Category: Aislinn Rose

March 28, 2013, by
7 comments

Civil Debates 1

by Aislinn Rose

Last year, after the firing of Ken Gass from Factory Theatre, David Ferry and I exchanged open letters on this site. David’s letter, addressed to the younger generation of theatre artists, first appeared on Facebook.  He asked why the newer generation of artists was so silent on the issue. Was it apathy? Had he and his contemporaries failed the next generation by not setting a good example?

“How have I and my contemporaries failed in setting an example for you, so that you do not feel compelled to speak up in such a time?

Why do we as a community of artists have so little to say politically about our own institutions in comparison to similar communities from other cultures… USA, Britain, France, Germany as well as the non-Eurocentric communities of theatre artists in the world?”

I responded by saying I felt the issue was larger than the firing of one Artistic Director, and that an assumption could not be made that silence on one point was an indication of apathy on all points. I talked about this generation’s participation in Toronto’s Culture Consultations, about our work with TAPA & Arts Action Research’s Theatres Leading Change, about the Indie Caucus and our ongoing struggles to bring necessary changes to an important but outdated institution that is the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, and more.

“This is not apathy, but a quiet community of passionate and dedicated artists working away at changing what no longer works. I am not silent, I sit on no fence, and I am not complicit. I’m just offering my voice to a different fight.”

While it was clear that neither of us was going to suggest the firing had been handled well, we certainly had come out on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of what the response to the situation should be.

What was most compelling was the intense, articulate, and passionate debate that appeared in the comments sections of these posts. Across generations most commenters were willing to sign their names to their ideas and opinions. It became clear the greatest value to be derived from our disparate viewpoints was the space that was created between the two, allowing for discussion on all the murkiness and grey in between.

On Monday, April 1st, we’re bringing this discussion into a physical space and we’re asking our community to join us in that murkiness. The debate structure we’ve chosen, based on the Canadian parliamentary model, requires a bold, clear statement, allowing for our incredible speakers to address their opposing viewpoints with passion and rigour:

Be it resolved that Boards of Directors have the right and responsibility to overrule the Artistic Direction of a theatre company.

I want to be very clear about the nature of the discussion I hope this debate will engender. This is a complicated issue, and there is much to be learned on the topic. As a result, I feel I can’t say this enough: we are not coming together to argue. We are coming together to listen, consider and respond.

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts about Civil Debates, “just like the best acting, each debater should have a responsibility to hear the arguments that come before them and respond – not just deliver a prepared statement.”  Our goal is to address more than the firing of one artistic director, or one theatre, or events in one city. We’re addressing larger issues, the results of which could be seen in theatres across this country over the last few years.

Join us on Monday for this important and spirited discussion. I hope you will come with an open mind, a willingness to listen and learn, and even just the slightest chance that someone on this panel might change your mind, regardless of the perspective you came in with.

CIVIL DEBATES

Creative Cities Debate - March 15, 2013

Creative Cities Debate – March 15, 2013

Debate 2: Arts Boards
Hosted by Theatre Centre Managing Director Roxanne Duncan
Moderated by Praxis Theatre Artistic Producer Aislinn Rose
Debaters Franco Boni, Brendan Healy, Gideon Arthurs and Jini Stolk
April 1, 2013; doors 7pm, debates 7.30pm
The Theatre Centre Pop-Up, 1095 Queen St. West, at Dovercourt
PWYC at the door.

Twitter Hashtag: #CivilDebates

Click here for more information about the Civil Debates series in partnership between The Theatre Centre & Praxis Theatre.

 

January 3, 2013, by
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Last year was a big one for us.

If you run a web-influenced theatre company for 10 years, you will accumulate some ridiculous photos.

If you run a web-influenced theatre company for 10 years, you will accumulate some ridiculous photos.

Michael co-curated FreeFall ’12 at The Theatre Centre with AD Franco Boni, and spent seven months at The Shaw Festival, where he assistant directed Ragtime, Helen’s Necklace, A Man and Some Women and directed Brecht’s Senora Carrar’s Rifles. This fall, he returned to Toronto as an assistant director with The Electric Company at Canadian Stage and Associate Artist at Theatre Passe Muraille.

Aislinn produced a two-week festival of theatre for human rights with Aluna Theatre and five shows for other companies including Modern Times Stage Company’s production of The Lesson, and the electroacoustic opera Julie Sits Waiting with Fides Krucker. She also created online content for Liza Balkan’s Out The Window, and Michael Healey’s Proud.

