So you want to do a Fringe show in the United States?

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw / Are you an American citizen who has a cool little show you want to produce on the Canadian Fringe Festival Circuit? No problem! You DO NOT need a work permit if you are a performing artist who:

  • will perform in Canada for a limited period of time,
  • will not perform in a bar or restaurant,
  • are not being hired for ongoing employment by the Canadian group that has contracted you and
  • are not involved in making a movie, television or radio broadcast.

You just need a letter from the festivals you will be participating in confirming the items above.

Are you a Canadian citizen who would like to take your cool little Fringe show to one of the American Fringes (New York, Orlando, San Diego, Indianapolis, San Francisco, and Boulder) who are members of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals, or one of the many other unrelated Fringe Festivals in the U.S.? No probl...

Wait, what?


As some of you may know, I was accepted into the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival where I was planning on producing Roller Derby Saved My Soul. Going into the US to produce/perform in a show is way more complicated for Canadians than it is for Americans coming our way. Some folks have whispered to me that perhaps it might just be easier to lie and say I was going on vacation. I'm not comfortable with that for one second. I am the worst when it comes to lying to authority figures and the BORDER is the very last place where I would like to push my luck. I've heard too many nightmare stories of people being detained or, even  worse, banned from entering the States to ever want to do that.

However, by wanting to produce my work honestly and following the rules, I now found myself in a bureaucratic nightmare worthy of Asterix & Obelix's task in "The Place That Sends You Mad". I expected some fees and some paperwork, but this is just too much and, as such, I've had to sadly withdraw from the Orlando Fringe.

While this was one of my favorite Asterix & Obelix movies as a kid, it is my hope that if you want to pursue this avenue, my adventures might save you from going completely insane in the process.

Please note, I am not an immigration lawyer, nor have I consulted one at the moment. This is simply the process that I have been going through. If there is an immigration lawyer out there who would be able to speak to me pro bono about all this, I would be very happy to hear from you.


It all started with the CAFF website and their page on Information for Canadian Artists Entering the US where I learned about the P-2 Artist Visa, which is for a reciprocal exchange with a labour organization in the States and one in Canada. For me, that comes from the agreement between the Canadian Actor's Equity Association and the American Actor's Equity Association. The association needs to petition on your behalf to the US Government in order to let you into the country. If you are not a union member, I don't know what other options are out there for you unless you are internationally recognized in your field.

I called CAEA, but they did not have any information for me, so I then called the AEA. If you call them, make sure you contact the national office and not the regional ones. I was informed that I should send them Form I-129 with all proper support materials. But more on that in a second.

First you need to fill out a form called DS-160. Other then the completely un-user friendly name, this form is pretty basic and requires you to include your name, address, passport info, US travel history, ect. Make sure you save your application I.D. number in case you want to finish it at a later time. You'll also need to upload a picture of yourself. You need to fill out this form if you want to get appointment to talk to someone at a local U.S. Embassy. For some reason, you can't just call or walk up to the Embassy for a chat... imagine that.

That was the easy part. Now, since you're looking for a P-2 Artist Visa, you also need to fill out Form I-129. This is a 34-page document (yes, 3-4) that typically your US employer would fill out for you that needs to be submitted in duplicate. However, you're doing a Fringe show, so technically you don't have an employer. No, the Fringe does not fill out this form. From my understanding, I think AEA should be the ones to fill it out, but trust me they are not going to do it for you. But don't worry, US Citizenship and Immigration Services has come up with a little 24-page instruction manual on how to fill out this form that should clear everything right up...

Oh and signatures need to be original and not photocopied. My research tells me you should sign everything in blue ink so that this fact can never be contested.

I'm not quite sure how long every step takes, but from my understanding it can take anywhere from 14 days to 60 to more... Basically, one site tells me you should get started at least 6 months in advance.


  • Passport
  • Letter of no objection from your labour organization
  • Artist Background Info
  • Travel itinerary
  • Contract or support letter from the festivals you are attending
  • Cover letter
  • Proof of residency in Canada to prove you have no plans of staying in the U.S.

Now, once all of this gets approved *fingers crossed* which can take up to 60 days, you should get something called an I-797, which you will need to include in your Visa application. Because up to this point, none of this is your actual application.

I believe you then have to go to an interview where they will collect your fingerprints (?!) and officially determine that you are not a crazy person or a threat and that you are not there to take jobs away from hard-working Americans.


Now here's the tricky part. I can't seem to get much of a straight answer anywhere, but here's what I have found out so far:

These are just the dollar amounts that I was able to find on my own. I'm pretty sure there are more surprises out there too. If anyone has any additional info on this, please let me know in the comments.

