GRANT a RANT

My dear friend and colleague Renna Reddie suggested I rant on the endless work that is grant writing because she came up with this rhyme. I can’t think of a better reason to talk about something once you’ve got a catchy rhyme to go along with it. Can I get a holla!?

Yup it’s that time of year, of the many times in the year in which another deadline is fast approaching for those infamous government grants. We’re working on some grants here in SummerWorks land and well, it’s an uphill climb, but a good one to break a sweat on.

“I told you already, we’re great! Now give us the money… No? Okay fine here’s 3,000 words on why we’re great. Now give us the money…”

I’m conflicted about this system at large. Speaking in generalities, granting bodies, such as the TAC, are allotted varying amounts of funding from one fiscal year to the next generated out of our government’s ever shifting budget. This money is distributed to arts projects through a peer evaluation process that adheres to specific criteria. Thousands of organizations apply and only a few come out with enough funding to produce their projects or their festivals to the completeness of their visions. Are we inhibiting the vastness of new theatre projects that could be seeing the light of day or are we ensuring that only the highest calibre productions hit our stages; a bit of both or neither? It sucks to see so many projects shelved for another day, but maybe this keeps the flood gates of shit-a-wank-theatre (yea I said it) from inundating our shores. Alternatively, we are gunning down the doves carrying messages of great theatre with our pathetic funding levels and pedantic deliberations.

I believe in the challenge presented by funding bodies. It’s got to be hard to do this work otherwise we wouldn’t feel so passionate about it. Yes I’d love to see art being created up and down our streets, but this doesn’t constitute a good thing. Really as it is we should be launching art up and down our streets without any money. Why aren’t we? Are we afraid to be gorilla about it? There’s so much we can do on little to no money and certainly many are living out their careers in this fashion. What could really help is becoming smarter about development. Private donorship is tough to attain outside of our immediate circles. I think we need to start weighing our efforts in this direction. Aren’t we trying to foster an arts community, aren’t we trying to engage new audience members? What better way then to seek out individual giving. Of course you’re thinking, yea well everyone has their hand out, what makes my hand sexier? Moisturizer… no it’s using that hand to shake a lot of other hands (H1N1 can suck it). I’m talking about building relationships over time, particularly with people outside the arts sphere. Hey it worked for Soulpepper, their funding has nearly 50% weighted in individual giving and sponsorship.

What I find really frustrating is the lack of arts awareness in Toronto. I’m encouraging relationships with people outside the sphere of theatre, but what’s going to make them give a damn? That might be our biggest obstacle. We’re living in a culture dominated by Olympic sports and the athletic gods of legacies mediated by the media. Just turn on Vancouver right now and it’s being broadcast at full velocity, the historical moments of a great nation… oh… oh… ohhhh Canada come to bed won’t you?

Enough of that.

I do want to say that much credit should to go to people like Margo of the TAC and Pat at the OAC. They’re working for artists to get the money to those who put in the work. We’re lucky to have them and despite the paper work… it’s a competition I’m proud to race in… thank you, thank you, no more questions please!

DD

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Chapter the Seventh: The Revolution will not be artificially fertilized

dearesth bloggerth

Here we go a-continuing with the Rhubarb chronicles

The other night I was sitting in Tallulah’s Cabaret, perusing my week 2 playbill waiting for the show to begin when I ended up in an interesting conversation with a Mr. X (we’ll describe him as queer cultural guru at large). He was telling me about the Rhubarb festivals of yore that took place at Buddies in Bad Times original home on George St and how at that time there were often hecklers in the audience, an element that he found both hilarious and yet horrifying…on behalf of the performers. Now myself being a performer of more comedic no fourth wall stuff I am used to hecklers of a sort. Not the drunken attention seeking asshole ones that frequent comedy clubs and I feel probably go to comedy clubs with the aim of spending an evening heckling but just people wanting to talk to “my character” while I am mid-turn (clown term for sketch). This can be fun and I do encourage it at some points, the points where I built it into my routine but sometimes you have to work very hard to work around the boisterous shouting, not ignoring it but not engaging in it for fear of the tangent it may take you on. And if you are in the middle of an actual play with emotions and a fourth wall, hecklers are the stuff of nightmares, along with forgetting your lines or forgetting to put your pants on.