Throughout the year, we wrote, hosted, curated and moderated a number of essential and vigorous conversations online at praxistheatre.com. Traffic from unique visitors is up 48% from 2011, and after beginning the year as Torontoist People to Watch in 2012, we finished up as an end-of-year pick by The Grid as a 2012 Toronto Theatre MVPs for providing “informed, well-reasoned debate… for the community of independent theatre artists in Toronto and beyond”.

In 2013, we’re moving to build upon these successes with live performances directly connected to online content:

Civil Debates 

Civil Debates Box2

Debates Winter/Spring 2013

Civil Debates is a monthly series we are creating with The Theatre Centre that invites two speakers from opposite sides of an argument to debate their perspectives for and with a live audience.

It is also a forum for all attendees to participate and vote on who and what they agree with. We hope this will be an opportunity to extend the online community we have developed over the years in a face-to-face setting, bringing those conversations into a physical space.

The topics for the initial four debates will be curated via a gallery installation January 12 and 13 at The Next Stage Festival at Factory Theatre. Debates will take place monthly at The Theatre Centre at 1095 Queen St. W (Queen and Dovercourt) in February, March, April and May 2013. The First Debate is on Thursday, February 7th. Go put it in your book or iCal etc. right now.

Praxis 10th Anniversary Party 

Eugene Rectangle

Party Summer 2013

Yes. Praxis Theatre has been around for 10 years!

Our first production, Eugene, a modern original adaptation of the epic poem Eugene Onegin, opened at The Theatre Centre in June 2003. Since then we have created 12 original plays, built a website and started combining the two.

Come join us for a big party we are throwing at a TBD location to celebrate. If you just know us online, this is the time to come out. If you have ever been to or been in a Praxis show, we hope you’ll come too. It seems crazy. For real. A DECADE.

You Should Have Stayed Home National Tour 

YSHSH Button in cage

National Tour Fall 2013

We are taking our award-winning production of You Should Have Stayed Home across the country next fall.

Some details are still pending, but the production will be performed in several Canadian cities, including a new production for Toronto.

We’re pretty excited Tommy Taylor’s original adaptation of his Facebook note is our first show to tour, after ten years as a company. The damage done to civil liberties by the G20 Summit in Canada was a failure of all three levels of government. Thanks to the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts for their support.

Other Stuff We Don’t Know/Can’t Say Yet

Party shot

? – What Else – ?

The great thing about being a small company with an adaptable communications structure is that we can take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

We have something we are working on with Videofag we hope to tell you about soon, there are probably some blog posts coming up, and other live events we will be involved with. We’ll let you know, just as soon as we know what they are.

Thanks to everyone who helped make 2012 a success. We feel really lucky to be making work that excites us with great people in 2013.

Aislinn and Michael

November 1, 2012, by
2 comments

by Aislinn Rose

Voting in the CAEA Council elections ended last night and the results are in.

Huge congratulations to five of our seven endorsed candidates in Ontario who ran as a slate promoting indie issues, improved communication between staff, council and the membership, and a re-examination of the role Equity plays within the performing arts ecology in Canada.

Those new Councillors are:

ONTARIO

Hume Baugh

Mark Brownell

Kristina Nicoll

Vinetta Strombergs

Aaron Willis

Congratulations also goes out to the other two fine candidates elected to Council in Ontario: Nigel Bennett and Yanna McIntosh.

Here’s hoping that an Indie Advisory Committee is formed, allowing Brenley Charkow and Kate Fenton, our other two endorsed candidates to participate in a significant way. Jason Chesworth would also be an excellent addition to such a committee.

Full National CAEA election results can be found here.

Follow Aislinn on twitter: @AislinnTO

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 19, 2012, by
2 comments

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 16, 2012, by
7 comments

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 8, 2012, by
9 comments

by Aislinn Rose

*Updated Tuesday, October 9th: Kristina Nicoll has been added to the indie slate, rounding off the number of candidates to 7, the same number of seats available in the Ontario region.*

Last Monday, CAEA Ontario held an all-candidates night to introduce the 20 local candidates running to fill 7 Ontario seats. Each candidate was given an opportunity to read their prepared statement and then take questions from the audience.

From those statements, 6 candidates have emerged as a clear slate of member/creators with three main priorities should they be elected:

  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

We would like to introduce you to the slate of candidates whose collective platform we are endorsing:

Hume Baugh
Mark Brownell
Brenley Charkow
Kate Fenton
Kristina Nicoll – added October 9th
Vinetta Strombergs
Aaron Willis

You can read their entire collective statement at the bottom of this post.

