Spinning off….

Well, it is with excitement, trepidation and a big, deep breath that I make this announcement: I am spinning off my own blog. The Art of the Business, which has, for the past 9 months been incubating on The Next Stage, is launching out on its own over at www.artof the biz.com.

Once upon a time, about a year ago, I lost my job, and decided that it was time for me to start doing this publicity thing (which I’d been doing more as a hobby business for about seven years) full-time. So, I took a small business course at BCIT, and wrote a business plan and launched Titania Productions on December 1, 2007. Back then, I had more time than business, and I had this idea that I wanted to write a monthly column of marketing tips and tricks for artists. I had already been in touch with Simon, who had been writing for Beyond Robson. We immediately connected on our joint passion to help artists become more serious about their businesses, so when I pitched the idea to him, he was all for it.

So I started writing, and the column slowly grew into more. I started recording podcasts, and the subject matter for the column started to expand into other areas of business. And I was seriously getting into the blogging thing. And then, about a month ago, I sent Simon an email saying that I was thinking of starting my own blog, and, to his credit, he was very supportive. And today is that day….

I want to say a very special thanks to Simon for being a great editor, and an even better friend. As a sounding board, a spell-checker, and a fount of information on the technical aspects of blogging, he has been invaluable. In my inbox at this moment, there are 196 emails from Simon, and about the same amount in my sent mail to him. It’s been a blast….  In fact, Simon is some of the inspiration for my first blog post.

I will continue to write a monthly piece for The Next Stage. But now the Vancouver Theatre Blogger scene is one stronger. Our quest to build an audience for local theatre and to help artists become better business people continues.

Vancouver Wrecking Ball participant update!

Further to Monday’s post on the Vancouver edition of the upcoming Canada-wide Wrecking Ball political theatre cabaret, the Alliance for Arts and Culture have listed the complete docket of talent for the night, and it sounds phenomenal.

The writers involved are Vancouver playwright Lucia Frangioni (Espresso), Canadian theatre giant Judith Thompson (The Crackwalker, Lion in the Streets), local author Michael Turner (Hard Core Logo) and media personality Bill Richardson. They will create “brief, explosive plays about the election: the candidates, their policies, and the controversies”. Each of these new works will be written within a week of the Wrecking Ball, to ensure their topicality.

The Ball will be directed by The Electric Company’s Kim Collier and Jonathon Young, and Lyric Stage Project’s Michèle Lonsdale Smith (Jonathon and Michèle are both onstage right now in the Arts Club’s production of Doubt), among others. Music will be provided by local punk icon Joey “Shithead” Keithley of D.O.A. and host John Mann of The Spirit of the West. Featured actors will be “a luminous cross-section of talent from Vancouver’s theatre, film and television communities”.

Sounds like an awesome night even if it wasn’t politically motivated. Admission to the event is free. Donations will be taken at the door for The Department of Culture www.departmentofculture.ca, a brand new initiative whose purpose is to challenge the political parties on funding for the arts. For more info, visit www.thewreckingball.ca. The event is on Monday, October 6th at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage. Be there from 7:00-8:30 pm to hear representatives from each Federal Party debate the arts, and stay for The Wrecking Ball election cabaret from 9:00-10:30 pm.

The Wrecking Ball rolls across Canada

Toronto political theatre series The Wrecking Ball has just announced a country-wide series of brand new political theatre to support the efforts of The Department of Culture. Running all on the same day – October 6 – across Canadian cities coast to coast, the series will be comprised of staged readings of new works by several outstanding Canadian playwrights, all written for this series in accord with the mandates of the Wrecking Ball concept: that all work must be based on current world events and written in one week, with time allotted for brief rehearsals.

The Vancouver version will be held at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage at 1250 Granville, Tickets go on sale at 6:00pm and the show starts at 9:00 pm, following an All-Party Forum and Press Conference which begins at 7pm. Hosted by Spirit of the West singer John Mann, and featuring new work by Lucia Frangioni and Judith Thompson, among others.

In Victoria, the box office of the Belfry opens at 7 pm, the show starts at 8, featuring work by Judith Thompson and Dennis Eberts, Neworld Theatre founding member Marcus Youseff has been tapped to come on board as a director.

The Wrecking Ball was founded in Toronto in November 2004 to “address a nagging imbalance: too much theatre in our politics, not enough politics in our theatre”. Past WB playwrights include Jason Sherman, Judith Thompson, Karen Hines, Norm Foster, David Young, Michael Healey, Morwyn Brebner, Daniel MacIvor, Hannah Moscovitch, Andrew Moodie, Morris Panych, d’bi.young.

Each performance is Pay-What-You-Can, with proceeds going to The Department of Culture.

Update from Peter Boychuk at the Alliance for Arts and Culture: We’re taking questions for the forum. To submit, email me directly at peter@allianceforarts.com. Please keep them simple and be specific.

On the passing of a legend…

…and a personal hero of mine, since I began studying the craft as a young man. This is the picture that was taped to my fridge for inspiration for years as I was becoming an actor. Thank you for that, for your courage, your generosity and, most of all, thank you for the work.

