Thursday, 17 January 2019

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Laura McCallum

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

Laura McCallum is training in general management with Laura Pomeroy at Studio 180 Theatre in Toronto


Part 1: November 19, 2018

I’m excited to begin my Professional Theatre Training Program with Laura Pomeroy at Studio 180.

I have been working with Studio 180 since 2016 when I began note-taking for their board meetings. Board meetings are a great opportunity to learn about the inner workings of a company and I came to better understand the minutia of general management. After each meeting I would ask Laura P. for clarification about certain points to expand on my own learning and often asked her for advice regarding my position as General Manager at Theatre of the Beat, a small touring company. In this more formal training opportunity I’m glad to have the time to discuss at length the day-to-day operations of the company. In this current political climate, it was important to me to find a female mentor; despite arts managers being predominately female I have almost exclusively had male supervisors or mentors over the years.  

Laura P and Laura M
Beyond the knowledge-sharing of how to general manage a small-to-mid-sized non-venued company, I’m observing Laura P.’s soft skills as well. Laura P. exudes confidence, especially around finance, as she worked with Young and Associates for several years. Through the little I’ve seen of Laura P. when I visit the office or at board meetings I’ve concluded that she is the kind of manager I’d like to be someday, so the opportunity to observe her interactions with her mostly part-time staff and how she manages tough situations will be invaluable. 

Last year I graduated from the Arts Administration and Cultural Management post-graduate program at Humber and began officially working in theatre management. Though I’ve taken a financial management class and applied to numerous foundation grants, I still lack confidence and experience with finances and government grants. In this internship I will gain confidence in working with operating budgets over $150,000 and working with external granting bodies by assisting Laura P. with the 2019/2020 operating budget, the Oslo production budget, and beginning the 2019 granting cycle on all three levels of government grants. 

Studio 180 Board and Staff
Our training schedule is fairly regimented: I will observe Laura P. and be present in the office for meetings and events, followed by practicing a given task on my own, and finally I will have the chance to execute the task on my own with supervision. Over the course of the next eight weeks I will have a chance to practice skills I have already acquired a new setting. For example, I’m quite familiar with CAEA documentation after a previous internship in planning at the Shaw Festival but doing the CAEA documentation for the workshop of Apple by Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks will be much different considering I have never worked with the ITA agreement before. I’m looking forward to contributing to the office in a meaningful manner and already feel very welcomed by the Studio 180 board and staff. Studio 180 is committed to the training of emerging artists, evidenced through their In Development series and hiring of an RBC emerging playwright each year, and I am happy to be a part of their commitment to training emerging administrators as well. 

Once again I am very grateful to Theatre Ontario for funding this training opportunity. Small companies value interns but often don’t have the capacity to support their training outside of a formal educational setting, such as a post-grad program, where hours are done in exchange for credit. Theatre Ontario’s investment in the training of future general managers and arts administrators will definitely have a positive and life-changing impact on my career in the next few years. I can’t wait to get started next week and see where this opportunity takes me!

Part 2: January 5, 2019

I’m just over halfway through my Professional Theatre Training Program with Laura Pomeroy at Studio 180. Through November and December we tackled a good chunk of the training that we had outlined in our application, and then took a much-needed break over the winter holidays. 

In my first few weeks I participated in departmental and staff meetings, attended the November meeting, and observed the hiring of a new marketing coordinator. With Laura P.’s guidance I prepared a preliminary draft budget for the 2019/2020 season and have worked with her for weeks to massage this first draft before it’s presented at the January board meeting. In December, there were two presentations of Studio 180 In Development and I assisted in completing the CAEA documentation and fee schedule for both projects. I have processed CAEA contracts in the past but Laura P. showed me a simpler way of managing the fee schedules that I hope to utilize in future jobs. 

Metcalf Strategic Initiatives Workshop
Due to our training starting a little later than originally planned, I missed the opportunity to observe and work on the post-production and reconciliation of The Nether, Studio 180’s co-production with Coal Mine Theatre. I’m grateful that Laura P. still took the time to go over the reconciliation with me once I arrived, though. Another change to our training schedule was attending a Metcalf Strategic Initiatives workshop. While I was always planning on attending a workshop at some point, the nature of the particular workshop I attended required me to take on more of a representational role in discussing Studio 180’s goals with other companies by myself. This gave me the opportunity to apply what I knew about the company and its strategic plan in a more formal, external setting and to have genuine conversations with other artistic directors and general managers about the problems their companies are facing. Discussing the workshop after the board meeting with our team also gave me a chance to share my feedback with the same level of importance as our full-time staff and board members.

My relationship with Laura P. has evolved into a more collegial mentorship. I admit to having a fair bit of impostor syndrome surrounding my age and abilities so Laura P. treating me as an equal and colleague, and pointing out how unnecessary my impostor syndrome is, has done wonders for my confidence in the role. As mentioned earlier, I’m very appreciative for her patience in reviewing her work with me, especially reviewing some basics of the industries to make sure that we’re on the same page. Her previous experience as a bookkeeper has resulted in me not only learning about financial management at Studio 180 but also a comparison of how the company functions in relation to other organizations. 

In my final weeks I will be attending the first rehearsal of Oslo, preparing the staff reports and financials for the January board meeting, and assisting Laura P. with cash-flow projections for the remaining six months of the fiscal year.

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is March 1, 2019.

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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