Remember that audition I posted about the other week? As nervous as I was about not having auditioned or acted intwo-and-a-half years as I focused on directing, I received some good news this past weekend. I’ve been cast in a production of Monstrous Regiment with the Socratic Theatre Collective for the 2013 Toronto Fringe Festival! Exciting news!
This past weekend I put myself in front of the auditioning table for the first time in 2.5 years. While there are certainly things I would have changed about it, overall I felt good about what I presented. Having not acted for a while and then presenting a monologue, song, and reading (with RP accent) in one go, I’m pleased with how it went down.
Also this weekend, I caught Arigato, Tokyo, Daniel MacIvor’s latest play, at Buddies in Bad Times (one of my favourite theatres). While I’d been wanting to see the show anyhow, especially given its great reviews, a fire was lit under me after Artistic Director Brendan Healy sent out an e-mail to the Buddies mailing list.
For those who haven’t heard, essentially he, and the theatre, were surprised at the ‘shockingly low’ attendance rates for a premiere by a lauded Canadian playwright at a solid venue getting very positive reviews. He asked those receiving the e-mail to fill out a survey and help the theatre find out more about why this is happening. I do hope that they share the results of this survey, as I’m interested to learn what respondents will say. As to the show itself, overall I enjoyed it and would recommend it to others. The design elements, in particular the lighting, were gorgeous, minimal, and perfectly suited. The Sunday show I attended was sold out and I heard the night before was, as well, and I’m pleased that Healy’s e-mail certainly had a positive effect on inspiring people to actually go through the effort of coming out to see the show.
While I’m reading scripts and seeking out the next project, I’ve been registering for various workshops to keep me fresh and expand my knowledge. Theatre Ontario has been my main resource in that regard.
- Taxes for Theatre Artists — Taught by chartered accountant Sam Marinucci, the workshop definitely helped to clear up a lot of information about the details of taxes for artists. Since taking it, I’ve been documenting my receipts in Evernote and feel more prepared for next year’s tax preparation. Would definitely recommend it for any artist.
- So You Need Money For Your Project: Crowdfunding for Artists and Arts Organizations — Taught by Nancy Kenny, the workshop was a solid general overview of crowdfunding, especially for those just learning about it. In my case, I’d been researching crowdfunding for the (now-defunct) possibility of Fantastical… coming to Canada this year and have been employed as a Social Media Consultant as a day-job before, so I didn’t walk away with any new knowledge. That said, it was very helpful to confirm how much I did know and that the information I had was reliable. I’d recommend it to others, depending on their level of knowledge of crowdfunding and social media.
I’ve also signed up for two more workshops through Theatre Ontario:
- Self-Start: The Basics Of Producing — Addition… has been my primary experience with producing and while that was very successful, I still consider myself a reluctant producer as I really only do it when it’s the only way a project I want to direct can get off the ground. That said, I’m looking forward to learning more about how I can improve those skills for the next time it’s required of me.
- Directors Intensive — Toronto doesn’t seem to have anything like the Young Vic Directors’ Program, so it’s great to have found an intensive workshop for directors. I’m looking forward to connecting with other directors in the city and examining my skills in a setting such as this.
Outside of the formal workshops, I’m also hoping to get back to the drop-in improv class I started attending in January. I’ve not been able to attend for quite a while due to rehearsals for The Deepest Trench. Plus, I’ve been seeing more work in other mediums, including ballet and a stop at my first symphony, as it’s helpful (and enjoyable) to expand my cultural exposure.
The past while I’ve been focusing primarily on directing and that coupled with the move to London has meant that I’ve not acted in or even auditioned for any theatre productions in two-and-a-half years. After realizing this, I decided it’s about time I fix that. Next weekend I’ve an audition for a fringe show that requires me to prepare a monologue, song, and sides. I seem to be diving in the deep end off the bat, so let’s hope it goes well. (And by well, I mean, I leave feeling good about what I’ve done, as opposed to basing my success off of getting a role or not.)
Directors Lab North
A couple months ago I learnt about Directors Lab North, a “national and international exchange between a community of emerging, mid level, and established career directors that need a safe space to explore and connect with like-minded peers.” After reading about the lab, I immediately was engaged by the idea of a focused community of directors of varying levels of experience and career status meeting and learning from each other and had to apply.
Today I received an e-mail stating I’m one of the 25 selected participants for the 2013 lab! Absolutely amazing news! So, for four solid days in May/June, I’ll be focusing purely on learning from and sharing with fellow directors in a way that the independent nature of the profession rarely allows and I’m nothing but excited!