As Co-Chair of the TAPA Indie Caucus, and Artistic Producer of Praxis Theatre, I’m sure it will come as no surprise to our regular readers that I am weighing on this election, and endorsing an indie slate with these collective intentions. We have written extensively about Equity’s long and drawn-out process to create a new Indie Agreement, and my Praxis colleague Michael Wheeler has endorsed Equity Councillor and CPAG candidates in previous years.

As with all elections, it’s important to make an informed decision. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be writing more about the Indie Agreement and what I think it means to “reflect the will of the membership”. We’ll also tackle Equity’s perceived mission & mandate in comparison to the very first clause of CAEA’s constitution demanding that the Association:

“support the general welfare and advancement of the performing arts not limited to but focusing more particularly on the theatrical performing arts and those engaged in theatrical production”

As always, we welcome debate from all sides in our comments section. If there is a particular issue that you would like to see addressed, let us know, and if we can’t address it ourselves we’ll do our best to find someone who can. If you’re a member, you should also check out the already lively debates on the Ontario & National CAEA Facebook pages.

Voting started on Friday, and continues until Wednesday, October 31st. Members should have received their voter instruction kits by now, and I encourage everyone to read the statements of all Ontario candidates here. If you are voting outside of Ontario, you can find your candidates by region here. If you haven’t received your voter kit by October 10th, Equity is encouraging members to contact the national office for assistance.

You can vote online or by phone, and you have the rest of the month to do it. So if you haven’t already voted, check out the indie slate’s platform below, and then join the discussion.

Follow Aislinn on twitter for updates: @AislinnTO

Indie CAEA Nominees Collective Platform

October 3, 2012, by
4 comments

by Aislinn Rose

Last Friday I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Healey, whose play Proud is currently onstage at The Berkeley Street Theatre.

On beer, small people, confessions, and plays I haven’t seen

AISLINN: Thanks for Skyping with me today. I’m actually interviewing you from my local, The Mugshot Tavern… my favourite little pub at Bloor & Keele, where I can walk in and the owner will say, “Aislinn, I have a great new beer on cask for you”.

MICHAEL: That’s the sweetest thing! I don’t have a local… I don’t get out of the house much.

AISLINN: Well, you do have 2 small people…

MICHAEL: That’s right… who insist I stay at home. Oh, I’m so envious right now!

[He has spied me sipping my pint.]

AISLINN: Let’s talk about your play. I have a confession to make… another one.

MICHAEL: [Laughs] It’s just all confessions with you…

AISLINN: That’s the old Catholic in me… all the guilt and none of the faith.

So… Proud is the first Michael Healey play I’ve ever seen. Partly due to the fact I lived in Australia for four years…

Can you give me a bit of a backdrop for the trilogy? [Courageous, Generous, and now Proud]

Tom Walmsley & Michael Healey in the G&M Print edition

MICHAEL:  The idea for the trilogy started 8 years ago when I gave Tom Walmsley part of my liver. I’d say prior to that my plays were interested either in form, or, in the case of The Drawer Boy I was trying to learn how to write a two act comedy structure. Or in the minutia of my own psychology. The couple of plays after the Drawer Boy were about the interesting corners of my own feelings and experiences, and that event [the liver donation] kind of turned my gaze outward.

This play is about what it is we want from our political institutions.

AISLINN: So what do YOU want from our political institutions?

MICHAEL: I guess I want to be offered ideas that I haven’t already heard, and I want to be inspired by those ideas. I want somebody to articulate a notion of our society and our country that’s larger than the one that I currently possess.

AISLINN: So your… in terms of the ideologies out there you’ve got the group of people who want the guy they can have a beer with… or the manager versus the leader. So you’re looking more for the leader than the guy who’s going to just manage the finances.

MICHAEL: I guess that’s right. The guy that I want is a pretty good manager too…

Fiscal Conservativism

AISLINN: Which leads me to some of the questions for you that came to me via Facebook. What is your response to the notion of someone being “fiscally conservative and socially progressive?

MICHAEL: Well… I don’t see any incompatibility with those two ideas living together. How it works out, it’s always the distance between your ideals and what’s possible. Politics is the art of the possible. The difference between what you aspire to and what you can manage is where the truth lies. So… if there is any contradiction between those two statements, the way that you work out those contradictions is the way… is the kind of politician that you become… if that’s coming from a politician.

