Little Martyrs

Well, the time has finally arrived. About two years ago, Mishka Lavigne approached Evolution Theatre with an idea for a translation. Of all the plays she approached us with, La petite scrap by Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf was the one that appealed to Chris Bedford, our Artistic Director, the most (and I'll let you read his program notes about that when you come and see the show). Mishka and Chris contacted the playwright and went to visit her in Montreal. Dominick was impressed with Chris’ vision for the show and readily agreed to the rights as long as the process would be supervised by Maureen Labonté, a well- known and critically acclaimed dramaturg in the Canadian theatre scene, since this was to be Mishka's first translation from French to English. After many revisions and workshops that were graciously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the piece was almost ready for the stage.

Chris would of course Direct and our company General Manager, Linda, would Stage Manage. I, of course, called dibs on the one female role that I could suitably play, but you can trust that Chris would never have agreed to that if he didn't think I could do it.

On the design front, our long-time collaborator, Pierre Ducharme, would handle set & lights. From seeing his electronic maquette of the set at the first read to the 14 hour days he's been pulling off over the last two weeks, managing technical glitch after technical glitch beautifully and seamlessly, I knew we had the best guy for the job. For costumes, we courted the always incredible Sarah Waghorn who at first thought she might be too busy to take on the show. I can't tell you how thrilled we were when, not only did she realize she could do it, but she could also work within our budget! Finally, for sound, I'd been name dropping AL Connors at company meetings ever since I first saw A Company of Fools' A Mid-Winter's Dreamtale. Dude isn't just a great DJ, he is a fantastic sound designer too.

And for the rest of the cast, well have you seen who we've got onboard? Jody Haucke, Brad Long, Margo MacDonald and Matt Miwa - an incredible ensemble of talent, courage, dedication and pure love of the work.

We, at Evolution Theatre, have been incredibly blessed throughout the entire process of creation for this show and we are now ready to share all of it with you. We hope that you will be able to come out and join us at some point during the run.


World English-language premiere of:

Little Martyrs By Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf Translated by Mishka Lavigne / Dramaturgy by Maureen Labonté

February 9 to 19, 2011 Arts Court - Ottawa Dance Directive, Studio A, 2 Daly Ave Tuesday to Saturday - 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday - 2 p.m.

Directed by Christopher Bedford

Lighting and Set Design by Pierre Ducharme Costume & Properties Design by Sarah Waghorn Sound Design by AL Connors

Featuring: Jody Haucke Nancy Kenny Brad Long Margo MacDonald Matt Miwa

Story Synopsis: Directed by company Artistic Director, Christopher Bedford, Little Martyrs is a fictional account inspired by the real-life events that shocked the world in 1993 when two young boys kidnapped a toddler in Great Britain. Ten years after the sordid crime they committed when they were children, Jacob (Matt Miwa -recent member of the National Arts Centre’s Resident Acting Company) and Ludo (Brad Long - Les Prix Rideau Award, Emerging Artist Nominee) are released from prison. Each strives for redemption in a different way; Jacob finds himself on a higher path and Ludo discovers beauty through creation. The two young men meet again under new identities through Minnie (Nancy Kenny), a former runaway who rents Jacob her late newborn’s room. Searching for his partner in crime, Ludo sets up a studio next door. From this point on the story takes a more complex turn. Rounding out the cast are Margo MacDonald, fresh off her sold-out run of Shadows during the Great Canadian Theatre Company’s Undercurrents Festival, as Minnie’s mother and Jody Haucke as Minnie’s father.


Tickets $25 / $20 students & seniors PWYC Matinee - Sunday, Feb 13 Box Office: 613-564-7240

Artist and group rates available

The Publicist's Dilemma (Part 4)

Remember how back in Part 2 I briefly touched on the difficulties with being both an actor and a publicist for a show? (No? Well then go click on that link!) Well, recently, with Little Martyrs, I've discovered another issue: even though I am a performer in the show, I don't want to be interviewed about it. It's kind of weird, since I love talking about the show, but I feel that when I have my actor hat on, it takes away from my publicist abilities (and vice-versa) because, you know, I only have one head on which to rest my chapeau. So at the well-attended media call for Martyrs, I wanted to take care of the media folk - introduce them to cast and crew, set them up with interviews, make sure they have everything they need, stuff them with cookies, ect - but I had to do all this in an elaborate costume since I was involved in the scene we were presenting (an unavoidable fact as I am in almost every scene). I found it hard to then turn that switch off and be a good actor when what I really wanted to do at the time was make sure the lights were alright and that the cameras were getting all the good angles.

