The Hidden Cost of Pivoting

The second blog by Guest Blogger Rebecca Anne Bloom

 

I remember when I first started performing. Feeling nervous, pre-show jitters. Sensing the sizzling energy of a house full of patrons ready to see some magic unfold. There is nothing like a live performance – an experience that many people have been without since the pandemic hit. 

A blue sky with fluffy white clouds. Picnic tables with red umbrellas are set up on a grassy field/lawn This past week, Globus Theatre opened their Patio Theatre Festival with an almost sold-out play reading of Norm Foster’s Here on the Flight Path. I both greeted patrons and acted in the show, experiencing the excitement of opening night in many ways. I spent time chatting with audience members, many of whom enthusiastically exclaimed how thrilled they were to be out soaking in the theatre along with the sun. Then, I felt the age-old tingle of joy from being on stage, enjoying the sound of laughter and cheers ringing in the air. But despite finally opening the theatre after over six months of being dark, I couldn’t breathe a sigh of relief. For one thing, I didn‘t have time, since on Sunday we had a three-show day, having moved a performance from another day due to rain. But I also carried the weight of a summer theatre season that had been shortened and dismantled due to the province’s staggered re-opening plan.

A large room, a rehearsal hall perhaps, with a wooden floor and pillars. A few chairs are scattered around the room

The original topic for my second blog was going to be how professional theatre venues can be an economic driver for small tourist towns. For Globus Theatre, we were looking forward to recouping some of the losses that 2020 brought. We envisioned an extended summer season from May to September, filled with guaranteed crowd pleasers as well as new and exciting Canadian works. From play readings to concerts and memorable plays, our season was announced and ready to go. But, when the Ontario government announced in early June that there was a new reopening plan, our dreams were dashed. Everything quickly had to change and let me tell you, it’s hard to create a sense of optimism when indoor theatre performances are closed until at least August. It’s even harder to say theatres are economic drivers at the moment, when many are struggling to keep their doors open.  I watched members of artistic teams cry after they heard the news. I sat in board meetings and listened heavy hearted as we crunched numbers and struggled to revise best laid plans. I’ve come to dislike the word ‘pivot’. Behind all the social media posts, the press releases and interviews that enthusiastically describe the latest ‘pivot’ from a local theatre venue, there is a mountain of grief and heartbreak. 

Globus turned on a dime, switching to online shows and take out dinners. From there, our team built and painted picnic tables, assembled umbrellas and tested sound equipment. We booked entertainment, created a new patio menu, patiently waited for Stage 2 to open and scoured weather forecasts just before opening night. There are many factors in play when it comes to changing up a theatre season, and even more when it involves the outdoors. Over the past weekend, at almost every table, I heard the chipper murmur of patrons:

 “Isn’t it great that something cA musician plays on an outdoor stage. Picnic tables with blue umbrellas are set up for patrons to watch the show. A red barn is off to the leftan happen in the theatre?”

“Finally!”

“Tell us more about your recent pivot to the outdoors.”

“You should keep doing theatre outside!”

“I bet you’re excited to be back.”

The support from our customers has truly been overwhelming and yes, I am excited to have our season underway. But many theatres were not built for outdoor performance. And many did not foresee having to pivot to digital shows, outdoor stages, and alternative ways to stay afloat in 2021.

As we continue through this latest adventure, I resign to the fact that we cannot predict the future. No one anticipated the pandemic, and we cannot see where it will lead us. Our staff are amazing, they worked tirelessly to make the opening a success. But I know we eagerly look forward to being back to our regular theatre programming. In the meantime, we set our eyes on our next large-scale show, an interactive murder mystery called The Great Cottage Catastrophe that allows the audience to turn detective! We’re busy putting all the pieces into place and creating the Downtown Detective Trail in Bobcaygeon – a ‘live scavenger hunt’ with clues performed by kids from Globus’ School of Dramatic Art. It’s going to be a boatload of fun – hey, maybe I’ll see you there!

 

A Creek, A Lake, and Multicoloured Pom Poms/Un Ruisseau, Un Lac et des Pompons Multicolores

A new blog by Guest Blogger Samantha Marchionda for Carousel Players

 

This past weekend, I found myself craving the outdoors. I decided Sunday morning that I would spend as much time outside as my body wanted me to. So I went to my usual spot and hiked away. It was sunny and cloudy, a little cold but bearable, wet and muddy in some spots, but mostly dry. Eventually I found myself in a clearing between the Four Mile Creek and a human-made lake. I stood there for a little while, listening to the reeds blowing in the wind, watching both waters and how different they were. The creek was a deep aquamarine blue, and the lake was a muddy looking brown. The lake was still, unmoving, rippling with the wind, while the creek was flowing, moving, changing. You could hear the movement in it and the washing away of the winter. I stood there and thought to myself how interesting the differences were between these waters.

