Daniel Karasik is Artistic Director of Tango Co. He wrote and stars in THE CROSSING GUARD, playing at the Tarragon Theatre Upstairs October 7-17, presented by Tango Co. in association with Peanut Butter People.
Chart above from the 2009 TAPA stats report shows “Use of New Media and Social Networking Media Among TAPA Members”
by Lindsay Schwietz
The Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) announced their findings for their TAPA Stats Report Phase Two on Monday September 21st at City Hall. After examining data from the 92 performing arts companies who filled out their extensive online questionnaire, TAPA is optimistic about the results and the future of performing arts in Toronto.
Single ticket sales are up with 2.4 million tickets sold in 2007/2008.
Theatre for Young Audiences is growing, with more than 90,000 kids being reached through performance in the 2007/08 season.
The number of theatre productions has increased – 1,140 occurring in 2007/08, compared to 762 productions in 2004/05.
An increase in subscriptions – close to 13,000 more paid subscribers since 2004/05.
78% of TAPA members surveyed are optimistic about the future.
Only 28% of the theatres surveyed sell subscriptions to their season –the bulk of the increase is from the larger companies who do have subscriptions. Indie theatre is not booming.
Although 95% of those surveyed have a website, 79% of them have no idea the statistics of who is using their website. Only 37% of them have online ticketing.
Part-time non-artistic personnel are down 13% from 2005/2006 statistics. Although theatres are potentially relying more on volunteers, that doesn’t bode well for the next generation trying to get work in a theatre office or their foot in the door of an organization.
The total number of artistic and non-artistic jobs is down 1625 from 2005/06.
The most troubling set of statistics is that the total number of performances increased over a period where the total number of staff plummeted. These numbers will be helpful to convince politicians and funders of the immense contribution performing arts make to Toronto’s economy, but they aren’t indicative of particularly good circumstances for staff working on the front lines or those hoping to break into the industry.
The Ontario all candidates meeting is this Sunday September 20th, 7pm @ the newly helmed Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street, Toronto. Don’t take advice from the Indie Caucus. If you are a member of CAEA in good standing, go and learn for yourself who will best advocate for the type of theatre and practices you would like to see develop in Canada.
I’ve been a CAEA member since 2004, and in that time I’ve worked under almost all of the contracts that Equity prescribes. Having worked primarily within the independent theatre community – and therefore under the ITA, the Indie, the Co-op Policy and the Fringe waiver – I am particularly attuned to the needs of artists who are making and producing independent performance work. Independent theatre is the driving force behind a strong sense of theatre community and is the starting point for many theatre artists, but the needs of this community are under-served and under explored by Equity.
As a CAEA Ontario Council member, I would like to help artists spend less time on the business side of being an artist and more time being an artist, by reviewing and revising the process, protocols and agreements to better reflect our needs. I would work with Equity and the independent theatre community to build and foster a stronger, more cohesive, relationship. The recent closing of Equity Showcase Theatre and the near-closing of the Western Office also strengthened my resolve to ensure that the voices of independent theatre artists are clearly a part of the decision making process. On Council, I would strive to put the Association back into the hands of its members.
My name is Richard Lee and I am an actor, fight director, sound designer and independent theatre producer. I’ve been an Equity member since 2001.
The things I’d like to see improved in our association is the way in which we deal with artists from diverse backgrounds. I’d like to find positive active ways to promote and encourage the casting of diverse artists. Canada is a multicultural society and I think it would be great to see the stages of our theatres reflecting our country’s diversity in full.
Having worked as a producer of independent theatre, I would like to see our association keep up with the various diverse practices of creating theatre. Many independent companies are evolving the way they create theatre and I feel that we, as an association, need to grow the ways in which we engage these companies. By doing so, we continue to ensure and foster safe working conditions within these unique models of practice.
I am also interested in seeing better encouragement from our association in member driven projects. Supportive understanding of the spirit of creation within our membership encourages the growth of our industry, and thereby leading to more awareness of theatre in the community at large and more opportunities for members in the long run.
The world is ever evolving and changing, and we as an association must be aware of these changes and be proactive in our approach when working with all of Equity’ s partners. I am looking forward to serving on council, to be one of the voices of our association and to work together on all fronts to find ways to engage our audience and to raise awareness of the great theatre that is being made in Canada.
Brendan Healy is the new Artistic Director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Okay, this week was supposed to be exclusively Indie Caucus related material only, but it’s not everyday that a genuine local indie director takes over a major theatre. It’s also not everyday that an important new theatre-related blog is launched. And well the two together…
My reason for running for the Equity’s Ontario CPAG is this: A few years ago a decision was made by Equity to withdraw funds from Equity Showcase. As most independent theatre people in Toronto know, Showcase was a vital rehearsal resource to Equity artists in this city. That incident, as well as concerns about the handling of indie contracts by the staff and current council at Equity, was a wake-up call for me. I was forced to consider a more proactive involvement with Equity. I believe member/creators risk losing a voice at our Association if we succumb to apathy when important decisions are being made on our behalf. I am going to fight for Equity member/creators in the GTA to receive equal and fair treatment by our Association.
