Thursday, 30 October 2014

Building Connections at Ontario Summer Theatre

By Erin Keating, Program Coordinator

On a crisp fall day in early October, just when the changing of the leaves was at its most vibrant, I left downtown Toronto with our E.D. Bruce Pitkin, and drove up north to the picturesque Muskoka region, where at a rustic inn on the shore of Lake Joseph, Artistic Directors and General Managers from theatre companies across the province were converging to share ideas, resources, and experiences at the Annual General Meeting of Ontario Summer Theatre.

Formerly known as ASTRO (Association of Summer Theatres ‘Round Ontario) since its inception nearly twenty years ago, this past year marked a major overhaul for the organization—bringing in a new name, new brand, new logo, new website, and new resolve. Under the hands-on leadership of the Ontario Summer Theatre (OST) executive committee—with Port Dover’s Lighthouse Theatre Festival’s A.D. Derek Ritschel at the helm—OST has become the strongest it’s been in many years over the past twelve months, with no signs of slowing down the new initiatives any time soon.

The mandate of Ontario Summer Theatre (OST) is to bring together summer theatre companies of all shapes, sizes and ideologies—from one-person run theatre companies like the Actors’ Colony Theatre in Bala (who served as AGM host) to heavy hitters like the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake—to foster partnerships and creative opportunities, collaborate on marketing strategies, and keep connections alive, well, and informed, among Ontario’s summer theatre companies.

The strength of the organization is two-fold. As an entire unit—with its span from the north-east corner of Morrisburg (Upper Canada Playhouse) to south-west side of Petrolia (Victoria Playhouse) and 19 other theatres in between—there is great weight and influence to the organization as a united front. While also, there is lots of room for opportunities among regional allies—an advantage that was realized and developed at this year’s AGM with the appointment of positions tongue-in-cheekily titled “whips” for each region—named because their role is to whip their region’s theatres into united action.

Other valuable steps forward that were covered in the annual wrap-up included the new streamlined website that was launched earlier this spring and populated over the summer with delightful travel stories of blogger Anne Heathcote as she traveled to many of the OST member theatres (have a read of some of her adventures at

The new and much-anticipated OST postcards were unveiled as well, to be distributed by all the companies once next summer’s season starts. These practical pieces of shared marketing material are meant to be used as actual postcards, to be mailed by patrons to friends if they see a show they like—a fun way to send recommendations and encourage word-of-mouth. And with the line “You won’t believe what’s playing in our backyard!” across the front of the postcard, it’s an evident recognition and celebration of the talent and amazing productions that can be found all around the province, whether in a barn (like Globus Theatre in Bobcaygeon and Westben Arts Festival in Campbellford), on the waterfront (like St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott and 1000 Islands Playhouse in Ganananoque) or passing through town in a travelling caravan (like Driftwood Theatre).

Perhaps the most valuable part of this two-day AGM in the heart of cottage country was not the official meetings themselves, but after the meetings wrapped for the day, when everyone was able to let our hair down, have dinner and drinks, talk projects, talk experiences, have the opportunity to get to know each other face-to-face when these opportunities don’t present themselves very often. This is so important not only because exchange of ideas—especially in a room full of exceedingly creative minds—can provide inspiration, improvement, and opportunities for collaboration, but also because making new connections and reinforcing existing connections will only strengthen the unit, thereby strengthening each individual in turn. And that, to me, is what Ontario Summer Theatre is all about.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Browsing The Bulletin Board

Coming Up from Theatre Ontario
  • Free upcoming Webinars for Small Budget Arts Organizations include the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act on October 30, and Facebook—A really useful marketing tool on November 20
  • Audition Talk Back, with our panel of Joanne Williams, Elley-Ray, and Andrew Lamb is on November 3 in Toronto: Preparation, etiquette and expectations
  • Launching Your Career on November 5 in Toronto with Erin Keating and a special guest actor: Answers to your FAQs about the business of acting
  • Artist as Entrepreneur Boot Camp on November 15 in Toronto: Learn the necessary skills to produce creative works, including business planning, promoting on social media, crowdfunding essentials, and participate in a mock grant jury
  • Bridging the Gap, from Theatre Ontario’s Youth Advisory Committee, is on November 15 in Toronto—sharing perspectives, knowledge and experience, connecting, networking and collaborating
  • Grant Writing Information Session for Theatre Individuals and Groups on November 18 in Barrie with Pat Bradley: a free workshop for anyone looking for tips and must-dos for preparing an application to the Ontario Arts Council
  • Financial Basics for Artists on November 24 in Toronto: a free workshop on basic financial skills
Check out all of our upcoming Career Stream and Creator Stream workshops