Golden weeds along a creek

 

I found that in that moment I felt more like the lake. A bit muddy (good thing I wore my waterproof boots), kind of still, unmoving. When what I really wanted was to hop in a boat, cast off down the creek and go on an adventure! I imagine many of us can relate to this feeling of being stuck. Maybe that’s mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or maybe even socially in our interactions, or lack thereof in the current climate. Don’t we all want it to be over? To be able to attend a loved one’s wedding, celebration of life, birthday, Sunday brunch, to be out in a crowd at a concert, or taking our seats in a theatre, or meeting new people at community events… It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it?

I never thought I would take something like being out in the community for granted. As the Outreach Coordinator for Carousel Players, I was so used to seeing people all over the Niagara Region. In parks, on festival grounds, in streets turned into pedestrian walkways. Waving hello and smiling, back when we could see everyone’s full faces. I miss meeting families and supporters and engaging in conversations so much that I can feel it in my body. I have very fond memories of people I’ve met at community events while representing Carousel Players over the years. 

 

A street festival. The sky is blue, there are people walking down the road. The sun is shining

Ridgeway Fall Fest

 

One afternoon in beautiful Ridgeway, Ontario at the Annual Fall Festival, I met an incredible man. This was back when in-person events existed. A volunteer and I were hanging out under the Carousel Players tent waving hello to passers-by and handing out Carousel Players swag as usual, and this man approached us. It was evident that he was highly intelligent and a big thinker. He came out of the gate with these huge questions about politics, the young generation, the economy etc. that I truthfully didn’t know how to answer. I can’t be sure that he was asking because he expected us to answer in that moment or because he wanted us to think about what he was asking. At the end of what was a remarkably interesting conversation, he handed each of us a multicolored pompom from his pocket, and told us that we are all connected, and to go off and make the world a better place. I still have my multicolored pompom and decided to pay it forward a week later, where I was putting on a performance of my own. He actually used the words “rainbow connection” which coincidentally enough, was one of the songs I was singing in my concert. Before I sang the song, I told everyone the story of meeting this man, gave everyone a multicoloured pompom and told them to go off and make the world a better place.

I think there’s something to be said for this message, especially these days. I cherish that afternoon, and how the offering of such a tiny, pleasant object and kind words impacts me still today. I think we can all take a cue from him. It goes without saying that things are difficult and different right now, but how can you offer your proverbial multicoloured pompom to the world? How can your kindness make a difference? Or perhaps that means showing yourself more kindness and patience. Either way, today I encourage you to spend some time in solitude with the water and perhaps practice a little bit of kindness, whether that be toward yourself or others. It can certainly go a long way and make a world of a difference. Stay well and until next time!

 

A button with a Red bird sitting on a brown branch. Button Reads - Carousel Players - Theatre you never outgrow

 


La semaine passée j’avais envie d’aller dehors. J’ai décidé Dimanche matin que j’allais passer autant de temps possible à l’extérieur. Je suis allé au parc et j’ai fait une longue excursion à pied. C’était une belle journée avec un ciel ensoleillé et partiellement couvert par quelques nuages, le vent un petit peu froid mais tolérable, la terre humide mais pour la plupart sec. A un moment, je me suis trouvé dans une clairière entre deux plans d’eau, un lac et le ruisseau Four Mile. Pendant quelques instants j’ai arrêté de marcher, j’écoutais les roseaux dans le vent et je remarquais comment différents les deux eaux étaient. Le ruisseau semblait un bleu profond aigue-marine et le lac une sorte de couleur brune boueuse. Le lac était très calme, presque immobile, même avec le vent léger, mais le ruisseau coulait à pleine vitesse. Il se précipitait et changeait tout le temps. Le son et le mouvement du ruisseau semblaient emporter l’hiver. Quelles différences intéressantes entre le lac et le ruisseau.

 

Brown trees beside a greens blue creek. The sky is bright blue

 

En ce moment, je me sens plus comme un lac. Un petit peu boueux (une bonne chose que j’ai porté mes bottes imperméables), tranquille, silencieuse. En vérité, je voulais partir à l’aventure par bateau et prendre la mer! J’imagine que beaucoup parmi nous peut se rapporter à ce sentiment d’être coincé. Peut-être c’est mentalement, physiquement, émotionnellement, spirituellement ou socialement dans nos interactions, dont peut-être il n’y en a pas beaucoup dernièrement. Ne voulons-nous pas que ce soit fini? Que l’on peut être présents pour un mariage, une célébration de la vie, un anniversaire, un brunch du Dimanche, dans une foule à un concert, dans un théâtre assis pour le spectacle, ou à un événement communautaire…Ça fait déjà plus qu’une année.

