Thursday, 22 June 2017

Save the Date for Theatre Ontario Festival 2018 in London

Theatre Ontario Festival is a destination for theatre-lovers from across the province.  Mark your calendar now to join us on May 16 to 20, 2018 as we travel to London for Theatre Ontario Festival 2018.

Co-hosted by Theatre Ontario, London Community Players, and the Western Ontario Drama League, the Festival will be a return to the community that last hosted our Festival in 2010.

Theatre Ontario Festival showcases outstanding community theatre productions from across the province, and celebrates outstanding achievements in community theatre with artistic awards, and the Michael Spence Award for Outstanding Contribution to Community Theatre.

With thought-provoking detailed adjudications open to all attendees, workshops, and play readings bringing together Canadian playwrights and communities, Festival is also a symposium for passionate and dedicated community theatre artists.




Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Browsing Our Bulletin Board

We are at the halfway point in our Double Your Donation challenge, and I am asking you to go the distance!  Theatre Ontario’s Board of Directors has challenged supporters like yourself to help us raise $4,500 by June 26th.

Coming Up from Theatre Ontario

Theatre Ontario's Summer Theatre Intensive
  • Register by June 23 to secure your spot in our Summer Theatre Intensive 2017.  Week-long courses starting August 6 and August 13 for performers, directors, and playwrights, in partnership with Off the Wall Stratford Artists Alliance.
  • We invite youth across the province to apply for a scholarship to the 2017 Summer Theatre Intensive. Our Board of Directors has announced a matching campaign aimed at sending a youth artist in Ontario to train at one of our Summer Courses free of charge for one lucky participant between the ages of 16-26.
Check out all of our upcoming Career Stream and Creator Stream workshops.

Upcoming on The Bulletin Board

  • Deadline to apply for Ontario Arts Council’s Touring grant is Jun. 22.
  • Upcoming Shaw Festival “Stage Skills for Adults” workshop is “Dance and Movement” (Jun. 25) and “Scene Study Sunday” is June 25.
  • Deadline to apply for Ontario Trillium Foundation “Grow Grants” is Jun. 28.
  • Deadline for submissions for Ottawa Fringe Festival’s undercurrents is Jun. 30.
Check out these items, and other postings from our members.
Theatre Ontario individual members can also access Auditions, Job Postings and Discount Ticket Offers on our Theatre Ontario Individual Member Resources on our website

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Save the Date for the Theatre Ontario Adjudicators Symposium

by Brandon Moore, Community Theatre and Communications Manager

Mark your calendars!  We've booked the date for our next Theatre Ontario Adjudicators Symposium – it will be Saturday, October 14, 2017, from 10:00am to 3:30pm at the Theatre Ontario office in Toronto.

Registration will open in July, and I will be soliciting proposed topics for both the "Techniques Roundtable" (where adjudicators discuss approaches and strategies they use in public and detailed adjudications) and “Issues in Adjudication” conversation starters for breakout sessions. Adjudicators also discuss their experiences during the past year.

Monday, 19 June 2017

ONstage Openings for the week of June 19

ONstage Now Playing in Southwestern Ontario
Legally Blonde: The Musical
at Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre
Photo by Angela Clayfield
This week’s openings on Ontario’s stages

In Southwestern Ontario

Jun. 23, Dancing at Lughnasa at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake)
Jun. 23, Screwball Comedy at The Foster Festival (St. Catharines) [with previews from Jun. 21]
Jun. 24, Wilde Tales at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake)
Jun. 24, Androcles and the Lion at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake)

In Toronto

Jun. 23, VideoCabaret's Confederation Part II: Scandal and Rebellion at Soulpepper Theatre [in previews]
Jun. 25, Confidential Theatre Project at Marion Abbott Productions

In Central Ontario

ONstage Now Playing in Central Ontario
Old Wives' Tales at Gravenhurst Opera House
Allie Dunbar, Robin Clipsham
Jun. 22, Million Dollar Quartet at Drayton Entertainment: King's Wharf Theatre (Penetanguishene) [with previews from Jun. 21]

In Eastern Ontario

Jun. 21, Perth through the Ages at Classic Theatre Festival (Perth)
Jun. 24, Same Time, Next Year at Classic Theatre Festival (Perth), with a preview on Jun. 23


For all the theatre playing across Ontario, visit Theatre Ontario’s ONstage theatre listings on our website

Friday, 16 June 2017

Ontario Off Stage

by Brandon Moore, Community Theatre and Communications Manager

From Theatre Ontario


Conversation Starters


Behind the Scenes at Ontario’s Theatres


Migrations


TO Toasts

  • ... to the recipients of the Hamilton Arts Awards: Claire Calnan (Executive Director of the Hamilton Fringe) who won the Arts Innovation Award, Anna Chatteron who won the Theatre Award (with Rex Emerson Jackson selected as Emerging Artist.)

