Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Jessica Lea Fleming

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

Jessica Lea Fleming trained in artistic producing and programming with Tanja Dixon-Warren and Margo Kane at Full Circle First Nations Performance’s Talking Stick Festival.

(March 31, 2016)  I made it back to Toronto with only a dash of jet-lag and a mild flu–not bad coming off the heels of a 2-week festival and grant-writing season! 

The Talking Stick Festival was a resounding success. The artists and audiences were equally inspiring, to say the least. The programming was ambitious and the schedule intense, but the staff and volunteers were fiercely dedicated to a smooth execution...thankfully. We got through it! We even stayed friends!

My primary focus was on production of the Industry Series, a 4-day event which brought together artists and leaders from across Canada and the USA. The series was thought-provoking yet practical in its approach, with much attention placed on equity in theatre and the power shift currently taking place between the Indigenous and mainstream sectors. It was especially enthralling to hear from the trailblazers in Indigenous performing arts–they shared their mutual experience of being witness to their life’s work coming to fruition. Being in dialogue with the many aunties and uncles who fought hard for access was eye-opening, and humbling. This is not to say that all is well now and we can call it a day! Nothing could be further from the truth. BUT, throughout the four days it became clear that there has been progress, and for that I am grateful and honoured to be part of the next generation of arts activists.

In addition to my work as Associate Artistic Producer and Programmer, I was able to attend many performances, workshops and events. I was excited to be among some of the first audiences for many works. Battle of the Birds by Kevin Loring was a definite highlight, as were the Indian Acts which showcased many up-and-coming artists. Despite all that, I have to say that the closing night show “A Metis Time and Space”, an evening of music, jigging, storytelling, traditional crafts and of course, soup and bannock, was a downright gift. Never before in my life have I been so submerged by my own Indigenous culture. It felt like I was finally coming home. I am not embarrassed to admit I wept crocodile tears. They made my split pea soup extra salty and delicious.

While I will miss many things about Vancouver (I really wish I had bottled some of that fresh mountain!), I am elated to be back in Toronto. Vangroovy was awesome, but I’ve always been more of a “eat your burger while running down the street in high-heels” kinda gal. It’s good to be home.

Related Reading

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 3, 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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