The Toronto Independent Theatre Coalition (TITC)

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I first had the idea for the Toronto Independent Theatre Coalition (TITC) 5 or 6 years ago. I had recently started up Bygone Theatre, and was watching what other indie groups were up to in an effort to figure out a growth strategy (aka what the hell I was doing). The first thing that became glaringly obvious was that it’s nearly impossible to grow a successful theatre business on your own. Especially in a city as expensive as Toronto.

Don’t get me wrong, theatre is first and foremost an art, but if you ignore the business side, the part that helps you find sponsors, partners and audience members, then no matter how good your art is, you’re not going to be around long enough for anyone to see it.

It’s nearly impossible to grow a successful theatre business on your own…(and) if you ignore the business side…you’re not going to be around long.

As indie artists, we are often stuck in a Catch 22 kind of hell;

You need advertising to bring in audience members, but you need audience members to make the money you need for advertising.

You need experience to get sponsors & grants, but you can’t get experience because you don’t have sponsors or grants to help you get started.

…and so it goes.

The theatre community is so small, but when it comes to companies connecting and supporting each other, suddenly there was all this distance between us.

While it’s hard to say just how many indie theatre groups there are in Toronto, I heard once that there are approximately 350 in the city. That’s huge. Yet there didn’t seem to be any kind of network set up to help those artists connect and help each other grow. The theatre community is so small, but when it comes to companies connecting and supporting each other, suddenly there was all this distance between us.

Why is that?

One of my least favourite parts of the theatre community is this strange belief some seem to have that we are somehow in competition with one another. It’s seldom if ever said out loud, but you feel it when friends with their own companies don’t bother to share your show info, when people hesitate to do a program ad swap, or one someone comes up with the great hashtag #indieunite and yet it never seems to be used by companies actually trying to support each other.

I have always wanted to change that. So, here is my official attempt.

The goal of the TITC is to provide a space for artists and companies to come together and do what we all should have been doing from the beginning; supporting each other. This can be by sharing resources like access to rehearsal space, props or costumes, or by doing labour swaps when there’s multiple companies without the funds to pay artists properly. In addition to that, each member company must agree to share, via all their social media networks, each other company’s show and audition info. If a company isn’t living up to their end of the deal, they get booted out. Only team players here.

So why make this an official thing? Why insist on the membership survey, track social media numbers and hold groups accountable? Why not just continue to share and work with those you already know?

The answer — strength in numbers.

The goal of the TITC is to provide a space for artists and companies to come together and do what we all should have been doing from the beginning; supporting each other

This is where we as indie artists can start to grow our companies as businesses. When you contact a potential sponsor, say a car dealership, chances are you are trying to convince them that supporting you will be good exposure. You tell them to think of it as a marketing investment — give us some money for our show, we give you a shout-out on our social media, all our followers see how great you are! Only, as an indie company you likely don’t have a huge following.

Currently, we have 9 Company Members at the TITC; that’s after about a week of applications being open. And to give you an idea of how much of a difference that can make for members already, note that, on average, each company has 646 Twitter followers, but combined? That number jumps to 5818. And we’re just getting started. Plus, that doesn’t include the following the TITC itself is now starting to grow…

We are stronger together.

Together, we have access to some of the best indie talent in the city.
Together, we have social media numbers and followers large enough to get sponsor’s attention.
Together, we can pool our funds to advertise a central hub where all the indie shows can be promoted on a large scale.

…and so it goes.

There are no membership fees required to join the TITC, all we want is your willingness and commitment to grow this community with us. It takes about 3 minutes to apply, and you can do so here. If you want to know more about what membership entails, you can find that here. And if you want to know what we have planned next, you can learn that here.

If you like the sound of the TITC, please take a moment to check out our website at www.thetitc.ca, to follow us on Instagram or Twitter, and to like us on Facebook. Share this post! Send links to your theatre friends! The more of us there are the more we can do.

#indieunite

To keep the TITC free we need some help raising funds for start-up costs. Want to help support Toronto’s indie theatre scene? Please visit our GoFundMe page and give if you can.

Hey, It’s Not All Bad! 2016 In Review

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It’s becoming a bit of a tradition, doing a “year in review” post, so here goes one for a year most of us agree has been pretty shit; 2016.

Despite the awful things happening in the world, the ridiculous number of celebrities to pass before their time, 2016 has been good to me in a lot of ways. Here’s the highlights.

