Thursday, 20 March 2014

Gathering Together at the Theatre Ontario PTTP Grant Recipient Learning Circle

By Andrea Thring

While Canada feels very small with regards to the arts, the community can feel beyond reach at times. As an emerging artist or a person who is a newcomer to the community due to career change or epiphany, it can feel impossible to ‘break in.’  Personally, it has felt as if access was barely out of reach or just beyond a glass wall. I have often asked myself, “How do I get in there?”

The PTTP Learning Circle
(L to R) Sophia Fabiilli, Andrea Thring, Wesley Colford,
Luke LaRocque, Mairin Smit of Theatre Ontario, and
Annie LeFebvre (Skyping in from Ottawa)
The Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) grant itself has offered a window into this world, and the Learning Circle I attended in March helped to open the window even more.  A diverse group of people, there was much for us to talk about. While our projects were quite different, our experiences seemed to be similar: stay at it, track people down, squeeze yourself in, and just keep showing up.

I came away from the gathering feeling refreshed and supported, but most of all I felt validated. The meeting confirmed hunches I have had over the years that have gone relatively unspoken. No matter the specialization, it’s rare for an arts-related career or project to have a clear and direct trajectory. Often our mentors are scrambling as much as we are, but on a different level. There is no clear course. While fast friendships are made, they are difficult to sustain over time. We are often on our own.

This last point is what made the learning circle such an important part of my PTTP experience, and as an emerging artist in general. For those two hours we weren’t on our own. It was exciting to sit at a table with ‘bigger picture’ artists, mainly people interested in artistic direction, general managing, and producing. Whether our conversations focused on wig design or door-to-door hustling for the Fringe, it was a delight to share my time with such interested people.

I look forward to the next gathering. It’s hard to say whether or not the others gleaned as much from the experience as I did. It may just be my background in community-engaged arts but I find get-togethers like this essential to keep motivated, keep at it, and keep reaching.

Andrea Thring trained in community-engaged theatre arts at Community Arts Guild with Beth Helmers

From another participant:
"The Professional Theatre Training Program was a unique and invaluable means of getting hands-on experience in an industry that is by nature experience-based. Having an opportunity to connect with current grant recipients was a fantastic way to share that experience while being reminded that sometimes the most unexpected challenges can in fact offer the greatest potential for growth. Hearing of similar disappointment in fields we have no control over, such as funding, served as inspiration to more fully appreciate the aspects we can control and the wealth of generosity within those special people who have taken on the role of 'mentor'."
Wesley Colford trained in producing and artistic direction at Small Wooden Shoe Theatre with Jacob Zimmer

PTTP is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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