Thursday, 21 April 2016

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Miranda Bouchard

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

Miranda Bouchard is training in design with Ruth Howard at Jumblies Theatre

(April 9, 2016)

What has been accomplished so far?

Artfare Essentials Training, December 2015
Photo by T. Syrette
I’ve been working alongside my mentor, Ruth Howard, who is the Founding Artistic Director of Jumblies Theatre (Toronto), learning about Design for community-engaged theatre and performance contexts. I’ve been traveling almost on a monthly basis from my home in the Algoma District of Northern Ontario to work with Ruth and the administration, artists and participants at Jumblies Theatre and at Jumblies’ offshoot companies (Making Room Community Arts, Arts4All, Community Arts Guild and MABELLEarts). I’ve been learning through the process about different approaches to design, through the lens of community-engaged theatre, benefitting from training, participating in and facilitating certain community-engaged activities, attending performances and events, and making plans for the design of my home company’s community-engaged theatre production, The Rivers Speak.

Some activity highlights to date include:

  • Attending Jumblies Theatre’s renowned Artfare Essentials Training in Toronto in December. I received this highly-regarded training, networked with many theatre and community-engaged artists in the process, and learned skills and approaches to apply to my role as Designer for the Rivers Speak.
    Artfare Essentials Training, December 2015
    Photo by T. Syrette
  • Attending, participating in and even co-facilitating some activities and projects at Jumblies Theatre and offshoot companies, with the intention of learning each company’s approach to visual design and social engagement. Ruth, the artistic directors of the offshoot companies (Michael Burtt, Beth Helmers, Leah Houston and Liz Rucker), and a host of Jumblies-affiliated artists and personnel have been extremely generous with their time and talents, allowing me to ask questions, share ideas, and participate in activities that have extended and enhanced my mentorship. My weeks of mentorship have been primarily based out of Jumblies’ Ground Floor at CityPlace, where I’ve had the opportunity to attend, participate in and co-facilitate sessions and projects unfolding at and around the Ground Floor. I’ve worked at Making Room Community Arts in Parkdale, where I’ve attended as well as assisted with planning and facilitating some of their Sand In Water sessions. I attended a really profound puppet performance by the Arts4All players in the Davenport-Perth neighbourhood, and had the opportunity to attend one of their workshops, where I co-facilitated some puppet-making activities. The community members across the city that I’ve had the great fortune to work with thus far have been supportive, generous, and so much fun.
    Miranda (left) with Jumblies Artist & Metcalf
    Foundation Intern Nikki Shaffeullah, Mentor Ruth
    Howard, and former Metcalf Foundation Intern (and
    fellow PTTP recipient) Dan Watson, January 2016.
    Photo by Jumblies Theatre
  • Working closely with Ruth to fine-tune the Rivers Speak critical path; compile ideas and inspirations for the overall design of the production; open the design amply to integrate and consider community contexts, needs, stories, protocols, participation and more; consider a variety of different approaches to design; blend my experiences working as a studio artist into my role as Designer; network with other artists, making connections and widening the learning net; work hands-on to experience, participate and facilitate throughout my mentorship.

PTTP goals reached to date include:

  • Learning about the principles and practices of community-engaged theatre, and of Jumblies Theatre’s approach
  • Learning about a range of different design approaches, processes and considerations relating to community-engaged theatre
  • Adopting and developing new approaches and perspectives through experiential learning, refining facilitation and collaborative skills,
  • Connecting learning, all the way along, to the development of the design and related planning process for the Rivers Speak community-engaged production

How has your mentorship evolved from your original training plan?

We’ve had to slightly adjust some of our dates, testimony to how busy things can get when a mentor and mentee are each running organizations! Readjusting and gaining perspective on this has added additional value to the whole experience.
Facilitating at Making Room Community Arts, January 2016
Photo by M. Burtt

The four days of learning workshops, which had been planned for Algoma in March, had to be postponed. As a result, additional days of in-person mentorship will be added to the schedule. I’ve also been learning more than I thought I would! Experiences I’ve had and connections I’ve made have led to new and extended opportunities for learning, participation and research.

How do you feel about your relationship with your mentor?

Ruth is an excellent and collaborative teacher. Her encyclopaedic knowledge is a great resource for anyone, especially an emerging designer and administrator, to draw upon. She is easy to approach and talk to. I feel very comfortable and supported in this mentorship. I gain much from my one-on-one mentorship meetings with Ruth, and equally as much from experiential learning that’s been afforded to me through engaging in the work happening at Jumblies. I’ve learned much and made great connections with the Artistic Directors at the Jumblies’ Offshoots – Making Room Community Arts (Michael Burtt), Arts4All (Liz Rucker), Community Arts Guild (Beth Helmers) and MABELLEarts (Leah Houston). In between visits to Toronto, I know I can easily connect with Ruth – and with the artistic leaders at the offshoot companies, and with company member colleagues – anytime I have questions or am seeking information. I’ve been applying my learning as I further my PTTP mentorship from home, developing planning frameworks and documents, compiling inspiration boards, making maquettes, storyboarding, and discussing the Rivers Speak project with my colleague, Thinking Rock Community Arts’ Artistic Director, Robin Sutherland (herself a past PTTP recipient).
Facilitating at Arts4All, February 2016
Photo by R. Thawani

What will you be working on in the second half of your mentorship?

I aim to complete the overall design framework for the Rivers Speak by the end of August 2016. This will overlap with the second half of my mentorship time. I plan to continue my work with Jumblies and offshoot companies, attending the programming activities best suited to my interest in learning about community-engaged design and collaborative approaches. I hope to deepen my conversations with Ruth and the artistic leaders at the offshoot companies regarding their design philosophies, approaches and processes. Some of this will be in-person and I hope to develop a questionnaire to assist with this research that I can send from a distance, too. I hope to be of help with a couple of special Jumblies & offshoots projects unfolding in Toronto through the spring and summer – more details to follow. The mentorship will culminate in Algoma, where Ruth will visit Thinking Rock Community Arts. Together we’ll assess my design plans, along with ideas that have flowed forth from recent TRCA programming; evaluate the mentorship process, making plans for future learning and collaborations; and design and facilitate special art-making activities and a performance project which will put to use skills and approaches learned throughout the mentorship.

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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