If it’s coming from a citizen, then… I think everybody is capable of maintaining ideas that aren’t necessarily resolved.

AISLINN: But what do you think “fiscally conservative” means these days?

MICHAEL: Well the problem is that fiscally conservative these days means “good with other people’s money” and the fact is that progressives are completely capable of being good with other people’s money, but that right has managed to co-opt that notion and own it.

AISLINN: And if we look at the recent big spenders in government across North America, I just don’t understand why those notions still exist…

Is Michael Healey a Soothsayer?

AISLINN: So now I want to ask you about some of the things that happen in your play. But first I want to ask… are you a soothsayer?

MICHAEL: [Laughs] You know… none of things that things that have come up recently were that hard to guess about. You know… the thing about the abortion bill in the play, and the guy’s abortion bill… or quasi abortion bill that got defeated in the house… since the Conservatives have been in power, backbenchers have floated four or five different Private Members Bills on Abortion… controlling abortion.

The Abortion Bill I describe in the play is verbatim to the bill that was brought up in, I think, 2007 by some guy. So, I may look clever, but these things are not terribly far fetched. But the timing is awesome. It’s great to get the play on at the moment that the House is coming back to it and these things are coming back to boil again.

On merging the left

AISLINN: I’m curious about your thoughts on voter cooperation. There’s a line in your play that gets a good laugh about the merging of the progressive parties… so I’m curious about how you feel about this notion of some kind of cooperation between the progressive parties. Or… the non-conservative parties…

MICHAEL: I have to admit I haven’t thought about this as deeply as I think Wheeler has for example.

AISLINN: I don’t know why you would mention him in this moment. I joke.

MICHAEL: My basic feeling about it is that anything that streamlines discussion… debate… is in the long-term, bad for politics. As I say in the play… once they unified the right, maybe it became inevitable that eventually the left would unite.

Cullen's NDP Leadership campaign

AISLINN: But what if we’re not talking about merging? Let’s talk Nathan Cullen’s plan – and to clarify for when I do the transcription – to look at those ridings where it looks like if the Liberals and NDP were to come together they could defeat a sitting Conservative, that you have run-off ballots in the lead-up to the election to determine whether it should be a Liberal or an NDP that should run in that riding for the election.

MICHAEL: Right…

AISLINN: To get to a point where you get the Conservatives out, and then we bring in voter reform where it’s no longer this first-past-the-post system, so we can go back to running whatever candidates we want, and we have some kind of ranked ballots, or the proportional representation that Ontario soundly voted down a few years ago because no one knew what that complicated ballot meant…

MICHAEL:  … all these ideas that everybody floats when they’re not in power!

AISLINN: Right, yes… as you say in your play.

MICHAEL:  … and then just rejects!

I don’t know. Isn’t that just a sad way to have to beat these people? Isn’t that a kind of collusion, doesn’t that limit… ultimately limit democracy? I mean, I understand what it means in practical terms… I understand… generation upon generation of Harper conservativism… until somebody spends 35 years, the way that he spent 35 years putting an idea together and building a coalition among the people in the country… until somebody spends the time doing that… don’t we just have to wait? Don’t we just necessarily diminish the concept of democracy every time the Liberals and the NDP collude in a riding. Don’t we?

[silence]

AISLINN: I’m a little depressed. Are you telling me that we have 35 more years of this to go?

MICHAEL: [Laughing] I think… well… I’ll go this far: they’ll win another majority in the next election. Beyond that I’m not going to say. So 2015, for sure. In my opinion. I just don’t see anybody… I just don’t see it… there is no short cut. And he knew that. He learned that, and he put in the time. And there is no short cut to creating a message that a wide swath of the middle of the country can get behind.

What are the requirements for running for office?

AISLINN: So I want to talk briefly about the female character in your play, Jisbella. She’s a former manager of a St. Hubert in Quebec. I’m curious to know what you think the qualifications of an MP should be.

MICHAEL: Well, I don’t think that there should be any beyond the ones that Elections Canada has… whatever they are. I don’t know what the qualifications are really. I mean, there are a lot of lawyers in Ottawa. It’s probably right that there are a lot of lawyers in Ottawa because it’s where they make laws.

I for one, love it when they get a Monte Solberg… is that who I’m thinking of? Who was the Reform MP who never took off his fucking cowboy hat?

AISLINN: Oh, I don’t know…

[I looked it up, it was Darrel Stinson.]