In Case You Missed It

  • The Importance of Supporting Youth—Youth Advisory Committee member Julia Vodarek Hunter profiles The AMY Project (Artists Mentoring Youth).
  • Browsing Our Bulletin Board featuring opportunities across the province including Ontario workshops on grant writing and voice-over, our Summer Theatre Intensive and a youth scholarship, and grant deadlines.
  • ONstage Openings this week in Stratford, Port Dover, Drayton, Toronto, Gravenhurst, Smiths Falls, Cornwall, Gananoque, and Sault Ste. Marie.

You can also receive news from Theatre Ontario every month by email. Our archives are online and the June issue is now available.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The AMY (Artists Mentoring Youth) Project - the Importance of Supporting Youth

Theatre Ontario Youth Advisory Committee member Julia Vodarek Hunter works with The AMY (Artists Mentoring Youth) Project, a barrier free arts mentorship program for women and non-binary youth with a shared interest in creating theatre.  The AMY Project has received funding from Theatre Ontario’s Youth Theatre Training Program (funded by the Ontario Arts Council) on numerous occasions. The AMY Project was founded in 2005 By Claire Calnan and Pasha Mckenley, and in 2015 Nikki Shaffeeullah became the artistic director.  

Julia Vodarek Hunter
Julia Vodarek Hunter (JVH): I came to AMY as a participant in 2015 and it was the first time I felt like I had a space to express myself through my personal stories. The AMY Project was, and still is, for me, a platform and catalyst for the type of art and theatre I am making now. This year I have been working with AMY as an assistant director and script coordinator as well as an AMY Alumni Program Coordinator. Last month The AMY Project became the recipient of the 2017 Toronto Arts Foundation Youth For Arts Award. I sat down with Nikki Shaffeeullah, the artistic director and current session co-director to talk about the importance of supporting youth, the impact of AMY, and the challenges youth face when trying to access theatre.

JVH: How did you come to find the AMY Project?

Nikki Shaffeeullah
Nikki Shaffeeullah (NS): Honestly, I just found a posting on Work in Culture for the Artistic Director position, and I applied. At the time I was living in Edmonton - I had done an MFA there, at the University of Alberta, in community-engaged theatre direction and facilitation, and after working there for a bit after, I was looking to move back to my home city of Toronto. A friend and colleague in Edmonton had previously been one of the session directors for AMY and had told me about it and was like “you know, if you ever move back to Toronto, you should work with AMY.” I remembered that when I saw it posted on Work in Culture, and I applied and got it. It was in line with what I had been doing for the past several years, leading devised community-engaged theatre projects around themes of gender, culture, social issues. I had definitely worked with youth a lot but not exclusively, actually moreso with adults (particularly work with women of colour) and intergenerationally.

JVH: Did you have things like AMY project when you were growing up?

AMY 2017 session launch with mentors. (Photo by Rachel Penny)
NS: I was involved in theatre from a young age, and I was lucky to have some access to opportunities. In my elementary school in northeast Scarborough, I remember there was an announcement about auditions for a playI couldn’t believe it. My family loves music and the arts but I didn’t know any industry professional performing artist growing up and it was all very elusive. I don’t know that I had seen a play before but I had this sense of what it was, that you could stand on stage, sort of like being in a movie but live. I was deeply fascinated with the prospect that I could possibly participate in such an opportunity. You know, probably nothing in my adult life will ever compare to, the excitement of then at 8 years old, thinking I could possibly be in a play. So anyway I auditioned for this play about talking animals in a wacky zoo, and it changed my life.

My family later moved to Whitby, I was in school plays, and and I did a youth musical theatre training program at the local community theatre for three years. In retrospect I realize there were issues embedded into many of those school and community contexts that at the time I hadn’t fully identifiedI was probably too naive and just grateful and excited to be there (microaggressions and internalized racism, amirite?) These were predominantly white spaces and I remember other young folks, both of-colour and white, actually, pointing out to me some of the ways my participation was contained in racialized ways, but I mostly shrugged it off. Anyway, I did have access to some performance and training opportunities, particularly music theatre type stuff. But I definitely never had any arts training that asked me what stories I myself might want to craft and tell. I was in The Wizard of Oz twice but there was nothing like AMY Project to validate that stories by and about people like me, whatever that means, could be on stage. 