The Deepest Trench is Done and Disappointing News on The Fantastical Adventures of [Not] Being With You
On Sunday, The Deepest Trench ended its run. Unfortunately there are no reviews of the festival, but I’m glad to say it was well-received by audience and playwright, and we are all proud of our work in it.
On to other news…
The last time I wrote on Fantastical…, I said we were applying for funding we needed to make it happen. We got word recently that this funding has not come through. We have looked into other options in regard to funding and I’ve played with the numbers and proposed some other potential solutions. Without the guarantee of external funding, however, not everyone was comfortable with the other options proposed. Given the nature of the production, without all four of us 100% committed, it’s not possible.
To address a question that this brings up and that has been asked of me as director/playwright/producer multiple times throughout this process, ‘why, if it’s so expensive, don’t you just recast the roles or use a local stage manager?’ At this stage, there is no group of people I would consider producing Fantastical… with that weren’t the complete package of Ryan, Max, and Ina. The show would not have been as well-received as it was without their talent and skill. While a lack of ‘X’ level of finances may make a production more difficult, for me the idea of doing this show without those three amazing people is currently not an option to even be considered.
This means I have to announce that Fantastical… will not be coming to Canada whatsoever in 2013. As to beyond 2013, funding will always be a difficult factor to overcome and, as fringe festivals are the most affordable option, we will continue to be at the mercy of the fates in regard to fringe draws, but we shall see. I don’t believe any of us are giving up on this version of Fantastical… completely; the project is simply on an indefinite hiatus. Thanks to all of you who have voiced your support and especially to Max, Ryan, and Ina for the commitment, dedication, and effort they have put into this up to now.
After focusing on getting Fantastical.. to Canada for nearly 9 months, it’s hard to let go. Especially given that Toronto is not near as rife with opportunity as London, so I’m very much unsure of what’s next or even how long until a ‘what’s next’ will come now that The Deepest Trench has ended its run. So, if you know of anyone in Toronto looking for a director, send them my way!
Tonight is the opening of The Deepest Trench as part of the New Ideas Festival at Alumnae Theatre. We had an excellent preview last night and I’m proud of the cast and the show. Playwright Chloë Whitehorn gave us a thumbs-up afterwards, so well-received all around. Very much looking forward to seeing it open tonight.
I trained at the University of Alberta where I obtained my BA in Drama. Something I have been grateful for over the years was the well-rounded training I received while there. Not only did I focus on acting and directing, but a requirement of the degree was to complete courses involving theatre design and technical operation. While these were only introductory courses and anyone who’s concentrated their training on these fields has vast amounts more knowledge than I, what I did learn has come in handy time and time again throughout my career.
Just tonight, for example, we were doing Q2Q for The Deepest Trench and a key member of the technical team was not present. In our case, our SM was also doubling as Sound Operator for the first time and our Lighting Operator was working with a system unfamiliar to her. And, even though our show isn’t until week 2, we were also the very first Q2Q of the entire festival meaning no one had a chance to get familiar with the equipment or learn what was patched where or any of that beforehand. And in this environment we don’t have a time slot to just set levels and prepare beforehand, having to do levels, cues, and everything all in one go.
While we did inevitably lose some important time, thanks to the well-rounded training I had, I was able to minimise some of our loss. I spoke quickly to how the crossfade for lights and for sound worked and the importance of noting master levels as well as channel levels. When the sound board wasn’t working, I identified that the inputs were in the wrong channel and fixed that. Beforehand, I’d prepared a draft cue sheet of my own with ideas of the lighting states I wanted, which transitions I’d use, and which page of the script it was all on. I also had to maintain a general Q2Q structure as my SM is new to the field and hadn’t run a Q2Q or even called cues before. If I didn’t have the basic training in these fields that I do, I can’t imagine just how much more time we would have lost and if we’d even have gotten stuck completely at any point.
I would advocate that any director should be sure to spend time learning the basics of theatre design and technical operation (and pay attention to how your different SMs work). Ensuring that you have the basics of these skills not only allows you to communicate better with the designers and technicians on your team, but allows you to retain control and minimise stress in the many, many situations wherein you’ll not be working with a fully-staffed team with complete training. Given the current market, it’s highly likely you’ll spend time working on smaller, independent productions with smaller teams, meaning you’ll have to pull double-duty as a designer or technician, or work with someone who may not have the desired training. These bits of knowledge have saved me time and time again and, though you wouldn’t say they are purely directing skills, I am certainly of the strong opinion that they are essential to anyone with a desire to direct.
