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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Home for a Rest...

Okay, so I am back home and I am tired already. This is not the fault of the trip itself, but rather the return to laundry, messy kitchen, laundry, tight schedule, writing a paper (at midnight), doing payroll (at 11 p.m.), having to get up to hand the paper in, kids fighting (they were up late, too) and having lines to learn. I would love to come home to a kitchen as clean as the one I left (or cleaner, that would be awesome) but I don't think that will ever happen. I would love to not have all the laundry to deal with. Maybe some day.

I did have a great time in Toronto. It started off quite fast paced with lunch, a movie, dinner and a pub on Saturday. Then dim sum, a play, and dinner on the Sunday. We slowed down for Monday and Tuesday and fit in a mani and pedi and another movie but mostly visiting. That's what it was really for. I did want to get to a play and managed to get to the Tarragon for Daniel McIvor's new work, Communion, a great 3-hander for women of a certain age (well 2 of them, anyhow). I preferred seeing that because that is very much where my head is at with regards to theatre right now. For movies we saw Hot Tub Time Machine (a delightfully good cheesy movie) and Repo Men (extremely high budget for fake blood - but good - filmed in Toronto). It was nice to go and not have to worry about a sitter...

All in all, it was a good visit. Annie and I talked ourselves out and that was good. I got away and breathed in different air and walked a tonne and that was good. I drank some wine and laughed loudly in conversation and in watching a film and that was good.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

On The Wire - Oh, Just one more thing I am doing...

A couple of weeks ago I got this message from a friend saying a company was looking for a 40+ actress to play an 'aging starlet', singing skills preferred but not essential, for a show to start rehearsing in the latter half of March and which goes up mid-April. If the dates worked, I thought I could squeeze it in, and they did (bizarrely so). Last night was the first rehearsal (we had the read-through last weekend) and it was so much fun. It's right up my alley - lots of different voices (we had a bit of discussion as to which ones) and silliness and the cast and director are so much fun to work with. It is called On the Wire and will go up in April at the Selkirk Hotel (well, down the street - they eat supper first and then come down) and only runs three nights. Lots of fun! I am thinking I will have a good time with this one!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hello... Hellooooo... Hellooooooo....

I heard an interesting segment on CBC Radio the other day about Echo Chambers on the Internet. They were not talking about the physical echo chambers that you can stand in and hear yourself, but rather a media/issue echo chamber. These phenomenon exist outside the Internet as well, and basically they work in that people tend to surround themselves with like-minded people so that they hear they things they believe in echoed back to them by everyone else. It was nice to have a name for what I see happening around me in a lot of situations (both situations to the left and to the right). It is easy to believe that you are right when everyone around you agrees with you and it can even amplify your belief because the echoing builds on it. I think it is where a lot of people go wrong. Instead of questioning what they believe (like good scientists do), they find confirmations of their beliefs which put them even further out of touch with anyone outside the circle. We need to challenge, not only what others believe, but what we believe ourselves. Check the facts. Recognize the alternative opinion. Read far and wide. Surround yourself with people who will challenge what you think. Don't live in an Echo Chamber. It's not a good thing.

Friday, March 19, 2010

More Drama in Drama

Even though I enjoyed the discussions about Arts Funding in Canada, I am glad that this week is over. It has been emotionally exhausting. I definitely felt an agenda to the discussions and if anything it made me really delve into the statistics (Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the Edmonton Arts Council). If I am going to talk about these things, I want to be able to talk about them with some facts and understanding of the whole funding situation in Canada. We were getting the correct information about average income and percentage of the national budget for the arts, but the tone was suggesting that those amount were low and something to complain about. My feeling was that the numbers were actually pretty good. I think the size of the pie is pretty healthy - 4% of the national budget (which did not account for Provincial and Municipal grants) for an industry that employs about 3.9% of the working population. What struck me was that between 1971 and 2001 the number of artists in Canada tripled compared with an 81% in the overall labour force. That seems really askew to me. Can there be that many more artists out there who have the talent and drive to be professionals? Or is the national average income of $23,500.00 for artists so low because the total amount is being spread out over too big a population? Speaking of $23,500.00 as a National Average wage... child care workers earn about $10.00/hour. At 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year that works out to $20,800.00. Even with certification the wage doesn't increase significantly. I'm just saying... Anyhow, I don't want funding cuts. I think Art is valuable. Look at all the stuff I do that is art-related. I wouldn't put that much time into it if it wasn't valuable to me. I do think there is a lot of quality art out there that doesn't get 'counted' that skew the statistics and we don't want to talk about it because it makes a better case to have the numbers low. But I think about my own situation. I do the art I do because the process of making that art is what 'pays' me. If I get paid money it is gravy, icing on the cake, a bonus. I don't expect everyone to want that, but there are many people like me, who are creating art and that art doesn't get counted because it is not compensated financially. I could go on a rant about comp tickets and waste and a disrespect for budgets and people who maybe aren't good enough to make a living at it despite their desire to because I could write about this stuff for hours. All I know is that it isn't black and white and personally, I think we have it pretty good in Canada. Do I want funding cuts - NO; Do I want acknowledgement that we have it pretty good - YES; Do all people agree with me on both those statements - ABSOLUTELY NOT. That's why this is such a great country. Feel free to disagree...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Drama 302