In high school, I did a lot of theatre, and I was also really invested in social justice. My friend’s big sister got me involved in anti-racism work, which was really formative for me. In grade 12, one of the drama teachers was going on mat leave and asked me if I wanted to select and direct a show for our school’s entry into the Sears Drama Festival. It was the first time I got to curate something. I was determined to pick a show that I saw as politically important as it was artistically interesting, and I landed on This is For You, Anna. It did well, going  to the top level of the competition. My lovely drama teachers encouraged me to apply for this scholarship offered by the festival, but in order to be eligible you had to be planning to study theatre post-secondary. So, at the interview, [for Ken Watts Scholarship] the committee asked “why do you want to study theatre?” and I basically confessed, “Honestly? I like theatre, it’d be cool to pursue it, but really, I want to do social justice work.” Someone on the committee replied, “Well you know, there are ways you can use theatre to do your social justice work,” like in ways beyond programming and directing political plays written by professional playwrights. That moment was a bit of a turning pointokay, I can pursue performing arts, and I can do it in ways that are rooted in social justice and community work. I’m so grateful for that series of events, it’s how I first got thinking about the intersections between theatre and community work! 

JVH: How has working with youth influenced you and what you do?

AMY 2016 Quiet Revolution. (Photo by Vita Cooper)
NS: Working with AMY has foregrounded the youth part of the work! I had previously been creating devised theatre, facilitating and directing around socially engaged themes with people from different communities. AMY has allowed me to really think about how youth fits into the wider picture of arts, storytelling, equity and access. With AMY, the fact that it’s youth that we work with is paramount, but it’s also not paramount—it’s more than just youth, it’s that we are working with young people who face barriers to arts training and telling their own stories. That’s what AMY is doing. We are filling gaps left by other institutions, filling gaps left by schools, filling gaps left by the government, by the way the city’s built, by the way resources are distributed. It has a youth-based focus because youth are often the ones in learning roles, and it’s so important to invest time and creative energy and love in them! I really enjoy working with youththeir artistic vulnerability, ideas, creativity, honesty, and I think there’s something valuable about creating with a cohorts of peers. 

JVH: What’s the biggest change you see in participants as they go through AMY?

NS: When the scales start growing and wings start popping out and they all turn into dragons 

JVH: with AMY tattooed on them

NS: and they fly into the night! But also: the biggest thing is when they have the realization that they have the ability to write and perform. It’s kind of obvious but it’s actually a humongous thingto not just write, but to write about themselves. I hear it every year from AMY participants “I have a story to tell and it’s worth while and I want people to hear it.” The kind of personal storytelling is amazing at all levels, when people who have the power to tell their own stories in strong and unapologetic, nuanced ways. I learn from witnessing that, I learn so much. Seeing that every year, how people go through the process of sharing their vulnerability, sharing their visions, it’s quite a transformative thing to experience.

JVH: What do you think the biggest challenge is for youth, if they have an interest in theatre and the arts?

NS: I think there are, unfortunately, many reasons for people to think the arts are not for them or not possible for them. There’s so many things like, you don’t feel good enough, or that your body’s not small enough or your skin’s not light enough or your gender is not normative enough, or whatever it is. You don’t have to be anywhere near the performing arts industry to know that it’s a competitive place where all kinds of success factors that have nothing to do with skill, creativity, or talent are privilegedeveryone knows that, and I think it’s alienating. I think a lot of people don’t know where to begin, how to access it. It can be this elusive thing. Theatres aren’t usually spaces that are authentic community spaces. A lot of theatres are working to be, but c'monthey’re not like parks, they’re not like shopping malls. Most theatres are culturally inaccessible to many people for more reasons than we can enumerate right now. I do admire how some theatres are working hard to change thatlike The Theatre Centre is a good example of a place that’s really playing with the idea of what a theatre can be. If theatres want to be accessible to youth who aren’t already in their immediate networks, they have to do some intentional work. The status quo insists that it won’t happen incidentally.

JVH: What are ways you think that more established artists can help youth feel less intimidated to accessing theatre? Do you think there is a solution to fixing that daunting feeling that only a certain type of person can access the performing arts?

2017 AMY Participants
NS: I would first want to pose that question to people who shepherd institutions, before posing it do individual artists. I do have a lot of respect for artists who invest their time into mentorship, I think it’s really important. I have so much respect for all the artists who work with AMY, as well as for Watah and Paprika and other mentorship programs who are creating those kinds of connections. Mentorship can be a very transformative thing if it’s done well. It’s easy to think that you don’t have a lot to give, that you don’t have a lot to teach or a lot to say. I see some folks being timid about engaging in mentorship. But when you engage in mentorship it’s not egotistic, like ” ooh I’m so smart, I can mentor”it’s actually the opposite, you have a responsibility to share your skills and I don’t care if you are still young yourself. Understand what you have left to learn, but also, understand the access you have and the knowledge you have to giveand give it. Give it because that’s how people learn. It’s a really messy field where there’s not enough paid opportunities for training and growth. Even for people who’ve accessed institutional training, theatre schools take people in and spit them out and there’s not enough work. Young and emerging artists need mentorship, they need opportunities to grow, they need opportunities to test things out. 