Please note that at any step throughout this process, someone could say no and there are no refunds. And even if you get all your papers in order, you could still get turned away at the border.

I did find one website who will do all the work for you by charging a legal fee of $645 and a filing fee of $420. I don't know how legit that is, and they say there are no hidden fees, but I'm pretty sure there has to be more to it than that.

If you would like additional information, this handy website called Artists from Abroad has a lot to get you started.


The sad thing about all this is that my participation in the Orlando Fringe does not take jobs away from American citizens. Fringes reserve a certain number of spots for international performers as part of their mandates. If anything, I would have been investing into the U.S. economy through my Fringe fees, travel expenses, food & lodging, ect.

Also, to be clear, I don't blame the Fringes for any of this. The staff at the Orlando Fringe and CAFF have been very kind and offered up any information they might have. This is purely a government matter and as such I am putting together a dossier that I will be sending to my local MP, as well as other key members of the Canadian government in the hopes that one day we may have the same access to the Fringe and other small festivals that our American peers get here.

You Spin Me Right Round

Please note: the views expressed here are completely my own. Little known fact: when I grew up, I wanted to be the first female Prime Minister of Canada. I remember watching the news with my Mom and absolutely devouring my social studies classes to learn how our government worked. I won public speaking contests and I was always the one my family went to when they needed something read in church.  My Mom was encouraging.  I think she always thought I'd end up in politics or maybe journalism, and I didn't initially disagree - in fact I long debated between Communications and Political Science as my minor before settling on the latter.  I saw politicians as public figures whose job it was to help people and make a positive difference in the world and I saw journalists as citizens in the purest sense of the term who collected facts, kept the public informed and politicians accountable.

Today, I was reminded why I bailed on all my political and journalistic aspirations.

I tweeted earlier this morning that "@nancykenny: Michael Healey was on CBC's The Current discussing the controversy over his play Proud:" without fully reading the story breakdown on the CBC site. I hadn't realized that this wasn't going to be about Healey's side of the story, but more of an attempt to create additional political fear-mongering in the arts community by dredging up the situation with Homegrown and the widely spread assumption that certain disapproving comments from the PMO's office are what lead to cuts in the SummerWorks Festival's funding.  To be perfectly clear, I have nothing to do with SummerWorks nor the Department of Heritage.  I do not know what exactly happened between the two, and I'm not going to get into all that here, because frankly, I am in the dark.

You know who else is in the dark about about the Homegrown/SummerWorks situation? Lucy White, executive director of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres.  At best she has third party information, which clearly does not make her an adequate interview subject if this was the direction the CBC wanted to take with this story.  Throughout the interview she is clearly befuddled by the line of questioning, repeatedly says I don't know and tries to change the subject to transparency in the Heritage granting process instead.  But Anna Maria Tremonti keeps pushing her angle.  Heck, at one point Ms. Tremonti even says "did something change in your funding because of Homegrown" like she thought Ms. White was directly involved in some way (unless she was speaking of PACT's funding, but I doubt it).

Do I think it's a stretch to lump Healey's show into the same box as the SummerWorks situation? Maybe. Maybe not. Depends on how you go about it. But if that was the argument you wanted to put forward, why not bring in someone from the festival itself? 

All this did was make me agree with James Moore, which full disclosure: I'm sure you're all shocked to find out I did not vote for this government.

Don't worry, that didn't last for very long.  The Honorable Mr. Moore started revving up his engine and spinning his wheels deeper and deeper into the muck all on his own.  You know what? As someone who has experience with granting agencies, I completely understand that they receive lots of funding requests and can't accommodate them all, but if that is your story and you are sticking to it (and by the way, I am so very sad for you that you are getting "pilloried" because you are "too much in support of the arts and culture"), you might not want to work so hard when you fling your self-righteous poo back at them - and I quote: "they do all the time (when asked if it's ok for artists to criticize his government through their art) and if somebody, for example, has a radio show on the CBC, funded by the tax payers of Canada through the Stephen Harper Government and wants to criticize us, you have your show."

In the play in my head, a journalist, simply called "Reporter" reaches through the telephone wires and punches a political figure, simply called "Minister" on the nose. It is mildly satisfying.  Mr. Healey, please feel free to use that idea and include it in your own play. I'd appreciate a personal thanks at the GG's when you win...

(Side note: That last bit is a fictionalized account - because it is physically impossible to reach through telephone wires -  and is in no way meant to promote violence against elected officials. I plead freedom of speech on that one, bitches.)

Honestly, I felt gross after listening to this thing.  I don't think anyone except Michael Healey came out smelling clean (and this is only because Lucy White got caught in the crossfire).  All I know is that right now I am still jaded about politics, the media, and I would love to go for a drink with both Mr. Healey and Ms. White.

