By John Goddard, Executive Director
Theatre Ontario is in the midst of a very comprehensive Strategic Plan which we intend will inform our activity for the next three years, as well as beyond.
The plan has been very comprehensive. We have spoken with our funders, our founders, our former leaders.
And most of all we have spoken with our members and constituents. In March we undertook a survey which garnered over 500 responses! I want to thank all of you who participated. The overall sense of this survey was positive and supportive. And, of course, very informative.
We have also engaged our current and former Board Directors in a separate survey, and our staff and board have participated in an intensive SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. And finally, we have a sub-committee of the Board working on this project very intensely over the past two and a half months.
We aren’t finished yet – but we are getting there. It is anticipated that we will be able to present the membership at our May 21 Annual General Meeting with the results of our work.
All of which has been a very interesting process. Theatre Ontario will be 40 years young next September (which is just one of the reasons we undertook the planning) and we’ve come a long way.
Over the 40 years, an organization which started out at the Ontario Theatre Conference, primarily as an assembly of community theatre groups, has become one of the oldest and most stable sources of individual Professional Development grants in the province. And at the same time, we have consistently offered the highest quality of training available in Ontario for hundreds of volunteer theatre artists. We have assisted in the transition of student/amateur to professional artist for literally thousands of young people. And above all we have become the “go-to” destination for emerging artists, whether volunteer or professional, for networking, resources, information, opportunities and development.
What we have also discovered is that over the last 40 years, the landscape has changed.
That founding conference, held at Geneva Park, Orillia, June 10 to 13, 1971 was financed by the Ontario Ministry of Education because there wasn’t even a Ministry of Culture at the time! Professional theatre was much less widespread or available back then. (Look at the number of theatre companies who are now celebrating their 40th or 50th anniversaries to gives you an idea.) There were few Theatre Arts courses at the secondary and post-secondary level, and extra-curricular adult education theatre arts courses were non-existent. And Theatre Ontario was one of the first ASOs (art service organizations), now there are many with more specific mandates.
And communication! There were no computers, email or social media. Member contact was by mail and the newsletter was printed on a Gestetner Machine.
And so one of the challenges of our Strategic Planning process has been to determine where Theatre Ontario is now positioned in the current landscape. Is it a case of “Plus ca change, plus c’est pareil”, or what do we need to do to adapt to the 21st century?
These are all the issues we are facing, and dealing with.
Any thoughts our readers have would be most welcome.