Own your power, step into your light doesn’t have mean that you’re an expert. I’m not that old, when I started working at AMY I was like four years older than the oldest participantya, you!but I had something to share . Half of being a mentor is simply committing the care and time and thoughtfulness to mentor. It includes transmission of knowledge, but is also also about relationship building and letting people into your practice and creating spaces for other people to learn, and there’s mutual support that is done through that.

Nikki and Julia

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Browsing Our Bulletin Board

Theatre Ontario's Voice Over workshop with Elley-Ray

Coming Up from Theatre Ontario

  • Want to know the secrets to a successful voice acting career? Join us at our Voice Over workshop with Elley-Ray on June 17 in Toronto.
  • Register by June 23 to secure your spot in our Summer Theatre Intensive 2017.  Week-long courses starting August 6 and August 13 for performers, directors, and playwrights, in partnership with Off the Wall Stratford Artists Alliance.
  • We invite youth across the province to apply for a scholarship to the 2017 Summer Theatre Intensive. Our Board of Directors has announced a matching campaign aimed at sending ayouth artist in Ontario to train at one of our Summer Courses free of charge, for one lucky participant between the ages of 16-26.
Check out all of our upcoming Career Stream and Creator Stream workshops.

Upcoming on The Bulletin Board

  • Upcoming Ontario Arts Council grant deadlines include Chalmers Arts Fellowships (Jun. 15), Artists in Communities and Schools Projects (Jun. 20), and Touring (Jun. 22).
  • Upcoming Shaw Festival “Beyond the Stage” workshop for teens is “Playing with Props” (June 17) in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
  • The Musical Stage Company is hosting “Showtunes Karaoke” on June 19.
  • Upcoming Shaw Festival “Stage Skills for Adults” workshop is “Dance and Movement” (Jun. 25).
Check out these items, and other postings from our members.
Theatre Ontario individual members can also access Auditions, Job Postings and Discount Ticket Offers on our Theatre Ontario Individual Member Resources on our website

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Our Board of Directors would like to Challenge You Again!

Helps us raise $4,500 by June 26th and our board will match every dollar, up to $4,500, Do the math – together we can turn $4,500 into $9,000! 

Join our Members and Donors in funding these initiatives:

Every donation made from the beginning of this campaign, will also help Theatre Ontario qualify to WIN $10,000 as part of this year’s Great Canadian Giving Challenge taking place during the month of June.

Our Double Your Donation campaign will start on Friday, June 16th and ending on Monday, June 26th. Join Theatre Ontario and help some very special youths Live their Dreams!

Support our Campaign


Monday, 12 June 2017

ONstage Openings for the week of June 12

ONstage Now Playing in South Central Ontario
Outlaw at The Curtain Club (Richmond Hill)
This week’s openings on Ontario’s stages

In Southwestern Ontario

Jun. 15, The Changeling at Stratford Festival
Jun. 15, The Full Mounty at Lighthouse Festival Theatre (Port Dover), with previews from Jun. 14
Jun. 15, Office Hours at Drayton Entertainment: Drayton Festival Theatre, with previews from Jun. 14
Jun. 16, Bakkhai at Stratford Festival

In Toronto

Jun. 17, VideoCabaret's Confederation Part I: Confederation and Riel at Soulpepper Theatre

In Central Ontario

Jun. 13, Old Wives' Tales at Gravenhurst Opera House

In Eastern Ontario

ONstage Now Playing in Eastern Ontario
Barefoot in the Park at Upper Canada Playhouse (Morrisburg)
Melissa Morris, Ephraim Ellis
Jun. 16, Bare Bear Bones at Smiths Falls Community Theatre
Jun. 16, Nana's Naughty Knickers at Seaway Valley Theatre Company (Cornwall)
Jun. 17, Million Dollar Quartet at Thousand Islands Playhouse (Gananoque), with a preview on Jun. 16

In Northeastern Ontario

Jun. 14, Habit of Murder at Sault Theatre Workshop (Sault Ste. Marie)

For all the theatre playing across Ontario, visit Theatre Ontario’s ONstage theatre listings on our website

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Live Your Passion with the Summer Theatre Intensive Youth Scholarship

Theatre Ontario's Summer Theatre Intensive
Theatre Ontario invites youth across the province to apply for a scholarship to the 2017 Summer Theatre Intensive in Stratford, Ontario!

Our Board of Directors has just announced a matching campaign aimed at sending one youth artist in Ontario to train at one of our Summer Courses FREE OF CHARGE. We will be providing the course, meals, accommodations and a travel stipend for one lucky participant between the ages of 16-26.

Learn more about Theatre Ontario’s Summer Theatre Intensive Youth Scholarship

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Browsing Our Bulletin Board

"Intimacy for the Stage" workshop

Coming Up from Theatre Ontario

Check out all of our upcoming Career Stream and Creator Stream workshops.