She Just Rules

Twitter has become my go-to source for breaking news.  If it happened, that's where I'll hear about it first.  This morning I became immediately curious when "DePape" kept popping up through my feed.  Could it be?... 2008 was a good year for shows at the Ottawa Fringe Festival.  That year I was doing This Is A Play by Daniel MacIvor with Evolution Theatre, but I remember seeing a lot of other great stuff. That was the year of Nadine Thornhill's The Wedding Night (BTW, check out my interview with Nadine on her blog now!), Die Roten Punke rocked the house at the Alumni Auditorium, A Leave of Absinthe, Crude Love, and some incredible solo performances in Jayson McDonald's Boatload and Brigette DePape's She Rules With Iron Stix.

Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVED Boatload. It definitely impacted me both as an audience member and as a performer.  I never realized until then that one person could do so much on stage with so little and still tell a beautiful and compelling story. But the one that really stuck with me, the one that made me go "Holy Shit!" was the quirky and charming tale of a baton twirler who, when she got angry at the world, threw recyclables in the trash.

Brigette DePape was 19 and this was her third Fringe show.  She wrote and performed in her first one-woman show when she was 15. FIFTEEN! And she was now going on tour.  When the show was over, I wandered over to the beer tent absolutely gobsmacked (and feeling rather old and inadequate at the ripe ol' age of 27).  But after seeing She Rules With Iron Stix. I knew two things: I wanted to write/perform in a one-woman show and I wanted to take it on tour.

I didn't know what I wanted to write about until much later, but at some point before then I contacted Brigette to get her advice. We had tea and talked about theatre and travel and our plans for the future.  Once again, I was instantly taken in and inspired by this smart, charming, passionate and beautiful soul.  And I couldn't help thinking, I was not this brave at 19.

It's a few years later and I'm getting ready to finally present my one-woman show at this year's Ottawa Fringe Festival (What can I say? I've always been a late bloomer), a show that I hope will go on tour next year, when my eye catches a familiar name sliding through my Twitter feed: DePape...  Once again, your passion and bravery never ceases to amaze me.

You can read up on what happened by clicking on her name above, or you can Google her like I did.  And if you do, you might come across this awesome little piece that Brigette wrote herself for Guerilla Magazine about Iron Stix.  I got a little choked up when I made it to the end of the article:

But there was another kind of payoff for me. After seeing Iron Sticks, an Ottawa actress who’s always wanted to do a one-woman show decided she’s going to do her own in next year’s Fringe. Just as the lonely piano player chatting with a dead bird inspired me, my lonely twirler conversing with her baton inspired someone else.

You totally did, B.  My show which opens in less than two weeks?  I dedicate to you. Roller Derby Saved My Soul? Nah, Brigette DePape did.

Roller Derby Saved My Soul opens at the Ottawa Fringe Festival Friday, June 17th at 8 p.m. in Leonard Beaulne Studio - 135 Seraphin Marioan. Advanced tickets available here.

So You Want To Write a Grant Application

Those of you who have been following my Twitter feed over the weekend were probably well acquainted with #grantwritingapalooza - a term lovingly coined by me to describe the sheer volume of grant writing my theatre company and I need to get done over the next little while. Now, I won't get into a discussion about Arts Funding (or the lack thereof). There are enough blogs out there who make a better case for it than I do. I personally think that the current financial model we artists are working in is completely nonviable and unsustainable. (There's actually a discussion about this going on at the Praxis Theatre blog right now.) I hate how much emphasis theatre companies and individuals (myself included) place on government funding, which is never guaranteed, and it breaks my fucking heart when I see projects unable to get off the ground due to a lack of money.

That said, there is money out there for the arts. It does exist. Now let's see if you are in a position to collect it.

According to the good people at Wikipedia, 'Grants are funds disbursed by one party (Grant Makers), often a Government Department, Corporation, Foundation or Trust, to a recipient, often (but not always) a nonprofit entity, educational institution, business or an individual. In order to receive a grant, some form of "Grant Writing" often referred to as either a proposal or an application is usually required.'

Let's get something straight. Grant writing is not fun. It's a long and convoluted process that makes you feel like you are jumping through a thousand hoops while being asked the same question over and over again in a million different ways. Take the hardest essays you have ever written, throw in a detailed budget, put your entire soul on the line, and presto! That? Is grant writing in a nutshell.

However, as a good friend pointed out to me, if you can't clearly express your project idea, why should anyone who doesn't know you give you any money?

So, first things first: Do Your Research Most grant applications require at least four months between the application deadline and the project start date so this is not something you want to get into two weeks before opening night. Also, will you be applying on behalf of yourself as an individual, a company or a collective? Is your company a non-profit organization or a registered charity? This will affect the types of grants you can apply for.