Rest in Peace.

Vancouver theatre blog watch

I have a dream. It’s a particularly geeky dream, but nevertheless…

I dream of a future where there is an open network of theatrists exchanging ideas, debating and supporting each other throughout the Greater Vancouver area, and doing it through the rather convenient medium of the internet. A sort of focusing of the existing theatre portion of the blogosphere, if you will, creating a virtual town hall that generates buzz and challenges us to be bigger and better.

So whenever a new local theatre blog is fired across our bow, it is with this dream in mind that we draw your attention to it. Or to them, as the case may be…

The proudly Vancouver-based PuSh festival has entered the blog world with PuShing it, and it’s already proving to be a great read. Today’s entry on festival staffer Jenn Upham reveals her great taste in books, TV, music and *ahem*, web sites.

And then I tripped over this blog and immediately resented it for having the name that I wish I’d given this blog. It’s mysteriously anonymous, but a little internet sleuthing (turns out his name is right there in the URL, I shoulda been a private dick) unveiled the author as one Amiel Gladstone, a local playwright and director out of Victoria who helmed Dollhouse 2000, Theatre Skam’s delightful meta-theatre entry in the recent Vancouver indie funhouse Hive 2, which I was lucky enough to catch at the Mag North Festival. Great stuff. (Amiel, email me if you’re down to be interviewed for This One Goes to Eleven. We’d love to have you on the show.)

And finally, we’re…um, we’re, ah…well we’re…it seems we’re um…well, twittering. Yes, that’s right, twittering. I know, I know, I don’t really get what the business sense in it is either, but people whom I admire and trust and who have much larger readerships than me say it’s the next stage in marketing and connectivity, so I figure we should at least take it out for a spin. The beauty of it is that it doesn’t suck up huge chunks of my time, as a certain other social network site that shall remain faceless is wont to do. Anyway, that’s what all that business at the bottom of the sidebar is about. So far it’s been mighty handy in my quest for a new espresso machine. My last one failed.

This one goes to eleven: Diane Brown

Ruby Slippers Theatre illuminates social hypocrisy and sexual stereotypes through humour and theatrical innovation. Smart social satire is our forte, and we are leaders of this genre in our community.

As Ruby Slippers heads into it’s 20 anniversary season, we check in with Artistic Director Diane Brown, a long-time visionary in the Vancouver theatre community. The upcoming season has been announced, including the annual Femmes Fatales series installment, which features a “weekend of theatrical misbehaviour led by Governor General’s Award winning playwright Colleen Murphy (The December Man)”.

1. In one word, describe your present condition.

Sanguine.

2. In your own number of words, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.

The Vancouver Theatre scene is vibrant and eclectic. And since Prime Minister Harper quickly and quietly cut over 60 million out of arts and culture with no indication of re-investing, the theatre scenes across Canada are mobilized and galvanized.

3. What do you consider Ruby Slipper’s abiding responsibility to be, as set by the company?

To entertain, challenge, and provoke dialogue.

4. What is the philosophy behind the Femmes Fatales series?

To give voice to our courageous heroines who dare subvert our conventional theatrical expectations. Like all of Ruby Slippers Theatre’s work, our bent and our forte is smart social satire. The company’s philosophy is that through satire, we move beyond the genre of individual catharsis and feel-good empowerment to a more communal one. This is achieved through the laughter that springs from a shared sense of hopelessness, and from that experience, hope is created. Through satire, we believe that an audience can more readily encounter, enjoy, and ultimately face a direct mirroring of our reality and an attack on its lies.

5. Speaking as a director, what is the biggest problem facing indie stage work in Vancouver?

Lack of venues and rehearsal halls.

6. How did you come to fall in love with theatre?

My parents performed in a Big Band when I was growing up, my dad on sax and my mom on piano. They rehearsed in our living room. I guess my yen for live performance started then. Apparently I knew since I was very small that theatre would be in my life. I staged puppet shows, magic shows, and talked about being an actress and singer. I decided to go to theatre school  when I was on a bus from Oklahoma City to New Orleans. I was weary of hitch hiking and decided to get on a bus and figure out the rest of my life.

7. How effective has See 7 proven to be so far in growing an indie theatre audience?

Fantastic. Over the past 12 years, since I and others co-founded See 7, the indie theatre scene in Vancouver has blossomed into something very exciting. See 7 has definately contributed to that reality.

8. What else should we as artists be doing to help grow that audience?

Immediately: make Arts and Culture an election issue, part of every party’s platform. Help raise awareness and solidify the fact that Arts and Culture are good for communities and good for the economy and Canadians want that. Beyond that, let’s get a Canadian Arts and Culture Policy in place that transcends party lines, that will be in place regardless who is in power.

9. Given a time machine, what would you tell a young Diane Brown just starting out on her career?

Buy real estate.

10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?

The Presence of the Actor by Joseph Chaikin, The Empty Space, and The Shifting Point.

11. What’s next?

I have to go write a grant.