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

Date: 2012 February

February 28, 2012, by
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Last night, the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association held it’s Annual General Meeting. At that meeting, a Member’s Resolution was put forward by director, playwright and independent theatre artist Ed Roy:

WHEREAS Equity Member/Creators have demanded action on indie theatre issues for the last three years, expressed in the form of member resolutions at previous National AGMs, which resolutions passed 96-1 in February 2009, and 42-4 in October 2009;
AND WHEREAS the Independent Theatre Review Committee (ITRC) was formed in response to the demand for action on indie theatre issues and completed its work in September 2011;
AND WHEREAS the suggested policy changes resulting from the ITRC’s work on indie theatre issues have been debated and will soon be put in place by Council;
BE IT RESOLVED that Council require the Executive Director to deliver a plan that will directly address indie issues to CAEA members that will finally address indie theatre issues no later than October 31, 2012.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that should the Executive Director fail to deliver a new indie plan to CAEA members by October 31 2012, then until such time as this new indie plan is delivered, that Council enact policy to enable members to work under any currently existing CAEA agreement, policy or guideline (with the exception of engagements governed by a negotiated agreement) as such individual member deems appropriate including the Festival Policy, the Guest Artist Policy, the “Indie” Policy, the Small Scale Theatre Addendum or Co-op Guidelines, without CAEA staff approval and without CAEA penalty or repercussion.

The motion was voted on, with more than two thirds of those in attendance voting in favour.

We have written previously on the issues of Equity and the work of indie theatre artists here and here, and very much look forward to seeing a new indie agreement that reflects the results of the Independent Theatre Review Committee survey, which can be viewed here.

Both the ITRC and Council have devoted a great deal of time and energy to this initiative. It is now in the hands of the Executive Director to deliver new agreements by the October 31st deadline.  After four years of members bringing this issue forward and making it a priority, this is a very positive step for Equity.

February 24, 2012, by
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Last November we wrote about a Canadian Actors’ Equity Association Meeting and why, as independent theatre artists, it was important for you to attend.

On Monday, February 27th, the CAEA is holding its next Annual General Meeting. Given that little has changed for independent artists since we wrote our last post on the issue (or since we published “Why Canadian Actors’ Equity Association is important and why it has to change” in May of 2010), it is essential for artists who are members in good standing to attend this meeting and support each other on Monday night.

Here’s what you need to know, and what you need to pass along to all of your friends who are members of CAEA:

Who: CAEA Members in good standing (bring your membership cards!)
What: CAEA’s Annual General Meeting
When: February 27, 2012, 7pm (doors open at 6:30pm)
Where: Gladstone Hotel (Ballroom) – 1214 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON
Why: To support the efforts of independent theatre artists creating new work across Canada

We’ve heard there will be a mixer party after the meeting, so there’s another reason for you to attend!

February 22, 2012, by

Technicians in their native habitat, a small local bar. They are not impressed by your questions.

by Pip Bradford

Why hello, readers! Pip here, starting my new column on these pages: Dispatches From The Booth.

Over the past ten years, I have worked tirelessly to assimilate myself into that most elusive and mysterious of groups: theatre technicians. During that time I have developed an understanding of the workings of both technicians themselves and the artists that surround them.

For my first column, I thought I would begin with a spot of advice on that most awkward and difficult time: when technicians are encountered by just about anybody else. They are often approached with a smile, and a series of what might be considered thoughtful questions about their job. After all, who knows what technicians really do? Oh, we’ve all seen them, lurking around in the back of the theatre, a disembodied head floating in the booth, a gruff presence sweeping the floor before the show. But “being generally dodgy” cannot be the entirety of their job descriptions, can it?

Now, if you’re not a technician, and your “well-intentioned” questions are met with an eye roll and a shrug, it may be that the technician you’re talking to is just maintaining their misanthropic air of mystery. Or they may be drunk (technicians are often drunk). But it may also be that you have asked them one of the following questions*, all of which are guaranteed to earn you a scornful glance, at the very least.

*As a disclaimer, allow me to state that I have been asked all of these questions at least once, and by people working professionally in the arts.