Two days ago, another media outlet asked to "talk to one of the actors" - of course I could have done it myself, but I also had to think bigger - and so I submitted our most popular cast member, who recently sold out a run of her very own less than two weeks ago at the GCTC Undercurrents Festival and whose name would carry more weight than mine - as difficult as that might be to imagine ;)

I'm very lucky this time around that I have four other actors, as well as a director whom I can send out in my place. I just wonder what it will be like when I'm the actor, producer & publicist for my own one woman show...

Little Martyrs runs from Feb 9 to 19 in the Ottawa Dance Directive - Studio A

The Joy of Indie Theatre

Everything was going so well. We've been rehearsing Little Martyrs in the actual performance space for weeks. Set, costumes and props steadily being added every day as our performance work just kept getting stronger. We even got some beautiful publicity photos courtesy of the amazing Andrew Alexander.

The problems started out small enough: a rented lighting board arrives with missing cables; lights magically turn themselves on without anyone touching anything (and gives me a spotlight during a pivotal speech, so you know, I'm not complaining). Then the lighting designer slips on some ice and sprains his knee. Call for volunteer technicians are put out. A rehearsal gets postponed while technical problems get fixed. Then we find out the entire dimmer system is out. The kind folks at Algonquin College step in with some equipment, but it turns out the power output isn't compatible with the space's outlets.

Tomorrow's rehearsal gets canceled as more work needs to be done. A new solution is offered: we need to rent a slew of new equipment. We can't get it until Monday morning, but beauty of beauty, instead of enjoying a much needed rest and day off, the entire cast steps in with an offer to sweep and sew and chauffer people and things around. Everyone's pitching in and doing what they can. We're all in this together.

This new equipment rental was not in our budget. We need an extra $600 to $750 to be able to pull this off, so I am asking all of you who read and enjoy this blog for one heck of a favour. Can you help us raise this money in the next few days? Every little bit helps, whether it's $5 or $500, whatever you can manage. You can make a contribution right now by CLICKING ON THIS LINK and hitting the donate now button. Evolution Theatre is a registered charity and you'll be able to print a tax receipt immediately. If you do it quickly enough, I may even be able to add your name to our list of donors in the program.

Can't spare anything, can't even afford to see the show? We still need a few volunteers for the run (especially on both Wednesday night) to work box office and hand out programs. Volunteers get to see the show for free. Just send an email to volunteer at evolutiontheatre dot ca for details.

Thank you for taking the time to listen - we open in T minus 4 days. Let's do it!

The Publicist's Dilemma (Part 3)

For Parts 1 and 2 - go here and here respectively. I've spent the last 5 years now creating a media list for the Ottawa Theatre community. This list was built up through various contracts and networking opportunities. This list is extensive and thorough.

I've had friends ask me for this list in the past and I haven't said no. After all, isn't the end goal the growth and education about theatre arts in our community? Don't more events mean more awareness? The great Simon Ogden once mentioned the following in my blog comments (and I hope you also click on that link because it was a pretty good blog post filled with very insightful comments from a slew of people):

...when we market our shows we’re not marketing our shows, we’re marketing our industry. And when enough of us tell enough of them how awesome a thing it is that they’re missing, they’ll come. Eventually, they’ll come. You just need to keep showing all that wonderful excitement that you have for it...

I agree completely (and P.S. Simon, I miss your blog), so imagine my surprise when, in Toronto, after being asked to do publicity for a show some classmates were putting up, that no one in town wanted to just hand over their media list.

I was incredibly confused. Aren't we all in this together? Apparently not.

Don't get me wrong, I get it. My friends tried to hire a publicist in TO and the cheapest they could find was $1000. People are paying for the years it took to put together such a detailed media list. It goes way beyond simple internet research. It's years of connections and meetings and hand shaking. I have the cellphone number of many a theatre critic and reporter. When I call, they answer because they know that I have a good story for them. (Or they just want tickets to Vimy...)

