Posted by: nancykenny | August 26, 2009

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?



  1. On behalf of GCTC, I spoke to the NAC last week to discuss the idea of bringing all of the theatre companies in Ottawa together to market “theatre” as an entertainment option – both of our companies are in! The details have to be worked out, but I am continuing to contact the companies to discuss buy-in, before eventually (and soon, I hope) bringing one rep from each company to start open forum discussions. I would love to hear from all the companies about this, please contact me at and let’s get this initiative off the ground.

  2. What can I do to help? I’m in, and after the Conference will actually have some real time. In terms of useable skills I’m a good writer. And I’m cute. Don’t forget cute. 😉

  3. Toronto has the Toronto Alliance of Performing Arts, or TAPA. It represents the interests of dance, theatre and opera organizations and artists. In addition to running the Dora Awards, they have launched a number of initiatives that are of service to both established and indie theatre companies — TOTIX ticket booth, which sells tkts on-line and day-of half-price, they negotiate advertising discounts with local papers on behalf of all groups, they create some shared marketing initiatives such as a bi-monthly theatre guide. There is an opening night registry, handy for critics and in preventing too much overlap in a crowded marketplace and host an annual conference which provides workshops and panel discussions. Recently, they convened an Indie Theatre Caucus to address some of the specific needs of small budget, without their own theatre companies and are advocating with Equity for contracts which better reflect the reality of small scale producing. They do a lot — but they are only a handful of employees and a dedicated group of volunteers.

    STAF, the small theatre administrative facility provides cluster management for small or sporadically producing companies and artists. They provide grantwriting assistance, bookkeeping and marketing assistance. DUO, the Dance Umbrella of Ontario is a similar organization for the dance community.

    Phew, that was a bit long-winded; but these organizations do a lot and would all be excellent models to investigate.

  4. […] mentioned before that I’ve often wondered why I was still here. Life just happened a few times while I was busy making other plans, or so they say. I’m […]

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