Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Dan Watson

What Goes on in the Mind of an Arts Administrator
Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Dan Watson of Huntsville is training in artistic direction with Franco Boni at The Theatre Centre.

(February 26, 2016) I think that this graphic sums up where I am in this development period. That is to say, there is a lot on my mind. Some are for now. Some are for later. But it’s so exciting and fulfilling to have this time and brain space to learn, ponder, imagine and scheme. Halfway through, I can see where I’ve come from, and the road ahead feels very long. But I’m happy to be travelling it, and am so grateful to Theatre Ontario for giving me the fuel.

So what have you been doing Dan?

Meetings, Meetings & Meetings. I’ve had a bunch with my mentor Franco Boni who has been a huge resource of knowledge, advice and source of honest and helpful feedback. Franco asks good questions. He supports me and challenges me. We’ve been looking at my activities in Huntsville, really clarifying what I want to achieve, and offering me different resources to help me get there. Staff at The Theatre Centre have also been so helpful, in particular Christine Pellerin, Director of Development and Partnerships. She has offered me her perspective on developing relationships that lead to donations and sponsorships and a bunch of practical resources that can help me do it.

Pitching at the Push Festival
Travelling. I travelled to the Push Festival in Vancouver for a week where I had the opportunity to give a 10 minute pitch to a packed room of national and international presenters and theatre makers. I also got to see a number of incredible shows, projects and pitches. I also participated in panel discussions and round tables on different topics related to my professional development. I came away from the festival having made a number of really important introductions and connections. In particular, I was happy to meet Ron Barry from the Fusebox Festival in Austin Texas. The lessons I’ve learned from him will be so important for the future and the Nuit Blanche North Festival I run in Huntsville.

Ice Follies in North Bay
More Travelling. I also travelled to North Bay for the Ice Follies festival. This is a 2-week festival of theatre and live art that takes place on frozen Lake Nipissing. To the right is the only photo I could take before my phone died due to the -40c temperature! The festival happens through the collaboration of three organizations: Aanmitaagzi, Near North Media Lab, and the White Water Gallery. Not only was the event incredible and totally unique to the area, it was also a great model for how organizations can work together to make an event happen. The connections I made here were so important, and I believe can lead to collaborations between Edge of the Woods in Huntsville and these collectives.

Circles of Influence Analysis with Ruth Howard
Analyzing & Imagining. Through consultation with Franco Boni, and with Ruth Howard of Jumblies Theatre, I’ve been looking at Edge of the Woods Theatre: where we’ve been, where we are and where we want to go. In particular, we’ve been looking at who surrounds the organization, and trying to define what those relationships mean, what we want from them and how to go about it. We also have been looking at who isn’t there, and how we can invite them in. Through this process I’ve realized how important it is to tell your story, the work needed to craft that story and the importance of telling it to lots of people. I’ve started doing it already. Franco helped me prepare a presentation for a meeting with our local MPP Norm Miller to ask for recommendations of possible board members and contacts with different organizations in the region. I’ve also been talking to local artists, friends, colleagues. I’ve realized telling our story is Theatre, and that I need to put as much work into it as I do in the rehearsal room.

And What Have You Learned?

It takes time. Like many artists and organizations, I work project to project. I like it. It gives me flexibility to follow my impulses and interests. I also recognize that it has encouraged me to think in the short term. Developing partnerships has always been about immediate needs of a particular project. Once the project is done, do I keep up the connection? Sometimes yes, but often no. I always knew it was about developing relationships, but I don’t think I ever understood it. I maybe still don’t. Relationships take time to cultivate. Some won’t work out. Some will. So which ones to work on? Which to let go? That takes constant work and reflection. But I feel relieved of the pressure too. It’s okay Dan, it’s going to take time, you don’t have to make it all happen right now. In particular, I’m excited about the connections that I’ve made with presenters, and the process of getting supporters and potential donors/sponsors excited in what I’m doing. By thinking long term, I feel the pressure is off. Just keep finding reasons to engage, and when you get to the table with them, listen.

Who’s Asking? I’ve learned a lot about fundraising and partnership development and a huge eye opener is: it’s not just about what you’re asking for, but who’s asking for it. That’s what boards are for Dan! Of course! It’s related to so many things I’m learning. Telling your story can get people excited. That excitement can motivate people into action, to advocating on your behalf and introducing you to people in their world. Relationships grow (but not too fast!). That’s how you build support, really that’s how you build community. It sounds obvious, but it’s not, and damn it’s hard to do!

Look North. I feel like a fool. I’ve been working in my home town of Huntsville, making connections with organizations and artists in Toronto, inviting them up. It’s been wonderful. But then I look one hour up the road to North Bay and discover a bunch of great people, people that I feel a strong connection with not only because of where we live, but the kind of work that we are all making. The connections are very exciting and I want more. In the coming weeks I will make trips to Manitoulin Island, Sudbury, and the North Shore of Lake Huron to visit different artists and organizations. Again, it’s the beginning of a conversation, and if the chemistry is right, it will take work. It will take time. And that’s okay.

Related Reading:

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 1, 2016.

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

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