Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Carly Chamberlain

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

Carly Chamberlain training in artistic direction with Franco Boni at The Theatre Centre in Toronto

The Progress Festival installation at The Theatre Centre
(February 20, 2018)  In my first blog post I wrote about wanting to be a part of the revolution in artistic leadership—and wanting to be an advocate rather than an ego. In the time between then and now, our community has exploded a little bit. I don’t want to devote my halfway report to that (though I did write something here, if you’re interested.) But I do want to start off by saying that as I build on my critical understanding and values in leadership, I feel very grateful to be at The Theatre Centre with Franco, in every moment, but in this moment in particular.

We just wrapped up the 2018 Progress Festival, which feels timely. It seems like the crux of what I’ve been engaging with is the question, “what does progress look like?”

Franco and I often sit down to chat and end up in long conversations about the work, our current context, the way things are changing (or not) … and just a few weeks ago we were talking/wondering about how the next phase of change might ignite. For example, how do we move from simply adding new voices to old models to actually changing the models? (Or how do we prove the value/importance of those changes?)

The program from MDLSX at The Progress Festival
Just after this chat I headed downstairs and into The Incubator  to experience Race Cards—an incredible installation created and produced by artist Selina Thompson, from England. In Edinburgh, over the course of 24 hours, Thompson wrote one thousand questions about race, and in reading these questions, you are invited to answer one. For me it was a challenging, moving, sobering experience to slowly read and engage with these questions one by one. It’s an experience I’m still unpacking. 

But having just come from a conversation with Franco, at one point I found myself struck by a series of questions around the halfway point. To shoddily paraphrase, they said, “Do you believe the act of programming is political?” and “What does it mean if the act of programming is political whether you believe it is or not?”

To which I silently said to myself, “Shiiiiiiiiiiit.”

For me, Selina Thompson so succinctly got at the core of what I think a lot of us (art-makers, aspiring leaders, humans trying to think about hard stuff), have been thinking about. The choices we make as artists, as gatekeepers, as institutions, as megaphones and mirrors, those choices are political whether we want them to be or not. And pretending they’re not is just about the most damaging thing you can do. (In my humble opinion, obviously.) But I’m not saying anything smarter people than me haven’t already better articulated. It’s just what I’m thinking about right now.

Carly and Kelly Read at the opening of The Progress Festival
With those ideas rolling around it’s been a fascinating experience to watch The Progress Festival’s success. A joint venture between SummerWorks and The Theatre Centre, this festival is co-curated by multiple companies. The result has been something pretty special. Across the work presented over three weeks, I was surprised by the amount of links between the pieces. And importantly, enjoyed an inspiring pluralism in voices, meaning, medium, and aesthetic. Each curating company brought their own audiences. Mixing with the SummerWorks and Theatre Centre followings, there was a crossing of artistic communities that felt rare and valuable. 

In the darkness of February, it has felt inspiring to see that progress can look like collaboration and pluralism. 

Related Reading:

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 1, 2018.

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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