Thursday, 9 March 2017

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Norah Paton

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

Norah Paton will train in production management with Kevin Waghorn at the Ottawa Fringe Festival

(March 2, 2017) Over 12 weeks from February to May, I am excited to be working at Arts Court Theatre here in Ottawa, learning some new skills in production management and technical direction. 

In the weeks leading up to the beginning of my training, I’ve been working in the Arts Court Theatre as a performer at the undercurrents festival. As a result, I’ve been spending loads of time in the theatre, and working already with my future mentor. Walking in to start my mentorship next week means walking into a familiar space in an unfamiliar role. 

From theatre and dance to music and film, the spaces at Arts Court accommodate all kinds of shows. It’s also used for corporate events, meetings and even dance parties. It’s a huge variety of clients and needs, with a couple festivals peppered throughout—so I’ll also have the chance to see a couple larger operations from beginning to end. 

As a performer, I’ve worked with production managers from the other side of the table. As a theatre maker, I’ve picked up ‘ad hoc’ (read: very basic) skills in some technical disciplines. As person who needs to buy food and pay rent, I’ve spent lots of time in administrative roles, most recently for the federal government. This mentorship promises to be a chance to combine all of these experiences and build some real, marketable, tangible skills. 

My motivation going into this mentorship is undoubtedly varied. On the one hand, I’m hoping to learn skills that will make me (more) employable in the future. Arts Court Theatre works with rentals of all sorts of art forms, as well as conferences and meetings etc. Working in production management opens you up to opportunities far outside the theatre. It’s also a way to put the administrative, organizational, quasi-controlling parts of myself to work where my passion lies - in the arts. 

After working in theatres, or bars set up as theatres, or converted galleries, or, etc. I’m used to figuring out on the fly how to wire that PA, change that monitor mix, focus lights and program lighting boards. I’m particularly excited over the coming months to actually learn what I’m doing in these situations. Even more, to have the time to learn a bit of the theory of why and how these things work. It’s a really different feeling to be able to say “I know how to do that”, rather than “oh, I’ve done that once.”

As a theatre creator, I think it’s essential for me to learn these technical, or behind-the-scenes parts of my work in order to be able to do my job well. It’s honestly mystifying to me that more people don’t see it this way. I don’t mean you need to be an expert at everything; that’s not realistic, nor would it be efficient. We will always have our specializations.

You do, however, generally need to speak the same language as your co-workers, if you’re hoping to work together well. We don’t all need to be perfectly bilingual, but enough to understand each other and collaborate. Just like bilingualism, skills both on and off stage make you a more indispensable employee, gives you more tools to work with, and I’m pretty sure it’s also been proven to make you smarter.

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

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