Here they are: Five Questions You Should Never Ask A Theatre Technician:

1. What are you going to do when you stop being a technician?

Probably die.

2. Why don’t you work for Cirque du Soleil or Mirvish?

Can’t stand musicals, and I’m afraid of clowns.

3. Did you have to go to school for that?

No, I was born with an inherent grasp of photometrics, physics, engineering, mechanics, and sass.

4. How bad is the show/my performance/any other element thereof?

I don’t actually know, because I’ve never watched you perform. I’m too busy operating lighting cues, making sure the right sound cue is playing, checking that your mic is turned on, and criticizing your ability to find your light.

5. Why aren’t you an actor?

I don’t know. Why aren’t you a zookeeper?

Pip Bradford is the Mainspace Technician at Tarragon Theatre, an intern for the Toronto Fringe Festival, and is the founder of Art Is Hard, a grassroots arts philanthropy project. In her spare time, she is a gadabout and girl-around-town. She also blogs (infrequently) at The Christopher Pike Project.

February 10, 2012, by
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Praxis Theatre is involved in two events as part of Social Media Week next week, both of which address the intersection of performance and online technologies.

Although many of these events are now “sold out” for online pre-registration, there is a waiting list available at the venues, half an hour before each event begins that you can get on in person. Because all SMW events are free, it is anticipated that most events will have some people that don’t show up for their free pre-reserved spots.

Oh yeah. Both of these Social Media Week Toronto events are free.

The Online Brain created by Aislinn Rose is part of Liza Balkan's Out The Window at The Theatre Centre. The Line up for Free Fall '12 will be announced at The Drake Hotel on Monday February 13th.

What are the ways that online technologies can be used in conjunction with performance? How are digital technologies expanding the potential of art forms that have initially been analog based?

Free Fall Festival Co-Curator Michael Wheeler moderates multi-platform artists involved in The Theatre Centre’s FreeFall ’12 – ‘Performance Without A Net’. Panelists will demonstrate, discuss, and debate their mid-process methods and artistic philosophies in this interactive event.

From online “brains” that supplement the material an audience engages with live, to interactive performance that encourages audiences to upload their consciousness online, to cross-city tours that keep a mobile audience connected through social media tools, the parameters and potential of storytelling has expanded in exciting and unexpected ways.

Follow along or participate via #SMWFreeFall.


Jonathan Goldsbie on the use of Twitter in Route 510 Revisited
Aislinn Rose on an Online Brain that complements Liza Balkan’s Out The Window
Andrew Templeton on online platforms and narratives intersecting with Radix Theatre’s Babylonia.

Melissa Hood prepares her notes before a workshop presentation of Open Source Theatre Project

Yes, that’s right, it’s the romantic Valentine’s Day activity you’ve been looking for. Set the flowers and chocolates aside and come talk internet, community and theatre.

Praxis Theatre and the Toronto Fringe will co-host a case-study analysis of the work that Praxis makes in tandem with online community building activities, and how that community in turn helps build the work.

A presentation lead by the editors of and community members, this conversation aims to not only explore the notion of social media as audience development tool, but also performance development. A conversation for industry professionals, students, producers, media, PR professionals, and industry enthusiasts.

Follow along or participate via #SMWPraxis.

February 7, 2012, by

by Michael Wheeler

The movement to work outside strictly partisan lines to take Parliament back from a Harper Conservative Party supported by a minority of Canadians has been bolstered recently by some incredibly persuasive data.

95% of the 8000 people who responded to Leadnow support cross-party cooperation to form a progressive government that represents the majority of Canadians.

Last Friday, Leadnow, an “independent advocacy organization that brings generations of Canadians together to achieve progress through democracy” sent an email to their over 80,000 supporters titled, “Maybe the most important question we’ll ever ask you“. The email asked for a response to the strategy of PRE-election cooperation to defeat Harper, followed by electoral reform.

The response: 95% agreed.

This sort of decisive message will necessarily impact the NDP leadership race, with some pundits already referring to it as a game changer.

Thus far, Nathan Cullen has been the only candidate to support this idea and is routinely under fire for promoting what is considered heresy by hardcore New Democrats, many of whom have spent careers battling the Liberal Party.