There are a few avenues available to you in your search for grants. I had written many of them out here, but it made for a very long blog post. Instead, I'll be creating another post later on with a list of links. If you have any suggestions for me, please add them in the comment list. *Ed. Note - Post with grant listings can be found here.*

So you know what you want to apply for, now what? See those contact names associated with the various application forms? Call them! Don't be shy. These people are paid to answer your questions and it is a really good idea to approach them with your project to see if it's even viable before you get into the tedious writing process.

Look Over the Application Requirements Carefully Will you need three copies or six? What kind of support materials are required? Will you need bios or resumes of the people involved in the project? Ect... Just because you might be applying for more than one grant for the same project does not mean all the requirements will be the same.

Start Writing There are a lot of opportunities to be creative in your application. It's not a bad idea to introduce yourself under the artistic description for the project to give the jury a better idea of who you are and why this project is important. Grant applications are all about the "Why?" If you are passionate about something, make sure it shines through.

At Evolution Theatre, we write as a group. Grants can usually be divided into three categories, which works well for us since there are three of us in the company. Our Artistic Director writes out the Artistic Vision, our General Manager works on the Budget, and I, as Director of Communications, take care of the Community Outreach/Marketing aspects. Then, once a first draft is done, we pass it around to each other for edits. The Track Changes function in Microsoft Word gets a lot of use in our world.

Be Concise Grant assessment juries can see hundreds of applications a year. Keep things brief and to the point. Bullet points are your friend!

Have a Realistic Budget Make sure your budget is balanced and makes sense. A couple tips: artist grants are usually meant to cover anything involving the "art" - keep your business and admin expenses low; Don't ask for a ridiculous amount of money with the "ask for more, get less" mentality - you might be shooting yourself in the foot with that one; Have detailed budget notes and make sure you have a back up plan in case you don't get the money (some applications may ask this question).

Speaking of being prepared in case you don't get the money: I've probably written about a dozen grant applications now (both as an individual and as a member of Evolution Theatre) and I have been successful in getting three. I'm not sure what the statistics are on this, but I think that's probably a pretty good average for an emerging artist.

Get Someone to Look It Over As I mentioned above, we're lucky because there are usually three of us working on a grant application at the same time. That said, I have done individual applications and, trust me, it never hurts to have a little outside input. They might see something you missed. However, make sure the person you ask has some experience with grant writing.

Ask for Postage Confirmation If you're like me, you'll be handing in/mailing out your application on the day it's due (which is not the smartest way to go about it people, trust me, it's stressful - do as I say, not as I do!). If you have to mail it out, ask for a post-dated confirmation from the post office. I didn't get a confirmation once and was told by a theatre company my application was three days late, even though I sent it out on the right day. I pleaded my case and they did allow my application, however this is not the norm! Typically, I may never have even known it was considered late until much later, if ever. Spend the extra money, it's worth it for your own peace of mind.

I hope these tips help you out in some way. If you have any of your own, please add them in the comment section below. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got two more applications due on Monday, which I really have to get to.

Message from Théâtre Action to the City of Ottawa

For about a year now, I have been trying to reconnect to my French roots as an artist. One of the best ways I have found to do that in this city was by joining Théâtre Action (site in French only). This organization is at once an advocacy group, an educational alliance and a link to a greater community and a broader spectrum of work possibilities. The executive director of Théâtre Action, Marie-Eve Chassé recently spoke to the City's budget planning committee on the arts and funding in the region and I just wanted to pass along the message to you who all seem to gather here. This is the official translation of her French speaking notes. I have included the original text below and, if you understand the language, I highly recommend you read that version instead.


Hello everyone, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today.

My name is Marie Ève Chassé, and I am the executive director of Action Theater and chair of the Alliance Culturelle de l’Ontario. In that capacity I am here to speak on behalf of the francophone theatre and culture community in Ottawa.

The planned budget for 2010 for the city states explicitly that there will be no reduction in funding for the arts. So I would like to start by offering a big thank you for having heard and understood our needs.

However, it’s important to understand the need to remain vigilant. History teaches us that the battle isn’t truly won until the war is won.

The arts and culture have always been the poor relations when it has come to policy issues. We have had to cry out constantly to reaffirm our importance and value to society.

So I would like to remind you that it is vitally important to ensure that the promised allocation for the arts in the draft 2010 budget remain in place and that it be adopted when you make your final decisions on the budget.

For those of use working in the cultural community, there is no doubt that what we do isn’t just a pleasant “extra” but a necessary factor for our city’s economic recovery future growth. We would like to remind you again that what we do generates billions of dollars and stimulates the entire economy.

