Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Congratulations to David Parry, Recipient of the 2017 Michael Spence Award

Theatre Ontario is thrilled to announce that the 2017 Michael Spence Award for Contribution to Community Theatre will be presented to David Parry of Perth. This award is presented by Theatre Ontario from the nomination by Studio Theatre Productions, and on the recommendation of EODL, the Eastern Ontario Drama League.

The award honours individuals for sustained contribution to community theatre, generosity of spirit, involvement, and commitment to community theatre that is legendary within his/her region, helping community theatre flourish. David will receive his award on May 21 at the Theatre Ontario Festival Awards Brunch in Ottawa.

For almost four decades, David has pursued his passion for the theatre. His influence is felt across Eastern Ontario, primarily in the Ottawa region and especially in Perth. His list of engagements as actor and director numbers over 70 productions and, like many other devotees, he has been involved behind the scenes in countless more productions in every function. (“I even stage managed one play!”) He continues to work tirelessly to attract, mentor and motivate talented new actors and directors, and to enthusiastically attract thespians from other communities, believing that this enriches us all.

After arriving in Canada, he joined the Tara Players in Ottawa in 1979. For the next 37 years, he would be an integral part of that theatre company. Even after moving to Perth, he served on the Board of Directors for the last six years of Tara’s existence. In 2005, after making the move from Ottawa to Perth, he jumped in right away to the local theatre scene, directing for Smiths Falls Community Theatre. In 2009, he directed the first production of the new Studio Theatre Productions in Perth. He has served on their Board of Directors for several terms, and as Artistic Director since 2010.

He advocated for Studio Theatre Productions to become part of EODL, and they have now served as host for the EODL One-Act Festival three times in the past eight years. David has also served as an EODL representative for fifteen years, and was the EODL Awards Chair for two years.

“I was overwhelmed to learn that my peers at Studio Theatre Productions had nominated me for this prestigious award and subsequently to receive the approval of colleagues in EODL,” said David. “I have known and admired all of the previous recipients from the ranks of EODL and I am truly honoured to be included among them.”

The Michael Spence Award honours legendary contributions to community theatre in Ontario, and is named after Michael Spence, the founding President of Theatre Ontario.  Michael was active in community theatre at Hart House Theatre, London Little Theatre, and the University Alumnae Dramatic Club (now known as Alumnae Theatre.) He was a member of the Board of Governors of the Dominion Drama Festival, a past President of Arts Etobicoke, and he continues to be an enthusiastic supporter of Theatre Ontario.

Past recipients of the Michael Spence Award in the EODL region are Joan McRae, Arlene Watson, Beth McMaster, Margaret Shearman, and Joe O’Brien.

Monday, 27 February 2017

ONstage Openings for the week of February 27

This week’s openings on Ontario’s stages
ONstage Now Playing in Northeastern Ontario
Moose on the Loose at Sudbury Theatre Centre
Photo by James Hodgins

In South Central Ontario

Mar. 2, Speaking in Tongues at Theatre Aurora

In Southwestern Ontario

Mar. 4, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Drayton Entertainment: Dunfield Theatre Cambridge, with previews from Mar. 1

In Toronto

Feb. 27, Confidential Musical Theatre Project at Marion Abbott Productions
Feb. 28, Confidential Operetta Project at Marion Abbott Productions
Mar. 2, Night Club Sessions: The Music of Carole King at Marion Abbott Productions
Mar. 3, 7 Stories at Hart House Theatre
Mar. 3, Powers and Gloria at The Village Players, Bloor West Village
ONstage Now Playing in Eastern Ontario
To Kill a Mockingbird at Ottawa Little Theatre
Mar. 4, Blood Weddings at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (in previews)

In Eastern Ontario

Mar. 2, Infinity at National Arts Centre—English Theatre (Ottawa), with previews from Feb. 28
Mar. 2, Village of Idiots at Domino Theatre (Kingston)

For all the theatre playing across Ontario, visit Theatre Ontario’s ONstage theatre listings on our website

Friday, 24 February 2017

Ontario Off Stage

by Brandon Moore, Community Theatre and Communications Manager

Conversation Starters

Behind the Scenes at Ontario’s Theatres


In Case You Missed It

You can also receive news from Theatre Ontario every month by email. Our archives are online and the February issue is now available.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program

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

Today we feature four stories:
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.

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Heather Davies

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

Heather Davies will train in artistic direction with Gil Garratt at Blyth Festival

Life is a Wiggly Path

(January 12, 2017)  I’m writing this blog while sitting in the rehearsal room, looking out at Highway 4 in Blyth, Ontario, which is also known as Queen Street. It’s part of the six-block stretch that forms the main street here. Over the coming months I’m going to be spending a lot of time at the Blyth Festival and I’m absolutely delighted.

Firstly, I’d like to thank Theatre Ontario and the Ontario Arts Council for this grant. I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to enrich two of my artist passions through being mentored by Gil Garratt at the Blyth Festival. And thank you Gil for guiding my artistic and leadership growth during this time, while continuing to lead the company during an extraordinary period of growth and development for the festival.

The focus for my Professional Theatre Training Program is to concentrate on the specific skills of running a company like Blyth, while also experiencing the dramaturgical process practised here by writing a draft of one of my stage adaptations, Judith (original novel by Aritha Van Herk). 

Because the Blyth Festival is a cradle for Canadian theatre writing of the highest caliber, the quality of training I am being afforded through this PTTP mentorship is providing an extraordinary opportunity for profound enrichment of both my creative and arts leadership skills as I grow and progress toward my desired aim of becoming an arts leader in Canadian Theatre. 

