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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Theatre Edmonton Project - The Director's Exchange, January 12th at The Club in the Citadel

About a year and a half or so ago (Sept 2012) a group of local artists started the Theatre Edmonton Project.  I heard about it via FB and was intrigued by the notion.  On their FB Page the purpose of the project was described as follows:

The Theatre Edmonton Project is an exciting new grassroots initiative that's working to accelerate and advance creative and artistic innovation across Edmonton's theatre community.
People are encouraged to join the FB Page or follow the group on twitter @theatreedmonton

Over the course of the past year and a half there were a variety of meet-ups each with a specific topic.  I went to one at last year's Canoe Festival on Resources and this past Sunday I was happy to partake in the Director's Exchange.  There was a panel of local Directors at various stages of their careers and at various sized theatres with differing structures. 

Bob Baker (Citadel Theatre)
Jonathan Christenson (Catalyst Theatre)
Elizabeth Hobbs ( Punctuate! Theatre)
Heather Inglis (Theatre Yes)
James MacDonald (Citadel Theatre)
Nancy McAlear (U of A / Independent)
Andrew Ritchie (Thou Art Here)
Amy Shostak (Rapid Fire Theatre)
David Van Belle (Ghost River Theatre)

The first half of the evening was comprised of questions from Moderator, Simon Bloom.  The directors discussed the concepts of Beauty, Truth and Style, as well as the impact of technology on productions and on audiences. They also talked about what they might take for granted and what they might tell their younger selves. It was an interesting first half with a range of responses owing to the variety of types of directors on the stage.  The second half of the evening was opened up to questions from the panel to the audience and from the audience to the panel.  Lively, positive exchange ensued.  It was a nice 2 hours of sharing, however, it felt like we had just scratched the surface and the discussion could have continued for another hour or so.  In fact some of the topics (technology, the role of theatre today, the role of celebrity in casting) could have been an entire evening of discussion. Still it was cool to be in room with so many artists sharing about the experience of their work.

For me the most interesting part was discussing the things that they took for granted.  As a director you worry about a lot of things, and what sometimes happens is those things you don't worry about don't get done and since you've taken them for granted you can be in trouble. I've had that happen and it really was stressful.  On the other side, there are a lot of people working for the show that you have no contact with.  You take that for granted and sometimes you forget to say thank you.  I know I always try to thank everyone personally who has worked on my shows, but there are always some in the larger infrastructure of the theatre that I am sure I forget.  I don't mean to, but it was good to think about it.

I did note a lack of representation on the panel from community theatre but I think they tried to get a variety of directors who work in radically different ways and types of theatres.  There were a lot of people I recognized from community theatre in the audience (both directors and actors) so they were well represented in the open discussion.

Anyhow, I also tweeted the whole evening so if you'd like, you can check out the Q & A on my twitter feed @smeep22003

I'm looking forward to the next one.  I have a few ideas for topics I might send in to the powers that be!

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