Moreover, our creative communities also provide Ottawa with other kinds of benefits beyond dollars and jobs. They contribute to our collective well-being, social cohesion, and sense of community.

Indeed, we would argue that during a time of economic recession the people of Ottawa have a greater need than ever for the arts as they nourish our hopes for better days ahead. Through their works, the artists of our city share offer a different kind of wealth which, unlike consumer goods, are resistant to economic pressures and analytical reports.

Our artists invite us to live and understand reality in ways that are personal. They open our eyes to new ways of thinking. They offer us a glimpse into the future. Through their work they give meaning to what happens in our personal lives and in our society.

In contrast, the absence of dreams and culture causes despair and hopelessness. The arts provide a backbone for our society. As the soul of our city they are our guides for generations to come.

I assure you that your decision not to cut funding to the arts is the right one.

Let me offer you a few more thoughts in this vein.

Continued support for the arts provides us with the means to help Ottawa to become a model city in Canada that makes its mark in history.

As you know, any society is invariably judged through its art and culture. So I invite you to become visionaries in considering the future of our city.

Let us invest in the arts and culture!

You will support the emergence and the continued development of our artists by providing the best possible conditions for the creation, production and dissemination of works of art.

These works of art contains will stir our consciences and inspire our daily activities.

In offering financial support to the arts, you help the people of Ottawa to contribute to the creation of beauty in our city.

I hope you will take into account my thoughts as you consider our needs in your deliberations.

Thank you once again for your attention.


Ottawa le, 25 janvier 2010 : Théâtre Action est fier de vous divulguer ici le texte intégral du plaidoyer en faveur d’un financement congruent des arts et de la culture que sa directrice générale à fait le 25 janvier dernier à l’Hôtel de Ville d’Ottawa.

« Bonjour à tous et merci d’avoir accepté de me donner la parole aujourd’hui.

Je me présente, je suis Marie Ève Chassé, directrice générale de Théâtre Action et présidente de l’Alliance culturelle de l’Ontario. J’agis ici en tant que porte-parole du milieu théâtral et culturel francophone de la ville d’Ottawa.

Nous savons que dans les faits saillants du budget provisoire 2010 de la ville d’Ottawa, il est fait explicitement mention qu’aucune réduction ne sera faite dans le financement des arts.

Aussi, je suis venue ici pour vous dire un gros merci! Cela prouve, en effet, que vous nous avez entendus et surtout compris!

Cependant, vous comprendrez surement qu’il nous faille rester vigilants, car souvent le passé nous a appris qu’une bataille pouvait être remportée sans que pour autant cela signifie que la guerre soit gagnée!

En effet, le milieu des arts et de la culture a toujours été le parent pauvre des enjeux prioritaires en politique et il a dû sans cesse crier et réaffirmer son importance et sa valeur sociétale!

Alors, sachez, Mesdames et Messieurs, qu’il est crucial, voir vital pour nous que cette dépense de fonctionnement allouée aux arts dans le budget provisoire 2010 reste réellement en l’état et soit bel et bien adoptée lors du vote du budget!

Pour nous artistes, artisans et travailleurs du milieu culturel, il ne fait aucun doute que la culture n’est pas une composante additionnelle, mais un facteur nécessaire à la reprise et à la croissance économique de notre Ville! Nous répétons une fois de plus que son activité génère des milliards de $ et stimule des pans entiers de son industrie!

De plus, créatrice de richesses et d’emplois pour de nombreux Ottaviens et Ottaviennes, la culture fait également naître encore davantage de bénéfices non quantifiables, en termes de bien-être collectif, de cohésion sociale et de projet commun de société!

En effet, en ces temps de sortie de récession économique, la population d’Ottawa a plus que jamais besoin des arts et de la culture pour pouvoir nourrir l’espoir de jours meilleurs.

Par leurs œuvres, les artistes de notre ville offrent en partage des richesses sans pareil qui, contrairement aux biens de consommation, résistent aux raisons économiques et savent faire fi des rapports analytiques!

Nos artistes nous invitent à vivre ou à appréhender le réel selon des voies toutes personnelles auxquelles ils ont su donner un sens selon ce qu’ils vivent ou ont vécu.

Ils nous ouvrent d’autres perspectives pour penser! Ils nous permettent d’entrevoir une sorte de lumière pour avancer. Ils sont nos quêteurs de sens!

Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs, c’est le manque de rêve, d’espoir et de culture qui provoque le désespoir, la contestation et la morosité…

Les arts sont et resteront la colonne vertébrale d’une société, ils sont l’âme de notre Ville et des guides pour les générations à venir!

Aussi, je vous garantis que votre décision de ne pas effectuer de coupures dans le financement des arts est bonne et vous assure que vous faites un choix qui vous honore!