I’m going to be spending an average of three days a week at Blyth between now and June. We’ll pause here when I go into rehearsals for the production of Colours in the Storm that I’m directing at The Grand in London, ON in late March/April. I’ll then return to Blyth for a residency leading up to the season opening. With this expanse of time here I’ll experience the season preparation as well as the intensity of moving into simultaneous rehearsals for the season’s new plays. I’ll also be here for the beginning of the season and complete a new draft of Judith.

Yesterday was the first full day of this mentorship and Gil and I dove into a fantastic conversation. We caught up about my recent creative work and Gil illuminated the research, community engagement and dramaturgical nuances of each of the plays (three world premieres) in preproduction for Blyth’s 2017 season. We also talked about the on-going themes of running the festival and the particulars of the building renovation that the Blyth Festival is currently undergoing. Overall, the next few months will be dynamic and I am eager to follow all the projects, campaigns and renovations as they move forward.

And now, a little about the wiggly path that lead me here.

I began attending the Blyth Festival when I moved to London, ON in Sept 2009. Prior to that I was based in the London, UK for nearly twenty years working there as an actor and then as a director. I had wonderful experiences working in the West End, for nearly three years at the Royal Shakespeare Company (as a resident director) and directing in regional theatres in the UK and Germany. After many rich adventures I returned to Canada to be closer to my family.

The approach to theatre creation and quality of work I have experienced at Blyth, and particularly the celebration of local stories, resonates with me as it reflects one of my core values: the absolute belief that culture and great stories can be found everywhere. Since 2009 I have had an on-going passion for Blyth’s work. I also have a desire to understand the new play development process and the artistic leadership practices that support and foster the company. I am curious to know more about the theatre’s relationship with the local and regional communities. These resonating, compelling interests are the reason I asked Gil about applying for the Theatre Ontario PTTP for a training residency here. 

The Blyth Festival’s mandate to “produce professional repertory theatre that reflects the culture and concerns of the people of southwestern Ontario and beyond” is one that is close to my heart. Since 2009 I have been based in London, Owen Sound and Stratford and am inspired and enriched by the creativity and stories I have encountered. Having previously lived in intensely urban environments for many years, I aspire to foster and celebrate creativity by leading a theatre company in a rural or small town environment. 

My long term aim is to contribute to Canadian culture by running a regional theatre company with rich community relationships which are embedded in, and valued by, the community it serves. I am passionate about the creation of new work that reflects local stories that can also speak to audiences across Canada. As a regional artist I wholeheartedly believe in creating relevant, high-quality theatre programming for people to experience locally: forging creative opportunities outside of urban centres. I also believe in the lasting value of engaging communities through theatre experiences that resonate both specifically and universally for local audiences. I find it particularly thrilling and rewarding when all facets of artists and community come together and share a proprietary ownership in the finished creation and performance. This is where the Blyth Festival excels. This is a large part of why I am incredibly excited about this PTTP residency at Blyth. 

Another reason that I’m excited about being here at this time is Gil Garratt. I met Gil while working at The Grand and have followed his career since that time. I value all the skills and wisdom that he brings to the roles of AD and theatre creator and look forward his mentorship, while also diving into more lively, wide-ranging, rigorous conversations about leadership, creativity, community engagement and more!

I am thrilled that the wiggly path of life is allowing me, through the support afforded by this Theatre Ontario PTTP grant, to be here, looking out at Queen St. while sitting in this rehearsal room. Soon it will be filled with new scripts, actors, stage managers, designers, directors… the excitement is just beginning.

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.

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Jennifer Stewart

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

Jennifer Stewart trained in directing classical theatre with Jeannette Lambermont-Morey at Talk is Free Theatre in Barrie.

The Libertine—Road to Opening Night!

(January 17, 2017)  The road to opening night of any play is rarely smooth. During the technical rehearsals the job of the director is to solve problems as they occur—a creative problem solver of sorts. By this time in the rehearsal process the play has been staged, the actors know their lines and intentions and the sets, costumes and props have been built and created. This is the case in an ideal world, but of course in the theatre (where budgets are low most of the time and manpower unavailable), the tech side of the process can often fall behind schedule.

Therefore, the importance and care in choosing an excellent creative team is of the utmost importance for any theatre director, no matter the size, genre or scope of the production. From this production specifically I realized the importance of a competent, hard-working and knowing production manager and creative team. The director must have a designer whom they can trust and work with closely to create the world of the play. During tech week the stress levels are high and the director and designer must get along well in order to work together and to stay on speaking terms. As the assistant director, on this production, I offered up my skills in as many areas as possible, to help where help was needed. 

Jeannette Lambermont-Morey is the kind of rare director who is able to communicate what she wants, stay true to her vision, guide her actors and work closely with her creative team to keep the production on track, so as to be ready and on time for the preview and opening night. Our designer Cathy Elliot was responsible for the set, costumes and props (an insurmountable amount of work in the most ideal of situations). Jeannette delegated well and communicated with Cathy, myself and our production manager Garion Scott when we were down to the last days before the first preview on Thursday January 5, 2017. I was able to help Cathy with the costumes (sewing on buttons and hemming cloaks and skirts) as well as painting the set after rehearsal had finished in the evenings.

A director can have the greatest actors, working on the most brilliant of scripts but if they cannot work well with their creative team and help everyone collaborate effectively together then all will be lost and the production and vision of the director will be in vain. A good director must let go of the ideas that do not work, for the good of the show, and all involved. Sometimes keeping things simple is the most important overall goal for the director. It is better to keep the play simple, with a focus on the story and characters than to have many half-finished ideas muddying up the playing field and creating a mess of the whole production. These were the most important aspects of this mentorship that I learned working with Jeannette on The Libertine for Talk Is Free Theatre in Barrie.