MICHAEL: I just think, you know, it’s democracy and it’s messy and stupid, and occasionally it coalesces and awesome things happen, but in the main it’s messy and stupid. I think that the people who stand for election should reflect the diversity of that messiness and stupidity.

AISLINN: Right… and then I guess from that pool, we hope the leader will arise. That leader who will inspire us and give us a bigger vision.

MICHAEL: That’s right. It’s a frustrating and inevitably organic process.

We're not saying good looks don't matter...

AISLINN: Okay! So then what do you think of the new Trudeaumania?

MICHAEL: Well yeah! He doesn’t have his father’s depth…

I’m not saying that the hair and the good looks don’t matter, and the fact that he’s charming doesn’t matter…

AISLINN: … and a good boxer!

MICHAEL:  … sorry?

AISLINN: … and a good boxer.

MICHAEL: And a good boxer! I’m just saying that 10 minutes in a ring, so to speak, with Harper in one of these debates and we’re just going to see… you’ll just see.

My job that he always wanted, and why he was glad to see Aaron Sorkin go

AISLINN: When I wrote my piece about my own history with the Conservative party here in Ontario, you said something about… you’re shaking your head…?

MICHAEL: I find it instantly intimidating to speak to you… you remind me of that… because, I mean, I’m talking about things that you have a kind of legitimacy about that I will never have.

AISLINN: Were you a fan of the West Wing? You do seem to speak with some legitimacy. I mean, yes, I’ve seen some of this stuff, but it does ring quite true to me…

MICHAEL:  Well, I’m probably the only person in the world who preferred the West Wing after they kicked off Aaron Sorkin, and they hired a bunch of former White House flacks to come in and write… because the stories instantly became more true to politics in that country.

AISLINN: You said something on Facebook about me having the job you always wanted… surely that’s not true.

MICHAEL:  It is… when I was 12 years old I explored the possibility of becoming a page at the Ontario Legislature… I was one of those kids, and then it never came to fruition.

In some ways, that world does fascinate me… I think the same things that fascinate me in the theatre are the same things that fascinate me in that world… the distance between aspiration and reality, and the drama and comedy that are available inside that gap.

The thing I don’t have patience for is consensus building… the art of the possible. I think I’d get very frustrated very quickly with the glacial pace of a legislative agenda.

Atwood signing remotely via "longpen"

AISLINN: Did you know about the autopen, did you know there was such a thing?

MICHAEL: I guess I was. I assumed these people don’t sign their own letters anymore. Isn’t Margaret Atwood’s thing just a long-distance version?

AISLINN: But Margaret Atwood… she’s still signing from long-distance. She’s still doing the arm movements across the world to do the signing. The autopen is someone like me sitting in a room with a big stack of letters, and a big wonky wheel that turns around and makes the pen move to look like the signature.

But every now and then I’d be working on a letter saying “we’re sorry we have to cut down the tree on your lawn”, and every now and then I was able to save a tree and say, “no, I don’t like this answer…”

MICHAEL:  Would you really do that?

AISLINN: Oh yeah, if I got a letter where I’d see we were giving the standard response to what didn’t seem like a standard situation, I’d pull it and talk to the appropriate person in the ministry to see if we could get a different result for that person.

MICHAEL: So really, in a lot of ways, power resided with you.

AISLINN: Oh yeah, totally…

[Laughter]

MICHAEL: I’m kidding, but it’s also true…in the same way that, you know, that your leg works because of its joints… you were right there in that moment, you were the only person with an engaged brain in that moment between constituent and elected official.

AISLINN: I think, for me, that was part of my survival in that job and feeling awful about being there. But if I could walk away at the end of the day where I’d fixed something for someone… I could feel okay about.

Off topic and onto Factory Theatre…

AISLINN: So I do have one final question for you. It’s off topic.

For me, I intend to continue supporting Factory Theatre, and the new mission of Nina & Nigel as they work on the creation of their new season.

I wonder what you would like to say to someone like me who intends to continue with that support.

MICHAEL: I think you absolutely should. I think that the reason I’m so categorical about my reaction to Ken’s firing was because I was around… I wasn’t around in 1977 when he started the theatre, I was around in 1996 when he saved it. I was actually part of the community when that happened. So I saw him… the padlocks were literally on the door, he went in, he put his own money into the place, and then he took no salary for almost a year, and they went from there in 1996, to a place where they owned that $10 million piece of property.

