Where Are You Airdrie?

The creative arts are the measure and reflection of our civilization. They offer many children an opportunity to see life with a larger perspective…The moral values we treasure are reflected in the beauty and truth that is emotionally transmitted through the arts. The arts say something about us to future generations. – Ann P. Khan

Dear Airdrie,

Where are you?

You say you’re an arts town, a town that supports the arts, but where are you?  Where are you when professional artists fill the stage at Bert Church Theatre with their unique sound?  Where are you when Airdrie’s youth take the stage to show off their budding talent?  Where are you when local musicians bare their soul in haunting melodies and upbeat choruses?  Where are you when local artists proudly display their works of art?  Where are you when local playwrights present their original pieces?  Arts is an integral part of any community, but like anything, if a community doesn’t use it, or appreciate it, the community will lose it.  Arts have been in your community for years.

The arts are at AIRScares.  The arts are at Airdrie Zombie Cup.  The arts are at Dine for a Difference.  The arts are at Empty Bowls.  The arts are at Colour Me Red.  The Arts are at Relay for Life.  The arts are at Race for Kids.  The art are at the Mayor’s Run.  The arts were at the Alberta Summer Games. The arts shop local.  The arts eat local.  The arts support the community.  But where is the community for the arts?

Art is more than just what it can do for you.  Art is more than entertaining at an already established event.  Art is more than just donating a song, an album, a painting, some tickets.

This community needs to give back to the arts.  A community gives back with time.  Take the time to listen to the songs, look at the painting, the photograph, the carving.  Take the time to sit and be taken away by actors on the stage.  Take the time.

A community giving back is not always about what money can be spent.  Members of community arts groups love what they do, so it’s their money going in.  Did you know that?  If there’s a lack of sponsorship, events still happen; the cost is just dearer.  People who are in the arts believe in the arts, and will give to the arts their time, their resources, their everything.  It’s only when their everything doesn’t seem to be enough for a community who says they love the arts when people get discouraged and art becomes a trial.

Do you love the arts?  Or do you only like the arts when it can do something for you?

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Fear Not The Bard

He was not of an age, but for all time. – Ben Jonson

Last week I participated in Toronto Fringe’s 25-hour playwriting competition.  At 1:00 Eastern, they announced 4 themes each play had to have.  We had until 2:00 Eastern the next day to complete a one act (no less than 45 minutes).

I was eager for the challenge.  Usually when I’m not writing, it’s because I have nothing to write about.  This took that away from me.  As the time grew nearer, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to coherently use the themes they would choose.  And when I got the themes, I methodically wrote them down and actually brainstormed for a moment.  At that point, as it usually is for me, the play shaped itself.  I knew where it was heading, I just had to get it there.  I’m pleased with the results.  I won’t find out if it was a Toronto Fringe winner till Wednesday, but prize, or no prize, I have a new functional script, and plans to use it.

While I was writing, I had my TV on.  I’m not one for silence.  I’m sure I watched a few sitcoms, white noise and such, but as my to-watch list on my PVR dwindled, I saw that I still had most of the episodes in Shakespeare Uncovered to finish.  Prior to this, I had watched the one on Macbeth, and the comedies.  Ultimately, I believe the comedies to be my favourite episode, because it reiterated just how well Shakespeare, who couldn’t actually have women play the roles, wrote women.

But that’s probably a subject for another blog post.

Writing a play while learning how Shakespeare wrote, prepared, etc. was quite interesting, and eye-opening.  I haven’t done a lot of in-depth studies on Shakespeare, especially the writing aspect of it, but my class last year really helped me appreciate as an actor and a playwright just how bright Shakespeare was.  Every little thing he wrote meant something.  There was little to no “filler”.  Every punctuation mark meant something.  Every character was there to contribute something, not just to have a character there.

As a writer, that is something to aspire to.  I’m terrible at filler.  When I was in high school and college, 10-page papers were so daunting to me, because I always felt I could make my point in much less time/space.  Another negative aspect of filler is that your characters and your words need to mean something.  If that’s the service/ware you’re selling, you want to make sure every aspect of it is filling its purpose.

In my Shakespeare class last year, my main problem was lack of word-for-word.  I have a working theory that people who are more comfortable and confident in their improv skills will find memorizing scripts more difficult.  Not impossible, mind, but difficult.  Those people who aren’t comfortable and confident in improv have an easier time making sure every single word is memorized, in proper order.  Saying that, now that I’ve written more and more, and have been lucky enough to at least co-direct my own plays, I understand how important to a writer word-perfect is.  You’ve crafted these words, you know why the character is saying it the way he or she is.  You want to make sure the eventual audience will see what you saw in the character.  So actors: please, please, please, understand that directors and playwrights saying “word perfect” is only 10% OCD and 90% character.  Playwrights: know why you’re writing those words.  Know why your character is saying what they’re saying.  If you don’t know why, the director won’t know why, the actor won’t know why, and the audience won’t know why, and your point is lost.

