by Michael Wheeler
One of the great laments of the Toronto indie theatre artist involves our chronic lack of performance space. For a city of 2.48 milion people, there are just six or seven rentable theatre spaces, many of which must be reserved more than a year in advance – and only after you have secured a considerable amount of funding. New condo developments have replaced the Artword Theatre and they’re moving in fast on The Diesel Playhouse and The Theatre Centre.
This lack of space does not make for a spontaneous, intense or particularly hardcore artistic process. 100-seat black box theatres – the bedrock of any theatre community that is creating and experimenting with its own work – are suddenly on the endangered species list.
I have a new job I believe presents an opportunity to change this dynamic. (Oh god, I sound like Roma – just pretend we’re in a Chinese restaurant). Before I get to the idea, let me tell you a little bit about the Queen West Arts Centre.
After rehearsing, teaching, and then directing a play
Queen West Arts Centre – the powers that be have finally just put me in charge of developing, administrating and promoting the space.
The Queen West Arts Centre in the uber-trendy heart of Toronto.
It is the best of spaces; It is the worst of spaces.
There are a couple of rehearsal spaces, which are fairly nice (actually one of them is gorgeous). There’s also a 2,000 sq.-ft. room with 20-foot ceilings that really should be an awesome theatre, but isn’t yet. It has a massive double-lobby that should be the jewel of the building, but feels more like the entrance to a poorly funded community centre. Instead of a costume shop, it has a room with a large pile of costumes.
It is my job to fix these and other problems. Of course, this being theatre, funds are scarce. And since the Queen & Ossington neighbourhood is going from shabby to chic quicker than you can say “unemployed actor”, this theatre’s 10,000 sq.-ft. of prime real estate does not come cheap.
Change is needed to get this theatre up and running, yes. But, the trick is in making that change happen without incurring additional expenses to the overhead. All I have to work with as capital is the one resource the Queen West Arts Centre provides in abundance: space. Well kept, very well located space.
With these parameters in mind I have begun:
Build Your Own Theatre (BYOT)
Throughout this summer and fall there will be a series of weekend projects around the Queen West Arts Centre. Lots of painting, maybe some drywalling, some building of things . . .
And, here’s the proposal: Artists, theatre companies, and community members who contribute to these projects will be compensated in kind.
By this I mean:
1) Free rehearsal space; and/or
2) A box office-sharing arrangement, where we waive the theatre’s rental fee during your production’s run in exchange for a percentage of ticket sales.
Can you help Mike turn this 2,000 sq.-ft. space into a gleaming theatre?
If this project appeals to you, check out the Queen West Arts Centre website and send me an email to the contact info provided. Let us know:
1) Who you are and your organizational affliations, if any (individual artists and lovers of theatre, generally or more than welcome, too); and
2) Your initial reaction as to whether you would like your labour to be compensated by way of rehearsal time or performance space.
There are only a couple of “performance” spots left. Of course, people who want to come help out – meet some people, contribute to your artistic community – are also welcome. It could be for a single afternoon, or for a longer, more involved commitment. We’re open to any and all proposals.
And for those of you playing along at home, I will be writing about our progress here on the Praxis Theatre blog. Comments and suggestions are appreciated almost as much as sweat and a good idea.
by Tony Hall
“Trinidadian playwright Tony Hall’s Twilight Café serves up heaping portions of domestic violence, and director Rhoma Spencer’s theatrically vivid production presents the material with honesty and depth.” – NOW Magazine
Directed by: Rhoma Spencer
Featuring: David Collins & Raven Dauda
Set, Costumes and Props: Julia Tribe
Sound Design: Nicholas Murray
Lighting Design: Michelle Ramsay
Movement Consultant: Erika Batdorf
Fight Director: Richard Lee
Graphic Design: Jackie McAlpine
Community Marketing: Karen Richardson
Produced by: STAF
at The Great Hall Downstairs (formerly The Theatre Centre)
1087 Queen Street West (At Dovercourt)
May 16th – 27th 2007
Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00pm Sundays @ 2:00pm
Tickets are $25, $17 Students and Senior
(Group rates available: call 416.703.2773 x202 or email Amber.)
