Praxis Theatre is currently on hiatus! Please find co-founders Aislinn Rose and Michael Wheeler at The Theatre Centre and SpiderWebShow, respectively.

Date: 2007 January

January 29, 2007, by

It’s a pickaxe, stupid
By Ian Mackenzie

Your regular Steel diaries correspondent, Michael Wheeler, has kindly allowed me to hijack this weeks post in order to bring you a message from the front lines of the show’s marketing campaign.

It’s a message that involves 12 image files (including the intro shot, above) and judicious use of the word PhotoShopped”. Mostly, this entry into the Steel diaries is about process, which makes it right at home among Michaels other entries.

The challenge
As part of our marketing strategy for Steel, we’ve arranged to place ads for our show in the programs of a couple of other productions. The nice people at Stranger Theatre, for example, agreed to run a Steel ad in their and what Alice found there program. But since we
re still a few months away from our shows March run, we hadn’t yet given a lot of thought to the design of our promotional poster and postcard, nor do we have a graphic designer on board to help with such endeavors.

So, with limited resources we set out to build the ad ourselves. The upside is quick turnaround. The downside is diminished quality and limited expertise.

The iconography
We knew, from marketing a previous workshop version of the show, that the pickaxe was a strong icon to work with.

Promotional shot from an earlier production of Steel.

The pickaxe relates nicely to the content of the play, and it’s also a strong visual motif.

Another promotional image from an earlier production of Steel.

(Steel playwright Andrew Zadel with pickaxe.)

Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel for this latest incarnation of the show, we agreed to keep working with the pickaxe image.

This is our new pickaxe:

Pickaxe from ML Lumber & Building Supply: $31.16

Putting it together
We started with this hastily taken image:


To soften the impact of the aggressive-looking pickaxe and to contextualize it with the railroad, we pulled this image off the Internet:

We don’t own the rights to this image.

We “PhotoShopped” the two images together . . .

. . . stripped out the colour and cropped the image to the ads specifications (3.9 x 4.9).

We tried to include our logo, but given the composition of this ad, we would have had to run the logo in reverse (i.e., white logo on black background).
It just looks muddy.

Because of the distressed treatment of the type, our logo doesnt look good when reproduced in reverse in small scale. (For more info on our logo, please feel free to check out our logos usages guidelines here.) And while we dont like the idea of running an ad without our logo on it, we made the executive decision to leave it out of this piece.

Finally, we added our text.

You’ll notice that we’ve applied a blur effect to the figure in the foreground.

No masterpiece, but it gets the job done.

With only minutes to spare on our deadline, we sent it off to our contact at Stranger Theatre only to discover wed built the ad to the wrong orientation.

Heres the recut, landscape-oriented version:

Landscape orientation allowed us more room to use our logo.

The ad saw its first light of day at the premier of Stanger Theatres and what Alice found there.

Here’s the final ad in Stranger Theatre’s program.
Much thanks to Kate Cayley and Lea Ambros for the great back cover placement!
(BTW, and what Alice found there runs until February 4. Check it out if you can.)

Seeing our ad hard at work at the premier of Stanger Theatres show reinforced for us the power of swapping program ads. Our show is still a couple of months away, but getting the word out early, and often, can only increase the shows profile and support us when we arrive at the difficult task of getting those proverbial bums in seats.

Lessons learned

1. Decide on and stick with a consistent visual motif.
2. Always verify your ads orientation (landscape or portrait) before you start.
3. Make sure to include your logo in your ad.
4. Ad swapping is a great way to dramatically increase media impressions.
5. Use the word “PhotoShopped” sparingly.

This is only a prototype
Were hoping this initial foray into Steels marketing campaign will provide the inspiration for a more professional execution as we draw closer to the show.

I like the basic idea and composition used here. I think we may be able to find a more suitable typeface, develop a colour version, use our actor, James Murray, as the model, find a solution to our logo woes, and generally tweak the layout.

If you’re in Toronto over the next few months and happen to see a poster or program ad with a pickaxe on it, please think of us and our show and these beginnings to our marketing campaign.

