Tuesday, 26 January 2016

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.)

With the next application deadline just over a month away, this issue features three projects: one that has completed, one that is midway through the training, and one that is just starting.

Yunjeong Faline Park trained in theatre administration with Niki Poirier at Roseneath Theatre

(December 24, 2015) Looking back over my 15 weeks of training with Roseneath Theatre, I now realize my potential for working in Theatre Administration. Every week was a busy and productive schedule with lots of work in each department. The second half of my training was actually busier than the first half because all the spring productions are coming up and it was time to set up the tour schedules, the Actors and Stage Managers contracts, and lots of other administrative duties needed to prepare for an Equity tour.

I started my second half of training with the Education and Marketing Manager, Gretel Meyer Odell, who manages both Social Media and Marketing Department. I learned how to utilize and maintain social media for a company and to prioritize what should be posted in a timely manner. Social media is an important tool for marketing in the company so it is great to learn about how to use the different websites in different ways. The most interesting program I learned to use was a multi social media control website called Hootsuite where I posted articles from blogs that are relevant to educational subjects, new events from Roseneath, local shout outs to community organizations, etc. 

I also assisted Gretel in marketing area by entering the school bookings into the Sumac database program. I created contracts, printed, sorted and filled them in order by date and sent the contracts with the technical requirements to the educators and booking contacts at the schools. I also designed an online Google form of the venue information sheet for educators to fill in so that everyone is aware of unique information for each school/venue so any potential issues may be addressed before artists arrive on the actual performance day. 

Roseneath Theatre at the York Region District
School Board's QUEST conference.
I had another chance to attend a conference run by the York Region District School Board called “QUEST.” I prepared marketing materials before the conference, and on the day I helped set up and organize the booth. It was another great day of meeting educators and engaging in face to face conversations about the company’s new season. 

Once Gretel confirms show bookings, the information is passed on to the Tour Manager (my mentor) Niki Poirier. With her I created all Equity contracts for the artists as well as the contract addendums in accordance with the Independent Theatre Agreement (ITA). I calculated the fees for the artists including their weekly payment, per diems, and over time fees. I also assisted with the detailed daily schedules for each week that meet the hour requirements set by the Canadian Actors Equity Association. I also started preparing the tour binders by making maps that give directions between locations throughout the whole tour. 

Also with my mentor Niki, Roseneath’s Tour Manager, I researched hotel options for where artists could stay overnight on the tour. I had to make sure that each hotel’s amenities meet company’s requirements such as the above-ground parking lot, free Wi-Fi, laundry, etc. After completing the research, the best three hotels are selected per location, and this is what is presented to artists in order to make their selection. Once they chose their hotel, I would contact the hotel to make the bookings and discussed any specifics with the receptionist to ensure the best condition for the artists’ stay. 

I assisted two big events at Roseneath in November. One was the Roseneath Fundraising reading event at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and the other one was the showcase event for the Canadian Arts Presenting Association conference in Ottawa. The play that was presented for both events is called Outside, which is about a gay high school student telling his story of personal struggles with his identity, what he had been going through in his school life, and how his friends had started a Gay-Straight Alliance club in his high school. I worked on contracts for the artists for both events and booked a hotel for the showcase event in Ottawa. I also attended the reading event at Buddies and assisted the director, actors and stage manager in general to ensure everything ran smoothly. 

There were two large grants due in December, and all of the company’s staff worked on these grant applications. I assisted with the organizing, as well as double checking the order of papers and detailed itinerary plans, etc. in reference to the checklists provided for the grants.

As it is close to the first tour dates in January, I checked the company’s production “to do” list and sorted out set, props and costumes that needed to be fixed and passed these to the technicians doing the work. Roseneath hired a new Production Manager, Courtney Pyke, so I helped get her started by teaching her how to use Sumac data program and the process of the rehearsal hall and equipment rental. 

Each week of training in different department and learning the administrative work in theatre was quite interesting. I switched from Production Design to Administration and feel that theatre administration is also part of the art. It is not just the actual drawing or painting that is part of putting the design together for the show, but doing all the paper work and support all departments is key to putting everything together to produce a great piece of art. I have reached my goals and achieved more than I expected, and I am very satisfied with the outcome. 

I have learned a lot at Roseneath and I am inspired by the positiveness and passionate work from Niki, as well as all my interactions with the other staff throughout this professional training. Niki and I became closer than before in friendship and as great work partner. She had excellent patience with me when I was going through a work process that I wasn’t use to, and showed me step by step what I needed to know. She truly has been a great mentor to me. 

I am sincerely grateful that this training could happen with the support of the Theatre Ontario’s grant, and Roseneath Theatre who were willing to take me on and give me such a valuable opportunity to learn and work with them through the first half of their season. I feel I have more than achieved my goals and have solid skills that I didn’t have before I started. I am fully confident moving forward as Theatre Administration and am very thankful to Niki, Roseneath and the PTTP at Theatre Ontario.