Tickets will be available at T.O. Tix,
by phone at 1-888-222-6608,
in person at the T.O. Tix booth at Dundas Square
or one hour before showtime at the Door
Have I None
by Edward Bond
has gathered a group of award-winning collaborators for a journey into the future where the comic and tragic blend into a hallucinatory vision of the new world.
Director: Lary Zappia
Starring: Dusan Dukic, Martin Julien i Dragana Varagic
Set Design: Jelena Djuric
Costume Design: Andjelija Djuric
Stage Manager: Sandra Henderson
May 8 – May 20
Tuesday-Saturday @ 8:00 pm.
Sunday @ 2:00
Captain John’s Harbour Boat
1 Queens Quay West
at the foot of Yonge Street
(meeting point Captain’s Quarters, door opens 1 hour prior to the show)
$20 – Sunday 2:00 pm matinee and Tuesday-Wednesday 8:00 pm
$25 – Thursday 8:00 pm
$30 – Friday-Saturday 8:00 pm
When we started this theatre blog in October of 2006, we set out to plot our own little map of Toronto’s independent theatre scene. Through this collection of interviews, surveys, roundups, announcements, questions, answers, comments, listings, Steel Diaries and theatre quotes, we feel we’re a little closer to understanding the terrain.
But here’s the thing: the deeper we look, the more we see how much there is to know and how many different methods there are for collecting and interpreting all this information. It’s like the good book says – what you see depends on where you stand.
Classism and the theatre cat
So, we’re looking for guest bloggers to help us see what we’re not seeing, and maybe to ask the questions we’re not asking. No idea is too silly (does anyone remember theatre cat?), or too serious (anyone want to do a series on theatre and class?).
Our community spends a lot of time looking for inventive ways to offset its relative lack of resources – same goes for this blog. And in a way, blogging about theatre is a lot like making theatre: You’re only as good as your last post. (Thank God Simon Michellepis gives good interview.)
Hopefully, some of you feel as we do: that this exercise in theatrical cartography is worthwhile. And that it’s worth considering – if only for a moment – what you might have to offer as a guest blogger.
So here it is:
An open invitation to guest bloggers. Got a column idea? A theatre-related top-five list? Feeling soap-boxy? Good with a camera? Could be a snappy one-off or a wordy academic series. Whatever it is, please drop us a line with your theatre-related idea and start guest blogging on Theatre is Territory today!
Thanks so much for reading this.
Ariel & Prospero
Alchemy Theatre, Toronto’s urban Shakespeare company, presents The Tempest – its 10th production of Shakespeare’s works over the past four years.
The Tempest is directed by founding Artistic Director Simon Michellepis. This production remains faithful to Shakespeare’s text while at the same time integrating exciting multimedia stagecraft to evoke the aura and mystery of a magical isle under Prospero’s watchful eye. The Tempest will continue Alchemy’s goal of producing engrossing, small scale, reasonably priced productions of Shakespeare’s works in downtown Toronto.
Stephano, Trinculo & Caliban
April 27 – May 13, 2007
Wednesdays – Saturdays @ 8:00pm
Sundays @ 2:30pm
133 Tecumseth Street
(1 block south west of Queen and Bathurst)
$20 ($5 discount for the underemployed)
2-for-1 Wednesdays & PWYC Sundays
Three one-act plays:
by Kris Elgstrand
Sheila, Herbert, Claire Danes and The Man On My Roof
by Florencia Lozano
by Gavin Drummond
Wednesday, May 2nd @ 7:30 pm
(doors open @ 7 pm)
1378 Queen St. W
(Queen and O’Hara)
Click here for a map.
Leah Wahl, Jo Chim, Laura Nordin,
James Murray, Greta Papageorgiu, Tania McCartney
and Danny Waugh
Cheap drinks and $5 Martinis
$5.00 at the door
Hope to see you there!