Tag Archive: Volunteering

I’d Rather Be Busy

“I’d rather be busy than bored.”

It’s become a familiar refrain to my friends – something I say without thinking whenever someone comments on how insane my schedule appears to be. But this past week I’ve been reminded just how much I love the insanity of jumping from contract to contract – the sheer adrenaline rush of closing a show Saturday night and starting rehearsals again Monday morning (which means that the entire week before I’d be doing prep for the new show by day and doing performances of the old show at night).

I haven’t had a really crazy time in a number of months now. My four months in Chemainus were busy in their own way, but it was only ever with one show, and everything was so well organized that it never felt nuts. In fact, I spent more time in Chemainus sitting on the beach, star gazing, or hanging out with the cast & crew than I spent working. And since I’ve been back in Vancouver I’ve been rehearsing four nights a week for my latest project, Death of a Clown, which we are touring to Victoria. (I leave this Thursday for 2.5 weeks in BC’s capital city and couldn’t be more excited about getting to both spend time in Victoria, and have what will be essentially a working vacation.) And yet, the four nights a week is not enough to make me feel busy. In fact, my days feel empty.

I can’t remember how it was that I managed to stand being unemployed for an entire summer one year. I’m sure at that point it felt fun – I was fresh out of school – but I think that if I had three months without work at this point in my life I would be going crazy. Heck, three weeks has been enough to make me a little mental. And that’s with having seen 21 shows (everything from the Fringe to Tear The Curtain! to The Park at Studio – and there really was everything in between), volunteering, spending lots of time with friends, watching 22 movies and baking five kinds of cupcakes. It’s a little bit ridiculous that despite all of that my days still feel empty.

I guess there is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment in seeing a show have life breathed into it by the actors, director & designers and being able to facilitate that process. Here’s looking forward to the tour to Victoria and then a busy winter! (I hope!)

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For more information on the show in Victoria, click on over to the UVIC theatre page. Tickets range from $6 – $22 and can be booked by calling the Phoenix Theatre box office at 250-721-8000.

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For a smart commentary on Tear the Curtain! check out this blog post over at Irresistible Theatre.

Job Hunting: Networking

Inspired by Sabrina Evertt’s post “Do You Really Want a Job?“, this post is the second in a series on job hunting in theatre.  The first post talked about resumes, cover letters & references.

Networking tends to be a bit of a bad word in my circle of friends.  I frequently hear friends who can confidently strut their stuff on stage say things like, “I can’t go to that, it will just be a giant schmooze fest and I’m terrible at networking.”  While this is true of my actor friends, I find it to be an even more common refrain of my tech & design friends, for whom putting yourself out there seems to be an even more frightening thing.

In their eyes, networking involves going up to people you don’t know, or don’t know well and introducing yourself.  As Trisha Mead wrote over at 2amtheatre.com:

“I’m terrified of strangers with name badges.

I go to conferences and “networking events” scanning eyeballs and job titles desperate for something, anything, to latch onto that might be an excuse to start a conversation. But, what’s the right tone? The right opening line? How do I know I’ve found a useful connection? How do I know the nametag-attached-to-a-bundle-of-flesh I am currently talking to is not just standing there waiting for the next, more relevant person to talk to them?”

Sometimes these terrible events includes giving out a business card. Most of the time they are painful, even for the people who you think have it all together. Recently I have had friends comment on how “good” I am at networking and I wanted to laugh. I’m still as terrified as they are, I just have a little bit more practice and a new outlook on it all.

According to dictionary.com, networking is “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.”

Let me highlight two words for you from that sentence: common interest.

I am never going to go into a room of investment bankers where I don’t know people and and try to network. First of all, I’d have no reason to, but secondly, finding common interests would take substantially more time. In my experience, theatre people LIKE to share their knowledge and information, especially with people who are just starting their careers.

That said, I have still been known (you can ask Brittney about this) to get too scared of a party of people I don’t know and insist on leaving before we go inside. I’m still shy. Still scared.

So for those of you who are as shy & scared of networking as I am, here are three ways to begin building your network without the scary name-tags:

#1 – Volunteer with local theatre groups.

The easiest way to do this is to volunteer as an usher. All of the smaller theatre companies are using volunteer ushers, and some of the larger companies do too. It’s just about knowing who to contact. Do you have a friend in the cast? Ask them who is running front of house. In Vancouver you can check www.vancouverplays.com and they often list companies that are looking for volunteers and provide contact info. Other companies advertise their search for ushers through their facebook pages, blogs or mailing lists.

The great thing about volunteering as an usher is that you have a purpose. So you are meeting the people who work at the theatre, but you don’t have to come up with any sort of introduction or questions. If you have them, then that’s great, but you have a job to do. And people talk about people who do good jobs….not as much as they talk about people who do bad jobs, but trust me, if you do a good job you will be remembered.