As a publicist, your media list and you contacts are a big chunk of your livelihood. I don't want to work for free as an actor, so why should the publicist? Because that's what I'm doing when I give away that list. And as someone who has spent the better part of the last four months living out of a suitcase because she can't afford to live in her own home, that seems like a pretty stupid thing to do.

And that brings me back to the whole dilemma part of this blog post. Because most theatre company's in town cannot afford to pay $1000* for a publicist and I want to ensure the survival of our local industry, I try and help anyway.

Is this what it means to be a schmuck? Am I the George Bailey of the Ottawa Theatre scene?

You decide.

*My rates are negotiable.

The Publicist's Dilemma (Part 2)

Ask the majority of actors and they will tell you how they try not to read reviews during the run of a show. I get it. The outcomes are never good. You might get a bad review that, after weeks of hard work & baring your soul, just breaks your fucking heart on the scale of "little kid crying about how people are just MEAN" all the way to "Oh my God, I suck! I am the suckiest actor that ever sucked!" All of this making you doubt yourself and your performer choices and wish that you didn't have a whole other week of performances to go through, because frankly, why should you be subjecting people to THAT? Of course, your friends, your colleagues, even your director will tell you to pay it no mind, that it's just one person's opinion, and really, nobody ever reads the *insert publication here* Or maybe the reverse happens. You get an amazing review! They loved you! They really loved you! And just like that you find yourself with a sense of bloated false self-esteem, which you know isn't true because what your friends said about bad reviews also applies to good ones, but it still ruins all the beautiful nuances you had found in the script because now you're just hamming it up. "Do you get it? THIS is that funny part he/she mentioned in the review. Do you get it? This is funny, right? Do you see how FUNNY I am?"


Heck, even worse is if you get a good review and your colleague gets a bad one, or vice versa. Awkward stares in the dressing room as you both pretend you don't know what was said. And no one can really say anything without opening up a can of worms. If you got the good review, you can't say all the regular platitudes, because the response will always be, "well that's easy for you to say". If you get the bad review, well, what can you say?

So as an actor, you just avoid this messy mess altogether.

But what if the actor also happens to be the publicist for the show? If you're producing your own work, chances are the bulk of the administrative work, including marketing and publicity ends up in your plate.

Which means that in my case, for the reasons I explained in Part 1, I have to read the reviews about myself during the run of a show. And let me tell you, it's not always fun.

So what do you do? You learn to compartmentalize, be objective and take everything with a grain of salt - three things that I am not very good at.

I don't have an answer for this one. If someone else does, please, share your secret!

The Publicist's Dilemma (Part 1)

There's been some great discussions online lately (and I recommend you go through the comments section too!) about the place of criticism and critics in the arts. As a publicist and producer, I have to say that critics are very important to me. Word of mouth is the best way to sell anything, including a show, and so I need reviews in order to pull quotes. The "Hey look at what people are saying about the show!" approach. As a producer, I do the same thing for grant applications and sponsor/donor drives, though it's more of a "Hey look at what these people are saying about us!" approach.

Critics are by no means the be all and end all to my publicity campaign, but they are one more tool in my belt. And the more "legitimacy" society gives to the media outlet that reviews my shows, the more importance I will place on the critic and the quote.

Do I necessarily agree with this way of thinking? That people need to be told by someone else whether they should see a piece of theatre or not? No. As a person who loves the theatre, I like to see everything and make up my own mind. I might read reviews before I see a performance of something, but it won't affect whether I go or not because I will always go.

But my job is to sell a show to people who aren't like me. People whose entire lives do not revolve around the theatre. People who need to know that if they are going to be spending $20-$25 on a performance that they will be entertained. You know, sane people.

And so, I go back to the people they can hopefully trust, either because of the critic or the medium they are involved with.

Why Twitter?

I often forget that there are a lot of people out there who don't use Twitter or other forms of social media. Some people just don't want to learn, but many simply don't see the use in it. It's for those latter people that I write this post. Here are the top 5 reasons I use Twitter:

Customer Service Thanks to a program like Tweetdeck, I track specific keywords related to my business and my day job. Thanks to this tracking system, I caught a conversation where someone said they used to be subscribers to the Great Canadian Theatre Company but hadn't been in years because they saw a "terrible Joni Mitchell play" that made them lose interest. This play was produced almost 8 years ago and a lot has changed at the theatre since then, including a move to our new location on Wellington Street.