Je n’ai jamais pensé que je prendrais la rencontre des gens pour acquis. Puisque je suis Coordonnatrice Communautaire pour Carousel Players, j’étais tellement habituée à voir de la foule partout dans la région de Niagara. Dans des parcs, sur les terrains des festivals, sur les rues converties en promenades piétonnes. Je saluerais les gens et je leur dirai bonjour. Lorsqu’on pouvait voir la totalité des visages des gens. Je m’ennuie tellement de rencontrer les membres du public que je peux le sentir dans mon corps. J’ai d’excellents souvenirs des gens que j’ai rencontrés aux événements communautaires en représentant Carousel Players au fil des ans. 

 

Children wearing masks and looking excited. A few adults are amongst them

Ridgeway Fall Fest

 

Un après-midi dans le petit village de Ridgeway à leur Festival d’automne, j’ai rencontré un homme incroyable. C’était avant 2020, quand on pouvait se rencontrer en personne. Un bénévole et moi étions en train de distribuer des kits d’artisanat sous la tente Carousel Players comme d’habitude, et un homme s’est approché de nous. C’était évident qu’il était très gentil et intelligent. Un grand penseur. Il nous a posé toutes sortes de questions à propos de la politique, la jeune génération, l’économie etc. et honnêtement, je ne savais pas s’il demandait parce qu’il s’attendait à une réponse à ce moment-là ou parce qu’il voulait que nous réfléchissions à ce qu’il demandait. A la fin d’une conversation très intéressante, il nous a donné un pompon multicolore. Il nous a dit que nous sommes tous connectés par l’arc-en-ciel et nous a encouragés à contribuer à la création d’un monde meilleur. Quel beau geste! Je garde toujours mon pompon multicolore et, la semaine suivante à mon propre concert, j’ai décidé de passer son message. J’allais déjà chanter la chanson “Rainbow Connection”, ce qui était assez ironique, et il m’avait inspiré de donner un pompon multicolore à tous. J’ai raconté à tout le monde l’histoire de la rencontre de cet homme, et je leur ai aussi dit d’aller rendre le monde meilleur.  

Il peut en effet être intéressant d’associer la gentillesse de l’homme, dont je ne sais pas son nom, devant la situation actuelle. Je chéris l’après-midi que j’ai rencontré un nouvel ami et comment l’offre d’un si petit objet et de paroles aimables m’impacte encore aujourd’hui. Je pense que nous pouvons tous nous inspirer de lui. Il va sans dire qu’à présent, tout a changé. Tout est difficile et différent, mais je vous conseille de penser à comment pouvez-vous offrir votre pompon multicolore proverbial au monde? Comment est-ce-que votre gentillesse peut-elle faire une différence? Peut-être vous bénéficierez de plus de gentillesse et de patience envers vous-même. Peu importe, aujourd’hui je vous encourage à passer du temps seul avec l’eau et soyez aimable, que ce ça soit envers vous-même ou envers les autres. Un peu de gentillesse facilite bien des choses. En bonne santé et à la prochaine!

 

A button with a Red bird sitting on a brown branch. Button Reads - Carousel Players - Theatre you never outgrow

 

 

Taking a Piece from Rural Musicians

by SPARC Youth Blogger Alexis Kuper

Growing up in rural Canada as an aspiring musician can feel like an isolating uphill challenge. Then the world throws the COVID-curveball at you and you feel 10 times lonelier than before. Fortunately, there are other musicians in the same shoes as you and they’ve curated some advice: 

Meet Luca Martin, a culinary student and aspiring musician from Drayton, Ontario. He started his journey six years ago when he was gifted a guitar. He’s inspired by classic rock musicians like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Led Zeppelin, and is currently working on an EP of covers – called Garage Days – with hope to release it on streaming services this summer. 

Guitar and laptop on a brown table

 

Martin acknowledges the good and bad aspects that come from being a musician in a rural community. In his experience, small towns seem to “breed honesty,” and he’s not surrounded by “scuzzy” people trying to scam him out of a gig, take advantage of his skills, or tell him something sounds really good when it’s not. On the flip side, his contact with larger musicians and industry professionals is limited to a less lucrative, online approach. This can feel significantly more isolating than pitching yourself in a music-mecca city. 