Tarragon Theatre

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As I mentioned in my blog from this time last year, in January of 2016 I started working for Tarragon Theatre as the Assistant Producer; this has been my all time favourite job. The people at Tarragon are awesome, and I very quickly got to learn a lot. From doing CAEA contracts with Kesta, the Business Manager; mailings and social media marketing with Lauren, the Director of Communications; foundation & grant research with Leslie, Director of Development; workshops with students lead by Anne, Director of Education; and special projects grant writing with Richard, the Artistic Director, I’ve had a chance to do a little bit of everything and that has helped to confirm that, yes, I love everything about theatre. It’s been a hard year in a lot of ways and the staff have been very supportive, and I’m going to miss the place when my contract ends (soon). But I think I have now a good idea of what sort of training & experience I need to have a position there, and so I’m headed down that path in hopes of working there again someday!

New Apartment

For anyone thinking of moving to a new apartment a week before opening a show, I have one piece of advice; don’t. Despite it being insanely hectic, and taking a very long time to get organize and settled in, I’m very happy with my new home. It’s a lovely old building, built around 1910, and has a ton of vintage charm, which (surprise!) I love. Plus, I’m here with 4 of my favourite people; my bunny, Felicity, my budgies, Felix & Rooney, and my ever-supportive boyfriend, Conor (aka Coogle). Pretty great.

Wait Until Dark

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In April Bygone Theatre mounted a production of Wait Until Dark in the rehearsal hall at Tarragon Theatre. As happens with every show I direct, I got to meet a ton of funny, talented, and all-round awesome people. Also got to reconnect with Anthony Neary who I had worked with on Madeline Robin Known As Roxann a couple years back; he came out from Ottawa to set up some funky LED lights. We got to expand our Youth Outreach with this show by getting several teenage volunteers involved, which not only lessened my workload, but introduced all of us to some up-and-coming Toronto talents.

Directing with Richard Rose

This year I finally had a chance to take a class I have wanted to sign up for for YEARS; Directing with Richard Rose. I don’t have any formal theatre training and so I had wanted to add some things to my resume and get tips from a pro; for anyone looking for the same, I highly recommend this class. I haven’t had a chance to direct a show since taking the course, so we’ll see come His Girl Friday if his words of wisdom will improve my directing skills!

Vaudeville Revue

13581899_812129075590261_8621653151204502106_o(Most of) The Cast of Vaudeville Revue

Since I started Bygone back in late 2012, I have wanted to do a vaudeville show; in June 2016, I finally got the chance. Vaudeville Revue had a short run but we had an amazing variety of talent, and I’ve got another one planned for this season; hopefully this will grow into a yearly event. Everyone was not only talented but wonderfully positive. Despite not having the usual rehearsal process, I really witnessed bonding among performers backstage. That’s always one of my favourite parts of a show.

Tucked Away Antiques

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In August I decided to try and make some extra cash out of my second biggest passion (next to theatre); antiques. I have a ridiculous number of vintage & antique items at home – from shows, my own collections – and I always want to buy more. So I opened up an Etsy shop, Tucked Away Antiques, to feed my collecting addiction without making me go broke; it worked! It’s growing slowly, but it is growing, and I am making a profit. In the new year I hope to build it more and get it to a place where it can be a regular source of income.

Human Rights Hearing Against Theatre 20

This is meant to be a positive post, so I won’t go into this here. I’ll just say that the hard part is over, and that you can read more about it here.

Coming Up

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I’m already knee-deep in 2017 in a lot of ways. Work on Bygone’s next show, His Girl Friday, started a few months ago, and rehearsals will start in early January. I’ve signed up for online courses through Lynda, so I can brush up on my Adobe skills & Google Analytics, as well as learn how to use new programs like Quickbooks & Sage, and get some training on HTML & C++. Hopefully these skills will help me not just with Bygone, but any future work as a producer. I’ve got a bunch of things on the back-burner at the moment, and hopefully will have some more updates soon, though I won’t jinx it by mentioning them now.

All for now. Happy New Year!
– E.

Designing His Girl Friday, Part 1: Vintage Office Desks

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While His Girl Friday won’t open for another 4 months I’m already busy prepping things on the production side. The budgets are set, fundraising & marketing scheduled, so now I get a little time to spend on one of my favourite parts of putting together a show (and part of why I started Bygone in the first place); designing.

Anyone who’s seen a Bygone Theatre production knows that we always do things set in the 20th century, and while there are of course budgetary restraints that don’t make 100% accuracy possible, I do work hard to get an authentic period feel to our shows, both with props and costumes, and when possible, set.

