Tuesday, 23 February 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 our next application deadline one week away, we look back a month to two projects that were just kicking-off, and  participants looking at the training goals ahead for them.

Dan Watson is training in artistic direction with Franco Boni at The Theatre Centre

(January 15, 2016) So I’m excited. For the next six weeks I get to spend time exploring Artistic Directing under the mentorship of Franco Boni at The Theatre Centre. It feels like a rare opportunity to have time and space to learn, to reflect, to plan, and I’m super grateful to Theatre Ontario and their support through the PTTP program.

For the past 10 years I’ve been producing theatre and arts events across the province. I have no formal training in arts administration, having learned on my feet out of necessity. I actually think this is the best way to learn (at least it is for me). To learn by doing on my feet, in the grind, meeting challenges as they come. But now I feel I am at a place in my career where I need to learn from others, and build my knowledge and skills. Why? Because my resources don’t match my goals. That includes not only skills and knowledge but the number and quality of the partnerships I am building. I can’t do it on my own, and nor do I want to. I’m sure many independent producers can relate to the feeling of having the majority of the workload fall on their willing shoulders. It’s challenging, exciting and sometimes overwhelming, but we do it because we love it and we believe in the work. This professional development is a much needed time for me to take stock of what I have, to meet, learn, imagine, build and create a path forward.

So under Franco’s mentorship I will do just that. My mentorship and learning will be framed by the goal of creating a long term strategic plan for Edge of the Woods Theatre. This is an organization that I founded in my home town of Huntsville, Ontario. Since 2009, we have been actively creating and presenting theatrical work across the Muskoka/Parry Sound region including outdoor events and festivals (Nuit Blanche North, Edge of the Woods Traveling Festival), community engaged arts projects and physical theatre performances presented in traditional spaces. We have enjoyed a great deal of success, but we are now at a point in time where we need to develop more avenues of support, both financially, artistically and through partnerships, not only to sustain but to build on our work. Over the next two months I will research and learn about a number of approaches to strategic planning, resource and partnership development which will not only develop my personal skills but also benefit Edge of the Woods. My activities will include personal research as well as meetings and discussions with lots of brilliant people across Ontario all with the end goal of creating a strategic plan that will help me more effectively communicate vision and goals of Edge of the Woods Theatre, and identify and obtain the resources to achieve them.

So I’m excited. Excited to come out of this experience not only with new skills and knowledge but a path forward in my work. I’m excited about the people I get to meet and talk with, and the discussions we will have. I’m excited about traveling across Ontario, to see the places and work of such brilliant artists doing such brilliant work. And I’m excited to work with Franco, to deepen our relationship and to have such a valuable window into the imagination, knowledge and perspective of such a wonderful mentor and Artistic Director who has had such a huge impact on theatre across the country.

Let’s do this!

Jessica Lea Fleming is training in artistic producing and programming with Tanja Dixon-Warren and Margo Kane at Full Circle First Nations Performance’s Talking Stick Festival

(January 22, 2016) In a few short days I will land in Vancouver to begin my mentorship with Margo Kane (Artistic Managing Director) and Tanja Dixon-Warren (Managing Producer) of Full Circle’s Talking Stick Festival. I have been approved for an 11-week mentorship in Artistic Producing and Programming and I couldn’t be more grateful for this amazing opportunity! While I am looking forward to this adventure, I must admit that I’ve been wrestling with the sneaky voice of doubt, niggling its way into my brain: “What if I’m not cut out for the work!?” “What if we don’t get along!?” “What if I am forced to do yoga on a kayak at 5:30am each day because nobody likes drinking wine and watching movies at 1am on a Monday!?!?”

I’m sure I’m not alone in my pre-mentorship nerves, however I do feel there is some legitimacy to my anxiety-induced nail-biting in that I will be out of my element in so many respects: new job, new city, new climate, new roommate! That’s a lot of unknown variables to juggle, especially for a homebody like yours truly. 

My usual gig, working as the Weesageechak Festival Producer for Native Earth Performing Arts (NEPA), is in many ways my dream job. It should be, I kinda created it. This most recent 28th Weesageechak Festival marked the first year the festival had a dedicated staff person in the role of producer. In response to the continuous growth in programming, Ryan Cunningham (NEPA Artistic Director), Isaac Thomas (NEPA Managing Director) and I determined it might be time for someone to take the reigns. I was suited to the work, and up for the challenge, so Wees became my baby. It was an incredible experience to develop systems and procedures that ultimately meant a smoother festival and happier team, both on and off stage. That being said, there is still so much to learn and so much to improve upon. I am already eager to get going on Weesageechak 29!

It is my hope that spending time in Vancity, working on one of the biggest and boldest Indigenous Performing Arts Festivals on Turtle Island, will be as educational as it is rewarding. There are so many brilliant Indigenous artists creating right now; claiming space and voice through their work. I’m honoured to be a guest on unceded Coast Salish land, and thrilled to see what the west coast peoples have to share!

All this to say, the excitement and enthusiasm outweigh the worry… I think.

-Jessica Lea Fleming (Metis), Associate Artistic Producer and Programmer, Talking Stick Festival, Vancouver, B.C.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment