PuSh off to a flying start

skydiveextra

I missed the premier of Skydive here in 2007 to my utter chagrin, the story of its conception sounded fantastic: two old theatre school buddies were jamming on ideas over beers one day and one of them said “hey, how cool would it be to stage a play entirely in mid-air?”. And boom, Skydive was born. It was a long and amazingly technical process to birth it, mind you, but they put together a corker of a story and they made two actors fly for 90 minutes. What’s even more amazing is that one of them happens to be usually wheelchair-bound. He also created a theatre company for his project, which is off to an auspicious start. To say the least.

I finally got to see this play the other day – my first taste of this year’s PuSh Festival – and boy-oh-boy, was it worth the wait. You can read my full review here.

If anyone has any recommendations (or warnings) about any of the work they have seen at PuSh so far, please feel free to drop them in the comments section. We’d love to hear any thoughts about the festival as it progresses.

The Next Stage: Now with UQ Events listings

uq31Hey, Vancouver theatre companies, have you jumped on the UQ Events train yet? It’s a social-network-y site that is poised to become a real influencer in Vancouver’s entertainment scene, and a great fit for indie theatre promotions. It’s a fantastic service, and it’s free. The folks running the site are seriously cool, too. Here’s how I know…

In December I got an email from UQ’s Marketing Director Michelle Lanthier. We had actually talked before, she had quite proactively contacted me about the company last September, which I duly checked out and, finding it a great concept and a unique service, gave a bump to on this site. It turns out ‘proactive’ is UQ’s middle name, Michelle was contacting me this time to ask for a coffee meeting to discuss some promotional ideas for her company with The Next Stage, which I was rather humbly happy to agree to. The result of this meeting is the new link in the sidebar titled ‘Click for Vancouver Theatre Calendar’. It’ll take you to The Next Stage’s UQ calendar which lists all the upcoming shows of the companies that we’ve subscribed to on the site. (Each company as well as your calendar on UQ broadcasts an RSS feed, which you can subscribe to in an email-like application such as Google Reader, so the site will send updates to you when new shows are imminent. If you’re not yet familiar with RSS feeds, trust me, it’s all way easier than that sounds.)

So far all the civic companies and a bunch of local theatres are on UQ – The Arts Club, Performance Works, Theatre at UBC, The Playhouse, The Cultch, Studio 58, Pacific Theatre. PuSh is on there, anything by Rebecca Coleman (always at the cutting edge, that one) – so a movement’s already begun, and ready for all of us to jump on board.

The site has a very easy interface for all the perks it offers; if you’ve used Facebook you’ll be able to navigate UQ with no problem. It’s full of great features to use, or not, it’s totally up to you how in-depth you want to get: photos, video, linkage, you can add ‘friends’ just like all good social networking sites and send direct messages back and forth…it’s certainly an idea whose time has come; web 2.0 concepts for linking the independent arts. But like all of these fun ideas it spreads virally, so have a look and if you like the idea, spread it around a little. Like I’m doing here.

I had to stop Michelle at some point during our meeting and say flat out “you know my readership is pretty much all in independent theatre, right?”

“Of course.”

“So I feel like I’ve got to tell you, you’re never going to make any money off of us. Like, none. We don’t have any, that’s kind of part of our thing right now.”

She politely indicated that yes, thank you Mr. Blogger, I’m aware.

“So, if you don’t mind my asking, why are you going to all this effort with us?”

Michelle patiently explained that UQ isn’t about promoting through sponsorship (they sell unobtrusive ad space), and that, being an independent startup themselves, they really want to get behind our industry, and see it proliferate. We’re exactly the demographic that they want as members on the site. Besides, says she, she met her business partner in theatre school. So there.

Good enough for me. Have a look around and see if you like it, and if you do and join up, friend me and I’ll add your company or show to The Next Stage UQ Calendar. This could be the start of something big.

This one goes to eleven: Jay Brazeau

To open our year in theatre interviews we are very pleased to present a mainstay of the Vancouver stage industry, and a pillar of our arts community. Jay is a theatre actor/writer/director and also works steadily in the TV/film industry. He could actually be our hardest working man in show business.

Jay is directing Jeffrey Hatcher’s Three Viewings for Presentation House Theatre, opening February 6, and he was seen onstage recently at the Playhouse in The Drowsy Chaperone as ‘Man in Chair’. Andrew Templeton described him thusly in his Plank Magazine review :

Jay Brazeau… is a complete delight. He has a warmth and ease that is both believable and grounded.

We’re delighted that he took the time to answer eleven questions.