However I thought wouldn’t it be interesting to encourage a new trend of heckler conviviality amongst the audience, more along the lines of a sort of unplanned, un-endorsed by the performers audience participation, an element of control returning to the audience giving them the feeling that they have permission to hate the piece and tell you how they feel or to just leave without feeling the slightest bit rude even if they are seated somewhere very far from anything resembling an exit. Maybe this would bring people back to the theatre if they felt that they were in control and not going to be held captive into watching something that they would have to fake a heart attack to get out of. I think this would reinsert, a much-needed, element of danger back into a night at the theatre. The sort of stuff that gave the Globe theatre its notoriety (or so I assume. I have not really researched audience behavior at the globe but I imagine it to have been wild). Keep everyone on their toes to a point of ballerina blisters.

We all need a bullshit meter (for the pedantic and the pedestrian alike) sometimes and some of us need it all the time.

Maybe this will put a stop to the jumping on only tried and true, fully sturdy, critic endorsed, starfucker promoted, bandwagons with catchy tunes?!

My all time favourite hecklers

Subscribing to Culture

“Hi, I’d like to purchase a subscription to culture… do you take debit?”

If culture is a string of language, tradition, ritual, value, belief, social organization, ethnicity, art, then we just have to walk outside our door and it must be hitting us in the face every moment, but as a community we seem to look for it with a very narrow scope. Only the most colourful and vibrant forms of culture will grab our attention because hell it sure looks a lot more fun than our own, right? In Toronto there is a continuous demand for more “spice” more “flavour” in our community. We see this in the festivals held in Nathan Philips Square, the Beaches, the Exhibition etc. All of this is a wonderful way to get people out and feel a part of something. What’s got them seeking to be a part of something other than their own culture? This isn’t to say that people are running from their culture, it’s just to say that so many struggle to define what their culture is. So, we eat some wontons, have a roti, throw back a lassi and paint our arms in mhendi. There that’s better; I’ve consumed a little flavour, a little culture.

From Toronto to Oshawa to Montreal culture is organized differently. Truthfully culture is organized to incorporate and legitimize even the most discriminatory values. If it is of my family’s nature to think that gay people spread aids and should be burned then that’s their world view which is likely shared by several families within that same community. Who’s going to tell them they’re wrong? They’ve been raised to believe this and indeed it is socially accepted. I doubt many will identify this discrimination as a cultural entity, but that’s because in many communities culture is either taken for granted or given very little focus. My point is that this is a culture, the culture of not giving a shit about culture.

I’m not sure which is worse: believing you’re uncultured and desperately consuming everyone else’s culture to find identity or to ignore this as any sort of factor in your lifestyle at all? I don’t believe that anyone is uncultured, but I believe that many misunderstand the term. Toronto is a unique example of many cultures living side by side. However we forget that just outside the GTA the terrain alters significantly. Diversity lessens and so does the tolerance of some. I wonder if many new immigrants to Toronto are aware of this when Canada is billed as the land of utmost acceptance and opportunity. Of course racism and discrimination are rampant through this city, but in such diversity culture must become a little muddy. Maybe this is why we look for it elsewhere?

So at SummerWorks we invite you with open arms to subscribe to culture since you’re willing to buy in and well I’d like to see more people coming to watch theatre. Hell I’ll create a brochure on the many ways you can get your fix because arts are important and people need to support them. I’ll cultivate a terrain of supposedly “uncultured” peoples to come and dine with the arts. I’m not providing answers, just what I hope is good art. Whether you’re an AUDience or a SPECtateur I’ll try to satisfy both. Either way you’re going to leave with your values in check. Just keep subscribing…

DD

Chapter the Sixth: The Revolution must not be *@$#!?* esoteric!