Cependant, permettez-moi tout même d’aller un peu plus loin dans ma réflexion…

En effet, je vous suggère fortement de vous donner d’ores et déjà les moyens de devenir une ville modèle au Canada qui marquera de son sceau l’histoire!

Comme vous le savez, toute société est immanquablement jugée à travers son art, alors, anticipez l’avenir de notre ville et devenez des visionnaires!

Investissez financièrement dans les arts et la culture!

Vous soutiendrez ainsi l’émergence et le développement continu d’artistes, d’artisans et de travailleurs culturels d’ici en leur offrant les meilleures conditions possible de création, de production et de diffusion d’œuvres d’art!

L’art contient en lui un nous pluriel qui réveille les consciences, anime et inspire toutes les activités humaines!

En injectant encore plus d’argent dans les arts et la culture, vous donnerez le goût à vos concitoyens de produire de grandes et belles choses dans notre ville d’Ottawa!

J’ai l’espoir fou de penser que mon discours ne restera pas lettre morte et que vous saurez le prendre en considération!

Je vous remercie pour votre écoute et vous souhaite à tous et toutes une bonne soirée! ».

Théâtre Action tient à remercier ses partenaires financiers pour la saison 2009-2010 : le Conseil des Arts de l’Ontario, le Ministère du Patrimoine Canadien, la Fondation Trillium de l’Ontario, le Ministère de l’Éducation et le FondAction de la Fondation franco-ontarienne.

A Backyard Revolution

I mentioned a little while back that there was a meeting of members of the local Ottawa theatre community. Below are the minutes from that meeting. Since then, a preliminary steering committee has been formed to did further into these issues. If you are interested in finding out more or taking part in the committee, please join our Wiki at

Happy reading!

******************************************************** Theatre Community Backyard BBQ, August 24, 2009

The Key Suggestions:

1) Professional Ottawa Region Theatre Alliance (PORTA) - administered by a paid staff member - a volunteer steering committee - perhaps provided a desk in the Ottawa Fringe office - PORTA could ostensibly perform the hybrid function of Toronto’s Association of Performing Arts (TAPA) and the Small Theatre Administrative Facility (STAF), through administering projects such as: o The Ottawa Theatre Passport: a multi-play pass that would allow audiences to pay one membership price for access to a variety of independent productions. Each theatre company would put one play forward each season to be included on the passport. o a central database where information about all upcoming workshops and performances could be posted – could also be an active blog site featuring peer-reviews of productions o PORTAL (Professional Ottawa Region Theatre Alliance List; suggested by Judi Pearl and based on her e-list) would be a comprehensive mailing list which would be used to notify the community of upcoming workshops and performances. Judi has volunteered to manage this list until a paid staff person is chosen. o a roster of mentors (directors, designers, actors, playwrights, artistic directors, general managers, publicists, etc) who would be willing to provide guidance to emerging artists on their projects - this includes assistance in company development, grant writing and the drafting/dissemination of press-releases (ideal for companies which presently lack administrative infrastructure) o a central props/set storage into which companies could donate props, costumes, and set pieces from previous productions rather than throwing them out upon completion

2) A New Space (or an old space re-defined) Is it time to pool resources together and create a new space dedicated to the creation and presentation of new work? Could a collective of artists/companies (not restrictively theatre) pool their resources together and fund a new space? It could function similar to a time-share or co-op. Could the Ottawa Fringe lease a permanent rehearsal/performance space (ex. Montreal Fringe)?

New Play Development Blanket Notes

Is there enough new work being developed and produced for the size of population? - no - what are the problems?

Funding - there is a general lack of knowledge of grant writing

Space - make a rehearsal/performance space available to members of the community

Key Points: 1) The Atelier – many voiced a longing for the NAC’s Atelier where there was a) a space to create new work, b) a programmed season of new work, c) an audience who attended a season of new work – it drew national audiences, writers, dramaturges, directors, and Equity actors - it also supported the playwright, not just the work

2) Is a GCTC Studio Series a potentiality? - many view the studio as an under-used and unaffordable space - a programmed series of works by independent theatres in Ottawa (similar to CanStage’s Berkeley Street Project) - can the GCTC rely on local companies to secure the necessary funding before being programmed? - could it become the replacement of the Atelier with collaboration of the NAC?

3) A New Space - new spaces haven’t contributed rehearsal space (ahead 2 theatres, but down space) - as The Atelier proved, one of the keys to new-play development is a dedicated space to the activity - this becomes particularly pertinent when regarding creation-based/devised work - could a collective of artists/companies (not restrictively theatre) pool their resources together and fund a new space? (ex. The Theatre Centre in Toronto) - organizations that give tax credit to new condos if they offer rehearsal space to artists in Chicago - artists pay fees into co-ops, communal space - could the Ottawa Fringe lease a permanent rehearsal/performance space (ex. Montreal Fringe)?

4) Reading Salon - an opportunity for writers to get together and read their work - task several new independent theatre companies with forming their own unit if one is not provided by a larger regional theatre - sometimes writing groups become production groups

5) Existing Resources

Partnership with the Writers Festival – interest in more playwrights being represented

Potential opportunity for gap programming at Arts Court

There was much discussion over overcome our insularity from the national theatre community. - must take more advantage of Magnetic North Theatre Festival (it’s coming back in two years – let’s be ready with something!) - touring our own work - there must be greater dialogue with the current performance creation trends across our country (exchanges, workshops, touring)

6) The arts community remains fairly entrenched in their separate disciplinary silos. A database that would help artists find the people needed to create cross-disciplinary work (music, language outside of theatre). PORTA’s database could fulfill this function.

Professional Development Blanket Notes

Consensus that professional development opportunities are important- in order to increase artist retention in Ottawa, we must enable artists to grow at their craft

Key Points

1) Masterclasses/Training - accessibility of workshops are an issue – time of year, cost, and time commitment were all sited as reasons not to attend – some felt short, weekend sessions were preferable while others desired more integrated and extended ones - need to place more emphasis on bringing in nationally vital artists into the community (success of Maiko Bae Yamamoto’s workshop at GCTC) - requested masterclasses included: voice training for actors, directing, technical skills (i.e. sound design), arts journalism, fundraising and grant writing, basic admin

2) The need to create an umbrella organization (with an online communication space/database) to help disseminate news of upcoming workshops. The need for a database of mentors was also frequently sited. PORTA’s database could fulfill this function.

3) Next Stage Festival in Toronto is an excellent example of a professional spring-board opportunity for successful Fringe productions. Could Ottawa support/does Ottawa need a Next Stage-like festival?

4) A Conservatory - Volcano Conservatory and the Soulpepper Mentorship Program are excellent examples of intensive annual programs which facilitate interaction, dialogue, and creative growth amongst directors and actors. These units benefit from bringing in respected international artists as mentors. - Could the NAC and GCTC collaborate on creating a professional conservatory of this nature? A director’s lab which also provided development opportunities to actors?

5) The theatre community needs a bar. This needs to become a vital cornerstone in our community.

6) Increasing caliber of arts reporting will in turn increase caliber of work - a committed community of bloggers who attend every show and write informed peer-reviews (could be posted on PORTA’s website/database) - Plank Magazine in Vancouver was sited as an example of a successful theatre publication – could we work with Guerilla magazine to improve quality, quantity, and frequency of theatre reporting?

Audience Development and Community Outreach Blanket Notes

Common points from all four blanket sets: 1. share/pool resources 2. develop a shared subscription or passport (to a number of theatres) 3. develop an theatre calendar – on line and print 4. develop a theatre website 5. share theatre ad space 6. Do social media initiatives 7. Develop a blog group for the theatre community (both theatre bloggers and bloggers from other interest groups) 8. Collaborate on mailings (piggy back on each others’ mailings) 9. Inserts or ads in each other’s house programs 10. Do cross promotion with each other 11. Word of mouth is good 12. Work collectively with media 13. need a balance of traditional methods and social media methods 14. need for more mainstream media participation

Debate 1. to target/segment audience according to the theme(s) in the play vs not to do that

Common Barriers 1. ticket prices too high 2. theatre company marketing budgets too low 3. human resources 4. training and skills 5. track record of the theatre company 6. independents under value their work 7. audience think they will feel stupid 8. the walls of the theatre/venue – we need to get out from behind the walls: do theatre outside, or do sneak peak/mini “commercial” or live teaser of a scene from the play in a public place 9. Competition 10. The theatre companies not knowing about opportunities to develop audiences 11. The majority of the public do not attend if they are not familiar with the name of the play 12. limited space 13. difficulty securing project funding

National Reliance 1. Initiative to participate in a national theatre magazine to gain a national profile for the theatre work done in Ottawa. Example: Plank Magazine out of Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto Previews, reviews and discussion stories, what’s happening type articles.

More good thoughts 1. Need to bring theatre to the audiences instead of the audiences to the theatre 2. videos of our collective work 3. Coming soon to a theatre near you: screens up in public areas showing short videos of a number of theatres’ work 4. setting up sets, props, costumes in public places or in each other’s theatres in order to cross promote the work of each other 5. Be interactive with the audience 6. Build a conversation with the public 7. make it a whole experience for the theatre goers – from the minute they walk through the door – the show – a talk back or reception afterwards 8. Cross pollinate with other art forms 9. Set up meeting with the Citizen – in print, on line, how can we help you help us 10. Develop a theatre alliance group 11. Importance of publicity: 1. know the show 2. know the audience 3. know where to find that audience. Know how to spin the plot of the play to develop interest, prep media and prep the artists 12. Work with tourism 13. Engage the business community

Questions 1. What role does programming play in audience development 2. What role do the media play in audience development? 3. Why do music concerts and big events (spectacles) draw people? 4. How to get Cultural diverse audiences (programming, outreach, diverse actors on stage) 5. Chicken and Egg Question: What comes first – critical mass in audience, performances or artists 6. How do we help each other thrive

GCTC will work on Affordable rental possibilities in the studio Exploring how to continue the production mentorship program Hosting master classes at affordable rate Work with who ever is interested in audience development

Independent Theatre Blanket Notes

Common points from all four blanket sets: 15. sharing resources; publicity lists, volunteer base, performance schedules, 16. sharing physical resource; rehearsal and storage space 17. Create an online inventory of available props, costumes. 18. Create a “Theatre Alliance”. 19. create central box office, promotional tools, subscription season 20. Need a paid person to run “theatre alliance” 21. create a committee to oversee the “alliance” 22. Local community needs to get exposure to work outside our region to expand our horizons and raise the bar 23. Need more bartering among companies 24. advertise together to get impact 25. Need to get younger audience engaged. 26. There is a lack of communication among theatre companies 27. No training on how to create companies

Debate 2. Do we need lasting independent theatre companies? Should project based work be enough? 3. The limits/benefits of a mandate? It should be a living document to be revisited. 4. How much does audience need come first? 5. Value of Project funding vs. Operational funding. 6. When to incorporate? Or incorporate at all?

Common Barriers 14. lack of “affordable” space 15. equity vs. non-equity mix. Makes harder for Equity members to work on some projects 16. Lack of funding makes us competitive with each other. Need to rise above it. 17. National presence overshadows local work 18. Time spent on admin/production vs. creating art 19. Insurance

More good thoughts 14. Get city on board to create kiosks or billboards to promote local theatre 15. Have a collective season launch 16. Plan ahead. Good theatre takes time. 17. The resources are there but need to get to the people who need them 18. With collective wisdom you need a collector 19. Tie Theatre Alliance to Rideau Awards (Dora Awards given as an example) 20. CAO is a great resource that is underused. 21. Other available resources; Flying Squad, CRHC 22. Sometimes failing is the best training

Questions 7. Where does money come from to create “shared” pool? 8. Do we need to “grow” to be considered successful? 9. How do we maintain rigour while doing other jobs? 10. How do artists find information? 11. Do we even know who the independent theatre companies are? 12. What drives the need for independent theatre? 13. What does the city get out of a community? 14. How do we convince city of the value of that? 15. Where are the francophone companies? How do we work with them?

Do Or Do Not, There Is No Try

A few days ago, there was a meeting of members of the local Ottawa theatre community to discuss various aspects facing the art form in the city. I highly recommend you read this post by Kris Joseph, not only to see what was discussed, but also to appreciate his insight and perspective on unification attempts in the past (go ahead and read it, the rest of this post might not make too much sense if you don't). Though it may seem like he's gotten 'mayyyybeeee a little bitter,' he's not wrong. All of this has happened before. Now can we make sure it doesn't happen again? I was the lone voice asking the linchpin question. I knew what would happen if I did. In fact, everyone there knew what would happen if they said the words. It's the 'he who smelt it dealt it' mentality. If you ask the question then the responsibility to answer it will fall squarely on your shoulders.

And you know what? I'm ok with that.

I've often wondered why I am still in Ottawa when there seem to be so few opportunities to work. I've also wondered what the hell I'm doing with a degree in Political Science. Maybe this is what I've been waiting for? Don't think I am doing this to be noble. There is a level of selfishness in my intent. After all, I want more work in this city for me. That said, I love this art form with a passion I cannot contain nor comprehend. In it I find magic, beauty, truth and love, and I will defend it until the day I die.

It won't be easy. Are you with me? (And please don't tell me here "I would if I had more time" - that honestly can go without saying. We all would do more if we had more time. What I'm asking is will you make the time?)

A few other people have now come out of the woodwork, voicing an interest in making things better. I'm sure they are sincere in their intentions (though, we all know what road is paved with those) and I don't know if that will translate into concrete action, but Mr. Joseph was looking for someone to step up so here I am.

I've started researching and I've set up meetings as I wait for the notes from our gathering to be distributed to us. In the meantime, dear theatre brethren from across the interweb, I would love it if you could let me know if there are independent theatre conglomerates in your city and how do they work?