Upcoming on The Bulletin Board

  • Upcoming Shaw Beyond the Stage workshops for teens include “Story Theatre” (June 10) and “Playing with Props” (June 17) in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
  • The Musical Stage Company’s 2nd Annual Tony Awards Viewing Party is on June 11 in Toronto.
  • The ArtsReach Canadian Arts Marketing, Development and Ticketing Conference starts June 12.
  • Deadline for Ontario Arts Council’s Chalmers Arts Fellowships grant applications is June 15.

New on The Bulletin Board

  • Buddies in Bad Times Theatre invites submissions for their Emerging Creators Unit; the submission deadline is August 11.

Check out these items, and other postings from our members.
Theatre Ontario individual members can also access Auditions, Job Postings and Discount Ticket Offers on our Theatre Ontario Individual Member Resources on our website

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Welcome John Lazarus and Kristen Da Silva as Playwrights-in-Person at our Summer Theatre Intensive

John Lazarus 
We are proud to announce that we will host not one but two Canadian playwrights at this year’s Theatre Ontario Summer Theatre Intensive!

As we have grown our program into a two-week residence at Factory163 in sunny Stratford, Ontario we will be bringing in one playwright per week to host a reading of their work at the Stratford Perth Museum.

John Lazarus will join us in Week One on Monday, August 7th and Kristen Da Silva will be with us for week two’s reading on Monday, August 14th.

Location: 

Kristen Da Silva
Stratford Perth Museum
4275 Huron Street, Stratford, ON N5A 6S6

Admission:

This will be a FREE EVENT open to participants of Theatre Ontario and Off The Wall’s summer courses, as well as the greater Stratford community


Playwright-in-Person is made possible through PlayConnect - a grant from the Playwrights Guild of Canada, funded by the Canada Council.

Monday, 5 June 2017

ONstage Openings for the week of June 5

ONstage Now Playing in Southwestern Ontario
Twelfth Night at Stratford Festival
Members of the company
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
This week’s openings on Ontario’s stages

In Southwestern Ontario

Jun. 6, Androcles and the Lion at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake) [in previews]
Jun. 7, The Virgin Trial at Stratford Festival [in previews]
Jun. 8, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Drayton Entertainment: Huron Country Playhouse [with previews from Jun. 7]
Jun. 8, Marathon of Hope: The Musical at Drayton Entertainment: King's Wharf Theatre (Penetanguishene), with previews from Jun. 7
Jun. 8, On a First Name Basis at Port Stanley Festival Theatre, with previews from Jun. 7
Jun. 8, The ACTOne Play Festival at Registry Theatre (Kitchener)
Jun. 8, Legally Blonde: The Musical at Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre
Jun. 8, Wilde Tales at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake) [in previews]

In Toronto

ONstage Now Playing in Eastern Ontario
BOOM at Thousand Islands Playhouse
Rick Miller
Photo by David Leclerc
Jun. 7, Queer Pride Festival 2017 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Jun. 9, VideoCabaret's Confederation Part I: Confederation and Riel at Soulpepper Theatre [in previews]
Jun. 11, Confidential Musical Theatre Project at Marion Abbott Productions

In Eastern Ontario

Jun. 7, Old Love at Ottawa Little Theatre
Jun. 9, Children of God at National Arts Centre—English Theatre (Ottawa), with previews from Jun. 7

ICYMI: Check out last week’s openings

For all the theatre playing across Ontario, visit Theatre Ontario’s ONstage theatre listings on our website

Friday, 2 June 2017

Ontario Off Stage

Gravenhurst Opera House Costume Designer
Chris Cristobal preparing costumes for Swing!
Photo by Bryan White
by Brandon Moore, Community Theatre and Communications Manager

Conversation Starters


Behind the Scenes at Ontario’s Theatres


TO Toasts


In Case You Missed It

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program

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

Today we feature five stories:
The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.

Learn more about Theatre Ontario's Professional Theatre Training Program

Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Valerie Hawkins

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

Valerie Hawkins training in direction with Jillian Keiley at the Stratford Festival


The Value of a Good Question 

(April 24, 2017)  It's amazing to me that a play written two thousand five hundred years ago can be so relevant to modern times. From day one the subject matter of Bakkhai got up close and personal.  Jillian Keiley is a question making machine! The number of relevant questions that are asked of our modern sensibilities borders on miraculous. Inquiry, the constant diving deeper into the material of the play through probing our present realities, is genius. And I am realizing one of the most important tools any director can hone is this ability to ask the right questions.

Before any actor got on their feet we were stimulated with trying to assess gender roles and familial roles in today's world. Also deep philosophical discussions came out of questions such as: if you were to create a religion, what would your three major tenets be?