Fortunately, there are other resources he has found for the young, and possibly broke, musician. He feels that the app and IOS software Garage Band has a large arsenal of basic recording and creation tools for a beginner. He also recommends taking advantage of the online landscape: there are thousands of other musicians and teachers creating content on social media sites like YouTube for you to learn from and interact with. But his most important piece of advice to an aspiring musician is to not give up. It might sound cliché, but it rings true. “The first few months is when your self-doubt is the highest,” he says. “You see other musicians who have been working with their instrument for years and you think ‘I’m not cut out for this.’” 

 

a young man wearing a black parka and mask stands in from of the brick building. sign on building reads skyline studios.

Dustin Skysmith in front of his business, Skyline Studios

 

Another rural musician with similar experiences to Martin is Dustin Skysmith. From Mitchell, Ontario, Skysmith is a working musician as well as a small business owner. He’s the owner and operator of Skyline Studios, a music studio that offers DJing services for events and music lessons for a variety of ages, instruments, and skill levels (currently online for the safety of all his students). Believe it or not, his dad was a Garth Brooks impersonator, so music has always been a part of his life and he started playing guitar at the age of ten, 18 years ago. 

Skysmith has also had difficulties connecting with other musicians and finding opportunities away from big cities. However, he is grateful for the connections and networks he can take part in; there is little in the way of competition and due to the close-knit nature of small communities, lots of support. There are other ways to make your career as small town musician fulfilling, as well. A few years ago, Skysmith started The Shelter Project, an annual online charity event each May. 

The Shelter Project is a proud supporter of the Tanner Steffler Foundation – a non-profit aimed to increase mental health and addiction resources/supports in Huron County, created by John and Heather Teffler after the tragic passing of their son. Each May, Skysmith and his students create and preform art online to gather donations for this foundation. 

This year, Skysmith is also working with Blue Waters Music in St. Mary’s, Ontario, and is encouraging artists of all types to get involved – whether it’d be through music, art, or photography, to name a few. This year’s original song for the project is called Beneath and can be listened to on Youtube and other streaming services, and more information can be found here. 

 

Two men hold an oversized cheque. They are outside

Dustin Skysmith Presenting John Steffler with the Shelter Project’s 2020 Donation

 

What else can aspiring, rural musicians do? Be willing to play anywhere when opportunities come to you. Playing the intermission at your local high schools’ talent show or softly strumming during the horticulture society’s silent auction may sound boring, but it builds up your network and notoriety where you are. Take advantage of the fact you may find it easier to travel to different small communities and the closest urban centres than an artist operating directly somewhere like Toronto. Furthermore, having versatility in the instruments you play can help you a lot as well as its easier for you to perform in different situations or have more interesting sets – Luca Martin can play bass, guitar, drums, and a little trumpet! Finally, commit to being an integrated part of your community as a musician and it will encourage your community to be committed to music as well. 

And as for our featured musicians? Right now, Luca Martin is finishing up his culinary degree and you can find his first few singles on all major streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music under “Luca Martin.” As for Dustin Skysmith, he’s working hard right now on 2021’s Shelter Project, his music is also available on all major streaming services, and you can find him on Instagram at @dustin_skysmith. 

Rural Arts Space: How Theatres Can Go the Distance

By Guest Blogger Rebecca Anne Bloom

 

Scrabble tiles spell Social Distancing on a brown background

Photo by Joshua Miranda from Pexels

“But there wasn’t the merest whiff about of the kind of magic that comes when the theatre darkens, the bottom of the curtain glows, the punters settle down, you take a deep breath… none of the person-to-person magic we put together with spit and glue and willpower.” ― Angela Carter, Wise Children

For many theatres in 2020, only the ghost light lit stages where previously stories had come to life. The auditoriums where cheerful and excited audiences once sat lay dormant, blanketed by darkness. Artistic teams, performers, and patrons waited with bated breath as the arts and the world were rattled by an invisible enemy. There appeared to be some home when at the start of March, the Ontario provincial government announced it was investing $25 million into the arts sector; however, many arts and culture spaces in rural or remote communities were excluded. This begs the question; how could theatres stay alive? If we ever come out of this pandemic, would there be any art spaces left?