#2 – Use Social Media

Once more I’m going to point you to the writing of Trisha Mead over at www.2amtheatre.com. She wrote recently about building relationships through social media, and you need to go RTWT because she says it a lot better than I was going to. She gives some really great advice on how to manage your online presence and although her focus is on relationship building for playwrights it applies across the board.

Through social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, & LinkedIn I have gotten to know another whole group of theatre professionals both local to Vancouver and internationally. Sure, the first “off line” meeting still has that hint of “Are we really going to hit it off as well as we did online?!” but in my experience it tends to work out well. And heck, I’ve flown across the country to meet up with people I met online. I’ve also gotten job offers because someone I met online gave my name to someone.

The most important thing about each of these online media is that you use them to engage. Ask questions. Answer questions. Dialogue. Sure, there is room for self promotion, but if all you do is self-promote it is likely that you will be blocked out as noise. (If you are considering using Twitter, I highly recommend Dave Charest‘s FREE e-book called “The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter”. He has all the details you could possibly need to know about using Twitter effectively and he’s a hilarious, great, artistic type.)

But when you have the chance, take those online relationships offline.  I’ve been privileged to get to know such folks as Rebecca ColemanSimon OgdenKenji MaedaAmanda Ballard.  Do these relationships equal jobs? Not directly. However, I know that some of them have recommended me for positions that have come up and that their friendship has pushed me to step out of my comfort zones and try new things.  What more can you ask of friends?

#3 – Go See Theatre

When I defined networking above, I highlighted the phrase “common interest” from it. One of the best ways to ensure common interests with the theatre folks you are about to meet at various events is to actually attend theatre. It always amazes me the number of theatre artists who don’t go and see anything that anyone else is doing.  Last calendar year I saw about 70 shows. In the first six months of 2010 I have seen about 40.  These excursions to the theatre do not always include an opportunity to make a connection there, but they provide the groundwork for future connections.  They give you a chance to say, “Oh yeah, I saw you in XYZ and thought you were great” or “I thought your work in XYZ really took a new direction from ABC”.  It also gives you a chance to meet the others in the audience. I don’t know how many times I have run into an acquaintance at a show and had a fantastic conversation about our shared experience there.

These networking opportunities do not lead directly to jobs. That is not the point. They lead to relationships, and in an industry as small as the theatre industry is, relationships matter.

2009 In Review: Shows I Saw

Fringe!One of my New Year’s resolutions last year was to start seeing more theatre.  I had decided that if I was really passionate about this, I probably needed to see more than 2 shows a month.  I settled on 3 per month, figuring that to be a fairly easy place to start.  I did, of course, surpass those numbers, seeing 76 plays in 2009.  That averages out to just over 6 shows per month.  Double my original goal.  Below you will see my list of shows, in nearly chronological order (some are out by a little bit, but its very close).

The shows I have seen vary. I saw plays in Canada & the USA. I saw plays at the largest local theatres (Playhouse, Arts Club, Bard),  at the smallest (Little Mountain Studios) and everything in between.  I saw kids doing Shakespeare in the park in Kamloops, I saw my first show at Vancouver Opera, I saw my first ballet in years.  I saw musicals, comedies, dramas, & horrors.  I saw mask pieces, movement pieces, character pieces, plays that were all about the set, or costumes, or script, or directing.   I saw almost everything I wanted to see (there were a few shows I missed, which I think is inevitable when one works in theatre and only has maybe 2 days a week in which to attempt to see plays).

You may wonder, how do I afford to see 6 plays a month on a stage manager’s income? I volunteer. A lot. Probably two-thirds of the shows on this list I have been able to see for free because I volunteer as an usher, bartender, a poster-puter-uper, a money counter, or whatever else the company needed.  I also have a lot of friends in theatre, so sometimes I can get free tickets for opening nights or days that they are running slow.  Probably only 20% of the shows were paid for, and half of those were at a reduced rate as an “artist” or “friend of cast” or “2-for1″ or “rush ticket” promotion.

Seeing theatre doesn’t have to be expensive.  It can be a very affordable way to spend a night out.  And, for those within the theatre community, what better way to open your next cover letter than with genuine praise for the work of the company you are applying to.

As I look forward to next year, I will probably scale back a bit.  I will probably aim for four shows per month (in the middle between 2008′s two and 2009′s six).  I saw a lot of theatre this year, but I did it at the exclusion of other things & now it is time to be pickier about my theatre and make time again for the other things I love to do.