I immediately got in touch with this person to offer them free tickets to opening night of our next production (which at the time was blood.claat: one ooman story). He was shocked that someone would actually take the time to listen to a complaint, gladly accepted my offer and had a wonderful time at the theatre with his fiancé.

Twitter made it possible for me to discover that such a complaint existed and do something about it.

First Hand News Coverage Though the information can at times be incorrect (see for example "Gordon Lightfoot is dead" hoax), for the most part Twitter has been a great place for me to get first hand, breaking news on a variety of topics. For instance, it was on Twitter that I first learned about Charles McFarland stepping down as Artistic Associate with Third Wall Theatre (I was also the first to Tweet it back) and how I found out about the City of Ottawa's Arts & Heritage Cultural Advisory Meeting, a discovery that has led to some very interesting research at work. Lots of events will also live tweet what's going on for those who cannot be there. That's how I knew all about the National Arts Centre's French and English Theatre season launches.

New Connections Twitter has served as an introduction to many theatre practitioners in Canada and across the world. Thanks to this introduction, whenever I've found myself in a different city like Montreal or Toronto, I've had the opportunity to meet these people and make new business connections. I've also been able to meet some great people in Ottawa as well. People like @suzemuse, @cherylgain & @snobiwan among others.

Stay Connected Many of my "real life" friends are on Twitter. This gives me an opportunity to stay connected and see what they are currently doing. This has led to easy spontaneous meetings for coffee or drinks. If you're not following them already, you should say hello to @patgauthier, @HMsurfacing, @nadinethornhill, @SterlingLynch, @evanthornton, @catrionaleger among many many many others. Oh and @krisjoseph is always good for a laugh, but you probably knew that already.

Contests There is always someone having some sort of contest on Twitter and sometimes a quick reply is all it takes. So far I've won movie & theatre tickets, Easter Brunch @CanadasNAC & free passes to @ottawafolk. and those are the only things I can think of right now off the top of my head.

Again, these are my own personal reasons for using Twitter. What are some of yours?

Have You Got Your Tickets Yet?

The 2010-2011 Great Canadian Theatre Season is launched and it's latest production, Facts, is open and running.  All I'm really going to say about it all is that the new season looks exciting (buy your subscription before April 30th to save on the HST!) and Facts is well-worth seeing (remember, Rush Tickets go on sale as of noon the day of the performance!). Though I'm still working on a video from the launch (I hate you, Windows Movie Maker!), I'm now almost entirely consumed with thoughts of the Rideau Awards.  I've been doing a constant follow-up with media, getting a press release ready, and worrying about what to wear.  This is after all THE Ottawa theatre event of the year.  You've got your ticket, right?

On top of moderating English media communications and live tweeting throughout the event (follow along with the #rideauawards hashtag - conversation is currently about what to wear - I'm going to be very disappointed if @SterlingLynch doesn't follow through on his assless chaps outfit), I will also be appearing with Sanitas Playback Theatre.  Normally, I would be performing with the group, however with my focus split that night, we've come to a different arrangement, albeit one that I find fits better with this year's co-lingual awards mandate.

The theatre company and I have decided that I will be co-conducting the event with Artistic Director Brie Barker and acting as a French translator throughout our segments.  It is silly to assume that all francophones in attendance are fluently bilingual.  In addition, many anglophones do not speak French and would require the interpretation.  It will be nice to finally showcase what we've been doing for the past few months and I think Playback will add an interesting touch to the awards.  I'm really excited to be introducing this "new" form of theatre to my peers.

I can't wait to see you there, but before then, the question on everyone's mind really is: what will you be wearing?