His Girl Friday is set in 1940 and takes place primarily in a newspaper office, which means that I have to find a lot of period office supplies. The good thing is, since it’s an office (as opposed to, say, the house of a trendy socialite), I can play with the time period a bit; supplies from the 30s or even 20s could easily still be showing up, as long as they do have modern necessities like typewriters and phones. So let’s start with the most basic part of an office…

Desks

There’s a few key styles of desk you will come across if researching those from the first half of the twentieth century; secretary desks, rolltop desks, typewriter desks and tanker desk.

The secretary desk is the oldest style in this list, and despite its name, would not be very useful for most secretaries, as it forces the user to sit staring into a bookshelf, rather than outward towards visitors. The base is made with wide drawers which have above them a hinged desktop surface, allowing it to be opened when a writing surface is needed, or closed to save space and protect documents when it is not. The top half of the desk features a bookcase – sometimes with some drawers – often covered by glass. All-on-all the secretary is a tall, heavy piece of furniture with a shallow depth. Once again, not very practical for a modern office, certainly not a shared space.

The rolltop desk was a staple of the turn of the (20th) century office. First designed in the late 1800s, it became popular throughout the end of the Victorian era as it was quite easily mass produced. Its signature element is the roll down top, wooden slats on a tambour that allowed the user to cover the desktop and drawers. While practical for a small office with minimal correspondence, the desks grew out of favour as large elements such as the typewriter required more desk space, and the small drawers and compartments grew unusable due to an increased volume of paper (again, thanks to mass production).

 

One of the modern marvels becoming appearing in turn of the century offices was the typewriter (I’ll go into more details on those later), and with that came the necessity for a new type of desk. Just as you would today want to have a different desk for your computer than say, writing or sewing, workers then found they needed something not only lower (for ease of typing) but sturdier than the hinged tops commonly used before; typewriters were heavy and required hard pounding on the keys. In addition to that, early typewriters were finicky and expensive, so it was important to keep them covered and safe from dirt and dust. Many initially considered them an eyesore as well, so the cover had an aesthetic value too.

1946 saw the introduction of the Tanker Desk, a new form of the pedestal desk made of steel, with a sheet metal surface. These utilitarian style desks were popular in institutions such as schools and government offices, and have a distinctly retro feel. They remained popular until the 1970s, and are often sought after now for a “industrial” look. However, as I mentioned previously, this show is set in 1940, so these are a little too modern. Plus, they are expensive and heavy; not a great choice for a show.

So what to use? Before even doing any research I knew I preferred the look of wood desks to wooden, and I knew I would need some that could support a typewriter. This play also calls for a rolltop desk. Given that we have a budget to stick to, and keeping in mind how difficult these can be to move and store, my plan is to get a larger, slightly older desk for Walter Burns (the editor) to have in his private office, and to use a small typewriter desk for his secretary.

The reporters will likely share a large table with just their own phone and small work station, and the back of the office will have a few older desks set aside, including our necessary rolltop desk. I’ll post photos when we have them all purchased, but for now, here’s an idea of what I’m looking for;

All for now, more to come soon!
-E.

Keeping Busy

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Big week ahead.

We start off today with the first round of auditions for Kill Sister, Kill! It’s going to be weird to be sitting in on auditions as something other than director, I’m not sure if I’ve ever done that. We’ve got another night of them on Tuesday then callbacks next Sunday then right into rehearsals – things are chugging along. We had a long but very productive music meeting yesterday, pumping out some sounds for the overture and talking about the musical structure of the whole show. While after several hours of that and no real food besides Little Debbie Snack Cakes, we all start to get a bit giddy, but I think we made some good progress and I’m excited to see it pull together.

Tomorrow is the Theatre 20 Season Launch Party. It’s being held at Vagabondo Italian Ristorante + Lounge, which means I need to be dressed up, but since I’m also helping run the event I get to do things like carry risers & set up cords; we’ll see how well I do at that in a cocktail dress & heels. Should be a good night. We have a bunch of preview performances, tons of industry people coming and I’m expecting to see quite a few friendly familiar faces. I’ll update on the party & the season later this week.

I’m busily working on stuff for the next Bygone Theatre fundraiser, another Retro Radio Hour performance that will be used to raise money & give a sneak peak of Kill Sister, Kill! That comes up on July 4th, so I’ve gotta hustle in the next couple days to get the final things in place. Mostly I need to finish the poster design so I can start promoting it, and that’s something that I always take a while with.

Then of course there’s all the trip planning aspects of our trip to NYC. It is expensive to stay there, especially when you’re bringing a large group, so I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time looking things up and trying to find us the best deal. I want to get some of that nailed down this week so I can focus on more show-specific things. It’ll be a good time when we get there, but there’s nothing fun about the planning.