And I think, for that, because I experienced that, my position “you cannot fire that guy that way”, and all of the actions I took that flowed from that position, which is to say writing the boycott letter… my reaction and my response to this is personal, as is yours, and is therefore legitimate.

That’s really all I can say.

The Boycott's full page ad in NOW

Was I hurt and disappointed that every play wasn’t pulled from the season immediately? Yes. Was I hurt and disappointed when there wasn’t a universal outcry and condemnation of the board among theatre artists in this city? I was hurt and surprised in the same way I was hurt and surprised by the Tarragon’s behaviour, in much the same way.

I suddenly felt like I had been making assumptions about something, and that the reality was wildly different from those assumptions.

I think your position is absolutely legitimate. I’m sorry about the way that this has all broken down, I think there are less reasonable people on my side that think the way I do, and less reasonable people on your side as well, and that thanks to them, there is a kind of bizarre rift in our community at the moment.

AISLINN: Well, the challenging thing for me is that I don’t feel like I’m on a particular side. I find the situation to be incredibly complex and probably more complex than the “official sides” are allowing it to be, and so, I feel like I can be “for” Ken, and I can also be “for” Factory Theatre, and all of the people that are still there, and who were incredibly hurt by the notion of The Factory falling apart without Ken, when they had previously felt that they were also important pillars of that organization.

MICHAEL: They absolutely are important pillars of that theatre. I don’t blame anybody for any of the feelings that they had.

My over-simple analysis… and I own the fact it is over-simple, is you can’t fire that guy that way. And all the decisions I’ve made and taken since that moment were based on that. I honestly thought the boycott would be a universal boycott, and that within a matter of weeks Ken would be reinstated, a negotiation about how his exit would be handled would be underway, and that the season would be restored and that nobody would have to lose a job. I lost a job, I was supposed to be in George Walker’s show.

And I’m here to tell you that I’m surprised.

If you want to catch Proud before it closes October 6th, you should get your tickets soon as performances are selling out. Everything you need to know can be found on the Proud website here, or on the box office website here.

Follow Aislinn on Twitter: @AislinnTO

September 10, 2012, by
3 comments

Click the Reds movie poster to continue reading.

by Aislinn Rose

My name is Aislinn Rose, and I used to be a political staffer to a cabinet minister within the Mike Harris Government.

I began in 2000 as the Correspondence Assistant to the then-Minister of Transportation, where it was my job to infuse our letters (drafted mostly by the Corporate Correspondence Unit on the bureaucratic side) with the messaging of the party, and to make the letters sound like a human being had written them. And, in many cases, I may or may not have got out the old AutoPen.

The AutoPen essentially recreates a signature with a pen even when the signer isn’t in the country. In my day, the minister was getting over a thousand letters a month, most of which crossed my desk and the AutoPen could be useful for the bottom of a letter explaining why you’ll just need to get over yourself and take your G2 driving test again.

Click the image to read Aislinn’s entire confession on the website for Proud, by Michael Healey.

July 25, 2012, by
2 comments

by Michael Wheeler

Last week traffic to praxistheatre.com exploded when we re-published David Ferry’s Facebook letter asking the under thirty-five set why they were not outraged by the firing of Ken Gass as Artistic Director at Factory Theatre.

When Praxis Artistic Producer Aislinn Rose responded with a letter of her own, this went to a whole new level, with more people coming to the site in one day than saw all three of the shows we presented in 2011 combined.

The pieces, as well as the intelligent and thoughtful comments that followed them have motivated a few responses on the internet:

* Producer and marketer Sue Edworthy put together a Wordle for all four of the major notes written on the subject including Facebook notes by Chris Coculuzzi and Lisa Norton.

* U of T theatre prof Holger Syme related the conversation to some observations he has had on Toronto theatre lately. The two big ones: 1)Where are the young people on our stages? 2) Where is our classical work outside of Stratford and Shaw?

* Director and Artistic Director Jacob Zimmer used the Small Wooden Shoe blog to reference this conversation and also apply for the position of Factory Theatre Artistic Director. One condition: The Board of Directors must resign by the end of the year.

* A number of prominent artists are calling for a boycott of The Factory Theatre. They have set up a website: savethefactory.ca which outlines why. In reference to artists boycotting the theatre’s season, Ken Gass had this to say in the comments of a recent Torontoist article on the story:

I just want to make clear, I would NEVER ask artists to pull their work from the season, no matter who is running the theatre. [...] there are many arenas of protest other than ones that will impact on the financial welfare of artists.