Where To Get That Play

You're taking a scene study class and you need to find the play your scene is taken from.  The library doesn't seem to have it and neither does Chapters.  So what do you do? I've been collecting plays and building up my own personal library for years, ever since I took my first Theatre History course in University and had to purchase 10 different plays for class.   I truly believe it's important to build a good collection if you want to work in the theatre.  I regularly make the rounds of used bookstores and get what might be of interest to me.  Last year, season announcements were made all over Ottawa.  I went straight to my bookshelf and realized I was only missing a few texts.  This meant I could instantly consult the character breakdowns, see which shows I may be suitable for and send a message to the various artistic directors expressing my interest.  And the plays I didn't have?  I quickly ordered.

But what if it's a modern text or something a little more obscure?  What then?

You can always try Theatrebooks in Toronto or BizBooks in Vancouver.  They both offer an excellent selection and if they don't have the title you are looking for, they might be able to order it for you.

Unfortunately (and I hate to go all big business here), it can take forever to get something if they have to order it for you and, if you do a little price shopping, it's often cheaper to go through Chapters or Amazon for more common pieces.  Still, a great option.  I always make a stop at Theatrebooks when I'm in Toronto.

Which brings me to this little gem of advice: Skip the middle man and order the play yourself.

First, find out who the publisher is.  In most cases, it's probably Samuel French, the Dramatist Play Service, Pioneer Drama, or Broadway Publishing for most American titles.  It's fairly cheap too.  A play purchased through Samuel French will generally cost you about $7.50 US plus shipping.  Order multiple titles to save on shipping.

For Canadian works, try Playwrights Canada Press or Centre des auteurs dramatiques (for French work - though they might know where to find the published English translation).

If the text has yet to be published or is out of print (it can happen), then find out which theatre may have had the first official production or, better yet, contact the playwright or the playwright's agent directly.  (Yes, you CAN do that!)

If you have any other tips or suggestions on where to find a play, please feel free to mention it in the comments section.

Good luck and happy reading!

How to Get Started with Social Media Marketing

I just got back from the Social Media Breakfast - Ottawa. I like these events because they give me an opportunity to network with other like-minded individuals and even meet up (or tweet up) with some Twitter followers. The event also includes a presentation from various people/groups involved in social media. Today's presentation was from folks with the United Way - Ottawa and how they have been using new media to get more people engaged in what they do.

It was a good presentation, but I was glad that someone spoke up at the end to point out that you still need a strategy and time commitment when it comes to using social media - setting up a Twitter account or a Facebook page simply isn't enough.

So, keeping the focus on artists and arts organizations, how do you develop that strategy? Well, if you've got the money, hire me and I will help you out. However, if you don't have the resources to hire me, let me suggest two excellent tools to get you started.

First up, there is a most excellent book called Getting Started with Social Networking for Artists and Arts Organizations by Rebecca Coleman. This book has everything you could possible need to get going in an easy to read format. It even includes fill-in-the-blank social media marketing plan worksheets. This book is an absolute must have for anyone who needs to advertise their art or their arts organization. It's only $20 and you can download the e-book immediately. You can even pay an extra $10 (TEN!) and get a consultation with Ms. Coleman thrown in for good measure. What more could you want?

I know! More information about Twitter!

Well, you're in luck! Meet Dave Charest. Dave came up with an awesome (and FREE!) Beginner's Guide to Twitter. I've already downloaded and devoured part 1 and can't wait to see what he comes up next.

Check them both out and if you have any suggestions of other guides or books people should get their hands on, feel free to post them in the comments section.

The Value of Me

There have been a lot of blog posts lately on working for free. A nice examination of what working for free can mean from the Mission Paradox and a fantastic call-to-arms on the Culture of Free by Suzemuse (it also introduced me to Feedly for which I am incredibly grateful - now if they only made an app...) and how it's got to change. This, combined with my boss asking me how much I would charge for my social media work, got me thinking: How much am I worth?

This is a very difficult question for me to answer because I love what I do so much and there's this false belief inside me that if I love my job and it's easy for me to do, then it's not work so how can I justify getting paid for it?

Crazy I know. This goes for both my acting work and my marketing work. For years I did community theatre, sometimes appearing in more than one play at the same time, because I love performing. I had to finally stop though. It no longer felt satisfying creatively, I didn't feel like I was gaining any sort of meaningful experience, and it was taking up an awful lot of my time for no compensation whatsoever.