January 24, 2007, by

Upstart Carbarets are always fantastic events thanks to DropShip’s signature combination of theatre, music, comedy and dancing. DropShip Entertainment not only offers a live theatre experience, they also build an excellent party around it.

Admiral Dink and the Seventh Fleet

Wednesday, January 24th
Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen St. W.
$10 online @ DropShip Entertainment
$15 @ the door
Doors open at 8:30, curtain at 9.

Written by: Sebastian Pigott
Directed by: Mac Fyfe
Featuring: K. Trevor Wilson, David Tompa, Sebastian Pigott,
Kate Gordon, Andrea Ramolo, Jason Gray and Brenhan McKibbon.

January 23, 2007, by
1 comment

The work:
Stranger Theatre’s and what Alice found there is an exploration of the encounter between the eccentric genius Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell – the girl who served as the inspiration for his greatest work.

The company:
Stranger Theatre has performed to audiences in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York City, Halifax, and will now receive a production in Toronto for the first time at the The Great Hall Downstairs, 1087 Queen St. West.

The story:
and what Alice found there brings to life Lewis Carroll’s writing of Alice in Wonderland, the real Alice, and the world in which they lived. Using a mixture of sources from Carroll’s two famous novels, letters and other writings, we begin with a sunny day on the river and travel to far darker places. The story examines childhood, love, and the nature of creation. Alice Liddell’s journey through Victorian times mirrors Alice in Wonderland’s journey through the hallucinatory landscape of her author’s imagination, where nothing is as it seems.

The creative team:
Written and directed by Kate Cayley, performed by Sarah Cormier, Simone Rosenberg, and Christina Serra. Puppeteered by Lea Ambros and Sarah Klein. Video by Simone Rosenberg and Adrienne Connelly. Puppets designed and built by Kate Cayley and Lea Ambros with lighting design by Lea Ambros.

The information:

Tuesday, January 23 – Sunday, February 4
Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00pm & Sundays at 2:30pm
The Great Hall Downstairs
1087 Queen St. West. at Dovercourt Rd.

Tickets: Advance – $15/$8 (students/seniors)
At the door- $20/$10. Tuesdays and Sundays pay-what-you-can.
Special $6 tickets for performances on January 24 and 25 shows available for students under 25 through HipTix (go to T.O.TIX website)

For tickets:

Advance tickets available online through T.O.TIX and at the following locations:

Twice Found – 608 Markham St.
Yasi’s Place – 299 Wallace
The Common – 1071 College

For general information call 416-538-6084 or visit the Stranger Theatre website.

January 12, 2007, by

The playwrights in the Congo, the theatre’s in the alley
By Michael Wheeler

The really friggin’ fantastic news is that we know when and where the show will be going on:

March 8th-10th, 15th-17th and 22nd-24th
The Queen West Arts Centre – 100A Ossington St.
(It’s just north of Queen Street)
All shows at 8pm

How did all of this come about, you ask?

Well Dave Galpern, who works with The Classical Theatre Project and The Toronto Youth Theatre, is an old friend. We did shows together at Montreal’s McGill Universtiy in the 90s and he played Koroviev in the Praxis Theatre production of The Master and Margarita.

His space on Ossington has thus far been used as a rehearsal centre for his two companies before their shows open at the Young Centre, Hart House . . . what have you. The thing is, the largest of these rehearsal spaces would also make a great, I mean really fabulous, theatre. It should have its own name. It is yet to be named. High ceilings, lots of room, obviously its proximity to all the shit going on down on Queen West makes for a pretty great location, too. So we made a deal and that’s where Steel will go on.

Now the tricky part is, there isn’t anything else to work with. So, we have two projects now:

1) putting a play together; and
2) putting a theatre together.

Should be no problem. Oh wait – we have no money and very limited free time. Could be a problem. Will definitely be interesting regardless.

Anyone reading along who has access to lights, blacks or chairs should be in contact at this point. Please. We have free program ad space, multiple tickets, and our undying gratitude and appreciation to offer.

Have I mentioned that the playwright is somewhere in the jungles of the Congo reporting on human rights violations for the UN? I wonder how those rewrites are going?

Tomorrow is our first official rehearsal. We aim to have a strong grasp of what the F we are up to by the end of the month so we can put the whole thing together with vigour in February. Rehearsals are, of course, in Jimmy’s living room. This is one of the benefits of the one-man show.