Yet, it’s hard to imagine an organization more representative of who the opposition parties will need to join them moving forward than Leadnow. These results indicate that what was once a disadvantage for Cullen – promoting cooperation to a heavily partisan audience – may put him on the key side of a decisive issue.

Political observers of all stripes agree electoral success for opposition parties will come from engaging and expanding youth-led groups that have been present in grassroots movements like Occupy, but have been seriously under-represented in recent elections. The Leadnow response makes it clear that a ‘Single Party or Bust’ strategy will appeal to only 5% of this key cohort, or 1 out of 20 potential recruits to the cause.

The almost unanimous response from Leadnow members indicates candidates who promote cooperation with other parties as best presenting ideas and solutions that have the potential to expand party membership and excite voters.

Nathan Cullen talks to poet Shane Koyczan on the lack of youth engagement in Canadian politics and its relationship to political parties.

None of this will come as a surprise to EKOS pollster Frank Graves who recently released ‘Beyond The Horse Race’ a 7-part series on iPolitics investigating trends and issues that are informing the Canadian electorate. Amongst the conclusions reached in Part 5 ‘How Do We Cure Democratic Malaise?’:

  • Canadian views of political parties have declined even more steeply than trust in other portions of government including parliamentary democracy, bureaucracy, or even elected representatives.
  • When presented with the statement, “Political parties have outlived their usefulness and it is time for a new type of political institution.” only 44% disagreed.
  • “NDP supporters are less convinced of the continued relevance of political parties” than Liberal or Conservative supporters.
  • “In younger, non-voting Canada … there is massive mistrust and disagreement with key national decisions. We see that trust in democracy and government is declining to areas which cause one to think about issues of fundamental legitimacy.”

Considered in tandem, the Leadnow response and the EKOS data combine to make a powerful statement:

The younger generation of Canadians, even those who are politically engaged, are opting out of participating in the current form of democracy. The #1 factor that is informing this lack of engagement is the rigid party system that currently exists in Canada. While New Democrats voting in a leadership race should take this information to heart immediately, so should the other opposition parties – the echo chamber of partisan politics is severely limiting growth for all of them.

Moving beyond their own self-interest to that of the country may ironically be their best chance for electoral success. Increasingly, progressive Canadians seem to be demanding cooperation from their political opposition that will allow them to vote FOR and not AGAINST something, through  a serious and credible movement to form a government that represents the majority of Canadians.

You might remember Koyczan from such hits as The Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympic Games.

February 2, 2012, by
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CLICK IMAGE TO WATCH VIDEO: "I swear that I will be faithful and bear true alliance to his Majesty Stephen Harper, King of Canada, His Heirs and Successors (cough) Jason Kenney..."

by Michael Wheeler

After years of slashing and bashing the Canadian arts community, the Harper Government has finally decided to embrace live theatre through an exciting new partnership just launched with co-producer SUN TV.

Under the terms of the arrangement just leaked this morning by The Globe and Mail, taxpayer funded Federal bureaucrats will be considered “in kind” donations to the Qubecor-owned news station. Leveraging the value that public servants can return to the taxpayer has been a Harper Government priority since their election in 2006, and under a majority government Canadians can expect to see increased focus on public/private initiatives that promote cultural works.

The play which was also simulcast across the nation via SUN TV is titled Welcome To Canada.  A parody based on traditional stereotypes corporate media often tries to espouse as common to the immigrant experience, it requires performers with little to no training to act as if they have just arrived in the country and have been harassed by government officials over the phone to re-state their citizenship vows live for pro-corporate television cameras.

As a cross-platform multimedia performance, this type of groundbreaking work exploring the many layers of the immigrant experience places the Harper Government at the vanguard of cultural expression. Rare is the work that finds a way to embrace community outreach and fiction in a way that intersects with core questions of Canadian identity. Could this type of commitment to put significant taxpayer funds into live theatre signal the beginning of a Canadian cultural renaissance?

SUN TV has yet to comment on the exciting possibilities this new arrangement has for the network to reduce the labour costs on Ezra Levant’s upcoming 24-part mini-series, “It’s Okay to Torture Children I Don’t Like“.