As a director I have grown in confidence when working on a play as opposed to a musical. I understand the contrasts and differences between the styles and techniques of acting in a play more clearly now. I understand more of what the actors need and how I must allow them to discover the world of the play and how their characters fit into this world. I understand the importance of repetition, not just in running the play over and over but in rehearsing bits and pieces of scenes, thus allowing the actors the opportunity to try out new ideas and in turn make each moment as specific as possible.

My mentorship with Jeannette was inspiring and refreshing. She has a certain joie-de-vive that is difficult to express with words. Her energy and passion for the work (a Jacobean play that is bloody and gruesome) was contagious and her actors always felt confident that she was leading her cast and creative team forward with ease and precision. I always felt included in all of the conversations and decisions regarding the play. She was expressive, forward thinking and extremely well organized. I really could not have asked for a better partnership. Her knowledge of this specific time period and this text was invaluable to both myself and our actors and her process was clear and efficient. It was a pleasure to be in the room with her and to witness her work. My time spent with Jeannette will serve me exponentially as I begin my own journey as a theatre director.

My goals as a director are vast. I want to direct musicals, classical plays, contemporary plays, one-person shows, and perhaps dance and opera. I feel that at the beginning of this new adventure as a director I do not want to limit myself to one style or genre. I want to take risks and experiment with the theatre that I create. I want to inspire my actors and my audience with new ideas through live theatre! I want to create work in Toronto and Canada for the talented theatre artists that we have in this country. I feel that our potential, as artists, is ready to explode and now is the time to create lasting theatrical experiences that with enrich the lives of Canadians with passion and life through art!

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.

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Kevin Matthew Wong

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

Kevin Matthew Wong will train in artistic direction with Marjorie Chan at Cahoots Theatre in Toronto.

(January 17, 2017)  I want to begin this entry with gratitude. Gratitude for the immense privilege I have in training with Marjorie Chan—an artist whose practice I deeply admire, who works tirelessly toward improving inclusivity in the Canadian theatre ecology, and whose belief in mentorship is both unending and endlessly inspiring. I must also begin this entry with gratitude that I may live, work, love and learn on Turtle Island. I am grateful toward the traditional keepers of Tkaronto: the Huron Wendat, the Anishnaabe, the Haudenosaunee, and the Mississaugas of the New Credit. Our land protectors past and present, documented and undocumented; the original storytellers of this land.


If you ask Marjorie what our training will cover she’ll probably say, “Everything. Everything in 16 weeks,” and then giggle infectiously. Today begins my first “everything” week as Artistic Director Intern at Cahoots and I’m just beginning to wrap my head around what everything looks like.  

(Nov 30, 2016 – Ottawa) Photo from the rally outside the Supreme
Court of Canada in solidarity with Clyde River First Nation and the
Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. Both groups are fighting for
the preservation and acknowledgement of their land rights. Discovering
what authentic solidarity looks like is a large part of Broadleaf’s current
journey. Michela Sisti’s PTTP entry outlines what the experience at the
Supreme Court was like. You also can find out more about Broadleaf’s
current project, The Chemical Valley Project
To begin to understand our mentorship, I’ll have to explain my practice a bit. I am a theatre creator, a performer, a musician, and also a self-declared environmentalist. The bulk of my artistic practice centres around this last identity and the company I co-founded and artistic direct, Broadleaf Theatre. It’s an organization seeking to authentically merge environmentalism and theatre praxis. We’ve yet to fully realize that goal and, in working toward it, I am constantly questioning, soul-searching and reimagining what Broadleaf is and what it does. What should “environmental” performance look like, feel like, speak to and about? What makes theatre the most appropriate space for these discussions? How can we make urgent, awkward and unheard conversations understandable and accessible?

While Broadleaf is just beginning its soul-searching, Cahoots has been doing its own for three decades now. I’m training with Marjorie to see what that soul-searching looks like: in the artists that Cahoots engages, the communities the company serves, the projects it incubates and produces, and the day-to-day considerations that shape its broader practices.


Marjorie often says that her driving goal as Artistic Director is to make Cahoots’ work irrelevant: to contribute to a future Canadian theatre ecology where genuine diversity and inclusivity are banal common practice. We’ve all got a long ways to go, but in the past thirty years Cahoots’ work has become central to the conversation: its decades long history of producing innovative and diverse Canadian work, its long-running program Crossing Gibraltar that focuses on diverse youth and newcomer outreach, and its new online resource DATT, Deaf Artists and Theatres Toolkit, are just a few examples. 

Cahoots is a place I look to for inspiration—a company chasing ideals, pursuing systemic change and honest conversations.


(December 12, 2016 – Toronto) Marjorie Chan, Jovanni Sy (via
Skype) and Indrit Kasapi reflect upon Cahoots’ history and
the national dialogue on diversity and inclusivity in theatre.
I’ve been lucky enough to take in a few sneak-peaks at Cahoots these past couple weeks. One of these moments was sitting in on an interview between Marjorie and former Artistic Director Jovanni Sy. Cahoots’ upcoming 30th anniversary presents a unique opportunity to reflect on the changing nature of diversity in Canadian theatre. Jovanni and Marjorie discussed the radical developments in representation at the NAC and Stratford over the past decades, they questioned the term diversity and whether work by marginalized and racialized artists should be framed as “diverse” or rather “authentically Canadian.” Importantly, they discussed the future of inclusivity in Canadian theatre: how artists must learn to serve communities that have yet to be widely acknowledged. Jovanni proposed that there will always be marginalized voices needing space, needing their stories told. In this way, Cahoots’ mandate will never truly be irrelevant. 