Meanwhile, I keep trying to get out in the evenings to meet new people and maintain my sanity; had a lovely time the other night and it’s always refreshing to meet someone outside of theatre who actually still has a decent understanding of it. Good drinks, good conversation, good time. Hoping to do that again soon, should I ever have another spare minute.

Back to the grind.
-E.

Blissfully Astray – May Updates

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The past few months have flown by, but May especially has been a whirlwind.

At the start of 2015 I began my job at Theatre 20, and after a month or two working part-time and doing the odd task I was given a full-time position as their producer. The organization is currently structured as follows; Brian Goldenberg (who I work alongside) as the Executive Director, David Keeley as Artistic Director and Nora McClelland as Associate Artistic Director – then comes me as Producer. Being a non-profit we have a board with 13 or 14 members, and then there’s a host of interns/volunteers & a new summer student. Big company, relatively small staff.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 8.24.59 AMI’ve been keeping busy at the office doing anything from updating our new fundraising software, eTapestry (which, as nerdy as this will sound, is very cool. Basically a really detailed & targeted way to track donors, ticket sales & grants), to updating their website, initiating a monthly newsletter, and working on getting things together for all of our projects for the coming season (can’t give details on that yet, join us for our Season Launch June 8th!). It’s nice to, after years of doing arts admin stuff for no pay, be able to say that no, I don’t have a ‘Joe Job’, what I do to pay the bills is produce theatre. Pretty nifty 🙂

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New Theatre 20 web design.

Alongside that I am still doing my work for the Social Capital Theatre, which I am happy to say keeps me busier than expected because they’ve been getting so many bookings. There’s nearly constantly a show going on and then they’ve got the rehearsal space across the street, and the classes they run every couple months; for their first year, they’re doing a pretty incredible job at filling the place up. Their One Year Anniversary party is coming up soon, which should be fun.

SoCapNewLogosForPosters-Apr2015-blackltrstranspbgThen of course there’s Kill Sister, Kill! which I am producing through Bygone Theatre alongside Drac & Jamieson Child, and our composer Mike Zahorak. The show got into the NYC Fringe so we have a lot of planning and prep to do before August; get all the forms in, find an ACR from New York, finish the script and score, set up a fundraiser, cast, book accommodations in NYC – it goes on and on. I’m pretty swamped with this stuff but I loved it there last year so I’m excited to have an excuse to visit the city again in a few months, even if it’s only for 10 days. Met some great people last year who I hope to see again, and I’m sure I’ll meet many more.

Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical

Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical

I also recently acquired rights for what I’m thinking will be Bygone’s next show, but right now I’m trying to figure out if I will have time to get everything together for an October run; when I made the tentative schedule for it back when I applied, I was going to be having rehearsals start in August, and being out of the city may put a damper on that 😛 Oh yeah! And there’s was Bygone’s Retro Radio Hour – Spring Fling; those are always fun, we had some new voices up there and a great response yet again. I’ve got ideas for the next few, just need to find time to book a venue!

Retro Radio Hour Spring FlingOn the personal front, some of you may know that I recently moved back into the city after a year & a bit being stuck in the wasteland that is Brampton (I’m sorry Bramptonites, but there was just nothing for me to do out there). I’m back in my old building and it’s great to be able to go out when I want, be home from work by 6pm as opposed to 9pm, and to be able to stroll around the city in the nice weather. I saw Ballad of the Burning Star yesterday (more on that soon) and took the long scenic route to the theatre, sticking to side streets as I headed from Lansdowne & Dupont to the Theatre Centre on Queen near Dovercourt; I couldn’t believe how many streets I had been past but never down before! It really is a beautiful city, and I feel connected to everything here in a way I never did in KW where I grew up. Bloody expensive, yes, but I guess I’ll just have to become a ‘Big-Shot Broadway Producer’ to deal with that :-p

Bachelorette pad - the bedroom. More pics to come.

Bachelorette pad – the bedroom. More pics to come.

Time to head out to work, sorry for the less-than-poetic entry but I’ve been so busy I barely have time to remember all that I’m doing, let alone write anything insightful about it. More of that to come once things slow down a bit.

-E.

Bygone’s “Retro Radio Hour – Suspense!” Was a Hit!

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Last night was Bygone Theatre’s third show in the retro radio hour series; Retro Radio Hour – Suspense! The show was great and everyone had a swell time. All in all a good night.

Here’s a few photo highlights, including pics from our mugshot wall:

To see more check out the Bygone Theatre facebook page or our youtube channel; all the videos should be up by the end of the week.Now time to kick Rope into high-gear!
-E.

