Thursday, 20 October 2016

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Donna Marie Baratta - "Challenge Accepted"

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

Donna Marie Baratta is training in artistic producing and curation with Laura Nanni at SummerWorks in Toronto.

(September 28 2016) With September signalling the end of SummerWorks and an intense August working on two theatre festivals, I can now sit down to reflect on all I’ve learned from Laura Nanni and my SummerWorks experience.

First off, everything that Laura does she does with grace, generosity and complete and utter dedication to details. It has been a pleasure working with someone who is genuinely grateful to her staff. The world of artistic direction and curation could be likened to asking someone to alternate standing on one leg while singing and juggling at the same time—so an incredible team is very important and Laura is keenly aware of that. What became crystal clear is artistic direction and curation comes down to really hard work, long hours and continuous obstacles and challenges that you must meet with grace and ingenuity. It is not glamorous but it is always in service to something greater and you have to have a profound love for the art form and the people whose work you are producing.

In this year of transition I witnessed discussions about what SummerWorks has been doing, what that means for 2016 and conversations about deepening existing programming and re-assessing the value of other programs. With new leadership it was great to hear these conversations and although many of the wheels were already in motion by the time Laura began as Artistic and Managing Director, I watched her build her critical path and figure out what to prioritize leading up to the Festival.

In the first part of my internship I learned how to approach past sponsors, I took minutes for the All Artist Meeting and sat in on production meetings to see how they were run, all the while making notes about ideas that would relate back to my own festival. I learned how important it is to have a dedicated team member for a social media campaign and I came to appreciate how important it is to have a plan for how things roll out and what and how information is disseminated. I also worked on port of entry letters and letters of invitation for International artists travelling to the Festival; this alone took almost a full week of research and side coaching to finalize all the sensitive details.

When it came to the main event, the SummerWorks Performance Festival, it coincided with my own festival in Thunder Bay so I was only able to be at the Festival from August 10th - 14th. In those five days, I did whatever I could to be of service and to get a well-rounded perspective of the festival. I helped with Open Source SLIP set up, box office at the Pia Bowman, I did reconciliations at the bank, entered audience surveys into the database, tweeted out notes during one of the conversations called “Who cares? A think tank of wishful thinking…”, saw some shows and took part in morning production meetings.

There is no doubt in my mind that working on an event like SummerWorks takes a team of very special individuals!! This was the most incredible team!! They are super human beings and they are led by an incredibly generous leader. I enjoyed my experience and I look forward to continuing with Laura, informally throughout the Fall, but more rigorously throughout all of February 2017.

Related Reading:

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is March 1, 2017.

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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