These next few months I’ll be observing Marjorie’s decision-making on casting, play incubation, season planning, community outreach and day-to-day tasks. The final show of the season, John and Waleed, also coincides with our mentorship. It’s a project where we’ll be exploring the creation of cross-cultural music and performance. Our mentorship ends with Cahoots’ 30th anniversary gala and, leading up to the event, I’ll be lucky enough to continue observing Marjorie’s conversations with Cahoots’ former Artistic Directors. 


I got involved in the environmental movement at 16 when I led my high school’s environmental club: a mighty 150+ membership, or about a tenth of the school’s population. It was thrilling to see the importance of environmentalism among my adolescent peers, who were willing to devote their time, talents and faith to combatting the seemingly insurmountable challenges of climate change. A formative moment from that time was when I spoke to Markham Town Council about preserving the municipality’s “Class 1” farmland, the most agriculturally valuable land category in Canada. The political movement to create this “Markham Foodbelt” failed but I was fascinated by the nature of the discussion around the Foodbelt—I’d never seen citizens of Markham so engaged, at times enraged, vocal and opinionated. I grew my understanding of environmentalism then: how local conversations on climate had to be constructed on the basis that no one is a villain and everyone defends what they think is best for the future.

Changing minds has always taken place at the grassroots level, person-to-person. Improving diversity in Canadian theatre took place through the hard work of companies like Cahoots. Pockets of artists have worked for decades to define and embed inclusivity in our current ecology, our language and norms. I am convinced that action on climate and environment in our theatres will mirror this evolution. I think about Beverly Yhap and the first few years at Cahoots: how it must have felt to champion a radical mandate, cultural inclusivity.

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.

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Michela Sisti

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

Michela Sisti is training in artistic direction with Ross Manson at Volcano Theatre in Toronto

Week 1 of Infinity Rehearsals

(February 9, 2017) Winter is the perfect time of year to work on a play about love, death and time. Bright landscapes of glittering snow banks unfold for you on your way to rehearsal. Dark evenings greet you when you step outside at the end of the day. 

In one short week we’ve gone from initial table read of Hannah Moscovitch’s script to a full-out run of the play. On the other end of those five days it now feels as if we’ve already lived through several lives. 

Amy Rutherford (Carmen) and Paul Braunstein (Elliot), returning cast members who performed in the original production of Infinity in 2015, have had to wade back into the membranes of old ghosts. They’ve been joined by new cast member Vivien Endicott-Douglas (Sarah Jean), whose presence is incidentally throwing a pretty awesome ‘alternate-universe’ factor into the story-world of the Infinity rehearsal room.

Ross Manson is approaching Hannah’s play with some new thoughts this time round and Hannah herself has done some rewriting. She has created more of a presence for the character of Carmen and her music in the play. The epiphany Elliot has about his own life is now more closely linked with the way he perceives the role of time in the universe. Music and physics are, for each of these characters, different ways of expressing the universe, and so for our purposes these things also become expressions of the characters themselves.

Ross started off the week with two sessions devoted to physical character work.  He offered the idea that a performer knows more about their character after a first reading of a play than they think they know, but they can’t get at this knowledge through table work; the knowledge is in the body. The “corridor exercise”, which Ross and the cast began with, is durational work that is done in silence. Its purpose is to engage a performer’s intuitive knowledge. 

The actor is given a narrow corridor of space to explore in.  They begin with a limited vocabulary to work with: start, stop and change levels. As time goes on, the facilitator of the exercise layers on more vocabulary in the form of verbs. For example: reach, balance, carve, stumble, dance.  The actor’s task is simply to explore these movements, completely free from the pressure to perform or to assume a character. There is no need to manufacture anything. Some of these movements may naturally begin to inform character physicality or create a shorthand vocabulary for the upcoming scene work. 

Next, Ross guided the cast through the creation of three archetypal gestures for their respective characters. A gesture is a combination of a physical movement and something that is vocalized. It has a beginning, a middle and an end, and its final picture is a motionless sculpture.  Once first versions of these gestures are created they can continue to be shaped and honed until they work for that particular character. 

So, for instance, Ross asked Vivien to play with her gesture for Sarah Jean’s The Judge archetype (it involved pushing some invisible thing away and to the side, while speaking the word, ‘loser!’) by making the gesture larger, then by making it smaller and more naturalistic, then by taking away the text.  Kate Alton later integrated a version of Sarah Jean’s gesture into the choreographed dance that happens midway through Infinity.  This gesture was then changed almost entirely by Ross so that it became something that more closely resembled trying to resist a rising flood of water—the steady push quality of the movement remained intact but the meaning it suggested had transformed.

Good gestural movements, Ross explained, work best when they are just out of the audience’s reach, but not too far that the audience feels alienated.  A good gesture can give us a visceral insight into the psychological and emotional world of a character while also creating the space for poetry to happen and all that which eludes us about other people.

Gesture is also a very real part of human behavior. Ross had once watched a documentary about two Canadian WW2 veterans who returned to the beaches of Normandy for the first time since the end of the war. With utter composure and an unnervingly easy conversational tone, these men gave the film crew a tour of the events that had transpired on the beach at D-Day. So something like: We opened fire here. Tommy died over there. (Not a waver in the voice.) Then we lost Doug here. (No trace of any tear, not even that elusive glint in the eye that movies have trained us to look for, not a muscle twitch that could evoke a the voice of lone trumpet sounding somewhere in the distance.) If the filmmakers were looking for catharsis on this beach they wouldn’t find it here.