Now, before anyone slams me, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with community theatre; it served as a valuable training ground in which to get my feet wet. I'm just saying that I was at the point where I had to take a stand. To continue on my path, I had to say "I am a professional artist. I have studied my craft for many years, I have a wealth of experience and knowledge, and, yes, I'm actually good at what I do. And that? Deserves compensation."

I don't know if you can understand how hard that was for me to do. By deciding to take that route, I ended up doing a lot less shows. I am constantly filled with doubt and fears along the lines of "what the hell do I know? Who am I to ask for more?" But I had to stand firm. I had to believe in myself. Now, the only way I would do a show for free would be if a) it's for some kind of fundraiser or cause I believe in, b) I was doing my own work (though that's in the hopes of eventually getting paid), or c) I was doing a friend a favour.

So, having said all that, why is it so hard for me to take the same stand in my marketing work?

I want money. Heck, I actually NEED money. But I am really uncomfortable around money. I don't like it and I wish I didn't need it. Unfortunately, I have a mortgage to pay and a cat to feed and those thing just don't take care of themselves (stupid cat should get a job already...).

For a while now, I've been trying to put myself out there as a marketing person for hire. That always gets me thinking of my favorite quote:


"Do. Or do not. There is no try."

So this "trying" thing wasn't exactly working out because I wasn't doing anything. The thing is, I didn't even know where to begin or how much I should charge for my services. Finally though, when asked by work to send them a list of responsibilities and a price quote, I had to do some research. I contacted the best arts marketing person I know and asked her advice.

To be perfectly frank, her response kind of floored me. You charge HOW MUCH? I got self-conscious. I can't actually be expected to ask people for that, can I? Just to set up a Twitter account, a Facebook page... I mean, it's so easy! It hardly seems fair.

However, then I started to put things into perspective. Just because it's easy for me, doesn't mean it comes easily for everyone else. I work in an office of maybe 25 people - about three quarters of those have no idea what to do with digital media and most would probably be more than happy to pay someone else to do something about it.

I also had to put myself into perspective. I have a lot of experience. I've been working in Marketing, Promotions and Event Planning for over seven years now (wow, SEVEN!). I've got two B.A.s and a college certificate. I'm always taking classes, reading books and staying up-to-date on the next best thing in the world of marketing. People who hire me are paying me for that knowledge and experience, for the fact that they didn't have to go and do all that research. On top of that, contract work does not come with health benefits and vacation pay, so it's also normal that you would request more money on that front.

All this to say, I'm going to start charging for my services. You can check out my professional work resume on my LinkedIn profile to give you an idea of what I can do for you. Please send an email to nancyjkenny at yahoo dot com if you would like to discuss how I can help market your business. You can also schedule a meeting by using Tungle and checking my availability. If you buy me lunch, the initial consultation will be free.

In the meantime, I leave you with this awesome video on not giving it all away for free:


Toronto Tweetup

People thought I was weird when I told them that I would be meeting some friends in Toronto, friends that I had never once met in person. "You like, met them online or something?"

Yup, that's exactly right.

Digital media (just for you, Amanda!) and Twitter in particular has given me the wonderful opportunity to reach out and connect with theatre practitioners from across the country. It's taken networking to a whole other level.

Unless they are located in Ottawa, chances are I've never met these people. We've read each other's blogs and About pages, we've had conversations at 2 a.m., and we've figured out mutual friends, but there's never been a face-to-face. The odd thing is, even though I don't "know" them in the present sense, it still feels like I "know" them, you know? Friendships that develop from 140 characters or less.

When two such wonderful people heard I was coming down to their Toronto stomping grounds, we immediately decided that it would be time to meet. In nerdy terms, we decided to have "Tweetup". It's exactly what you think it is. Twitter buddies having a meet-up.

It was awesome and exciting! I think we all felt like we were going on some sort of blind date. What should I wear? Will they like me? Will we still have stuff to talk about in person? (Answer: Black turtleneck, yes, and definitely yes!)

We had some amazing conversations about theatre and social media (sorry Amanda!). I learned a lot about the Toronto scene (including info about a company who's online presence makes me very curious), they seemed impressed with the one in Ottawa. I've got a place to stay in downtown TO whenever I go back and I may have someone willing to do new headshots for me for free. We've already started making plans to meet again.

