Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The YAC's 2nd Event of 2016: Play Date!

We at the YAC were so excited to see so many new and eager faces out at our May event "Now What: An Emerging Artist's Guide to the Theatre Universe" that we couldn't wait to follow it up! "Now What" was all about helping young theatre artists navigate a professional community that was new to them. We had lots of recent and soon-to-be theatre school grads in attendance, many from our event venue, the Randolph Academy. We started thinking about what that first September out of school was like for each of us. The answer? Hard; but made so much easier by keeping busy. "Play Date" was born out of the desire to help emerging artists feel situated in their larger theatre community even as they no longer have a school program to anchor them.

Networking is a word that gets thrown around a lot across all fields, and for many people (myself included, I'll admit) it's a scary word that connotes strategic conversations, studying names ahead of time, and something of an agenda. In other words: cold and calculating. But networking is what happens when your friend introduces you to someone they went to school with and you realize you both saw the same show at Fringe; it doesn't have to be scary at all. With "Play Date," we wanted to demystify networking, make it seem less intimating, and encourage young theatre lovers and creators to think beyond meeting, say, the artistic director of their dream company; we feel that it is equally valuable to get to know one another: your peers are your future collaborators, cast-mates, and—not the least—friends, even if they look just as uncomfortable in an unfamiliar room as you do. We didn't want to create a "networking for the sake of networking" atmosphere, rather we hoped to demonstrate that meeting new people and forging connections is something that can happen (perhaps inadvertently) while you're having fun! "Play Date" was structured around that thing that we all love so dearly in the theatre: the play. After all, what's easier to talk about than your favourite play?

On Monday, September 12th, our guests started arriving at our venue, the Central in Toronto's annex, at 8 PM. They wrote the name of their favourite play (a challenge for many, we were told - who has just one?) on name tags and received their copy of Human Bingo, an activity we loved as an icebreaker at Paprika's Intersection in March and adapted to go with our play theme. Everyone had to find someone to match a description in each box, with examples including "Has read Judith Thompson's The Crackwalker," "Saw a show at Summerworks," and "Has seen Kinky Boots more than once."

Toronto photographer Philip Zave was on hand to snap photos for us and mingled right along with everyone else. Philip excepted, our 20+ guests were exclusively female! This was unexpected but ultimately, we felt, helped create an instant sense of community. Everyone was kind and open and spent lots of time talking to new people. Many guests were one year out of theatre school or identified this as their very first September without a school to go back to. We also met several people who had just moved to Toronto—some from as far away as Wales and as recently as three weeks ago!

Our play exchange proved a great success—a large number of people brought plays to contribute to the exchange, and the plays that we had ready upon arrival, supplied by Theatre Ontario and our own libraries, were great conversation starters as people milled about and found them set out on patio tables. We were pretty excited about the main game of the night: it was a mix of Balderdash and Apples to Apples but it was all about PLAYS, so how could we not be? The way it worked was we split into two groups and everyone took turns reading the title and author of a play from a piece of paper and each person had to invent a two-sentence synopsis for the play, even if they recognized it. The best (or wildest) synopsis won each round, and then everyone got to hear the actual summary of the play! Many of these plays were there to be exchanged, and hearing what they were about helped spark interest in them and ensured they were scooped up by the end of the night. Mission: expose people to new plays, accomplished. This game brought out the best in our incredibly innovative (and hilarious) guests. As our photographer Philip put it, "there is so much creativity in this room!" I, for one, would definitely read a version of Ibsen's The Wild Duck featuring "Paul," who "has an identity crisis and is convinced that he is a duck; attempts to exist solely on crackers." We loved the way everyone dove into this game, and we had so much fun! (Play lovers, feel free to snag this idea—you won't regret it.)

In what felt like no time at all, our fruit and veggie platters (generously provided by Sobeys on DuPont and Shaw) dwindled and the cheesy aromas of Panago Pizza wafted in from the other room. We were so lucky to have "Play Date" fuelled by Panago's #RandomActsOfPizza, and we can assure you that none of it went to waste! Guests mingled over slices and we announced the raffle winners of a brand new copy of Caryl Churchill's Cloud 9 and a free Theatre Ontario workshop: Building Your Brand As An Artist with Edward Power, coming up in November. We had thought the night would end there, but no! Our lovely and effusive Play Daters stayed chatting for another hour and a half! On their way out the door there were many calls of "Don't forget to email me" and "Thanks for the Life Chats!" Needless to say, our hearts were warmed. We love connecting people and helping them feel welcome in the theatre community—and based on the feedback we got from our guests, we accomplished just that! 

Stay up to date with the YAC by liking our Facebook page! As always, we welcome questions and feedback at youth@theatreontario.org. We also invite you to learn more about "Now What: The Care Package" on the Theatre Ontario website

The 2016 Youth Advisory Committee is Annie MacKay and Jocelyn MacNeil. For this event we had tremendous help from volunteer (and recent Randolph grad) Sarah Bransfield. We would also like to acknowledge the support of Claudia, Brandon, and Bruce at Theatre Ontario, our photographer Philip Zave, Brittany Townsend at Snapd Toronto, Sobeys at DuPont and Shaw, Panago Pizza for fueling this event, and the Central for generously offering a free space! We truly appreciate everyone who came out to "Play Date" and we are so grateful for their pay-what-you-can donations, which help us continue to create these opportunities for Ontario youth involved in theatre.