Later the doc picks up with the veterans continuing their interview on the road. The old site of carnage is miles and miles behind them and the conversation is as light and easy as ever.  Then in mid-sentence one of the men suddenly freezes, his breath caught in his throat, his mouth trembling like a baby bird’s, one frail hand flapping wildly at his throat. In one swift moment his body is overwhelmed by emotion, which has been released as if through a steam valve under immense pressure. This, said Ross, is real people dealing with emotion.

Infinity is a play in which love does not go well and death does not go well, either.  As such, Ross is taking care to resist creating moments of tidiness or sentimentality within the scenes he is staging. “Real people under emotional pressure react inappropriately,” has become something like a mantra by the end of our first week.  So, Sarah Jean, who is not an integrated human until the last beat of the play, minimizes and makes jokes out of moments of trauma in her life. The staging of the hospital scene, which we worked on this Friday, aims to tell a story of disconnect and—to use the vocabulary of the play—‘f--ked-up-ness’, rather than offering emotional catharsis and closure. Gesture is an important tool actors can use to suppress, channel, contain or divert emotion that would otherwise spill out onto the surface of a character.

At the end of this Friday’s run, Paul looked up from some kind of trance said to the room at large, “I understand why I goof off so much in these rehearsals. When you are actually in the ride it’s a lot.”

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.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Browsing Our Bulletin Board

Coming Up from Theatre Ontario

Check out all of our upcoming Career Stream and Creator Stream workshops.

Upcoming on The Bulletin Board

  • Deadline to apply for Ontario Arts Council grants for Indigenous Artists in Community Projects and Indigenous Arts Projects is today.
  • Deadline to apply for Ontario Trillium Foundation Seed Grants is today.
  • ArtsBuild Ontario is holding a Contracts and Agreements webinar for renters and tenants today.
  • Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre’s Playwriting workshop with Gary Kirkham is February 25.
  • Deadline for submissions for the Newmarket National 10 Minute Play Festival Playwriting Contest is February 28.
  • Deadline to apply for WorkInCulture’s Growing Earned Revenue Mentoring Program for arts and heritage organizations is February 28.
  • Deadline for applications from directors for Scarborough Theatre Guild’s 17/18 season is February 28.
  • Deadline to apply for Native Earth Performing Arts Mskomini Giizis Residency for indigenous performing artist collectives is March 1.
  • Deadline to apply for Ontario Arts Council grants for Compass and Touring Projects is March 1.
  • Deadline for submissions for the SPARC 2018 Symposium on Performing Arts in Rural Communities host organization is March 1.
Check out these items, and other postings from our members.
Theatre Ontario individual members can also access Auditions, Job Postings and Discount Ticket Offers on our Theatre Ontario Individual Member Resources on our website

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

ONstage Openings for the week of February 21

ONstage Now Playing in South Central Ontario
Catch Me If You Can at Whitby Courthouse Theatre
This week’s openings on Ontario’s stages

In Eastern Ontario

Feb. 23, Les Passants at Great Canadian Theatre Company (Ottawa), with previews from Feb. 21
Feb. 24, No Sex Please... We're British at Smiths Falls Community Theatre
Feb. 25, Confidential Musical Theatre Project at Marion Abbott Productions (Ottawa)

In Northeastern Ontario

Feb. 22, Lucy at Sault Theatre Workshop (Sault Ste. Marie)
Feb. 22, The Realistic Joneses at Gateway Theatre Guild (North Bay)

In Southwestern Ontario

Feb. 24, Art at The Grand Theatre (London), with previews from Feb. 21
Feb. 24, The Sting at Elora Community Theatre (Fergus)

In Toronto

Feb. 23, King John at ACT II Studio Theatre
Feb. 24, Of Human Bondage at Soulpepper Theatre, with a preview on Feb. 23
Feb. 24, Picasso at the Lapin Agile at East Side Players
Feb. 24, A Streetcar Named Desire at Marion Abbott Productions
ONstage Now Playing in Toronto
Kim's Convenience at Soulpepper Theatre
Jean Yoon, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee
Photo by Cylla von Tiedeman

In Central Ontario

Feb. 24, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Northumberland Players (Cobourg)
Feb. 24, A Life Before at Peterborough Theatre Guild

For all the theatre playing across Ontario, visit Theatre Ontario’s ONstage theatre listings on our website

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Save the Date for the Theatre Ontario Annual General Meeting

Mark Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 1:30pm on your calendar for Theatre Ontario's Annual General Meeting. The meeting will be held at Ottawa Little Theatre, 400 King Edward Avenue.

We now invite nominations for individuals to serve on our Board of Directors who are committed to assisting Theatre Ontario in its mission to develop and support theatre practitioners across the province, by providing resources, networking, training, and advocacy.

Theatre Ontario is seeking individuals to serve on our Board of Directors who are committed to assisting Theatre Ontario in its mission to advocate for growth, cultivate theatre resources, provide educational opportunities, foster collaboration within the theatre community, and build innovation into everything we do.

Theatre Ontario also invites nominations for Board members who are not necessarily practicing in theatre, but who are passionate about it and may bring other necessary skills and experience to the Board.

Nominations for Election to the Board of Directors must be received at the Theatre Ontario office (401 Richmond Street West, Suite 350, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 3A8) by April 21 at 5pm.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Browsing Our Bulletin Board

Coming Up from Theatre Ontario

Foundations of Indie Producing at Theatre Ontario

Check out all of our upcoming Career Stream and Creator Stream workshops.

