Making a Scene

I arrived at W2 Storeum a little late this morning, luckily the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance’s (GVPTA) 2010 conference hadn’t started yet.  But it didn’t matter; as I later learned, ‘Whenever it starts is the right time.’

Walking into a room of theatre artists is always a little intimidating for me. I don’t feel like a theatre artist anymore. The last time I was in a play was when I was in London and did a show at the Greenwich Playhouse with a group called Open Stage with some students at Goldsmith’s University. Sure, I trained as an actor and I audition every now and then but would people in this community call me an actor? I’m not sure.

Regardless, I’m interested in theatre. Or interested in finding out if I’m still interested in theatre. This is why I was compelled to attend this conference. As well as comparing this D and D to the one I went to in London.

Devoted and Disgruntled runs using Open Space Technology. Phelim McDermott from Improbable Theatre started the day by saying that “Open Space is what happens in life.” There are four princples to it:

  1. Who ever shows up are the right people.
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time.
  4. When it’s over it’s over.

There is also one law: the law of two feet or mobility. It means if you’re not engaged with the conversation then use your feet (or mobility) to take you somewhere that might engage you. We were also told to be prepared to be surprised.

These principles, laws and thoughts were posted all over the room. As were drawings of butterflies and bumblebees. Bumblebees travel from group to group and cross pollinate ideas. Butterflies are people who ‘do what they do’ – they may be the people hanging out by the coffee table gossiping or sitting by themselves. Which is okay because, as Phelim reminded us, every original idea comes out of silence.

All of these rules and images led me to feel comfortable in the space, knowing that whatever happens is what’s meant to happen.

As the day began people came up to the centre to write their discussion topic in a short pithy title on a piece of paper then assign it a session and location for later.

So it began…

A passionate discussion about Arts Management with Jane Heyman speaking her two cents.

The first session I went to was “Super Social Media” spearheaded by the lovely social media maven Angela Crocker.  There we discussed:

  • Using social media to create community/ build audiences.
  • Reasons to use social media.
  • The challenges larger companies have approving social media and the problems with being ‘silent’ on Twitter or in between productions.
  • Issues around Equity and allowing photos to be released online.
  • Creating community between theatre companies online.

Session 2 – What Do People Want to See More/ Less of On Stage

This was a lively discussion with artistic directors, playrights, actors, audience members, arts administrators and more. We disussed:

  • Producing challenging vs entertaining theatre. Can both be done? Of course!
  • Creating long term relationships with your audience and being able to program more challenging work once you’ve established a relationship. ie) Bard on the Beach doing Titus Andronicus and other lesser known plays recently.
  • Programming driven by Artistic Director’s vision.

Session 3 -Ah…

Confession: I was a butterfly for most of this period.

I stood by the coffee table and spoke with Adriene Wong from NeWorld Theatre, Cindy Reid with the VECC and Nita Bowerman – that multi-talent goddess – discussing everything under the sun.

What I really enjoy about Open Space Technology is how effective it is in creating dialogue and community.

They say the best part fof conferences happen during the coffee breaks and Devoted and Disgruntled is like one long break.

Thus far in comparison to London this D and D has less younger people, more artistic directors of well established companies (Can you believe it? Kevin Spacey the AD of The Old Vic wasn’t at D and D in London), and a tighter sense of community, which makes sense considering how much smaller this city is.

Relationships are being formed and there is strong passion for theatre. As for me, I’m enjoying being a butterfly and looking forward to what comes out of the silence.



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