I really do believe this is the wave of the future and that there is a lot of potential here for artistic growth and development. So far, my favorite story (and one that actually falls into my current circle of friends) is about Sterling Lynch getting his play produced in Phoenix thanks to Mare Biddle. You can listen to Dave Charest's (another person "met" through Twitter) podcast interview on that subject here.

That said, I still won't touch online dating with a ten-foot pole.

In the meantime, I leave you with some visuals from out Toronto Tweetup. Special thanks to the nice stranger at Starbucks who took our picture (also the instigator of the quote mentioned above)!

AKA - @a_mandolin, @bfg85 & @nancykenny (Insert @SMLois)

Not in this picture, but totally in our hearts - @rebeccacoleman

Enjoying Theatre on a Budget

It bothers me when actors tell me they don't go to the theatre. Excuse me? What? How can you not go to the theatre? How can you consider yourself an actor in this town and not know what the local companies are producing? Or who the key people involved are? Or who your competition might be? Often actors and crew go for drinks post-show, which then becomes a valuable opportunity to network, socialize and find out what the next big project coming to town might be.

"But Nancy, going to the theatre is expensive!" I hear you clamour. "Ah! But it does not have to be," is my reply.

As many of you know, I see almost every bit of theatre that comes to Ottawa. Out of 45 professional productions juried by Les Prix Rideau Awards in 2009, I've seen 40. that's not including the community theatre, Fringe, Magnetic North and student productions I've seen. I think last year I probably saw over 100 theatre performances. That averages out to 2 a week, which sounds about right.

This may come as a shock to you, but I am not the type to sit around in my tub with my bath pillow eating bonbons and drinking wine as I use my laptop to peruse the "next big theatrical event" I will be attending (though that's probably because using your laptop in a tub is just asking for trouble). Nor do I have an ample supply of disposable income which I use on $20 to $40 theatre tickets. No. I am a poor broke artist who just wanted to know everything there was to know about my local theatre community and I figured out the cheapest way to do it.

So, dear friends, this is how you too can enjoy your theatre on a budget.

Are you a student? TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT! Both the National Arts Centre, the Great Canadian Theatre Company and Third Wall Theatre in Ottawa have rush tickets for students that go for something like $10 or $11 a piece if you purchase your tickets the day of the performance. Not ideal if it's a show like The Drowsy Chaperone, which sold out rather quickly, but trust me, there are a lot of performances in town that do not sell out and you would be more than happy to see your smiling face walking to the door for your rush ticket.

Of course, the tricky thing here is that most of these companies do not clearly advertise their rush ticket availabilities, which I can understand to a point. So how can you find out about them? Well, you could just call and ask. Then again, why would you do that when you have me?

I almost never took advantage of my student status when I had a valid student card and it still bothers me to this day. Think of all the great shows I missed... As an added bonus, the GCTC also has ADULT Rush Tickets for $20. No i.d. necessary, just show up after noon on any show day to get your discounted ticket.

Are You An Artist? Well, since this blog is loosely geared towards actors and other artists, I'm going to go with yes, you probably are. A lot of companies like the NAC, GCTC, Third Wall, Evolution Theatre offer artist rates. How do you prove you're an artist? Usually with your union card. That said, if you are not in any performers union, I believe they will all accept two contrasting monologues at the box office... but don't quote me on that.

Volunteer! Every theatre company in town needs volunteers and it does come with benefits. In most cases, volunteers actually get to see the show on the night of their shift. I know this is the case for Evolution Theatre and it sometimes works out for other companies like The Gladstone and A Company of Fools (unless they happen to need all their volunteers for a secret ice cream experiment...) I wanted to see the amazing Inclement Weather/Countries Shaped Like Stars again when it was presented at the GCTC, but couldn't afford the $20. I offered my services on opening night and boom! I got to fall in love all over again.

