Festival Policy is well liked by members, engagers and staff. That is telling. The main recommendation in this section was that the current agreements should be replaced with a new agreement(s). It is my assertion that this version of the Indie could replace all of these agreements, providing artists and engagers with a high level of flexibility allowing for a variety of creation methods and company models.

ITRC Conclusion #2: Members and engagers highly value small-scale theatre, and this view is also supported by comments from staff. This version of the Indie would confirm and validate the importance of this work, by recognizing the financial challenges that companies & collectives inevitably encounter. It would confirm that Equity does not consider artists who engage themselves in this kind of work as “hobbyists”.

ITRC Conclusion #3: The majority of dissatisfaction appears to stem from concerns about lack of flexibility, administrative red tape, and adversarial relationships with staff. Many members feel the need to lie to CAEA or do their work in the shadows. Staff are concerned with the amount of work required to administer the current agreements. This one seems obvious. The Festival Policy is the most popular agreement among both artists and staff. It offers an incredible amount of flexibility and essentially only requires filing on behalf of Equity staff. The addition of the Agreed-Upon Terms ensures a more professional level of engagement in that the terms are created while working toward a future for that individual project. This kind of agreement would likely improve satisfaction levels with Equity’s role in small-scale theatre, which is currently quite low.

ITRC Conclusion #4: Members & engagers agree artists should have safe working conditions, and an adherence to Equity’s standards of professional conduct. The protections members were most willing to waive included the quotas of Equity vs. non-Equity members, how artists are paid (cheque, money order, etc.), and pay for for a full work week regardless of the level of particupation. The use of the Festival Policy and Agreed-Upon Terms offers the security of safe working conditions by ensuring that artists are insured while working. While insurance costs may be somewhat burdensome for companies and co-ops, I believe those costs are minor in comparison to alternatives offered in current agreements, and really, who doesn’t like to be insured?

The Agreed-Upon Terms document then allows the collective of artists/engagers to decide amongst themselves how artists will be paid, the periods of engagement, etc.

According to the survey, members and engagers were very much in line with one another regarding which protections & benefits were most important, and which were less important, which indicates that members & engagers are capable of coming to agreed upon terms amongst themselves.

Are you a CAEA member? Have you voted yet?

ITRC Conclusion #5: Members & engagers value flexible terms of engagement in small-scale theatre work. While members value compensation for their work, the survey indicated a strong willingness to take part in projects where fees are paid as profit-shares, or percentage of gross revenue. Members & engagers were in STRONG AGREEMENT that profit-sharing models are acceptable in lieu of minimum fees, including equal splits or profit-sharing where participants receive multiple shares for multiple jobs on a project.

As I’ve suggested above, compensation should be spelled out very clearly within the Agreed-Upon Terms addendum in order to address options of equal splits, profit share, and/or multiple shares for multiple roles. Again, this allows members and engagers to determine these factors amongst themselves without Equity interference.

ITRC Conclusion #6: Most respondents were in agreement that non-profits and ad-hoc groups should have access to the new Indie. While I think the vast majority of companies and ad-hocs wishing to use the new indie would be clear-cut in terms of their eligibility, the CAEA Indie Advisory Committee (as mentioned above) could be of assistance in determining eligibility with projects in the grey zone: projects with budgets over $50K, as were noted in the survey.

Members & engagers regarding both also felt there shouldn’t be any restrictions based on past productions or other agreements used, and that the engager can be a member or a non-member. This is significant considering most current small-scale agreements include restrictions on the number of times a company can use them, or include a “ladder” system wherein a company that has used one agreement can no longer access another, etc.

Final Note:

The process should not be seen as an “application” for permission to Equity. Members and engagers need only follow the guidelines set out in the Policy, including their own agreed-upon terms, submit the required paperwork to Equity, and then get on to the task of making theatre.

In turn, Equity staff would receive the paperwork, ensure it has been sign-off by all members involved, receive the appropriate payments for insurance, and file the paperwork accordingly, allowing artists to get on to the task of making theatre.

Stay tuned for the conclusion to this post later this week: Why the Equity Co-Op should just die

Follow Aislinn on twitter: @AislinnTO

Festival Policy

October 12, 2012, by
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As the Interim Artistic Directors of Factory Theatre, Nina Lee Aquino & Nigel Shawn Williams announced their upcoming season earlier this week. We asked them to provide an artistic response to the shows they selected for that season in the form of our 51st Variation on Theatre.