On the creative end of things, the team had a long discussion the other night about whether or not we need a set designer. We didn’t get anywhere.

Maybe once we have a better idea of our resources and approach this time around, we’ll know whether we’re in over our heads in this element or not.

And publicity, oh publicity. What are the myriad of ways we can get people, and reviewers, whose reviews would bring more people out to see this one-man show at a venue nobody has heard of that we just invented? Publicity could have its own blog. But that may be too meta-narrative. We’d have to start a blog about having a blog.

But we do have a place . . . and a date . . . and an actor . . . and a script . . . so hey, the rest is just details, right?

January 9, 2007, by

We asked:
I would go to more independent theatre if . . .

You said:In-depth analysis:
First, the easy stuff. According to these results, big name actors, clear distinctions between companies and comedic theatre all rate low on people’s list of independent theatre expectations.

Cost seems to be a factor among only a minority of respondents: one person wants lower ticket prices, another wants money-back guarantees.

Two people voted for improved marketing materials. (More on this below.)

And another two said they want productions that are more accessible (presumably in regards to a productions content).

These numbers are hardly conclusive, but as we move toward the higher-rated options, we see clearer definition in the responses and – by design – greater consensus.

The winners:
Given the format of this poll, were not sure the most popular answers qualify as “winners”. Let’s, instead, call this “insight”.

The insight:
Four respondents expressed a desire for increased quality in their independent theatre experience. There’s obviously a discussion to be had about what exactly is meant by “quality” and how to achieve it. Maybe we can put this one into our 10 questions rotation: “What do you think is the single greatest barrier to producing quality independent theatre?”

Another four respondents expressed interest in being able to buy tickets for a bunch of shows at one time.

But the most popular response to our survey was from people who feel they need to know more about independent theatre: What is independent theatre? What makes it independent? What are the benefits of independent theatre over mainstream and established theatre? How do I know which shows to go to?

Maybe theres a link between this knowledge gap and the respondents who felt that marketing materials need to improve.

Obviously, this survey raised many more questions than it answered. But one thing seems clear: the more people we can entice into our theatres, the more work well be able to produce. If theres a gap between what independent theatre artists are doing and public perceptions of that work, its seems a worthwhile pursuit to examine our communications strategies with renewed vigour.

If anyone has further thoughts on this, let’s continue the discussion.

January 2, 2007, by
1 comment

First, a round of thank yous is in order . . .

Thanks to everyone who helped make 2006 a banner year for Praxis Theatre. Our production of The Master and Margarita at the Toronto Fringe Festival was the culmination of three years of workshopping, blood, sweat . . . tears, beers and Russian-adaptation fears. We’re very proud of the work and the entire team that helped make that show the success it was.

Thanks also go out to the other theatre companies, artists and producers who put on their own shows and events. Thank you to the kind folks who actually went to see and support independent theatre in 2006. And just before we all drown in thank yous, we’d also like to extend our appreciation to everyone who has contributed to this blog.

Thanks! You rock, generally.

2006 was a banner year for Praxis Theatre in many ways – new team members, more community outreach, innovative fundraising – but a lot of it had to do with positioning the company for a bright and productive future.

So, what the fuck is next?

We are excited to welcome the new year with an ever-expanding calendar of events that include our upcoming one-man show (Steel), an elegant fundraiser, our ongoing playwrights’ reading series, and much, much more.

As for this blog, we’re looking to expand and refine our offering. In 2007, we’ll be bringing you more great interviews from our 10 questions series, more from The Steel Diaries, more and better surveys, a ton of surprises as well as expanded events notices.

If you have an upcoming event that you’d like to let people know of, please drop us a line with details and we’d be happy to post it here. We’re open to pretty much any and all ideas. And if you have any thoughts on how we can make this blog a more useful service, please pass those along too.

Throughout 2006, we made some great connections. The independent theatre scene in Toronto is brimming with talent. It’s been our privilege to meet and work with some of the best. Let’s use 2007 to strengthen the networks that link us and move forward to produce the best work we can.

See you at the theatre!

The Praxis Theatre team.