Tuesday, 30 October 2018

A Fantastic First Week with Theatre Ontario Spent Getting Excited for Ontario Summer Theatre

by Raeburn Ferguson, Professional Theatre and Education Manager

The week of October 15th was not only my first week in my new position with Theatre Ontario, but I also had the pleasure of travelling to Port Dover for the Ontario Summer Theatre AGM. I had never been to Port Dover before and I quickly learned I had been missing out! After a drive through a little rain, that turned to hail, and then to that dreaded white stuff we dare not speak the name of, I found myself looking at a beautiful lake and lighthouse, just steps from my hotel. I can just imagine how beautiful this drive would be in the summer months and have since made plans to make that very road trip—how can you say no to beach and theatre?

Once checked into the hotel overlooking the lake, I headed to meet up with the OST members. Walking through the town I felt very at home, it was reminiscent of the town I grew up in full of little shops, cute restaurants, a stunning theatre and only a few stores selling Friday the 13th memorabilia. I learned that every Friday the 13th, motorcycle enthusiasts meet up in Port Dover to celebrate and connect (but that is a story for another blog.) After only a few minutes of sitting down with members of OST, I could quickly tell there was something special going on here. It seemed as though it was simply a gathering of old friends meeting up for a drink and talking like no time had passed. Nicole Campbell, who was representing our hosts Lighthouse Festival Theatre, had brought us to a warm, cozy restaurant on the main street and filled us in on the great two-day program that lay ahead. After some laughs and snacks we headed to get some rest for the packed first day. 

Bernard Gauthier talks strategic
planning with Ontario Summer Theatre
Thursday morning we gathered in the new and beautiful rehearsal space that Lighthouse recently built just steps up the road from the theatre. With warm coffee and delicious pastries from Urban Patisserie, a local bakery, we settled in for a talk about Board Development led by Richard Davis. His expertise and hands on experience on many different boards led to a collaborative two-hour discussion on how to engage and increase Board involvement. After a little leg stretch and some lunch, we had two back-to-back sessions—the first with Bernard Gauthier who spoke to us about strategic planning; and then we were lucky enough to have a call with the Canada Council for the Arts, who gave us information on the various funding opportunities that were out there for OST as a whole and for the individual companies as well.

Heads full of knowledge but bellies hungry, we were treated to a dinner of local perch and celery bread—which can best be described as a Caesar in bread form, so in short it’s amazing and a perfect side to the fresh perch! Sitting around the large wooden round table it felt as though again I had known these individuals for years. We also had the pleasure of being joined by playwright Rose Napoli and her associates for dinner before heading to the beautiful Lighthouse Festival Theatre for a play reading in their long bar (funded by Playwrights Guild of Canada's Play Connect program.) We were able to see the theatre and the newly-renovated seats (which were very comfortable, I might add) before we got seated with wine and cheese for the reading. Rose treated us to three different excerpts from her plays showing off her vast diversity in writing. 

Our third day was dedicated to the AGM where we discussed how great the professional development had been, how important it is to everyone that this two-day event happens as it keeps all the companies connected, and how helpful it is to have discussion about issues or achievements each company is having. After some great discussion and general housekeeping the meeting adjourned with a rejuvenated spring in our step to take on the next year ahead promoting summer theatre across Ontario.

I could not have asked for a better introduction into my new position as Professional Theatre and Education Manager here with Theatre Ontario, seeing the passion and dedication from these leaders in the Ontario theatre scene was inspiring and got me very excited to jump feet first into this new role and to continue to support the OST team for the next season. I thank all the participating theatres for making my first AGM and not to mention my first few days on the job so welcoming. Port Dover will definitely be a place to return to and I hope to visit each of these wonderful theatres to take in their programing!

Until then, we brave the winter months to prepare for those warm summer days of road trips to the stages of our wonderful province.

Learn more about Ontario Summer Theatre

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