Upcoming on The Bulletin Board
  • Tarragon Theatre’s Playwriting course with Paula Wing begins on October 30
  • Deadline to apply to the Toronto Fringe Festival’s OAC Theatre Creators Reserve is October 31
  • Scarborough Music Theatre is hosting a workshop on auditions on November 1
  • Deadline to apply to the Ontario Arts Council’s Theatre Organizations—Summer Theatres program and Compass program is November 3
  • Deadline to apply to the Ontario Trillium Foundation next round of grants is November 3
  • Deadlines to apply to the Toronto Fringe Festival for the Fringe Lottery and the Culturally Diverse Artists Project is November 3; Site-Specific applications are open until all spaces are full
  • Playwrights Canada Press’ 30th birthday party is November 3
Check out these items, and other postings from our members of funding opportunities, workshops, calls for submission, awards, and more—on Theatre Ontario’s Bulletin Board on our website

Theatre Ontario individual members can also access auditions and job postings on our Theatre Ontario Individual Member Resources on our website

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Managing Your Career: A Theatre Ontario Boot Camp

by Biden Hall

On Saturday, October 18, I had the opportunity to attend Theatre Ontario’s Managing Your Career Boot Camp workshop series.  The day was filled with a set of four workshops designed for self-employed artists in the theatre to give them the skills and knowledge to build their entrepreneurial capacity.  The workshops included:
  • Building Your Brand as an Artist with Edward Power
  • Social Media as a Professional Tool with Seb FoxAllen
  • We Want You...Now Sign! with Derrick Chua
  • Ask an Agent.  Everything you’ve always wanted to know… with Alicia Jeffery
Each of these workshops focused on the actor's experience establishing themselves as a business owner, and providing them with instruction in laying the foundation for representing themselves to the various individuals and professionals who together form the network which makes this industry.

That word - represent - was key in each session.  Actors are often at a loss to know how they should conduct themselves in different areas, such as with the public, their agent, or in signing themselves to contracts.

The great advantage of this series was that it got you in the room speaking with specialists in particular fields.  Edward Power discussed the actor as their own business, company, and brand, who has to have a clear understanding of the service they provide.  He focused on the steps taken to get there, and true to his name, empowered us to believe that with the right tenacity, baby steps could take us to where we wanted to be.
“Don’t overestimate what you can do in a year, or underestimate what you can do in a lifetime.”- Edward Power
Theatre Ontario's Managing
Your Career Boot Camp
Seb FoxAllen’s presentation on social media use was extremely relevant and was much appreciated for its practical application.  As a medium that is still undergoing daily changes and developments, I found it extremely useful to speak with someone who is on the front line of presenting an online profile for artists. I came away with a plethora of ways which I could use to improve my own online footprint in my current work.  Seb identified the most relevant social media sites to use for given purposes, and included some of the most up-and-coming new applications.

Derrick Chua’s talk on the ins and outs of contract law was invaluable.  There isn’t a better person to learn this from since the topic is one which, lacking the proper know-how, causes so much grief for people in the field. With such a wealth of experience, and being an entertainment lawyer himself, Derrick brought us through the various types of agreements between actors, companies, and ad hoc groups.

The final session complimented Derrick’s and was a chance to speak with talent agent Alicia Jeffery, who gave pointers on how to cultivate the relationship with your agent from the first meeting, to the first audition, and beyond.

Having recently moved to Toronto, and begun my career in artistic administration, this boot camp was an invaluable opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge in a range of key areas.  For myself, precisely because my career path continues to develop and branch out, a wide net of skills is exactly what I need to set up and promote myself as an artist and manager.

The entire day was like one great bath of expertise which I was able to slowly soak in.  Personally, the most valuable and relevant section for me in my current work was Seb’s instruction in social media’s latest trends. I can say though that there was a variety of backgrounds and goals among the day’s participants, which only added to the value of my own experience there.  Meeting new people and benefiting from everyone’s shared experiences was a huge part of the day, and that’s what the biggest takeaway for me will be.

Going forward, I can apply what I’ve learned here and build on the new relationships I’ve made.  With my new knowledge I can better focus on and define my goals both in the short and long term.  And meanwhile I’ll keep checking back with Theatre Ontario to see what other learning opportunities are on offer.

Find out about Theatre Ontario's upcoming Career Stream workshops and Creator Stream workshops

Monday, 27 October 2014

ONstage Openings for the week of October 27

In South Central Ontario
Oct. 31, Dead North (staged reading) at Theatre 3x60 (Oshawa)

In Toronto
ONstage Opening in Toronto
What I learned from a decade of fear at Aluna Theatre
Beatriz Pizano and Lyon Smith
Photo by Trevor Schwellnus
Oct. 29, Spoon River at Soulpepper Theatre, in previews
Oct. 30, The King and I at Scarborough Music Theatre
Oct. 30, What I learned from a decade of fear at Aluna Theatre
Nov. 1, Sing and Dance at Solar Stage Children's Theatre
Nov. 2, The Mask Messenger at Solar Stage Children's Theatre

In Central Ontario

Oct. 29, A Little Quickie at Blackhorse Village Players (Tottenham)
Oct. 31, Twelve Angry Jurors at Peterborough Theatre Guild

ICYMI: Check out last week’s openings

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

Friday, 24 October 2014

Ontario Off Stage

by Brandon Moore, Communications Coordinator

Conversation Starters
Behind the Scenes at Ontario’s Theatres
From the Wire
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.