I am running for the Ontario CPAG as a result of attending the AGM where the large turnout was primarily due to a pressing issue affecting members who are trying to create original theatre in tough economic times. I have served previously on Council and the National Executive and also chaired the Directors and Choreographers Committee. I believe my experience and perspective will be useful in ongoing discussions related to developing new agreements that do not undermine our existing collective agreements but also recognize our need to practice our artform and create theatre that reflects our individual passions and talent. Creating theatre is as important to our artistic development as taking classes to improve our skills. We are not just actors, directors and stage managers, some us are also creaters and therefore become producers. We need to examine the distinctions Equity makes when dealing with its own members in this regard. Even though Equity is a national organization, I think we can take into account regional differences in the same way that we recognize opera and ballet agreements are different from theatre and Stratford is different from Shaw. I would also like to explore new ways of cutting down excessive paperwork without jeopardizing security and accountability.
I am an actor, director, and Equity member since 2003. As a member who creates and produces theatre at the independent level, I am running for Ontario CPAG to help represent the voices of artists who, in order to bring their work to the stage, often take on a multitude of production responsibilities over and above the creation of their art.
Independent theatre artists who are members of CAEA and who attempt to create and mount our own work often find ourselves in an unnecessarily adversarial relationship with our own Association. If we are to continue generating new work, nurturing the development of new and diverse artists on our stages, and ensuring the viability of young theatre companies, it is essential that all members of CAEA who have a vested interest in these things make their voices heard, or risk decisions being made on our behalf without our input. We must be transparent about the frustrations and obstacles that we face, and we must continue to recommend and advocate for new models of engagement that more accurately & adequately reflect the evolving needs of the artists. These models of engagement must be as innovative as the work being created.
As your CPAG representative I intend to stand for the voices of those CAEA members who, despite the countless obstacles, bravely continue to create and produce their own work when no one else will. These member-creators not only provide constant work opportunities for other Equity members, they are the life-force of independent theatre in this city, and across the country.
This week we turn over our website to The Indie Caucus (IC), which Praxis Theatre is a member of. The IC (as no one has ever referred to it) is a TAPA committee formally announced at the 2007 AGM for the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA). It was created to provide a forum for companies to work together through the many challenges that face indie theatre in Toronto.
There is no formal membership to the IC. It is open to any TAPA member who self-identifies as an “indie” company. The IC makes decisions based on a consensus model that is inclusive to the desires of all who regularly attend meetings, and to date we have held three public town hall sessions to receive as much feedback as possible from the community about our proposals.
Unfortunately, the IC has been bogged down in 3 years of what can only be described as stonewalling by CAEA. Our attempts to come up with solutions to the problems posed by the myriad of problems the antiquated agreements they require us to use have sucked up a massive amount of volunteer hours thus far. The IC was supposed to be about working together to find to solutions to all sorts of theatre producing things: marketing, ticketing, outreach, budgeting, etc.
We’re really bored with this situation and are excited to move on to working through other challenges. A full chronology of our incredibly frustrating journey is available on the Facebook group created to communicate with likeminded artists on this topic: Artists for a New CAEA Agreement.
We definitely hit a wall when a 96-1 vote at CAEA’s last AGM to support our proposals was widely ignored by the organization. (They can do that?) Reform from the inside seems the only hope at this point as the desires of CAEA membership seems to be having little discernable effect on policy.
This week, ballots for Equity elections will be mailed to all members in good standing. Don’t throw that ballot in the garbage! Since there was only a 28% voter response from the general membership in the last Council election your vote can definitely make a difference.
The Indie Theatre Caucus at TAPA would like to independently endorse the following candidates for Ontario Council and CPAG:
Ontario Equity Councillor:
Chris Hanratty & Richard Lee
Mark Brownell, Aaron Willis & Vinetta Strombergs
These are all Equity member/creators who have actively participated in Indie Caucus activities over the past three years. All understand and are publicly supportive of the issues surrounding small independent theatre in this country. We also recommend that all members from across the country check out all of the candidate statements in your region on the Equity site by clicking here:
It is quite apparent from many of these statements which candidates support indie issues and which do not. Later this week: We hear from the Indie Caucus candidates on why they deserve your vote!
The recent BC budget called for a 90% cut to arts and culture, while most industries averaged out at 7% cutbacks: From $47.8 million in 2008/09 to $3.75 million in 2010/11. It is not hyperbolic to refer to this as utterly devastating. Within a year, many organizations will cease to exist. Looming over this “arts-pocalypse” as Globe and Mail critic Kelly Nestruck first referred to it on Twitter, is the Cultural Olympiad occuring in BC as part of the upcoming Olympic Winter Games.