Although there is a shroud of uncertainty, many rural arts spaces continued to unite and engage the community during a time of social distancing. Places like Theatre Orangeville, the Foster Festival and Westben switched to showcasing performances through online platforms. Artistic teams got creative, focused on ensuring the arts were kept alive and the members of their communities were nurtured with uplifting entertainment. To understand more about how members of the arts community continued to stay optimistic, I looked at the theatres in the City of Kawartha Lakes to learn how they fostered innovative ways to keep performing while ensuring patrons and artists were safe. I spoke with the Artistic Director of Globus Theatre in Bobcaygeon, Sarah Quick, and members of the Board of Directors at Lindsay Little Theatre, to see how rural theatres can still produce quality performances, regardless of social distancing protocols.

 

Winter photo of a large barn. The top of the barn is red, the bottom is cream. Into centre, just below the peak is a large sign that reads LAB. Below is a banner that reads Lakeview Arts Barn. there is snow on the ground

Photo by R. A. Bloom Creations & Photography

 

Globus Theatre @ the LAB

Situated just outside of the village of Bobcaygeon, sitting back from Pigeon Lake Road/Highway 17, is a big pink barn. Once a working cattle barn, the Lakeview Arts Barn, is a contemporary 150 seat black box theatre, with Globus Theatre as the theatre-in-residence. A professional summer theatre formed in 2003, Globus as produced over 10 world premieres and over 15 Canadian premieres. Their 17th season was set to be their largest one yet; however, it like many others was cancelled. As restrictions slowly shifted late in the summer, Artistic Director Sarah Quick and Artistic Producer James Barrett saw an opportunity to bring theatre to light once more.

“When we saw the possibility of opening for a smaller season, we immediately knew that we wanted to do something,” explained Sarah Quick. “The LAB is a versatile venue, with removable seating, 7,000 square feet of open floor space and high barn ceilings.” From a play reading series that showcased new Canadian comedies, to a live-streamed improvised soap opera, a festive comedy show to musical performances, Globus Theatre ensured that proper protocols were followed at all times. “We booked based on social circles, removed our curtains to ensure all our tables were 6 feet apart and even invested in a custom 12’x24’ vinyl curtain from Ontario Staging Ltd. to surround our stage.” Having experience with working on a budget, the artistic team knew having a season could be possible, within their parameters. What resulted was their fall Season Within Reason and a winter Sprinkling of a Season which featured dinner and socially distanced live programming for audiences of 50 patrons. This proved so popular with audiences; Globus is forging ahead with an extended summer season with limited audiences but not limited programming!

Lindsay Little Theatre

Tucked away on George St. in Lindsay is a small community theatre that has been in operation for over 50 years. At full capacity, the Lindsay Little Theatre’s (LLT) performance space seats 40 people, which proved to be a barrier for conducting shows during the pandemic. “It is almost impossible to provide quality shows with social distancing, meaning little or no revenue for community theatres but they still have their overheads,” explained Marion Bays, Director of Fundraising and Sponsorship. “To put on a production usually means royalty payments exceed what would be taken in at the door.” So, when the Board of Directors considered hosting theatre events, they knew they would have to get creative. Enter, the Pie Eyed Monk, which forged an amazing relationship with LLT. 

Finding a community partner was a key factor into re-opening for Lindsay Little Theatre. Local restaurant The Pie Eyed Monk was unable to continue catering for larger scale events like weddings. Joining forces to hold a COVID-19 safe dinner theatre experience in their second-floor event space was a win/win for both companies. What resulted was a successful 3 show run of Norm Foster one-acts, which left the audience wanting more. The theatre is excited to announce that another murder mystery dinner theatre event is currently in rehearsals. 

a script is on a table, the title of the golden coloured script is One Actmanship. A mask in a clear plastic bag and a paper sit above the script

Photo from Kathryn Woolridge-Condon from Lindsay Little Theatre

 

The Case for Rural Arts Spaces

We have seen that over the course of the year, many industries have taken a hit. For anyone wondering why the arts is so important, or why the members of performing art spaces work tirelessly to keep the doors stay open, the answer is simple: the community needs the arts. When asked why Globus Theatre chose to re-open during these unprecedented times, Sarah was quick to say: “our community looks to us to find out what to do. Not only could we answer the social needs of our patrons, but we also hired artists who had their livelihoods put on hold. It was amazing to offer work to performers who didn’t think they would be on a stage for some time.” A similar feeling was echoed from the board members of LLT. “We have loads of ways to see movies and TV shows these days, but really nothing beats the magic of a live show,” stated Logan Geryzmisch. LLT’s President Shannon Peters Bain agreed. “Our human heritage is storytelling, and where there are people there should be theatre. There are always actors and artists among a community and a need to explore society and history through dialogue.” Through the ingenuity of many passionate people, Globus Theatre and Lindsay Little Theatre were able to provide the Kawartha Lakes community and beyond what they desperately needed – hope.