Well churches are empty in the west. The role of religion in our lives no longer has the impact it had all of those years ago. But the question of what is God and what is spirituality is still a question in people's lives. Spiritual ritual has been replaced with other things. The same can be said of roles within the family, they're being redefined as we redefine ourselves. Well things are different now from Euripides time but when you pull it apart...not a whole lot is different either!

It is such a luxury to have time in the rehearsal room to debate these long standing questions. It's a luxury that working in an institution like the Stratford Festival affords. So much talk has triggered deeper discussion and revelations of personal integrity and shame. I have been honoured to witness the bonding of this cast around the rehearsal table as they share laughter, tears, quiet reflection and open hearts.

On March 24 we had a feminist scholar, Kim Solga, speak to the cast. She fielded questions as to whether the Bakkhai could be considered a feminist play. The ensuing discussion made me realize that it doesn't matter if a play is feminist or misogynistic, what matters are the questions provoked during performance. There is so much importance in the questions in the audience’s heart whether in their own reality or a fabricated reality. I am learning the important mission in this work is keeping discussion in the air; keeping the questioning alive.

Watching the actors get to their feet and work their way through the scenes word-by-word step-by-step gesture-by-gesture remind me of something I already know, just how brave artists have to be to create the little moments that will become the play. And watching those collected moments take shape humble me daily.

Last week we had an intimacy choreographer, Tonia Sina, conduct workshops with actors and help mold difficult moments in the show. In many regards this is new territory. It's what fight directors were facing twenty years ago. When you think of that comparison, you see the importance of staging a kiss with the same care as a fencing move. Safety, precision, a controlled situation are so necessary for the artists to work freely and feel safe within the structure of the play. It's all illusion here, the theatre's greatest tool. No one is struck in a fight, no one is making love on the stage, it's a magic trick, it is a grand illusion. The audience is deceived into thinking they've seen more than what has actually been presented to them.

This particular production of Bakkhai is richly enhanced by the original music composition by Veda Hille. It evokes a primitive urge to move and I believe will enrich this production beyond words. Music and beautiful poetry can do this so well—reach parts of us on a very intimate level. Because much of my background is as a vocalist the development of this thread in rehearsals has been near and dear to my heart. So exciting to watch well-seasoned and brilliant Shelley Hanson teaching these actors this music and seeing and hearing it come alive! Not to mention sound designer Don Ellis taking it to the stage and enhancing its impact through technology and expertise.

I suppose I always knew "it takes a village" to put on a great piece of theatre but I cannot thank Theatre Ontario enough for providing a way for me to witness the process from the other side of the table. It is only a very accomplished cool headed director like Jillian Keiley who can take all the varied and beautiful threads from the actors, designers and all assisting contributors and weave a magical tapestry. We are now more than halfway to its completion - otherwise known as opening night which is really just another beginning. But what is being created is beyond exciting for me and I am sure for the audiences to come.

Related Reading:

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.


Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Sarah Thorpe

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

Sarah Thorpe will train in directing with Alan Dilworth at Soup Can Theatre in Toronto

(April 24, 2017) This is the first grant I have ever received. If you’re an indie artist, you get used to writing a seemingly never-ending number of these throughout any given year, and in my case as is the case of many of my peersyou get used to the rejection letters. Despite that, you have to keep writing and applying. As you can imagine, getting the congratulatory phone call from Rachel Kennedy was a tremendously exciting moment. Endless thanks to Theatre Ontario and the Ontario Arts Council for providing me with the opportunity to explore this facet of theatre that I have predominantly been self-taught through trial and error, and now have a chance to refine my skills and understanding with a director whose body of work is one I wholeheartedly respect and admire.

In my work with Alan, I hope to gain a more well-rounded understanding of the craft of directing, particularly how it pertains to the work I am interested in directing and creating through my company, Soup Can Theatre, where we focus on reinterpreting older works for the 21st century and exploring how these pieces can still be relevant to our current social climate. Alan and I have a shared passion for re-imagining older and classical texts, which makes us a great pair for this mentorship. While my instincts as a director are strong and have served me well in my practice and career thus far, I feel that I am at a point where I need to ‘up’ my ante as an artist, and this mentorship will help me in that regard by learning from someone whose work is similar to what I do. We will be focusing on two future Soup Can projects which I will be directing: a production of Edward Bond’s Lear, and an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s most well-known poems and stories to be staged promenade-style in a historic space.