Here is the official list of plays I saw in 2009:

1.Miss Julie: Freedom Summer (Vancouver Playhouse)
2.Skydive (Arts Club /Reelwheels/ Push)
3.5 Days in March (PuSh/Cheltfish)
4.There Came A Gypsy Riding (United Players)
5.Whale Riding Weather (Zee Zee Productions)
6.20 minute musicals (Rumble/ Push)
1. Distant Second: The Steve Fonyo Story
2. Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata
7.Bye Bye Birdie (Studio 58)
8.Medea (UBC)
9.The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac (Club Push)
10.Coriolanus (Coriolanus Equity Co-op {Mad Duck Collective})
11.Shocker’s Delight (Squidamisu)
12.Beggars at the House of Plenty (Evolving Arts Collective)
13.East of Berlin (Tarragon/Touchstone/Firehall)
14.Rigoletto (Vancouver Opera)
15.Under The Hawthorne Tree (The Two Marys)
16.Munsch Alley (Carousel theatre)
17.The Idiots Karamazov (UBC)
18.Death of a Clown (ITSAZOO)
19.The Real Thing (Arts Club)
20.Where The River Meets The Sea (Presentation House)
21.LifeSavers (Ruby Slippers)
22.Earnestine Shushwap Gets Her trout (Firehall Arts Centre)
23.John & Beatrice (Pi Theatre)
24.Secret World of Og (Carousel Theatre)
25.36 Views (Tempus Theatre)
26.Antigone Undone (Leaky Heaven Circus)
27.Fat Pig (Mitch & Murray Equity Co-op)
28.Les Miserables (Arts Club)
29.Top Girls (Vancouver Playhouse)
30.Palace of the End (Felix Culpa, Touchstone Theatre, & Horseshoes & Hand Grenades)
31.Othello (Bard on the Beach)
32.The Tempest (2-bite Bard)
33.SchoolHouseRock Live (Small Nest Productions @ Edmonton Fringe)
34.Rent (Fighting Chance Productions)
35.Macbeth (Limbo Circus Theatre)
36.Orestes (Cambiare Productions)
37.Unidentified Human Remains; or, the True Nature of Love (20 Something Theatre)
38.Alls Well That Ends Well (Bard on the Beach)
39.Dog Sees God (Fighting Chance Productions)
40.Kicked (Project X)
41.The Saddest Girl in the World
42.Circus x2 (Cabbage Under Heavy Fire)
43.Nggrfg (Small Brown Package)
44.Drinks with Friends (Whirlwind Productions)
45.Lavignia: A Modern Fairy Tale of Gigantic Proportions (Sticky Fingers Production)
46.Some Reckless Abandon (Over the Moon Productions)
47.Cabaret of Bullshit (Vancouver Fringe)
48.Caberlesque! (BSide Productions)
49.AfterLife (Sunset Gun Productions)
50.murder, hope (Infinity Live Productions)
51.The Veil (Presentation House & OneLight Theatre)
52.Midsummer (The Cultch & Traverse Theatre Company)
53.The House of Kosa (TigerMilk Collective)
54.Gift of Screws
55.The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Pacific Theatre)
56.Any Night (Touchstone, DualMinds & The Cultch)
57.Lot’s Wife (Studio 58)
58.Love You Forever & More Munch (Carousel Theatre)
59.Becky’s New Car (Artists Repertory Theatre – Portland)
60.Evil Dead: The Musical (Downstage Right Productions)
61.Anatomy of Gray (TWU Theatre)
62.Master Builder (UBC)
63.Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour DreamCoat (Footlights Theatre Company)
64.The Big League (Carousel Theatre)
65.The Project (Solo Collective)
66.Moulin Rouge: the Ballet (Royal Canadian Ballet)
67.These Walls Are Paper Thin (Critical Mask & Mind of a Snail)
68.The Vertical Hour (United Players)
69.King Arthurs Kitchen (Axis Theatre)
70.Demon Voice (Touchstone Theatre)
71.After The Quake (Pi Theatre/Rumble Productions)
72.Wired (Green Thumb Theatre)
73.A Winter’s Tale (Studio 58)
74.Robin Hood (Carousel Theatre)
75.A Beautiful View (Ruby Slippers Theatre)
76.Anne (Chemainus Theatre Festival)

Previously: 2009 in Review: Work

Want to stalk me at the Fringe?

fringe logoIt’s Fringe time again and the Island is already buzzing. Last night I had my first shift as a volunteer and had a great time running from venue to venue. My legs were actually quite sore this morning!  During the off time I put together my Fringing schedule, but before I share it a few disclaimers:

My schedule at the moment is crazy: between my rehearsal schedule for Frozen, Fringe Volunteering, & other commitments I only have a few slots left to see Fringe shows. My goal is to see 13 (and that’s how many are on the schedule below), however there were a lot more than that which I would have LIKED to see, but many of them simply did not have performances in time slots when I could see them.  Also, as a volunteer I have a rush pass, which means my entry depends on how many paid people show up. There may be shows on this list that I cannot get in to. With that said, here it goes:

Today (Saturday, 12th): 6:45pm – NGGRFG @ Waterfrong
8:30pm – Volunteer Shift (I’ll be around the Island)
12:30pm – Circus @ Carousel (Not really a fringe show, but still!)