Monday, 24 October 2016

ONstage Openings for the week of October 24

ONstage Opening in Toronto
Piya Behruiya (Twelfth Night) at Soulpepper Theatre
Mansi Multani, Geetanjali Kulkarni
Photo by The Company Theatre
This week’s openings on Ontario’s stages

In Toronto

Oct. 27, Piya Behrupiya (Twelfth Night) at Soulpepper Theatre
Oct. 29, acquiesce at fu-GEN Theatre Company, in previews

In Central Ontario

Oct. 28, Gloria’s Guy at Blackhorse Village Players (Tottenham), with a preview on Oct. 26

In South Central Ontario

Oct. 28, The Haunted Library at Shadowpath Theatre Productions (Newmarket)

In Southwestern Ontario

ONstage Opening in Southwestern Ontario
Steel Magnolias at St. Marys Community Players
Oct. 28, The Nether at Theatre Aquarius (Hamilton), with previews from Oct. 26
Oct. 28, La Ronde at London Community Players, with a preview on Oct. 27
Oct. 28, Steel Magnolias at St. Marys Community Players, with a preview on Oct. 27 
Oct. 28, Rabbit Hole at Dundas Little Theatre (Hamilton)

For all the theatre playing across Ontario, visit Theatre Ontario’s ONstage theatre listings on our website

Friday, 21 October 2016

Ontario Off Stage

by Brandon Moore, Community Theatre and Communications Manager

Conversation Starters

  • Alex Colle, a fourth-year Theatre major at York University wrote about what he has been learning as a playwriting student.
  • Cautionary example of how NOT to market your immersive theatre experience, and why you should always reflect on your audience’s experience, from Cindy Marie Jenkins.
  • Centennial College is currently in the process of developing a new post-graduate program called Arts in Community Education. They are seeking feedback from prospective students of this program for arts education and community development activities. At this phase, this is a confidential investigation in order to better inform the team working on the new program. The survey is active until the end of the month and the developers would be very grateful for any and all participation. Help shape the future of arts education training in Canada.

Behind the Scenes at Ontario’s Theatres

Andy Trasuk

TO Toasts

In Case You Missed It

You can also receive news from Theatre Ontario every month by email. Our archives are online and the October issue is now available.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program

Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Today we feature five stories:
The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is March 1, 2017.

Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Jane Spence

Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Jane Spence will train in artistic direction with David Nairn at Theatre Orangeville.

(September 7, 2016) In just one short week I officially begin training to be an Artistic Director under the mentorship of David Nairn at Theatre Orangeville. I met Mr. Nairn six years ago when I first performed for Theatre Orangeville. Immediately I felt there was something special about this theatre. Mr. Nairn is a humble, generous man whose passion for theatre is infectious. People love working for him and he has created a sense of pride in the Theatre throughout the Orangeville community. The audience members are so invested in the company that they thank the actors for coming to “their” theatre.  I witnessed the impact this Theatre has had on its community and it inspired me to explore that relationship in every theatre I have worked for since. It’s through these experiences that I have expanded the vision for my career.  I am so very grateful Mr. Nairn is taking me under his wing. I have enormous respect and admiration for how he operates Theatre Orangeville and its mission statement encapsulates all that I desire to achieve in theatre.
Theatre Orangeville Mission Statement:
To enrich the community with high quality, professional theatre experience, that showcases the development of new Canadian works. To provide youth with unique opportunities to transform their lives through the performing arts. To provide vibrant, engaging and creative opportunities that grow the cultural experience through community partnerships.

There is so much to learn from someone with Mr. Nairn’s passion and vision.  Under his leadership, Theatre Orangeville has become a successful regional theatre that creates high quality professional productions of new Canadian work. As well as the education programing that enriches more than three hundred students every year, they have created unprecedented programs and partnerships. Creative Partners on Stage (CPOS) offers intellectually challenged adults an opportunity to perform original plays that celebrate the abilities of every participant and Theatre Orangeville Exceptional Players (TOEP) providing a performing arts program for special needs children. I was so moved as an audience member watching a CPOS production, realizing the potential theatre has to truly change and improve people’s lives.

Mr. Nairn has brought together an excellent staff who he values and empowers. As a result he has created a very dedicated company who enjoy what they do and constantly strive to exceed expectations. While he appreciates and recognizes his team’s successes, he is always seeking avenues for growth and improvement on what Theatre Orangeville can accomplish. He is the kind of leader I aspire to be.

The next few months promise to be a busy and exciting time. I will be enhancing my skills as a director by assisting on two productions, Miracle on 34th Street with Mr. Nairn and Ghost Island Light with Derek Ritschel, another Artistic Director for whom I have great respect.  I will be afforded the opportunity to participate in casting sessions, production meetings, board meetings, classes and workshops of new plays. I will strengthen my ability to support the creation of new work by examining how the New Play Development Program and the education programs are structured. I will also witness plenary sessions, funding and budgeting meetings. I anticipate learning an immense amount observing these various processes and Mr. Nairn has made me feel my input and contributions are welcome. I look forward to testing and honing my skills with the responsibilities given to me. I have even been assigned the fabulous task of helping create a new play festival of sorts (details to be revealed later). I am thrilled to be a part of this project and am eager to meet with organizers, to learn the process and logistics necessary behind producing a festival.

I feel so fortunate to have this career changing opportunity and the guidance of this amazing mentor.

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is March 1, 2017.

Learn more about Theatre Ontario's Professional Theatre Training Program

Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.