Presenting & Touring in Rural and Remote Ontario: A Presenter’s Perspective

By Frank Dzijacky, of the Geraldton Concert Series and Geraldton Children’s Entertainment Series

Dufflebag Theatre performs their show “Peter Pan” to a school at Aroland First Nation

I am writing as a presenter from a small Northwestern Ontario community. We have a long history of presenting adult concerts and now also run a children’s series of performances. Our venue is a school gym with a stage at one end with all the blacks and curtains and basic pre-hung lighting that transforms it into quite a reasonable auditorium for performances.

There are many reasons why a performer should consider the touring Northwest Ontario, and aspiring presenters should join presenter networks!

 

1. Artists can book fuller tours with united presenter networks.

Firstly we rarely book a show individually. The adult series block books with 5-7 other communities in the northwest. The children’s series does the same with about 7-10 other communities. We all realize that block booking is the best way to attract performers as we are proposing a tour that could run 1 or 2 weeks. This co-operation between communities has been very successful for both presenters and performers in the past. Although it means some travel between the venues, most presenters accommodate date scheduling to make it work. Travelling through the northwest in any season can be the most scenic in our province.

2. Rural venues offer both audiences and performers intimate performance experiences.

In many of our communities we are the only presenter of live professional artists for a family experience. Travel to larger centres would require time off work and overnight accommodation so the performance in town is greatly preferred and for many the only opportunity. This usually means a much more appreciative audience. For a new performer looking for experience or a seasoned artist looking to reconnect to the grassroots of their audience, the small towns of the northwest are ideal. Most of the venues are small and so the experience can be more intimate and personal.

Adult Series presenting “Dirty Dishes” – a country folk group from Ontario

3. Technology requirements can be simpler than you’d think.

Most of the communities have the basic tech required by the artist. For larger groups that require addition sound requirements, we are willing and able to bring in a professional sound tech to meet any special needs. We also traditionally include accommodations and hospitality in our contracts. In my experience most performers, especially larger groups, prefer hotel accommodation. We always try to meet their requirements, but usually hope that they consider doubling up to reduce the number of rooms. Also when a performer is planning on coming here we ask that they send us a realistic basic tech requirement in their rider. Although we always do our best to meet the performer’s needs, our audience is just happy to have them here, so we actually don’t need all the fancy specials that a large auditorium can supply.

4. Winter conditions are not a deterrent – they just create more grateful crowds.

Many artists seem to fear travelling in the north in the winter. Although our temperature can be a little colder than southern Ontario be assured that all our venues are heated. Snow storms are just as likely in the south as they are in the north but we can clear our highways a lot faster here. Since most are 2 lane highways, one trip up and down by a plough can clear a route quickly. This is the time of the year that our communities need and appreciate the joy of live performances.

Axis Theatre’s “Hamelin” that was part of our
children’s series

5. Rural communities allow artists to unite their tours across the country.

Some artists seem to feel that Northern Ontario is a vast area of nothing between Southern Ontario and Western Canada. We suggest they look at it as a bridge or stepping stone from the south to the west. We have had many performers stop and perform here as they work their way across Canada.

 

 

6. Through united marketing and sales decisions, audiences are encouraged to try new things.

Our community has a unique way of selling tickets as we only sell series tickets. No individual tickets are sold. This has a lot of benefits. People buying a ticket for 1 or 2 specific artists they want to see also have tickets to performances they may not have thought they would like. Artists are thus exposed to a new audience. It’s also amazing how often the audience enjoys a performance they may not have thought they would have liked. This works so long as we offer a diverse cross section of the performing arts – and we make every effort to do so.

Some artists may feel that there isn’t a lot of interest in the arts across the North. We definitely disagree. In my community we get 10% of our population out to our shows. I would challenge Toronto to do the same.

As a northern presenter I would like to ask performers of all forms of the arts to consider touring the north. They will find out that northerners are friendly and accommodating and very appreciative of any live performance. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Frank and some of the cast of Frog Mountain Puppeteers 

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