2926034_320x320_mb_art_r01

1. In one word, describe your present condition.

Restless, pins and needles, waiting in anticipation for my next entrance.

2. Choosing your own amount of words, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.

Extremely hopeful. Some new hunters in the forest. The sun appears to be breaking through the clouds.

3. What should our new crop of theatre artists know about the tradition of Vancouver theatre?

That on a sunny day no matter how good an actor you are, how excellent your production is, the audience would sooner be at the beach.

4.What are the most significant changes to our theatre scene here since you started working in it?

Young and old actors taking charge of their own careers and putting on their own productions, being responsible for their own mistakes. It’s fantastic!

5. What’s your fondest theatrical memory?

Coming into work that night to perform Danny and the Deep Blue Sea at the Fringe and seeing the line was twice around the block and three times larger than the theatre itself.

n513761636_1585163_1573

6. What, above all else, do you hope for in a director?

Someone who’ll leave me alone, someone who’ll pull me out of the shit, someone who’ll praise me and tell me I’ll full of crap, and then pull me out of the shit again.

7. What’s your best piece of advice for new actors starting down their career path?

Realizing you are an addict. Theatre is your drug of choice. You must always control your addiction or it will overtake you. Never forget that.

8. What should we be doing to make theatre more enticing to a new audience?

Remember the child within you and let it enter into everyone of your performances.

9. What would you like to see more of on our stages?

Plays that change me. Plays that make me angry for the right reasons. Plays that take me to that place where only the true theatre can.

10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?

Cyrano de Bergerac, The Goat, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.

11. What’s next?

Fiddler on the Roof.

Oh, those annoying paying guests…

How are we in the theatre going to adapt to the omnipresence of technology in the hands of our precious audience members? I for one am so bored with the pre-show “turn off your cell phones and other things that go beep” speech before every single play that I see that hearing it now makes my jaw clench. I realize there is the camp that thinks it’s really a favour to the other audience members (it’s not, it’s really a warning not to disturb the delicate geniuses onstage), and truthfully the only thing that makes my jaw clench more is someone’s phone going off around me during performance, or god forbid someone checking their damn texts in front of me. But every single time anything this has happened in a show I was at there was some version of the beepy thing admonishment beforehand, so how are we going to win?

Well, I guess we can accept it as a natural by-product of our age and hope that the glares from their fellow audience members is punishment enough so that a lesson is learned, and do our best to stay in the zone up there in performance. Or we can try new things to somehow adapt, as Oregon theatre company Portland Center Stage did recently by setting aside a balcony for audience members to twitter the performance. Or we can do what actress Patti LuPone does here, in this audio clip from a recent Broadway production of Gypsy, where she takes matters into her own hands with a shutterbug guest.  And the true irony of this clip is that it was caught on tape by another member of the audience with an elicit recording device. This, it seems, is the tech era we are now performing in…

Deliciously administered justice or unprofessional breakdown? You be the judge:

Using Video to Promote your Show

businessyRebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Rebecca Coleman Marketing and Media Relations, a Vancouver PR company. She blogs at artofthebiz.com and twitters under @rebeccacoleman.

Over the last few months, I’ve been doing guest posts on the topic of visuals to accompany your publicity campaign. We talked about the two photo shoots you need for your show, the publicity shot, and the production photo.

Today, I want to talk about moving pictures. While it’s true that theatre does not translate well on video, many companies are taking advantage of new, and more accessable technology to help get the word out about their shows.

If you haven’t taken advantage of Simon’s video listing services yet, you should. It’s free, easy, and fast. He will meet with you, and then he shoots you, speaking directly to camera, about why the  audience should come see your show. Within the day, it’s up on The Next Stage Video Listings page, and available to you through YouTube. You can embed it to your Facebook event page. This kind of video works because people are very passionate about their shows, and your passion while speaking about it can be very contagious.

If you want to try to get your play featured on the evening news, you need b-roll. B-roll is, essentially, footage of your show that you supply to TV news stations, in hopes that they will do a story on it. Because the quality of your footage needs to be high, this is not something you can just do yourself, unless you are a professional cameraman or director. You need to hire a professional.

The key to B-roll is to keep it short–I recommend under 3 minutes. Chances are, if you are lucky enough to actually get your footage on the air, only about 10-30 seconds will air. You may want to supplement your footage with short interview segments by directors or stars.

Here are some examples of how you can use video to promote your show:

Bard on the Beach
Stuff 2 Do
The Ash Girl
(this is a show I worked on last year–we shot a couple of video trailers for it)
If you are doing a lot of videos online, you can set up your own ‘channel’. Check out this example from the National Arts Centre.