Within the plans Alan and I have outlined for the mentorship and as I prepare for our first week, I’m discovering other aspects of directing to explore within the context of analyzing the texts and working with classical and poetic texts:
  • Alan has a wonderful ability to capture intimate moments of humanity and vulnerability within large theatrical landscapes via design and space, such as in his recent work with Soulpepper (Eurydice, Incident at Vichy, The Last Wife.) Lear and the Poe piece have high stakes and big ideas in terms of theatricality and heightened environments, but I don’t want the rich, quieter moments of intimacy and vulnerability to get lost. I want to learn how to better combine intimacy and theatricality in ways that unify these pieces as wholes. 
  • I’m excited to workshop scenes with actors. Soup Can has just launched a large crowd-funding campaign for Lear, and thanks to the PTTP, I can dedicate some time to work with the five actors I have cast in the main roles in order to stretch my muscles as the director of this piece, and try some scenes and moments out before we start rehearsals. Lear is very dark and complex, with very intimately aggressive scenes and poetic text. With Alan’s guidance and extensive knowledge of Bond and his canon, I’ll learn how best to navigate these scenes and text with actors.
  • I have also begun looking into spaces for the Poe piece. In my search, I have been particularly drawn to St Luke’s Church at Carlton and Sherbourne, which has been the home of such other site-specific pieces as Litmus Theatre’s Birth of Frankenstein. I am looking very forward to going in there with Alan, showing him the rooms and areas of the church I’m most drawn to, anddue to his past experience of site-specific work with Passion Play (Outside the March/Sheep No Wool/Convergence Theatre)getting his expertise on how best to use physical space as a character and setting up an environment, the best way to marry the stories and text with a site-specific space, and other elements of putting a theatre production in a non-traditional theatre space.
Through this mentorship, I’ll be able to enhance my effectiveness as one of the lead artistic voices of Soup Can so we can keep the quality of our artistic output consistent and relevant as we continue to evolve as a company, while also strengthening my own skills and becoming a more efficient and creative director.

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.


Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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 is training in production management with Kevin Waghorn at the Ottawa Fringe Festival

(May 2 2017)

Bullet Point Edition

  • As I’m writing this, it’s been a week where I spend less time at Arts Court than others. This week it is the calm before the storm of TACTICS, a 3 week long theatre festival taking place in the Theatre and Studio here, which will be the final ‘push’ of my time.
  • Over three weeks we will have two main-stage shows with their own specific lighting plot and hang and audience configurations.
  • Additionally, we are preparing for the five pieces in the workshop series - a mix of dance and theatre performance and script readings with minimal tech time and time in between.
  • Finally, TACTICS will also be hosting an album release show, panel discussions and a pre-show dinner served in the studio.
  • Lots to get ready for.
  • The schedule and hours are irregular - intense activity and then relative calm.
  • Some of the rentals we’ve worked with so far (not an exhaustive list): film festivals, improv, stand-up comedy, cabaret, professional dancers, young and youth dancers, hundreds of children, rehearsals, conferences, meetings, auditions, art battles, plays, full bands, duo’s, and lots of performances in the intersections between these genres.
  • The goal is pretty much always the same - make it work: whatever the purpose of the day/evening, whatever the client's goal is.
  • In between there’s maintenance and scheduling. Pretty much everyone’s job involves sending a bunch of emails. I don’t think everyone’s job involves electrical wiring.
  • It feels pretty great to learn things. Even better when those things are applicable not just within the confines of the theatre or more generally, the arts, but when those things are useful in ‘real’ life.
  • Creating lighting on the fly for groups or running sound for a full band has seriously upped my technical understanding and confidence.
  • Confidence is a big part of it - being calm and knowing that you will figure out what the problem is/how to do this task/ how to fix it. Thinking it through, following the wire (or google) will usually yield the answer.
  • I’ve benefitted from asking questions. Lots of questions.
  • Finding the best way to balance the two bullets above is a delicate balance I definitely haven’t mastered.
  • I’m a young woman and so depending on the person, I need to work against people's expectations of my competency.
  • I need to work against my tendency to undercut myself and my competencies. Why is it a comfortable default for me to feign or lean into my ignorance or lack of certainty? (I hesitate to relate this to my sex, but I wonder if there’s at least some effect of sex-specific socialization/culture here)
  • Ladders - I used to think I was okay with heights. In reality, am probably more on the nervous end of okay. Or just plainly in the nervous category.
  • Ladder placement - I think it’s a fine art.
  • Give yourself room to make mistakes.
  • Sometimes the mistake is just not doing things efficiently. Not a mistake but not right, either.
  • Less light usually looks better.
  • Lighting dance is sort of way more fun than lighting theatre. How important is an actor’s face really? (okay yes pretty important)
  • It can be physically uncomfortable to watch actors unable to find their light.
  • You can learn a lot about how to work with technicians and designers as a maker from sitting in those meeting rooms and theatres as a technician. What to do and not do.
  • It is a treat to drop into the last week of a production - to help in the final steps then sit in the booth operating the show without the same emotional baggage and anxiety I get from presenting my own work.
  • Maybe that makes it sound less exciting; certainly more sustainable though - in many ways.
  • There is something satisfying about tasks at which you either succeed or fail.
  • There is something satisfying about tasks which yield tangible immediate results.
  • That’s all for now!