I am doing very well in the course (yay!). So far of the three assignments I have written and gotten back I am quite satisfied with my marks! Yesterday I wrote my next assignment on "Funding for the Arts in Canada". On Monday we talked about different sides to the argument (for and against) and we basically can write about anything on or related to that list. I wrote about Sarah Polley and the whole Becel/Heart and Stroke Foundation Film thing that happened just prior to the Oscars. I think that while it is noble and all that to not associate with a product (selling out, ahem), it is a much different thing for someone who is independently wealthy than for someone who might need those corporate funds to pay their bills. So in some ways I think it is irresponsible for Ms. Polley to make this grand stand on the issue. I also wonder why she did not know where the money was coming from ahead of time... Perhaps she did and this was a way for her to make her film and make a stand at the same time. After all she did not prevent the Heart and Stroke Foundation from using the film, she only removed her name after the fact. I wish I could have written more than a page (we are not allowed) because I could've talked about the implications for hours. But there are many, many, many artists out there who started their careers in commercials and there are many, many, many Arts Organizations and Individuals who rely on corporate sponsorship to operate. What does Sarah Polley think about them? Are they selling out? Or are they merely finding a legitimate way to finance their art?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Filling Up the Days...

Yesterday was quite busy for me and this past week, in general, I have spent arranging meetings and planning and recording rehearsals for the various projects I have coming up. I have two current projects on-the-go. The first being the Directing/Dramaturgy of Uncle Robert's Funeral which will be read at From Cradle to Stage in May at Walterdale. It is a nice project, which does not require a ton of time on my part at this point in time because the playwright is currently working on re-writes. We had a few reads and discussion and she went away to rewrite and we come back together on next Sunday to do the same with the next draft. The other project is the one that kind of fell into my lap. A friend passed a long a message that a group was looking for a 40+ actress to play an 'aging starlet' for a play being produced at the Selkirk Hotel in Fort Edmonton Park. The dates looked good considering my other obligations and it was to be a paid gig (how cool would that be?) so I sent in my resume and head shot and schedule. I was fully prepared to be asked to audition (or not, if they had someone else) but sight unseen I was offered the role. We had a great read-through yesterday - lots of laughs - and the schedule is indeed very forgiving! I am really looking forward to this. I know the rest of the cast, but the director is new to me, but the atmosphere was really fun. It is also the kind of role I love - lots of different accents and a little bit of singing and very stylized in a 1930s kind of way. It will only be 3 shows, but that is cool - I have the most fun during the process! It is called On the Wire and was written by Nick Green.

When that wraps up we will head right into The Best Little Whorehouse. I still would like more men to sign up (and women too - the more the merrier). I need more guys than people might realize. They seem to think it is all about the girls in the Whorehouse... yikes!

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Wrap Up to the Week

I like my Canadian Drama class. I have to admit, that we mostly just talk and I wish we were in a smaller room because of the format of the course, but we always seem to have interesting discussions. I think we could have studied 2-3 more scripts in the time, but we have gotten to cover quite a few and that has been good. Next week we talk about Arts Funding in Canada and I am excited about that. Today (and this week in general) we talked about Michael Healey and his play Courageous (and a little about The Drawer Boy). I recommend Courageous to anyone. It's at the Citadel until Sunday. I am glad to have read The Drawer Boy. I had heard it was good and man-oh-man was it ever. I have put it on my list of shows I would like to direct some day.

I now have acquired the rights for 3 of the 4 shows in the season next year that require them. Not bad for one week. I am waiting on the 4th, which is unfortunately the first show of the season. I don't anticipate any problems as they sounded positive on the phone, but it was the only one that was not an automated system, so I think the 'people part' of the rights equation is slowing things down. If I don't hear by Monday I will be calling. It would be nice to be ahead of things and my estimated deadline was Friday next week (most places say 7-14 days for a response).

I worked out last night. It reminded me that I shouldn't let myself stop working out because it is so much more painful to restart. Here's hoping I maintain the momentum.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Women continue to make less...