Yesterday was the first rehearsal for The Deepest Trench and it feels off to a nice start. Everyone seems lovely to work with and we had a nice read-thru with the playwright present. We’ve got some odd rehearsal schedules and short rehearsal sessions, so it’s a bit of a shift but definitely doable. Overall, I’ve the same amount of time as I would normally, but as it’s divvied out in different ways I have to remind myself there’s no need to rush in the rehearsal. We go up in mid-March so plenty of time to rehearse (and for tickets to be purchased!).
Caught two shows recently, Someone Else at Canadian Stage andThe Penelopiad by Nightwood Theatre at Buddies in Bad Times. Was very glad to see the latter as Penelopiad is one of the shows I’d like to direct at some point in my career. Pleased to say I was not disappointed. Also went to improv class on Sunday again and, despite a bit of nerves, felt good about the afternoon.
It’s been a month-and-a-half since I last posted about The Fantastical Adventures of [Not] Being With You, so what’s going on now?
Since that last entry, a lot has happened. I’ve kept quiet about most of it because we haven’t yet reached a final decision on whether or not we’ll be seeing The Fantastical Adventures of [Not] Being With You in Canada this year.
What’s Happened Between Then and Now
- We had hopes for a BYOV in Edmonton and after making it on a shortlist (yay!) we didn’t make the final cut (boo!). We also connected with a couple other options which were either too small or not equipped for the show or far too expensive.
- We found nothing in Calgary.
- We found a BYOV in Winnipeg (yay!) but had to drop out after I went over the costs of doing just Toronto and Winnipeg and learnt that touring to only Winnipeg would cause us to likely lose money given the extremely high costs (money and/or time) of travelling within Canada (boo!).
- New factors that came forth causing us to increase our budget by about $1,000.
What Does That Mean for the Production?
We’re looking at the possibility of doing just the Toronto Fringe. Seeing how that would work in terms of numbers. When I created a budget looking at just this, it didn’t seem possible at first. But by re-examining the numbers, something happened. $2,300 of it happened.
Basically, looking at some reasonable cuts and revised projections, factoring in reasonable estimates for crowdfunding and sponsorship income, and if I choose to donate my personal share of the projected revenue to the production, that leaves us with a $2,300 gap.
When looking at ways to fill this gap, (outside of crowdfunding and sponsorship, as those numbers are included in the budget), the primary option seemed to be grants. So, I researched grants. This is what I found.
Toronto Arts Council – It appears that, as I am not an organisation but an individual, I am ineligible And even as an organisation I would need two people from Toronto to sign the application and I am the only one not living in the UK.
Ontario Arts Council – Ineligible as I have not lived in the province for a year.
Canada Council for the Arts – The grant for emerging artists does support an ad hoc group of artists, however, each artist in the project must submit certain documents. Eligibility requirements say applicants must be Canadian citizens and we are not all Canadian citizens in this project. The Theatre International grant, while we may have been a good fit for it, had a deadline of December 1 which is before we had any idea of our Fringe lottery results whatsoever.
In addition to these grants, there were also Canadian grants that are through the embassy to promote cultural exchange and the like, but funding for those has been completely cut by the current Federal government.
Artists’ International Development Fund (UK grant) – This is a grant that allows UK artists to be funded to develop their career in other countries. We could actually apply for this.
Possibly another very small one for LGBT-specific but the materials on their website indicate it is highly, highly competitive and we’d also be competing against LGBT heath and research initiatives. While we may still be able to apply, it’s not enough to plug the gap and very unlikely we’d get it at all.
What Are We Doing Now?
$2,300 is an amount that’s not large at all but it is a major portion of our small budget and therefore still out of current feasible reach, so it’s been difficult for us to just say we won’t do the production. As the decision for the Artists’ International Development Fund would be released 6 weeks from the deadline (today), we chose to apply for this grant (well, for Max, Ryan, and Ina to apply) and take it from there. Unless some magical financial windfall or generous benefactor befalls us, the decision on whether or not The Fantastical Adventures of [Not] Being With You comes to Canada will rest on the outcome of that grant.