Upcoming on The Bulletin Board

  • Deadline to apply for the Ontario Arts Council’s Theatre Projects grant is February 16.
  • Deadline for submissions for the Cayle Chernin Award for female professional emerging or transitioning artists developing or producing new work is February 17.
  • Deadline to apply for Ontario Arts Council grants for Indigenous Artists in Community Projects and Indigenous Arts Projects is February 22.
  • Deadline to apply for Ontario Trillium Foundation Seed Grants is February 22.
  • ArtsBuild Ontario is holding a Contracts and Agreements webinar for renters and tenants on February 22.
Check out these items, and other postings from our members.
Theatre Ontario individual members can also access Auditions, Job Postings and Discount Ticket Offers on our Theatre Ontario Individual Member Resources on our website

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

YAC 2016 Youth Festival Series: Toronto's Paprika Festival

by Annie MacKay (2016 Youth Advisory Committee)

The two-part youth festival series aims to introduce readers to the inner workings of the major youth-run theatre festivals across Ontario.

In this segment, Annie MacKay interviews Paprika’s Darwin Lyons about the Toronto youth festival that has now been around for as long as many of its participants have been alive!

“I think it’s very important for young people to have a space where they are treated as people who have things to say, because they do.” 

Since its establishment by then-eighteen-year-old Anthony Furey in 2001, Toronto’s annual Paprika Festival has supported the work of over 1,000 individuals and helped launch more than 100 professional careers, welcomed over 10,000 attendees and connected with a community of over 25,000 professionals and families. I spoke with Darwin Lyons, currently in her second year as Paprika’s Artistic Producer, about where Paprika has been and where it is going as its 16th iteration approaches.
Like the majority of Paprika’s current staff, Darwin’s first encounter with the festival was as a participant. She explains that when she first took part, as a member of the Artist’s Lab in 2006, it was the first time that work that she had created was seen as valuable and valid. “It wasn’t that my ideas were young, it was that I needed support in how to get them up.” This combination of support and autonomy is the crux of Paprika’s mandate: treat young artists as professionals, and help them say what they need and want to say in the best way possible. The starting premise, as Darwin puts it, is “you’re already an artist.” No one is telling you “this is the kind of art you should be doing, and this is how you should be doing it”—a deliberate contrast to much of the artistic training that is available to youth.

It would be hard not to be impressed by the festival’s evolution. Paprika has grown from, in 2002, a showcase of five new plays created by artists 21 and under, to become a facilitator of year-round programming that encompasses ongoing mentorship, playwrights-in-residence, a youth advisory board, and more, culminating in a week-long festival in May. The different components of Paprika have changed along with its leadership, as each team finds its own answer to how they can best serve young artists. Ultimately, Darwin explains, “the need for our programming is higher than the resources that we have,” and that means tough choices.
Paprika 2016
Photo by Taku Kumabe

One of Darwin’s major moves as Artistic Producer has been to shrink the festival in order to better serve the participants. Paprika accepted fewer people in 2016 than the year before, despite receiving double the number of 2015 applications. “People often interact with Paprika as if it is a much larger organization than it is,” Darwin says. As a now very established festival, the staff’s time and effort is pulled in a lot of directions. From an organizational standpoint, “especially in the arts, there are so many things you could be doing.” With that in mind, the 2015-2018 Strategic Plan for the organization was crafted, under Darwin’s leadership, as a means of identifying concrete things Paprika can be doing to fulfill its values.

The values identified in the strategic plan are community, accessibility, youth leadership, and artistic development. You can find (and download) it on the Paprika website to read about the underlying assumptions, strategies, and measurable outcomes associated with each goal. The plan, Darwin explains, took a long time to develop but has proven to be very worthwhile. “I think it’s always a good idea for an organization to be very specific about what they’re trying to do.” For example, the first goal reads: “Work actively to increase the accessibility and diversity of Paprika’s artistic programs.” Strategies include: targeting at least one new school, program, or organization focused on an equity-seeking group every year; appointing an accessibility and diversity officer on the festival’s Board of Directors; and tracking participant statistics. 

Paprika's 2016 Regent Collective
Photo by Brian Postalian
Outreach is, as Darwin describes it, one of the most time-consuming but important ways to promote accessibility. Participant applications have helped the staff identify that word of mouth is “huge,” so the goal is to get to as many networks as possible. The festival makes a point of interviewing every single applicant; a monumental time commitment, to be sure, but also a significant way of increasing the program’s accessibility. Outreach is a consideration for hiring as well: if Paprika is sending out a job posting and only getting a certain demographic back, “we’re doing something wrong.” Darwin emphasizes how important it is to have individuals in leadership roles who can help people feel safe and who represent the experiences Paprika participants may have had. Of course you need to make sure the person you are hiring is the best person for the job, “but I can’t imagine the best person for the job is always a cis white male.” Amid an ongoing discussion in the theatre community about this very subject, this is as succinct an argument for equitable hiring practices as I could ever hope for.

Another strategy that Paprika is implementing toward their goal of increased accessibility and diversity is partnering with organizations focused on equity-seeking groups. 2015/16 marked the first year of the festival’s partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts. Paprika has called the Aki Studio, Native Earth’s performance space in Regent Park, its festival home since May 2016. Native Earth had another significant effect on Paprika in the last year when its leadership prompted the festival to refashion its age cut-off for participants into a suggested cap. Darwin explains that a priority for Paprika has been making its spaces safer for Indigenous youth, who can sometimes, for many reasons, come to the theatre later in life. With this application flexibility now in place, age becomes a conversation in the interview room.