The added bonus of volunteering means you get to know the people involved with the production. Today's front of house volunteer may be tomorrow's performer... or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

Join Mailing Lists, Facebook Groups and watch Twitter Feeds How else will you know what shows are playing in town? (Other than the brilliantly up-to-date What’s On – À l’affiche listing by the Ottawa Theatre Network) Lots of theatre companies (perhaps taking a page from my book) run online contests and special promotions for their members. Vision Theatre, Evolution Theatre and Third Wall Theatre have all been known to do this. The Ottawa Fringe Festival ran a brilliant Friday Trivia contest on Twitter where you could win free tickets and other gift certificates. A Company of Fools also sends out a very informed newsletter every once in a while, so you probably want to sign up for that one too.

Pay Attention to Pay-What-You-Can! Every single company in town has a Pay-What-You-Can performance at some point in their run (and if they don't, they probably should). For instance, when I did Shining City with SevenThirty Productions, we had a PWYC matinee on the first Saturday in the run. During the summer, the Fools shows are by Pass The Hat donations. PWYC/PTH means whatever you can afford. Really, you have absolutely no excuse not to go. And how do you find out about the PWYC? See the point above this one.

Previews and Dress Rehearsals These shows are often free or cheap and take place before the official opening night. Sure you might not be getting a final polished performance, but when is a performance ever final? Besides, you're doing the theatre company a great service by being part of the test audience.

Know Somebody Finally, if not a single one of these suggestions works for you, call someone you know who might be involved with the production. (See, this is where all the networking you've been doing after attending performances is going to pay off.) Let whomever know that you can't afford to see their show but you really want to. Perhaps they will be able to offer you a comp or a discounted ticket. That said, only use this method if you really can't make it to the show otherwise. You do not want to abuse of this privilege! It's just not nice.

Or be friends with someone who happens to get a lot of invitations to shows (you know, like me). Typically these people get two free tickets to a performance and they might not have anyone to go with that night (because they happen to be single and can't meet anyone new because they spend all their time attending the theatre by themselves... ahem) I'm sure I they would be happy to have some company with which to discuss the performance post-show. Just make sure you buy me them a drink after. It's only fair.


What? This still isn't working for you? Alright. Fine. Here's my final solution: start your own theatre company, build it from the ground up over at least five years, somewhere in there start a blog, become a valued and indispensable part of your city's theatre scene, and watch the invitations pour in. It worked for me, but it's a lot of work. You might just want to pay the $10 instead.

I'll be seeing you at the theatre!

Where To Find Da Money

In my grant writing post, I mentioned putting up a list of locations where you can find grants available to performance artists, so here it is. Please note that while this list may be of use to many of you, it's focus is more on Ottawa-based performance artists. Also, if I've missed anything, please let me know and I will add it immediately.

Municipal City of Ottawa Deadline - End of January Includes funding opportunities for Individual Artists, Projects & Operations

Council for the Arts in Ottawa Deadline - December & May Awards for Emerging & Mid-Career Artists Community Foundation of Ottawa Deadline - February & October Must be a registered charity and the project must have strong community impact

Provincial Ontario Arts Council Deadline - varies Opportunities for a variety of disciplines and projects, for both individuals and organizations. They also have Skills Development & Touring money. Follow them on Twitter!

Theatre Ontario Deadline - March & October Funding for those wanting to train with a mentor in a particular theatrical discipline, not including performance. They also have a great range of courses and other information. You can also follow them on Twitter.

Metcalf Foundation Deadline - May & October This is the program I went through to fund my current internship/job opportunity with the Great Canadian Theatre Company. Similar to the program through Theatre Ontario, but for a much longer term. The internship is available throughout the province, but they also fund companies based in Toronto. You must be a charitable organization to apply (for the internship, the GCTC had to apply on my behalf).

Ontario Trillium Foundation Deadline - March 1, July 1 & November 1 From what I hear, this is the mother of all grant applications. It is incredibly long and varied. Your project must also have great community impact.

National Canada Council for the Arts Deadline - varies Like the Ontario Arts Council only with a broader, national scope.

In the meantime, you might also want to check out the great discussion happening in the comment thread of Praxis Theatre's blog post entitled How Do You Get A Grant. I find Brendan Gall's words pretty inspiring.

Also from Praxis Theatre (because they are awesome and I hope they will eventually add me to their blog roll if I keep pinging back to them enough times - Hey, it worked with the Ottawa Fringe Festival...), I haven't stopped laughing at their fundamental contradiction at the core of this discussion. So I leave you with this:

Good luck!

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.