How Do You Support the Arts?

Every artist was first an amateur. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is art to you?

It could be a photograph, a movement piece, a song, a poem, a painting, a drawing, a garden, a novel.  The list can go on and on and we still would never see the end of it.  That’s the beauty of art.  It is all encompassing, surrounding us all, in all we say and do.  Art shows us our culture.  It reminds us of who we are.  It tells us what we are doing today, and who we can become tomorrow.  If we don’t have art, how can we as a people, know who we are?

In this age of grassroots movements, individuals and small groups are standing up for art and conveying it to the community at large.  There’s slam poetry groups, there’s art meetings, there’s community theatre, there’s writing clubs, and so much more.  They’re doing it because they are passionate about the medium, and their message, and they’re doing it so YOU will hear.

When then is it so difficult to find community members at these events?

Do you support the arts?  Sure, you may have voted for the individual or the political party who said they support the arts, but what about YOU?  Support is more than lip service.  Support is more than dropping some money at a fundraiser.  Support is going to the events, seeing what the artists have created, listening to their soul, and being a part of it all.  Maybe your life will be changed; maybe you’ll just have an an enjoyable evening with a friend or lover, or by yourself.

So where are you?

Where are you during local art gatherings?  Where are you during concerts held by local singer/songwriters?  Where are you during community theatre productions?  These people are telling your story.

We recently put on a show.  It ran for 3 nights and we didn’t break 70 people.  In a city of 50,000, we had less than 70 people show up.  Where were you?  Were you afraid about the content when you heard it was original?  Did you forget Shakespeare wrote original material for the Queen (and then King)? Did you miss news articles about the author being award-winning?  Did you miss the fact the author teaches drama to your children (and writes all their final performance pieces)?

What is holding you back from supporting your friends and neighbours as they pursue their passion?

This town is full of praise for the athletes who come from here, and rightfully so!  They have done great work and deserve our applause and our cheers.

So do our artists.  Artists invest just as much time and energy as our athletes; they sacrifice to create, they go without, they constantly strive for greatness.  And they achieve greatness.

Our artists work alongside other groups and charities, to use their talents to help with fundraisers, with awareness campaigns, with community development.  They are quickly forgotten in their own development.

Why is that?  Can anyone tell me?  Airdrie should have its own culture.  We have our own athletes making a name for themselves and Airdrie in the world.  Did you know our artists can do that as well? But we need the support of Airdronians to get there.

We are not just Calgary’s bedroom community.  We are our own community, with our own identity, and our artists are fighting against the stream to create a lasting memory.  Won’t you help them?

Support the arts, not just in words, not just in payments, but in deeds.  In attendance, in your time, in your life.

I close with a message from an audience member who came to see our show Saturday night:

I attended last night’s performance and I thought this play was great. The performers were wonderful. Airdrie you are fortunate to have such talented artists in your city. It is such a shame you do not support them. I live in Taber and we have the Taber Players here that perform twice per year. In a town of only 8000 people this group has a great following. Airdrie get out and support this talented group of play writers and actors. Volunteer some time and see what you have been missing!!!!!

 

 

 

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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.

How to Be an Actor: the Rules and Guidelines of Theatre

“There is a CODE OF CONDUCT by which any Actor worth his or her union membership should abide.  Most of these you know – they’re just common sense.  So when you are lucky enough to work, follow these simple rules.” – Actors Equity

Contrary to what people might think, the road to acting is long, arduous, and necessitates thick skin.  Most of us get our start in community theatre, school, or even church.  Some of us start really young – with supporting parents, and a clear indication you were made to perform.  Some of us start later, as a hobby, then are hooked.  All of us share commonalities.  We live for the stage/camera.  I’m firmly rooted in community theatre these days, and I’m having a helluva time with it.  I am enjoying the challenges, implanting myself in the community, and the wonderful group of people who surround me. I write, act, direct and produce.  That’s the nature of the beast with community theatre; one has to be prepared to wear many hats.  I love that we have actors who are also visual artists.  I love that we have actors who are award-winning dancers.  I love that we have people in our group that absolutely hate acting and are happy calling the show (stage manager), and providing props.  I also love when it’s the actors who are willing to take a step from the limelight and help out backstage.

If you can’t help out backstage, you have no business being on stage.  

If your ego is too big, and you think the only space to hold it is a stage, you will not find yourselves on my stage.  Backstage crew are the most important people in a performance. Sure, you can memorize the lines and cry on cue, but if we have no lighting guys, no one will see you.

10 to 1, it's an eye drop.

 

 

 

 

 

If we have no costume mistress, the audience is going to wonder why you’re a knight in Arthur’s court wearing a Canadian Tuxedo.

And here we have Matt Damon, wearing our traditional garb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The point I’m trying to make is this: Actors, you are not the shiz.  Or the nit.  You are part of a team of people working hard to make the director’s vision come to light.

To that end:

  1. Some directors (myself included) welcome suggestions, especially at the community theatre level.  If they don’t, too bad.  It’s their prerogative.  You are merely the body/voice chosen to act out his vision.
  2. Actors never, never, ever give directions to other actors.  If you are scene partners, you may say, “hey, what if we tried this?”  Never, never, ever say, “you need to do this.”  That is not your role; you are not the director.
  3. Actors never, never ever do something you’re uncomfortable with.  That being said, it is YOUR responsibility to read the entire script to check for things which may make you uncomfortable before you accept the role.  No director worth his salt will fault you for turning down a role due to your own ethical code, but he will be exceedingly angry if you pull diva crap like that after you’ve accepted; because if you’ve accepted, it means you’ve accepted your character – and all his/her nitty-gritty parts.
  4. Tech week is one of the the most important weeks in the run of a show.  Attendance is mandatory.  Man-da-tory.  There may be extenuating circumstances and a director may be empathetic, but another rehearsal, audition, or a casting call for Bachelor:Canada is unacceptable.
  5. Actors, do not come to a rehearsal and say, “which show are we doing?”  We get it, you like acting.  We do too!  But an actor is first and foremost a professional and not having your poop in a group will not endear you to anyone.  Also, it makes you sound like a pretentious douche.
  6. When a directors says you need to be off-book, be off-book.  That does not mean you can’t call lines.  It just means to get the damn book away from you.  It limits your acting and the director wants to begin to shape you in his vision.
  7. Do not give another actor a line.  A dramatic pause is not necessarily someone forgetting a line.  If he/she forgets a line, he/she will stay in character, and call line, which will be given to him by a pre-designated individual (most commonly the stage manager).
  8. If you are fortunate to act with a huge organization, if you have a question for the director, it goes through the Stage Manager.  She is your point of contact.  She reports to the director, and he reports to producers.
  9. When a director gives notes, write them down.  This includes blocking.  Nothing is more frustrating for a director than an actor not adapting the changes previously given.  It is rude, unprofessional and absolutely infuriating.
  10. Finally, you are not the only person sacrificing your time, your social life, and your sanity to do a show.  Do not act like you are.

None of this is meant to discourage or acuse.  If you want to be part of the wonderful world of theatre, you need to know these things.  One wrong move can ruin your career.  Community theatre is meant to be and is fun.  You surround yourself with like-minded individuals and at the end of it, people clap for you!  It’s great!  But acting is also very vulnerable, and if you can’t respect the social mores surrounding theatre, you don’t deserve the trust actors give you.

Images taken from here and here.

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