I also see that some actors (especially hobbyist actors) seems to avoid Shakespeare.  Perhaps he seems too daunting with his tongue twister lines, and aged sayings.  He’s only as scary as you make him out to be.  Even if you are just a hobbyist actor, don’t you wish to be as good as you can?  We owe so much to this man, and he was really the actor’s playwright.  He would write scripts in the morning and give it to the actors in the afternoon.  He’s giving you everything you need to know in your script.  What’s not to love about that?

Playwrights, you must find your own voice, but if you don’t acknowledge, or dig even a little bit into what Shakespeare did, I truly believe you’re missing out on an opportunity to not only find your voice, but also to amplify it.

Saying Goodbye to Theatre Arts

Encouraging innovation in the arts – Nose Creek Players

Last night I heard Mount Royal University canceled (among other programs) Theatre Arts.  This Alberta budget has not been kind to many people, and post-secondary institutions have definitely felt the pinch.  I think this move – which can’t be called a knee-jerk reaction at this stage is frightening.  Alberta is not known for its love of theatre arts.  Alberta’s love relationships don’t move far beyond oil and gas, which we all know is super sustainable. . . right? I think this step of canceling a theatre arts program goes to show Alberta does not see graduates of this program as being a functional member of Alberta society with anything to give back to them.  I mean to say, they’re not going to put money in a program unless it eventually gives a financial return to Alberta.

What absolute twaddle.  As a graduate with a BA in Drama, I know all too well it’s difficult to make money in my respective field. It’s only a stroke of luck that I am getting paid (albeit minimally) for a kids workshop.  But my influence does not stop there.  I am president and associate artistic director of a community theatre group.  Our scope extends beyond performing several times as year.  We are active stakeholders in our community, assisting the growth of arts, participating in many different fundraisers, and being a mini community for our members.  All that is important and it is all bred from arts education.  Sure, not everyone in our community theatre group has arts training, but 50% of our leadership does, and that’s how we are constantly expanding.

Theatre Arts is more than going on stage, or in front of a camera and being another person.  It is learning truth – your own personal truth.  It is being encouraged to play, to try different things/characters, even though in the long run, you might “fail”.  Arts is important for innovation, whether it is innovation in energy, oil/gas, business, whatever.  Theatre arts has long told a story.  Cycle plays used to tell our history.  Theatre arts can be explained as a society’s conscience.  All perceived hyperbole aside, once society’s conscience is taken away, then all manner of filth can enter in.

Government of Alberta: financial return is nothing if society has dwindled to the lowest common denominator.

Edit or Bust

“There Are Two Typos Of People In This World: Those Who Can Edit And Those Who Can’t”
– Jarod Kintz

 

I like to fancy myself a writer.  Why do you think I have this blog?  The advent of Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc., has made it simple and encouraging for “little” writers to find their works published.  I myself have a short story on Kindle.  Why don’t I have more?  Because I refuse to fall victim to the biggest trap self-pubbers find themselves in.

They haven’t had someone edit their work.

Oh sure, they’ve read and re-read their works till they’re reciting it in their sleep, but therein lies the rub.  They know what they want to say, so all they’re going to see is that correct phrase, word, what have you.

Case in point:  A few years ago, I was working on a now-defunct chick-lit story.  I sent a copy to my dear friend Chelsea, and some time later, she was emailing me a response, telling me she found the funniest typing error she’s ever seen.  Instead of popping the trunk, I had my character pooping the drunk. Spell check wouldn’t catch any of those words, and because computers can’t read my creative flow, it had no idea a girl pooping the drunk before going golfing with an electrician is a little off.  So I had a good laugh and went to my manuscript to fix the mistake.  Thing is, I had NO idea where it was.  Chelsea had told me which page it was on, and I read and re-read that page at least 3 times before I found what she was referring to.  Because I knew girlie was popping the trunk, and that’s all my eyes saw.

Writers have a hard enough time finding the market to buy their books.  Don’t make it harder for readers to take you seriously because you’re so excited about getting your book online.  Wait that extra day, week, month, however long it takes to get it edited by a friend, semi-professional, professional.  I get most of us are self-pubbing/e-pubbing because we don’t have the representation that can get us contacts with the editing firms, but there are editors out there who know their craft, and are dying to get a portfolio built.  They’ll help us out.  Use the network.  Build the community.

I recently finished a book I purchased for Kindle from an e-pubber.  I’m not going to into critiquing the novel itself.  It wasn’t my favourite, nor was it a total loss, but I did notice by the 75% mark, sentences became sloppy, actions became rushed and “the’s” turned into “thee’s” (among others).  Little details like these are easily fixed if we just take the time to review.  I have a novel itching to be read, but it is not ready.  The ending is rushed.  I haven’t had enough feedback, and more.

Do I think getting my novel published will be a fast track to being able to live the life I was born to live?  Sometimes, yes.

Am I so eager to live that life I’m willing to put out a poor copy?  Never.

People love critiquing creative people’s works.  Love breaking them down instead of building them up.  Don’t give them fodder.

 
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