Paprika's Youth Training Day
Photo by Brian Postalian
For many of Paprika’s programs, it is suggested that participants have not completed a post-secondary degree. Historically the program has focused on youth 21 and under; today, that cap applies to Paprika Productions, the Creators’ Unit, the Playwriting Unit, and the Resident Company. The Advisory Board and Director’s Lab are both available to artists under 30, as is the annual conference “The Intersection”. Given Paprika’s status as a youth-run festival, staff turnover is inevitable, and when I ask Darwin about it, she tells me that on-boarding and succession planning constitute some of the festival’s biggest challenges. The age cap for staff is something “we’re still learning about.” Like many non-profits, staff burn-out is also something they struggle with, and continue to work on. "The staff is amazing," she says. "They are across the board so talented and give so much."

“The skills I’ve learned in this position...I would have had to get a Masters,” Darwin tells me. “The biggest win,” she shares, was watching the shows last year. “And seeing that they were good shows, bar-none.” As someone who attended the 2016 festival, I can attest to the high calibre and creativity of the work; I was truly blown away. Ultimately, “the success is seeing so many people come through and already be leaders,” she says. Paprika’s role, as she sees it, is often simply being able to connect these young artists with others who have experience.

I ask Darwin about where her role as Artistic Producer fits into her own creative life. We talk about having a personal mandate that you stay true to and making decisions according to your values: “in my art I think about...what am I putting out into the world, is this something that represents a politic that I support, a message that I think is important.” She also advocates for creating space to re-evaluate what is important to you, as a person and as an artist. 

“I really support where Paprika is going,” Darwin says, “and I’m really excited about the possibilities of making it a space for what the whole Toronto scene could hopefully look like. That’s something that I could totally get behind.” So could I. 


The 16th Annual Paprika Festival will run in partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts at the Aki Studio in Regent Park, May 22-28, 2017. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

ONstage Openings for the week of February 13

ONstage Now Playing in South Central Ontario
A Man for All Seasons at Oshawa Little Theatre
This week’s openings on Ontario’s stages

In Eastern Ontario

Feb. 15, To Kill a Mockingbird at Ottawa Little Theatre
Feb. 17, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Seaway Valley Theatre Company (Cornwall)

In Northeastern Ontario

Feb. 17, Moose on the Loose at Sudbury Theatre Centre, with a preview on Feb. 16

In South Central Ontario

Feb. 15, Arsenic and Old Lace at Markham Little Theatre
Feb. 16, The Mill on the Floss at Theatre Erindale (Mississauga)

In Southwestern Ontario

Feb. 16, Syrian Double Bill: Adrenaline / Sultan Basha at The MT Space (Waterloo)

In Toronto

ONstage Now Playing in Southwestern Ontario
The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon at Theatre Woodstock
Feb. 15, The 38th Rhubarb Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Feb. 15, Scenes from a Tree at Young People's Theatre
Feb. 16, The Night Joe Dolan's Car Broke Down at Toronto Irish Players
Feb. 17, John and Waleed at Cahoots Theatre Projects / Theatre Passe Muraille, with a preview on Feb. 16

For all the theatre playing across Ontario, visit Theatre Ontario’s ONstage theatre listings on our website

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Stories from the Youth Theatre Training Program: Paprika Festival

by Christine Rankin, Education Assistant

Our Youth Theatre Training Program (YTTP) offers financial support to programs that deliver accessible training to young people (age 14 to 21), led by professional artists in skills such as technical production and design; theatre administration and producing; and performance skills and play creation. 

Paprika Festival was supported for their Core Training program that took place in Toronto during May 2016. 

Paprika places youth in the driver’s seat of the theatre: their annual festival generates the possibility for creative mentorships and production training. Paprika applied to YTTP for support for their Core Training program: an opportunity for young artists to work alongside established professionals in several fields of theatre. The Festival has allocated programs for training in performance creation, directing, and playwriting through which emphasis is placed on the creative process and practice in the theatre. The aim here is to help young artists develop skills in their areas of specialization and create art of a high caliber. The structure of this training allows participants to step into a position of agency in order to develop the confidence to lead once the mentorships come to an end. Paprika Festival thrives off this arrangement and explained:
“What made training really special was that the facilitators/mentors all have successful artistic practices and were generous in how they shared their expertise. The facilitators/mentors all took the skills and experience they have and used them to help the participants realize their artistic visions.” 
During May 2016, the youths were involved in a writer’s circle and two different productions that were presented at the festival. For youth playwrights, the Writer’s Circle explored workshop style writing and focused on the elements needed to have a positive group support experience – an important skill when learning to deliver helpful feedback! The productions showcased multidisciplinary artists including poets, musicians, dancers, actors, directors, designers. The Regent Collective created We are XX, a show written and performed by collective with further engagement from a member of the director’s lab. The show explored the theme of being marginalized and was devised through exploring the participants’ own experiences with marginalization. The Creator’s Unit produced I am not a Thing and focused on youths’ interaction with technology and the consequential change of social interaction in our society. Participants had a wonderful time during the program: 
“Festival week was the most fun part of the program: great to have everyone together” 
"The workshops that were offered definitely [helped] me expand more of my knowledge and experience about theatre!”
The workshops and training cultivated a broad range of skills that focused on rehearsal and production: collective creation, immersive theatre, marketing, verbatim playwriting and improvisation classes – just to name a few! It was important to the Paprika team that participants had an environment that made it possible to create without obstacle. A participant stated,
“Got to commend Paprika for making a safe space – and making sure what safe space meant was clear from day one. Thank you. Also, really happy to see so many artists of colour and queer artists in the room and in positions of power!” 
This sense of respect, energy, and openness to creativity set the tone for the Paprika Festival and carried its participants through to the final product. 