A recent “happening” that I witnessed has triggered an issue that has been on my mind for quite a while so while the tequila from last night is still coursing through my veins… (cast party…sue me)

Dear Bloggy, it’s time for another Dear letter because my mom always taught me to write letters when you are angry. Of course, she is usually angry at something on TV (i.e the plot twist of one of her shows or the change in scheduling of one of her shows) and she hasn’t figured out twitter yet.

ANYWAYS

Dear You know who you are.

I saw your play and I didn’t get it. Your friends were laughing. I guess you had explained it to them earlier over coffee or beer or shooting up but I had no idea what was so funny and I am pretty sure I have some sense of humour. I would have loved to be in on the joke as it would have made the show more enjoyable to watch it from that place of “in the know” as opposed to where I was sitting which was “in the irritated”. I am neither stupid nor humourless but I felt both watching your play and I use the term play very very very loosely. I understand the desire to make ones friends laugh. I work very hard sometimes to make my friends laugh but when I am on stage I like to make sure that everyone is experiencing the joke (or something theatrical) not just the people who know me beyond the fourth wall. Alienation is best left to Brecht who had a point at least. Please remain in your living room if you wish to only entertain your “people” as you are wasting everyone’s time by taking up stage space which is quite precious in our city.

Thank you

Well bloggy, I feel better now although still hungover..oh well sue me

xo Uncle Lindy

RHUBARBS to CELERY STICKS?

This evening I went to the opening night of the Rhubarb Theatre Festival at Buddies. It was a grand spectacle of wonderful proportions. Probably one of the most critical hubs for new emerging artists to take risks and to showcase their work. Certainly none failed to impress this evening. In an ultra hipster atmosphere thanks to the aesthetic styling of Erika Hennebury and Alex Wolfson, the festival has a very cool vibe to it. Like how can you go wrong when you finish the night off with some Voguing by House of Monroe, like comon! Oh and there was cake in the shape of Jess Dobkin’s head and probably my favourite thing ever is cake and beer. If you haven’t mixed these two, then you must try it, just be prepared to pass out in a heap of sugarlicious-overdose heaven (which is the state I’m in as I write this, so forgive me if this post seems crazed). Unfortunately I couldn’t convince Lindsey Clark on just how amazing this combo is. Speaking of Lindsey be sure to catch her performances in 2 pieces happening at Rhubarb across the next two weeks.

Having had a wee taste of Rhubarb (and believe me I’ll be going back for more), I now look towards the summer and I think of just how hip SummerWorks is. It’s not hip in the same way, it’s hip in a Michael Rubenfeld way, kind of nerdy, a lot of hair and glasses, good music if not impressive music and even more stellar theatre to witness. SummerWorks is like the big league of all things indie. How it maintains this balance I do not know, but it’s one to be admired. It just needs something related to food, like rhubarb, but even cooler, like cucumbers or lemons. No… maybe a cherry or something crazy like a dragon fruit. Hmmm I’ll have to sit on this one, I mean not sit on, but stew on this in my marketing brain.

Oh and don’t miss Summerworks blogger extraordinaire Lindy Zucker, she is also in a piece at Rhubarb this week, (she speaks Italian really well and is…awsome!)

More info:
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
www.artsexy.ca

DD

Chapter the…….

Dear Bloggy

I know I usually have some kind of ranty/ravey theatre-y thingee to discuss on Mondays but I am proroguing this week’s “words of wisdom”. I know that is a complex political term that I am sure I don’t fully understand but I think it means something like “avoiding what you don’t want to do even if it is your job and you really have no good reason for doing so”. I, however, have a great reason. My brain is dry of interesting thought right now and so rather than write for the sake of writing, I will pause to observe the world in the hopes of inspiration…..hmmm the Rhubarb festival opens this week….think I will check it out…..will I see you there?

In the meantime……

It's funny because it's truly something I think about doing every day

xoLZ

Patsy Rodenberg

Came across this in the middle of reading scripts.  Have been spending some time acting these days, and it was great to come across this to remind myself about the value of theatre, but also makes me ask some good question about the value of “the truth” and when one speaks of the truth, what we may be actually trying to communicate.