Every Letter Counts by Nina Lee Aquino

Text:

“Between his interest in words and his architect’s love of structure and order, [Alfred Mosher] Butts decided to work on a word game that utilized a grid concept.  In addition, he wanted to create a game that combined both luck and skill, with stronger emphasis on skill.  He also liked the idea of 100 tiles.  As he began his first set of sketches, Butts called his boardless anagram game idea Lexiko, which later evolved into the board game Criss Cross Words.”

- Everything Scrabble: Third Edition by Joe Edley & John D. Williams Jr.

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Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata by Bill Richardson & Veda Hille

Text:

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

- Hunter S. Thompson

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Iceland by Nicolas Billon

Text:

“People are always asking me about eskimos, but there are no eskimos in Iceland.”

- Björk

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Stopheart by Amy Lee Lavoie

Text:

“All of us grow up in particular realities – a home, family, a clan, a small town, a neighborhood. Depending upon how we’re brought up, we are either deeply aware of the particular reading of reality into which we are born, or we are peripherally aware of it. “

- Chaim Potok

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Photo of Nina Lee Aquino and Nigel Shawn Williams by Jonathan Heppner – click to read more about their new season

October 10, 2012, by
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Artist rendering outside

After 33 years in rental spaces across the city, The Theatre Centre will break ground on its permanent home, launching a year-long renovation of the historic Carnegie Library building at 1115 Queen St W on Thursday at 11 am.

This is a big, big deal!

Praxis Theatre extends huge congratulations to the entire Theatre Centre team that has slowly put the pieces together that will allow groundbreaking experimental performance to have a permanent home in the Queen West West area.

Artist rendering inside

It is exciting to think about the decades of boundary-pushing, medium-blending, audience-challenging work to be created in this new home for contemporary performance in Toronto.

Looking forward to being there for the first shovel in ground on this community and industry defining occasion along with The Honourable Michael Chan Ontario Minister of Culture, Tourism and Sport; Don McKellar, Actor/Writer/Director, Honourary Chair of The Theatre Centre Capital Campaign; possibly, but unconfirmed His Worship Mayor Rob Ford; and many other friends and colleagues who have been waiting and hoping a long time for this to happen.

If you’re free, come on down so you can bore the crap out of your grandkids with an “I was there when” groundbreaking yarn.

October 9, 2012, by
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Tear The Curtain has undergone some minor rewrites. (Dawn Petten & Jonathan Young)

by Michael Wheeler

After one week of intense tech, Tear The Curtain! will open to a sold out Bluma Appel Theatre tonight.

Like lead character Alex Braithewaite, the show has been taken apart and put back together again to find the best way to Tear The Curtain! This new version of the show has a number of small differences that separate it from the 2010 Vancouver one at The Arts Club. Tiny re-writes and re-edits means it is tighter, cleaner and has a more straightforward narrative without sacrificing any of the layers of medium that also contribute to the story.

Laura Mennell as Mila Brook

Tech-wise, the show has gone from projecting two 4500 lumens projections on top of each other, to one massive 10000 lumens projector to fire video from. Beyond the benefit of one projector being less nerve-wracking from a technical standpoint, it also means the colour and richness of the projected image is more consistent throughout the surface area (and there are several) that it projects on.

It’s been an intense process with flys to be timed, new lighting cues to be built, new wireless mic levels to be set and managed, new timing for entrances and exits and as well as a cast member with food poisoning, a dress rehearsal for an audience of educators and a preview that was the first ever Sunday matinee at Canadian Stage that I can ever remember.

Goodbye Monday night shows that never got a decent house, hello busy Sunday afternoon theatre on Front St.

Jonathan Young as Alex Braithwaite

It’s worth bringing this up with The City of Toronto set to receive a report this fall about what to do with the 3 theatres it runs – including the Bluma Appel.  Let it be noted that access for not-for-profit groups to large venues, just like this one, is essential to allow shows like this to be created by non-millionaires.

Anyhow, this is a quick run people: 2 weeks! That’s it and it will be gone. Click here to figure out how and when to come see the film noir film/theatre hybrid Kim Collier and The Electric Company invented for the Cultural Olympiad in 2010 and has been taken apart and re-assembled for Toronto in 2012.

Click here to read more posts about Tear The Curtain!

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