Theatre Audition Tips

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I’ve been getting dozens upon dozens of audition applications for Rope this week, and while a lot of the auditioning process is fun, over time there are some poor choices I see actors making again and again, something that leads to frustration for me, and ultimately missed opportunities for them. So here are a few quick audition tips, for those of you applying for Rope or any other show. Hopefully they help.

Headshots
Your headshot is the first glimpse the director or casting director gets of you, so it’s important to have a good one. Colour photos are the norm these days and they should be clear, close-up (shoulders up) and accurately reflect what you look like. That one’s important, so I’ll say it again; your headshot should look like you; a cleaned up version yes, but not a glamourous or fake one. This is not a modelling shot, so don’t send in a photo of you with beautifully styled hair, perfect makeup and fancy clothes if you’re going to show up to the audition in sweats and a ponytail. It won’t help you get the part; if anything, it’ll make it less likely. Your headshot is meant to be a reminder of who you were so if you don’t look anything like it, you’ll end up forgotten.

Artistic Resume
Along with your headshot you will need to submit an artistic resume that outlines your experiences. The most important thing on your resume is your contact info; list your name, email, and a phone number at which you can easily be contacted, right at the top of the resume. You should also list any union affiliations and agent contact info at the top. Generally you will also want to list your height, weight, hair colour, eye colour and ethnicity. Next, list whatever you have the most experience in; if you are right out of school and have a lot of training, but minimal experience, start with the training. If you have done more film than theatre, list those first. List projects in reverse chronological order, and don’t include dates. Follow this format;

  • Theatre: Title of Show, Role, Theatre Company, Director
  • Film & Television: Title of Show/Film, Category of Role (ie. Principle, Supporting), Producer/Network, Director

Generally you don’t include extra work in your main film/television category, or specific commercials; these can be provided on a separate form if requested. An important note about your theatre listings; be sure to list the theatre company you worked with, not just the venue. Sometimes outside companies rent a space from a major theatre, and listing that space as your company is essentially lying on your resume; directors notice, and we don’t like it.

For example, say Bygone Theatre produced a show and we rented out Factory Theatre, the format should look like this;

Rope, Brandon, Bygone Theatre, Emily Dix

NOT like this;

Rope, Brandon, Factory Theatre, Emily Dix

The second example would imply it was produced by Factory Theatre, which is incorrect.

Cover Letter
Unless requested, you don’t need to include a cover letter, but if you do, make sure it’s well written. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors look unprofessional and can get you tossed out before you even have a chance to audition. As well, be sure that your cover letter is specific and tailored to the role; it is easy to tell when something is copied and pasted, and things like referring to a play as a “film” can also see you rejected. Take the time to show you are interested and committed to the project if you want the director to take the time to see you in an audition.

In the Audition
Make sure you arrive on time for your audition; often they are scheduled back-to-back and being even a couple minutes late can throw things off and lose you your spot. Be dressed appropriately; this means wearing something that looks good on you and suits the style of the show. Unless you are auditioning for a character that would do so, don’t show up in sweats. Make sure you are cleaned up and that you look like your headshot.

If you need to warm-up before your audition, do that outside. Th director shouldn’t see you doing this; don’t waste time inside the audition room. When you come in, be cheery and polite; don’t complain about your day or make excuses for being late or ill-prepared (sounds obvious but I’ve seen this a LOT). Be friendly but not too chatty, you’re there to audition, not make friends. Try to avoid asking too many questions. Come in having done your homework and be ready to start immediately.

Choosing a Monologue
If a monologue isn’t provided, choose one that suits the style of the piece you are auditioning for. Think about  whether it is a comedy or a drama, what the period is, and what type of character you are auditioning for. Avoid monologues that have a lot of sexuality or profanity; this rarely comes across as shocking or interesting and is more likely to make the whole room feel uncomfortable (fun story – when casting for Doubt I had several women auditioning to be nuns do monologues that involved excessive amounts of swearing; needless to say, they didn’t receive callbacks) . Try to show some emotional range but don’t feel like you need to choose something that involves screaming or crying; play to your strengths.

Remember, as awful as this may sound, when you are auditioning for something you are putting yourself out there to be judged; put your best foot forward and do what you can to impress your audience. Talent is important but being polite and professional matters just as much. An actor who isn’t right for the role but impresses a director with their preparedness and manners is much more likely to be asked back to audition for another piece than one who is talented but rude and unprepared.

If you find you have trouble at auditions, the best way to improve is to do as many of them as you can. Each time you will be more relaxed and will pick up new tips. To those of you out there auditioning, break a leg!

-E.