Camila Diaz-Varela is training in digital production management, online community engagement, and digital curation with Sarah Garton Stanley at SpiderWebShow

(January 8, 2016) So I’m halfway through my training with SpiderWebShow and we’re in the thick of producing Volume 6. We’ve launched three new projects this Volume - #cdnelder project, #cdnopening, and RenderRabbits - published five editions of #cdncult magazine, and started implementing a social media strategy (which takes so way more work than I initially thought y’all.) I’m proud of the work that’s happening so far, for the team to be juggling so many projects at once, and to be a part of the space that SpiderWebShow takes up on the internet. It’s hard to wrap my head around the morphing, constantly updating nature of the site, because new content is being added all the time, in different time zones, but when I sit for a second to look at all the things that we’re doing, it makes me think that that kind of reflects the nature of the internet itself. Change and instability is the name of the game when you’re working with the internet as medium, and it’s to be embraced.

It’s a lot of learning on my feet. Writing down the processes of doing things (like posting different kinds of content to the site or how I set up meetings) has really helped me focus on my tasks and identify how they’re useful to the team and the creation process. One of my duties is to create a document of processes that I do by the end of the training. I’m attempting to articulate what I do and how I do it, so that if someone else on the team wants to do something I’ve done, they can get a organized, personal low-down from someone who’s already been there. Like I mentioned in my last blog, using the internet as a creative medium can be overwhelming because of the prerequisite technical knowledge required, so I like to think I’m making a little guide book to the SpiderWeb as I know it. So far the document’s called “SWS Cam Holy Book” and I think it’ll be something I’ll refer to after the mentorship with future projects (it’s got lots of helpful Wordpress tips.)

I started this mentorship working from home, but now I work from the STAF office alongside the STAF team. It’s really refreshing to go into a space dedicated to private study/working, and it’s motivating to see other folks going about their arts-related business around me. I took a webinar on accessible website design in their small conference room, and they’re great with letting me use the space as I need to, like staying late or huddling into a corner to record videos. As for my mentors, I’ve been helping Michael Wheeler publish the last couple editions of #cdncult from the office, and have been emailing Sarah back and forth consistently on different projects. Communication has been really open and nurturing with both of them, and they’re always available when I have a question. So shout out to you two wonderful mentors! 

A weekly cross-country collaborators meeting at SpiderWebShow.
In the second half of the mentorship, I’ll be continuing to moderate the social media accounts, facilitate the SWS projects, and attending the upcoming half-day SWS retreat. It’s going to be good to sit down with the Makers over videochat and in person to hash out the upcoming Volume and reflect on this current one. There’s so many brilliant thinkers in the group, and in our weekly meetings there’s always so much more to discuss and collectively ruminate on than what time allows. I’m also going to be assisting at a Performance Wiki Edit-a-thon event that the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance is hosting later this month. That’s really exciting to me because the aim is to populate the Indigenous body of work on the Performance Wiki, and locate more Indigenous artists on the Wiki map. Cole, the Executive Director of IPAA, shared a sweet digital map with me the other day called native-land.ca, to use as a resource for making a land acknowledgement before performances, and these online tools can be useful in so many more ways than we can imagine when we’re creating them. I love being part of a process that creates useful, relevant tools like that. 

I’m really looking forward to continuing to work with the SWS team in the upcoming months. Till then!

Lisa Karen Cox is training in directing with Ravi Jain

In a few short weeks I will begin my journey in the art of directing with Ravi Jain. How do I feel about this? In short, excited and terrified. Founded in 2007, Ravi Jain`s Why Not Theatre is a Toronto based theatre company with an international scope. Why Not Theatre has established a reputation as a company synonymous with inventive, experimental, cross-cultural collaborations resulting in shows featuring new Canadian writing, company-devised and site-specific shows alongside revitalized interpretations of classics. In recent years, the company has also become known for its presentation of international productions and workshops from diverse cultures and artistic practices, along with support for the development of local emerging artists and companies. Essential to their creative processes are the collisions that arise from our different cultures, languages and experiences provoking us to seek new styles, stories and forms. Why Not Theatre is international in the truest sense of the word: it is created between nations and transcends the borders of race, celebrating all cultures, languages and forms.

Ravi Jain, Why Not Theatre and its work reflect the values that I would like to see in my work of the future. (My work examines intersectionality of communities. This includes but is not limited to race, culture, history and language.) It is for this reason, that I will spend time with Ravi Jain, participating in the unique business of new play development, directing, dramaturgy, and casting. These are all areas in which I have experience as a performer and limited experiences as a director. Partaking in these experiences will allow me to expand my understanding of artistic processes and skills needed for directing; allowing me to become better.

Photo by Dahlia Katz of Khadijah Robert-Abdullah,
Lisa Karen Cox, and her babe-in-arms in rehearsal for
We Are Proud to Present... at the Theatre Centre.
Ravi Jain is the ideal mentor. Beyond being a person of colour, he has a history incredible ethos. A Dora award-winning director, Ravi has an incredible reputation for creating a room with a lot of trust among the creative team and actors. He has a mysterious capacity to have authority in collaborative situations. In October, I worked with Ravi as the Assistant Director on We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915 at The Theatre Centre. It was an incredible experience to watch a seasoned director work with a racially diverse group of actors on a contemporary play for Toronto theatre audiences. Witnessing Ravi unique ability to move the creative team of designers and actors forward cohesively and collaboratively was eye-opening. 

Ravi has a great desire to listen to the room and to respond intuitively. It is a skill that I hope to hone myself as I continue to work with him over the next six months. Further to that, as was the case with We Are Proud to Present..., I am sure that during the rehearsal process we will collectively find how I can best support the work. My spine tingles in anticipation and my ears are wide open.

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