Thursday, 19 December 2013

What’s Making Me Happy: Finding Abundance

By Brandon Moore, Communications Coordinator

In last year’s year-in-review column, I committed to seeking out the abundance in the theatre ecosystem.  As was well-argued on, it’s easy to slip into patterns of “black magical thinking” that frame the theatre environment negatively in order to fit challenging circumstances, usually by assuming “stupidity or evil” on the part of the public, audiences, governments, funders, and other theatre-makers.  Scarcity thinking is a destructive force—we need to be intentional in counter-programming that noisy negativity.  We need to keep listening for abundance.  We need to keep talking about abundance.

Shaw Festival's Lady Windermere's Fan
Marla McLean
Photo by David Cooper
Our stages continue to be filled with an abundance of talent and creativity.  This past year I saw compelling theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and in Orangeville, and in Toronto on stages both large and small—and I also heard about far too much compelling theatre that I wasn’t able to fit into my limited budget and a 24-hour day.

Our community of Fringe Festivals continue to grow and explore their role in the ecosystem.  The Toronto Fringe Festival held its first “Town Hall”; there are people in new leadership roles in Hamilton, Ottawa, and Toronto; and in 2014, we’ll see the launch of an entirely new Fringe Festival in Durham Region.  Fringe continues to provide vital infrastructure to the lucky producers who win the Fringe lotteries, and make the most of their opportunities.

Theatres are getting better at blogging.  Whether it was Buddies In Bad Times’ Gay Heritage Blog Salon related to their production of The Gay Heritage Project; Acting Up Stage Company’s Musical Notes, sharing composers’ inspiration playlists, or reflecting on various influences of Canadian musical theatre production; or Theatre Passe Muraille’s flashbacks through the theatre’s forty-five year legacy in Canadian theatre history—more and more theatre blogs are and finding their way onto my reading list.  I’m having a hard time keeping up.  Meanwhile, the trail-blazers at Praxis Theatre and 2AMTheatre seem to be blogging less frequently—because they’re busy creating.  As it should be (not to say that they aren’t missed…)  Likewise, while social media continues to get noisier, and the loudest voices with the deepest pockets try to drown out conversation, authentic connections are still being made, bringing together artists, colleagues, and audiences.

We’re making progress in significant areas of collaboration.  The Ontario Ministry of Labour published the provincial health and safety guidelines for live performance online, making these important resources far more accessible.  Canadian Actors Equity launched new policies to facilitate small-scale theatre production.  The New Play Exchange is moving towards revolutionizing how theatres and playwrights can connect with each other.

Community theatres continue to explore new play development in new and exciting ways.  Playwrights from Grassroots: Original Plays From Ontario Community Theatres—our anthology published by Playwrights Canada Press—had new plays premiere in Elmira (Michael Grant’s Shorthanded at Elmira Theatre Company), North Bay (Kristin Sheppard’s Hope Op at Gateway Theatre Guild), and Toronto (Joan Burrows’ Gloria’s Guy at Alumnae Theatre.)  Joan’s Willow Quartet was published this year by Playwrights Canada Press, and I had the pleasure of participating in the reading at their Fall launch at Buddies.  Grassroots itself was cited with an honourable mention by the Canadian Association for Theatre Research for their Patrick O’Neill Award, recognizing Dennis Johnson’s work as editor of the anthology while he was our Community Theatre Coordinator at Theatre Ontario.

Peterborough Theatre Guild's P.S. Uncle Angus
Roy Braun, Justin Boyd, Pat Maitland,
Steve Russell, Susan Gontier, Laura Kennedy
Festivals are also connecting these original works to other community theatres.  Robert Ainsworth’s The Mouse House, presented by Peterborough Theatre Guild and winner of Outstanding Production at Theatre Ontario Festival 2012, was produced this past November at both Guelph Little Theatre and The Curtain Club in Richmond Hill: the respective Western Ontario Drama League (WODL) and Association of Community Theatres—Central Ontario (ACT-CO) representatives at Festival 2012.  Neil Marr’s P.S. Uncle Angus premiered at Markham Little Theatre in 2010, won the Outstanding Production of a Drama at that year’s ACT-CO Festival, and this past year was presented in Peterborough, directed by that ACT-CO Festival adjudicator, Bea Quarrie (our adjudicator at Theatre Ontario Festival 2014 in Sarnia.)

I’m looking forward to seeing what 2014 brings.  I want to find ways to see more theatre—both in our centres of Ontario theatre, and in our “maker communities” where the “research & development” happens.  I’m looking forward to continuing to find meaningful connections.  Brilliant ideas are out there.  They’re hard to find, but all it takes is a little listening.

Where did you find abundance in 2013?

(With a tip of the hat to Travis Bedard for inspiring the post’s framing device—second year in a row)

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