In Toronto, a theater embraces the European model of supply-and-demand

Toronto Globe and Mail, February 5, 2011

Soulpepper Theatre Company artistic director Albert Schultz and his colleagues have built the classical company up from a two-play summer season to a year-round operation with its own Toronto venue. For its 2011 season it's upping its productions to a whopping 17 from last year's 12.  But Schultz expects its production costs will only increase by about 14%. How is that possible?  According to Schultz, it's because the company is no longer using the North American model [where] plays are programmed for a set number of weeks - and whether they're hits or they're flops, they have about the same number of performances.  European theatres hire actors on contracts of a year or more and shuffle them between multiple productions... [announcing their] lineups in 90-day increments. This allows artistic directors to be nimble in response to the box office and bring back popular productions for as long as is warranted. That's not all that different from the way things work at the Stratford or Shaw Festivals; what is unique in Canada is that the frequency of each show's performance schedule will be determined mostly by demand.  Schultz says, with less financial risk, the potential is there to take more artistic risks in programming.  (This year, 12 productions are new to Soulpepper.)  [Other] possible benefits: productions would have a longer time to build word of mouth; potential revenue increases by 35% due to a decrease in nights where the theatres are empty; and actors would have more employment stability.

 

Canada's 'Tangerine Project' allows flexibility for development of new theater

From Canadian Actors Equity website; click on "Tangerine Project Information Document"

The way theatre is made is changing. The Tangerine Project [jointly organized by Canadian Actors' Equity and the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres] is an effort to recognize the changing nature of how theatre is created and presented. An addendum to the Canadian Theatre Agreement, it allows for more flexible contracting options and working conditions than currently exist for the creation of new work.  The Tangerine Project will be available for use until June 24, 2012.  Feedback from this pilot project and examples will be gathered to inform the next set of CTA negotiations.

What kinds of projects are eligible?  The Tangerine Project is only available for new works, although the development of an existing work could be eligible if it is being approached in a completely new way. It is primarily directed towards projects working from the earliest stages of development and offers a structured yet flexible means of engaging Artists.  The Tangerine Project was also designed to accommodate projects that are multi- or cross-disciplinary or which incorporate non-traditional elements or participants.

How does it work?  There are four phases of production: (1) Creation/Investigation; (2) Development; (3) Performance in Process; and (4) Production.  An Agreed-Upon-Terms document must be signed by all Artists which sets out their agreement regarding work schedules, a process for resolving disputes, clarity about the ownership of the work, video recording as part of the process, and any other similar needs of the production.

 

In Ontario, an economic rationale for a new arts center and six renovated theatres

The Cambridge Times, February 7, 2011

[At the unveiling of plans last Friday], Mayor Doug Craig noted that, for the $6 million the city invested in the new arts centre, Cambridge will get a $14-million performing arts centre, which will be operated by Drayton Entertainment "at no cost to the city".  Cambridge MP Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, was credited as an early supporter and driving force behind the federal government providing $6 million towards the initiative - which will not only see the new theatre built in Cambridge, but will renovate Drayton's six theatres across south Ontario.  Goodyear said it was easy to argue a case for the new development when in Toronto 90 cents per person is spent in supporting the arts, while in Cambridge it's just nine cents.  "This is more than a 500-seat theatre, it's about set production, rehearsal studios and selling tickets across North America."  Goodyear added the project also supports the development of Canada's skilled trades and will help develop Canadian talent.  "This is the only theatre group that makes a profit," Goodyear said of Drayton Entertainment. He also estimated that the economic spinoff from the theatre complex could amount to $80 million annually, generating an estimated $4 million yearly in federal taxes.

 

Toronto film studio to recreate Manhattan, Chicago and London on soundstages

The Hollywood Reporter, February 7, 2011

Looking to expand its footprint beyond existing soundstages, Pinewood Toronto Studios has unveiled plans for a mixed use residential/commercial development that includes "shooting streets" for Hollywood producers looking to do location shooting in Manhattan, London's West End or Chicago's Loop area without the extra travel or expense.  "Location shooting in Toronto is increasingly expensive, and Toronto is a gridlock city.  We're hoping that having these kinds of facilities will mitigate some of the cost," Edith Myers, managing director, said.  Myers said the Toronto shooting streets will be part fašade and part permanent buildings. At the same time, the Pinewood Toronto Studios exec cautioned that planning permission for the commercial development in Toronto is time-consuming and cumbersome. So don't expect to have a pint in the London pub built near to the current Toronto soundstages anytime soon.

 

A call for Canada's culture sector to discuss impact of digital technology

Creative Manitoba's website, February 2, 2011

The Cultural Human Resources Council in Canada, along with the Nordicity Group, are evaluating the impact of digital technology on the cultural sector.  The council wants to hear from Canadians across all cultural sub-sectors.  An online forum launched in early January and the dialogue will continue until May 2011. This forum allows all interested Canadians to discuss issues arising from the revolution of digital technology on our work, and their potential solutions. It encourages sharing views on the challenges we are facing and the opportunities we are seeing as technology transforms the cultural workplace. The CHRC have also enlisted leading Canadian cultural innovators to share their stories and answer questions on how they have overcome or benefited from the impacts of digital technology.  Join the discussion online at: http://www.culturalhrc.ca/research/digitalimpact

 

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10-year-old 'Canada Reads' contest draws criticism -- and a big audience

Toronto Globe and Mail, February 7 2011

CBC Radio's annual Canada Reads contest may be able to draw hundreds of thousands of listeners and sells tens of thousands of books, but boy, do people like to carp about it. The show was launched in 2002 by CBC producers inspired by citywide book clubs in the United States, especially Chicago's 2001 campaign to get every citizen reading To Kill a Mockingbird, but the Canadian version turned the book selection itself into a contest. It features five celebrity panelists defending their chosen title for the book all Canadians should read until four are voted off the program and one is declared the winner. Over the past decade, that format has been criticized for turning subjective valuations into a winner-takes-all contest, for encouraging reading as a social badge rather than a personal pleasure, for reducing literary criticism to celebrity instinct, for neglecting poetry, short stories and non-fiction, and for daring to tell Canadians they should all be reading the same book. Its defenders have pointed out the show gets people talking passionately about literature, promotes the reading of five books - not just one, sidesteps the cult of the bestseller by selecting books that are often many years old and occasionally unknown, and has become so successful it rivals the Giller Prize in its impact on sales. The winning title can expect a boost of 30,000 to 80,000 copies. The producers are unapologetic: who needs to apologize when a total of 1.75 million people listened to the broadcasts on radio last year and another 250,000 accessed podcasts online?

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