This Sunday I went to a drop-in improv class on the feeling that I needed to get out and do something. We’ve yet to hit the rehearsal room for The Deepest Trench and, given the move to Toronto, I’ve not done anything since Fantastical… in London. I’ve been antsy to say the least. Before I even decided to attend, I was nervous. I hadn’t acted since Eurydice in 2010 and hadn’t done any improv for years (and year and years) before that. Though the drop-in was intended for people of all experience levels, who knows who would be there and what the attitude would be like. Thankfully, it was fun, we focused on the basics so I didn’t feel too out of my depth, and there was a bit of range in the experience (even if it did tilt more toward the more experienced in improv end). I enjoyed myself, didn’t feel I made a fool of myself, was reminded of some great foundation techniques, and, most of all, got to feel actively and immediately creative. I do think I’ll go again.
The other week I caught a production of one of my faovurite shows, Hedwig and the Angry Inch by breathe.feel.love. I hadn’t seen the show since a production ten years ago by Theatre Network. Set in a well-suited venue, the Drake Underground, the show was a welcome reminder of why I enjoy Hedwig as much as I do.
Read an article this morning from the UK with actor Brian Cox lamenting that acting may be a field increasingly left to the privileged alone.
Cox said today’s top actors were dominated by those educated at public school and that the profession should be “more mixed”.
He said: “I feel awful that young people don’t have the opportunities that I had.
“That understanding of the need for social mobility that came after the Second World War has gone.”
While this is hardly the first article or thought on this subject to be put out there (especially from the UK, a country far more aware and acknowledging of its class structure than North America), I can’t help but agree. Unless you hit on some lucky breaks, to be a working theatre professional, you typically need access to a significant amount of wealth/stability in order to have the means to attend auditions at all times of day and night and on little notice, see theatre performances at venues across a city, fund productions, and on and on. Or you have to put in your time at a day-job (or two or three) and make enough to scrape by and still do some/most of those things, or make a little more so you can have a bit of savings or do bigger things like take workshops, travel to train, fund productions, etc. at the cost of missing out on many opportunities (and adding the additional stress of worrying about the time you spend on your career plus stress that comes with worry about day-job stability to keep you living month-to-month). This in a field that’s already at an extremely low ratio of (paid, viable) opportunities to eligible individuals compared to most others.
For me, all this means that many theatre professionals (who still are professionals, regardless of whether they currently are being paid or not) end up hitting a point of a stable theatre career (if they ever do), either much later in their life or not at all, if they don’t have that backing of wealth and privilege to keep them afloat and focus solely on their theatre career. This also means that many talented individuals may not ever hit that point, having to drop out of the field before they would because they cannot have any sort of healthy financial (social, emotional, etc.) life without that cushion of money. And that does sadden me.
Bear in mind, too, that I speak from a position of moderate privilege. Coming from a working class background (grew up in a trailer, family’s income from the trades), I was still fortunate enough to have the formalized post-secondary training I took funded by scholarships, and living expenses with assistance from my family. While I deeply appreciate all of that, and all of the emotional support my family has provided, I have still always had to work a day-job throughout my career. I’ve tempered many risks and passed on opportunities because of a dependence on said day-jobs for a roof over my head, food on the table, and small luxuries I do afford myself. Would I be in a different/better place in my career had I not to worry about these things? While the grass may always be greener, I’d say yes, I would be, simply because I’d have been able to pursue more opportunities and take more risks without worry of losing my sole source of income.
I do grant, however, that in theatre when you reach a point of financial stability from the profession alone, the vast majority of the stories I’ve been told have attributed it to a ‘lucky break’ or two. Esentially, an opportunity the individual was in a position to take advantage of, because of a combination of being in the right place at the right time, having had the experience and hard work behind them in place to to be able to successfully take advantage of this opportunity, and on and on. While wealth and privilege do not inherently lead to a sustainable career in theatre, what they do provide is access to far more of these opportunities. Just as someone who may be in an economic situation to take advantage of a career opportunity, but who is unqualified/ill-prepared/untrained for it, will likely not succeed, another individual who has all that is necessary to take advantage of success in that opportunity, but did not have the chance to be available to it, will never even know if they would have brought themselves to the next level.
While wealth is certainly not a requirement for a career in theatre, it is unfortunately an extreme advantage that many cannot overcome and that has a discernible impact on who is and is not able to have that sustainable career. Though, fortunately for those of us not in such a fortunate position as others, there is one way to at least mildly temper that indifference in resource and with something that doesn’t bear any sort of financial weight whatsoever. For that, I would always say that far more valuable a commodity in a theatre career than wealth is perseverance.