The dilemna seems clear: The lead up to the games is the only time cultural leaders will have any leverage with the government. They, along with some of the best talent from across the country, are required to entertain the whole gosh-darn planet in a few of months. Afterwards it seems they will be expendable and dispensable, which is a thesis heavily supported by the provincial budget.
But who wants to mess up the Olympics? Many artists have worked their whole lives to arrive on a stage as bright as this. Almost everyone in the arts knows someone who has an amazing opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have due to the Cultural Olympiad.
How to handle this situation will certainly require a sophisticated response from BC artists. It’s a mean-spirited position to put an entire industry and community in. There has been quite a bit of action on the Facebook Group: Organizing against Campbell’s cuts to the arts. Within days it has skyroceted to almost 2500 members and looks to be a central hub for information on this topic.
Are we really going to have one of those ridiculous national “Does art matter?” conversations again? What do you think should be done? How can the rest of Canadian artists support those in BC? One day everything on this website will be about art and how much fun it is to make it!
A turnout like this means something, you know what, when your first meeting is packed up and its sold out to put it in theatre terms it means you have a hit on your hands. To put it in activist terms it means you are in a movement moment, it means if you organize it they will come. It means you have good timing. That’s the moment we’re in right now.
Naomi Klein addresses the Department of Culture organized Town Hall at The Theatre Centre, September 3rd, 2008.
The inaugural Department of Culture meeting drew hundreds of people to the Theatre Centre on the hottest day of last fall, with people spilling into the lobby and out onto the sidewalk where the event inside was telecast.
Politically, for the arts in Canada, those were some very dark days. The Conservative Government had released a number of ideologically motivated cuts to arts funding over the summer of 2008, while every day the polls showed Stephen Harper cruising to a larger majority government. The notion that Canada “had become more conservative” was being floated as a talking point, and even some of my most progressive friends were starting to reconcile themselves to a bleak five years. Our Town Hall was organized in direct opposition to that notion. We proposed that there was still time to turn this train around and that artists and arts workers could play an integral role in doing so.
The speakers were great, and the turnout was impressive, but what was really key about that meeting was it provided the three absolutely essential resources that our fledging organization needed: Money, volunteers and profile. Money came in the form of individual cash donations straight out of people’s wallets and cheques that came in over the next week. Volunteers were identified with contact info, availability and skill sets by a team entering info into a bank of laptops in the lobby. Profile came from the sheer size and enthusiasm for the event and the clearly serious manner with which our community organized.
1 year ago today, The Theatre Centre was packed to the rafters and out on to the streets.
We used each of these resources for all they worth every day from September 3rd to October 14th 2008. What was kick-started that night morphed into a national grassroots movement. Some of the actions that came out of our first event were:
Departments of Culture were set up independently by likeminded artists across the country.
These autonomous ad hoc organizations were tied together in the last week of the campaign by a series of concerts, video contests and theatre pieces, including the first ever national Wrecking Ball in ten Canadian on the same night from coast-to-coast.
Not all of the thousands of volunteers across the country relied on art. Online volunteers made our Facebook site the #4 Special Interest Group of the election according to CBC.
Swing teams targeted key 905-area ridings holding public meeting, attending debates and distributing information at GO stations and bus stations.
Our biggest electoral success was playing a part in changing the overall ballot question. 2008 was the first time that a question about culture was posed at the leader’s debate. That artists from across the country were united in their opposition to the government in both official languages had some influence on changing the question from: “Is Canada becoming more Conservative?” to a more traditional Canadian election question like: “Is Stephen Harper too ideologically motivated and out of touch with Canadian values to be trusted with a majority government?” On this question the government will fail every time.
The same creative team behind this video by Hooded Fang was the same gang behind this summer’s Fringe hit musical East of Broadway. Nice year guys.
Michael Ignatieff’s announcement two days ago that the Liberal Party would no longer prop up the Conservative Government points to a new campaign soon. Department of Culture is not affiliated with any political party, but clearly this will mark the beginning if a new chapter in arts activism in Canada.
Some of the key questions facing us are:
What role will we play this time?
How can we involve everyone who wants to participate?
Where will our resources come from?
Should we have another Town Hall to kick things off?
How do you play an effective part in an election if you don’t endorse any political parties?
What is different this election?
What is the same?
What do you think? I hope Department of Culture will be revived not just because we support the arts, but because culture is an integral part of a healthy society along with a compassionate social safety net, environmental reform, support for the rights of all Canadians, and many other things our current government opposes. Culture does not occur in a vacuum.
Whatever your thoughts, stay tuned to departmentofculture.ca for more information. It’s sure to be back up and running shortly. No, you are not experiencing deja vu. Yes, it does seem like this is exactly half over.
Harper’s Ordinary Artists by Rob Baker, Alastair Forbes, and Alex Hatz gets my vote for funniest video of the 2008 campaign.
“After the years and years of weaker and waterier imitations, we now find ourselves rejecting the very notion of a holy stage. It is not the fault of the holy that it has become a middle-class weapon to keep the children good.”