Paprika’s Festival and Core Training Program was as intense as it sounds: participants expressed their thankfulness for being challenged to develop their work and persevere throughout the creative process.
“I am so thankful for Paprika, I don’t think I would have gotten this project started within the time frame that I did, without the festival and the support provided. I feel like the level of support that I received was perfect for where I am at as a creator/young artist.”
“Paprika is a fantastic program. Such an excellent passage for young artists to get their start in their theatre careers or even to find their way back into theatre and performance."
The generosity of mentors in the space, the desire of the youths to enhance and explore their own artistry, and the closeness of all those involved ensure that the Paprika Festival is a memorable event and fantastic opportunity for youths launch their careers in the arts and head out with the confidence to take on the world. 

The next application deadline for the Youth Theatre Training Program is March 15.  

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

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Browsing Our Bulletin Board

Coming Up from Theatre Ontario

Taxes for Theatre Artists workshop
Check out all of our upcoming Career Stream and Creator Stream workshops.

Upcoming on The Bulletin Board

  • Deadline to apply to direct at The Curtain Club 2017/18 season is February 10.
  • Deadline to apply for the Thousand Islands Playhouse’ 2017 Playwriting Unit is February 10.
  • Deadline for nominations for the Ottawa Arts Council Mid-Career Artist Award and RBC Emerging Artist Award is February 15.
  • Deadline for nominations for the Business for the Arts Awards is February 15.
  • Deadline to apply for the Ontario Arts Council’s Theatre Projects grant is February 16.
  • Deadline for submissions for the Cayle Chernin Award for female professional emerging or transitioning artists developing or producing new work is February 17.

New on The Bulletin Board

  • Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre is hosting a playwriting workshop with Gary Kirkham on February 25.
  • Theatre Kingston invites applications for the Storefront Fringe Festival lottery. The deadline is March 13.

Check out these items, and other postings from our members.
Theatre Ontario individual members can also access Auditions, Job Postings and Discount Ticket Offers on our Theatre Ontario Individual Member Resources on our website

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Making the Most out of your Mentorship

by Rachel Kennedy, Professional Theatre and Education Manager

One of my favourite programs here at Theatre Ontario is the Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP). Twice every year our calls for submissions bring in mentorship proposals from theatre professionals across Ontario. We receive training requests in all disciplines from playwrights to artistic directors, and the PTTP committee gets to work reading through the applications and looking for the best possible opportunities to offer to our applicants. Every March and October the cycle begins again and we welcome a brand new collection of PTTP mentees as funding recipients. 

This fall we were able to grant funding to nine of our applicants, thereby creating professional development opportunities in Artistic Direction (x2), Classical Theatre Direction, Set and Costume Design, Theatrical Digital Media, Direction, Production Management and Lighting Design. With so many diverse skills coming into play with the new round of mentorships, we decided to have an event where everyone could get together for a round-table discussion to learn about each other and what they could expect from the PTTP.

On December 6, we invited Heather Davies, Erin Gerofsky, Valerie Hawkins, Michael O’Brien, Norah Paton, Michela Sisti, Jennifer Stewart, Lisa Van Oorschot, and Kevin Matthew Wong to join us in the Theatre Ontario board room at 401 Richmond St West. To help guide our discussion and provide insight, we were joined by special guests Krista Colosimo and Ravi Jain. Krista was a recipient of the PTTP back in October 2015 where she mentored in Artistic Direction under Ashley Corcoran at the Thousand Islands Theatre. Ravi was on double-duty at our event, as he has been both a recipient in October 2010 where he shadowed in Artistic Direction with Franco Boni at the Theatre Centre, as well as a mentor for Lisa Karen Cox in October 2015 with his company Why Not Theatre. Between the two of our guests, there was a real wealth of experience to draw on!

Once everyone arrived the group took turns introducing themselves, their work and the goals that they had for their mentorships. Ravi and Krista then shared their experiences with the PTTP. It was wonderful to hear about how the program had elevated their understanding of their craft and opened doors for future gigs and career development. Both left the program and maintained an ongoing relationship with their mentors – Ravi even mentioned work that he had recently completed with his recent mentee Karen, after her official mentorship had finished. 

After hearing Ravi and Krista speak, questions began to flow – “What were you most nervous about heading into your mentorship?” “Were there any challenges that you faced?” “Is there anything that you didn’t learn that you wished you would have?” The overarching advice that came through the discussion was clear – communication can make or break a mentorship. Set up a schedule. Ask questions, but know when the right time is to ask. Focus less on goals and more on questions to explore. 

As the night went on the structure loosened and all participants began to discuss their experiences, challenges and hopes freely. As an outsider to this event, it was fantastic to see the group getting excited about each other’s mentorships and bonding over their shared sense of anticipation. When I returned to my office the next morning I had an email waiting for me that I felt perfectly summed up why events like this are important:
What I really loved about tonight was being able to meet the other artists and learn about the journeys they are setting out on. I am so invested in reading everyone’s blogs now and learning from their experiences as well as my own.
Trust me – we can’t wait to hear about everyone’s experiences either!

If you are interested in learning more or applying for the March PTTP Deadline, please visit the link below or contact Rachel via email at programs@theatreontario.org or by telephone at 416-408-4556 x12.

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