The other day was International Women's Day but statistics released indicated that women still make significantly less than their male counterparts. I am happy to say that although the jobs I get people to do are not compensated financially, I still look for the best person for the job regardless of their being male or female. This season, 4/7 of my Directors were female. I didn't really think about that when I was getting people in place. I am happy that it was more about the right person for the job. Next season, I have 5/6 being female. I am waiting to hear back on one position. I think it speaks to the fact that the best person for the job is not necessarily female or male. If you look at the submissions, the submitters were over-whelming female. The first season I think there were only 5 male submitters out of around 20 so that certainly impacted the selection.

I don't know if it happens as often in the paying theatre. Sure there is Marianne Copithorne, but I don't know a lot of other female directors who are directing for the semi-professional and professional theatres. I think Amanda Bergen is directing something in a semi-pro setting, but you don't really hear a lot about female directors.

A few month ago there was an article about female playwrights in the APN newsletter. I looked at a lot of things and still I only have one script in next season written by a woman. I hope to help change the availability of female written scripts! I think it is important. When we hold auditions the women outnumber men at a minimum of 3 to 1. The women outnumber men in the audiences. And yet, I hear disparagement of women's stories or stories with a woman as central figure. People write off 'chick-flicks' and 'kitchen sink dramas' (frequently with women as central figures) as less than the more glamorous male story arcs. Those stories are just as valuable and as important as stories about princes, businessmen, and soldiers and to imply that they aren't is a disservice to women.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Ah, that felt good...

I didn't realize how hard I had been working until last night when I was watching the Oscars at AM's house. It was so nice to just sit and laugh and watch and eat and not think about the stuff to do. I have a few days this month where I should be able to do more of this, including a trip to Toronto at the end of the month, but then Whorehouse will start up and I will be on the ride again! The thing is, it doesn't really stop even if I am not directing involved in a show, because as AD there are other things I am always working on - the next thing on the list - things with the current show - getting rights - reading scripts - planning calendars - checking in with directors -answering questions from members at the theatre - answering questions from other theatres - responding to emails - board meetings - writing reference letters - writing thank you letters - writing other letters - coordinating auditions - attending auditions - seeing shows - the list goes on. Add to that the other things I do (because I am crazy) like University, and New Works, and directing Sweeney Todd and I have very little down time. Now most of that stuff I do because I like it, but I rarely get time to just sit and be with no expectation of completing any tasks ('cause when I am home I am often folding laundry, cleaning, preparing food, etc...).

Last night was good.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Troubled

I have a issues that is bothering me and I have written 3 Blog posts and not posted them because I realized I wasn't really sure if I wanted to 'air the dirty laundry' that way. So it may seem that I haven't posted for a while.

There's a lot that has happened since the last posted post. I now have my 2010-2011 Season approved and I am working on the rights. I am very early compared to last year and because I have been through it all once before and I was determined to feel ahead of the game. It should feel better for the rest of the season too because I know what has to happen with media and feel better about understanding that process and what I should expect. Last year that whole process was so new to me that I didn't really know what to expect. This year I expect more and I think we have a system/plan in place to get that. The whole Season thing is agonizing. I don't think people realize that. It is like casting a show but on a grander scale. You know that most people are not going to be 100% happy with whatever you choose. You have to strive for balance that serves as many as you can. I think I did that. You also have to provide opportunities for new directors, and old directors and find directors that can service the work appropriately. There are a lot of judgement calls involved and reference hunting and the like and again, like casting, there are people that you will leave out... not fun.

I have also started working with the entire team on The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (TBLWIT). I had worked with individuals on the team (design meetings, etc...) one on one as early as September but now it feels like we are almost there. Yee Haw!

I also took on directing/dramatuging a staged reading for the One Acts. I had another person in mind for this, but she was unable to commit to the time and my back-up had similar issues because she got cast in a show, so I took on the task myself. I feel strongly about not putting the wrong person in place just to put them in place, especially with the new works so I felt I had to step in. It is a staged reading and we are likely to have only 5-6 rehearsals prior to handing it over to the techies so it isn't a major time commitment. The important thing to me is to have someone the playwright can trust to work with their script. Since this one was an addition and didn't have the benefit of one of the professional dramaturges and I have been through this process (both as playwright and dramaturge) I felt the best solution was to take it on myself. I am happy that next season I have a plan for mentoring the directors for One Acts. I would have had it for this year, but there were a lot of new things for me this year and I wanted to get one year under my belt before instituting changes. Now to find Director Mentors! Oh, I can wait a little on that...

Auditions for TBLWIT are coming up in April! Yay! I do need more men, but I anticipate once the other two shows in the town are cast I will hear from some people. Also, some people wait until the last minute. I have had several tell me they are planning on auditioning, but they just haven't booked a time so I will gently nudge them closer to the date.

As to the issue bothering me, I have determined to not let it bother me. One part of this job is that people will criticize you, however unfairly, I will just keep working as hard as I have been and know that I am not going to make everyone happy and that it not necessarily the best way to do this job, in any case. We are here to make good theatre as a community and that is what I will focus on.