Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Stephanie Jung

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

Stephanie Jung is training in artistic producing with Marjorie Chan and Kate Ann Vandermeer at Cahoots Theatre 

(April 23, 2016)  I started with Cahoots Theatre at the beginning of March – right around when operating grants were due to the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council. My first week primarily consisted of reading: helping to proof the grant applications and to read recently submitted applications, all so I could have an idea and a deeper understanding of how to write grant, and how to financially and administratively plan for three years. Kate Ann and Marjorie were patient with my multiple questions: Why that? Why this? How did you get that number? How did you find that play? What drew you to that play? What happens if you don’t get that particular source of funding? I had so many questions. I still do but they are being slowly answered as I continue on this mentorship. Some things just make sense when you see it in action, instead of just talking about it.

Cahoots and I planned the majority of my mentorship around their co-production of Ultrasound with Theatre Passe Muraille. I would be around to observe and assist during pre-production, rehearsals, opening, and post-production of Ultrasound. Afterwards, with skills that I have learned under their guidance for Ultrasound, I would then help produce the Lift Off! Festival, which focuses on new play readings.

At the moment, we’re less than a week away from previews for Ultrasound, and the pace has been fast and furious at the office. Ultrasound by Adam Pottle, focuses on a Deaf couple as they struggle with the identity of their growing family. The play will be performed in English and American Sign Language (ASL) with integrated surtitles and projections. Producing Ultrasound has been a learning experience for Cahoots as well as for me. How do we make the theatre experience accessible for the Deaf and hearing community? How do we successfully integrate our two ASL interpreters into the rehearsal hall? How do we as a theatre community adjust our rehearsal/tech process and habits so that everyone’s voice is accounted for? What adjustments need to be made to our Marketing strategy to be even more inclusive? How can we make our Box Office more accessible?

In a separate project, Cahoots will be compiling all of their learnings on producing Ultrasound into the Deaf Artists & Theatres Toolkit (DATT). In the summer/fall of 2016, the Toolkit will be released to the theatre community for use. The goal of the DATT is to “increase the feasibility of collabrations between professional theatre companies and Deaf artists as well as increase engagement with Deaf audiences.” I’ve sat in on a DATT meeting and the DATT project managers have shared valuable insight into Deaf culture.

Marjorie is directing Ultrasound so Kate Ann has been the primary on guiding me through the producing process with Marjorie checking in. Once Ultrasound is open, Marjorie will be guiding me through the process of producing Lift Off!.  Before Ultrasound rehearsals started, Marjorie taught me the insider tips to social media and how to post in the voice of Cahoots Theatre. Both Marjorie and Kate Ann have been generous with their time, knowledge, and patience on the producing process. Marjorie has a great energy that makes me happy that she’s one of my two mentors. I’ve never worked with Kate Ann before this mentorship and I love it. Kate Ann is detailed and thorough in everything she does. Kate Ann has given me a crash course to the CTA and went over the finer points of budgets with me. Cahoots Theatre doesn’t have a Marketing, Outreach, Accounting, or Donors departments so Kate Ann and Marjorie split all those duties between themselves. It has been educational to watch a theatre company with limited personnel resources produce a show and manage the daily details that a medium-sized theatre company needs.

Stephanie's ad for Ultrasound
So far I’ve been able to help and learn on a number of things: organizing and executing Mimosas & Samosas (an invite to donors to the first read-through of Ultrasound), creating a social media strategy and schedule (including drafting Facebook and Twitter posts), helping to coordinate the logistics and planning for the Ultrasound ancillary events, managing their audience database, proofing e-blasts/opening night invite/house program, and managing RSVPs for Opening Night. I’ve even used my limited knowledge of Photoshop (with Google’s help) to create an Ultrasound ad to be included in a ticket giveaway. But it hasn’t all been administration work, I’ve sat in on an audition session and watched rehearsals. It’s different watching rehearsals from a producing aspect. I’m watching the show with a different focus than if I was an actor in the show.

Since Ultrasound is a co-production with Theatre Passe Muraille, I’m in the advantageous position of watching how to successfully navigate a co-production relationship. Each company has their own producing process so there have been some problems that have come up that has required creative problem-solving. Certain thing, such as proofing a house program or a press release, have required a longer deadline as two companies have to look it over. Cahoots Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille have also had to have a conversation about social media–guidelines on reaching our social media followers without bombarding them if they follow both Cahoots and Theatre Passe Muraille. There is an open dialogue between the two companies that is necessary and beneficial.

Opening night is fast approaching and I’m amazed at the sheer amount of work and people needed to successfully mount a show.

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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