Related Reading:


The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.
Learn more about Theatre Ontario's Professional Theatre Training Program
Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Donna Marie Baratta

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

Donna Marie Baratta trained in artistic producing and curation with Laura Nanni at SummerWorks in Toronto

Laura Nanni and Donna Marie Baratta

(April 30, 2017) Before I began this adventure, my first blog post spoke to the giddy joy I felt while receiving the incredible news that I would work with Laura Nanni in Artistic Producing and Curation for six full weeks. That giddy joy remained throughout my time and now, almost one full calendar year later, I am immensely grateful to Laura because I have gained confidence in my role as an Artistic and Managing Director through my time with her.

This year has gone by quickly; in festival curation you are always working and trying to meet a new deadline, one that is set not only for your upcoming Festival but next year’s Festival too. Since my time with Laura, I successfully launched Superior Theatre Festival’s first summer Festival in August 2016 and continued to build the second season’s programming, partnerships and funding. Unfortunately we were not able to work together that whole time but instead in bursts of time around my teaching. This meant I was able to experience most aspects of building a festival, even if in a small way.

What is important to note is our Festivals’ circumstances, location, ecology and resources are very different but I was given permission to dream big while working with Laura because I got a glimpse of where Superior Theatre Festival could go. I also saw the reality of running a festival
losing sponsorship and having to seek sponsorship from another institution to cover that lost funding. The reality is, the managing part of the Festival demands a lot time and the Artistic part that you crave usually comes in second place.

While in the office from January to April 2017 I did things such as: sort submissions into folders, draft letters to actors or other theatre companies, create a programming document for shows as they were added to the Festival, watch Sears Festival shows to program, read plays that were submitted, share my thoughts with the team and sit in on meetings and artist conversations. I went through periods of it being just Laura and I in the office to more and more staff being involved as we got closer to the Festival. What I realized is a lot of learning happens in the in-between times
the time between a meeting, in a cab to an event, while grabbing a coffee, getting a drink or between Sears shows. I got a very real glimpse into what it is to run a festival and I was fortunate to be able to apply that knowledge to my own Festival during that process. That made this mentorship invaluable.

To wrap up, I thought I’d distill the “Top 3 Things” I’ve learned during these last few months in the office:

1. Openness: The ability and foresight to ask the right question at the right time is key to building a healthy collaboration. I was included in conversations with artists about their work prior to an offer to be in the Festival and I was privileged to hear the kinds of questions Laura asked and how she asked them. She had a way of having the artist’s back at the same time as asking difficult questions about how to cite the work and how SummerWorks could support their work.

2. Curation: You have to make the tough decisions. With over 250 submissions to SummerWorks Laura had a lot of reading to do. She was intimately aware of all of the submissions and would ask me to read some of the plays that she wanted my opinion on. One of the best questions she asked me was:  “What questions would you ask of this play to move you to say either yes or no?” The questions I would ask of the play might then be used as a springboard for a conversation with an artist about their work. Curating a festival like SummerWorks means making hard decisions every day and also speaking to artists about when the timing is right for a project. Sometimes it’s a piece you want to program but the company’s idea is very ambitious and they simply need more time to fundraise so that they don’t lose money on their venture. I appreciated hearing Laura talk an artist out of this year`s Festival for a more glorious next yearone that is true to the artist’s vision. Even though she loved and wanted to program the project, the producing company needed more time and resources to realize their vision. To me, that was a wonderful realizationthis year’s applicants might be next year's shows. In curation you are in it for the long gamenot the short game. It is about creating relationships and trust with artists and knowing that you can support their work in a healthy way for everyoneespecially the artist.

3. Transparency as a Leader: There was so much care and openness in SummerWorks’ process.  Laura let artists know where she was at in the selection process through email and when to expect to hear from her. This seems like a simple idea but as an artist myself, it meant the world to know where SummerWorks was in their process. It meant the world to be in the loop.

I was inspired every day during this mentorship. Laura took such care with each submission and as an artist I was heartened to witness her love of projects and her love of the artists. I wish this mentorship wasn’t over and I wish that I could continue to work with SummerWorks through to their Festival this year but I also have a festival to run so I hope that this is just the beginning of a lifetime of learning about Curation and Artistic Producing. A huge thank you to Laura Nanni; she is so encouraging and I am lucky to have her as a friend. Thank you Theatre Ontario and the OAC for giving me this opportunity. I am eternally grateful and hope one day to be able to return the favour to another emerging festival curator.

Related Reading:

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.

Learn more about Theatre Ontario's Professional Theatre Training Program

Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.