Sunday, 13th: 1:00pm – Lavigna @ Arts Umbrella
2:55pm – Some Reckless Abandon @ Carousel
4:35pm – Afterlife @PTC
5:45pm – Heading off Island for church
8:30pm – Volunteer Shift on Island
8:50pm – Cableresque @ Performance Works

Tuesday, 15th: 11:00pm -Drinks With Friends @ Carousel

Wednesday, 16th: No Fringe – Night Off

Thursday, 16th: NO Fringe

Friday, 18th: 8:00pm – Kicked @ Pacific Theatre
9:30pm – Dog Sees God @ Pacific Theatre

Saturday, 19th: 12:00pm – Shotgun @ Pacific Theatre
3:00pm – The Saddest Girl in the World @ Carousel
5:35pm – Red Bastard @ Waterfront
5:50pm – Murder, Hope @ PTC  (If I can’t get in to Red Bastard since it’s been selling well already)
7:00pm – The Gast Heart @ Carousel

8:30pm – Volunteer Shift on Island

That’s my Fringe plan – Happy Fringing to you all, and hope to see you out and about!

(Updated Monday, Sept 14 at 2:13AM. All updates in BOLD)

Be The Audience

Lately my inbox has been inundated with e-mails telling me about shows that acquaintances of mine are doing. I’ve sent my share of those e-mails too – hoping that one or two people will come to see the hard work you have put into a show. Even more so when it’s a co-op and the only income you’ll be getting is a cut of the box office. But I’ve noticed an interesting trend. For all these people sending invites to see shows, I don’t very often see them at shows.

Last week a friend was complaining about what she saw as the cliquiness of Vancouver theatre. Her complaint was that there are all of these little groups doing theatre and they were ridiculously hard to break into. When I said that I hadn’t had that problem, she suggested that it was because I am not an actor & therefore not the competition. But I’m not certain she has ever gone up to anyone in one of these companies and said, “Hey, I like what you’re doing – how can I be a part of it?”

What strikes me about all of this is how entitled we as artists tend to seem. We want people to come to our work without us going to see theirs, we want companies to seek us out rather than taking the first step on our own.

In my experience, the theatre community in this city is very open. I’ve been invited to opening night parties for shows that I haven’t been involved in simply because I struck up a conversation with someone who was involved about how much I enjoyed the show. But it requires me to take a step. I have to be at the play to be invited out after it. I have to be willing to step out in order to see things happen.

Instead I often see people (and at times myself) so caught up in what I am creating that I forget to engage with those around me and the art that they are creating. That’s why my new years resolution this year was to see three shows a month. Last year I averaged two, and I figured I wanted and in fact needed to see more than that if I wanted to be a part of the community and I needed to be the audience if I wanted to talk about theatre in this city in any sort of responsible way.

I’d put this forward as a challenge to other artists: See a show this week that doesn’t have anyone you know in it. Approach an artist whose work you admire & let them know. Ask someone for a tour – the worst they can say is no. Ask questions. And take some time to create something new – a character, a poem, a script, a set design idea – just sit town and do something.

Looking for some theatre experience?

(Above: Past & Present apprenti & their friends getting ready for Vintage Valentine)

Pacific Theatre, the company where I am the resident stage manager, takes on three or four apprentices each year. These are not equity apprenticeships, but are apprenticeships designed to produce well rounded theatrical people. The apprentices assist with Front of House and Box Office, they act in a show (if they want to), produce their own work, assist with tech calls, assistant stage manage, do scene studies with artistic director Ron Reed & numerous other theatre-related things. It is all about helping the emerging theatre artists get a footing from which to leap forward into the next step of their lives.

For more information, please head over to http://pacifictheatre.org/involvement/apprenticeships.htm

The application deadline is March 15.

Personally, I love our apprenticeship program. It’s how I met my roommate (she was an apprentice last year). We’ve had apprentices whose focus has been directing, acting, tech work, writing, administration, etc and we work hard to make sure that they get the most out of the program.

This past Friday night, the apprentices put together a one night musical review called “Vintage Valentines”. It ran after the mainstage show and patrons were invited to stay for free for the show. There were also people who came just to see it. And from what I hear it was a great time.

PuShing onto the Scene


Five years ago the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival burst onto the scene in Vancouver and has quickly become one of the most anticipated festivals of the year.

Running for two and a half weeks beginning January 20th, it boasts work from as far away as Japan & New Zealand while still promoting shows from right here in Vancouver. Some of the shows have been very successful internationally while others have been commissioned especially for the festival.

With a line up that includes dance, theatre, music, film as well as performances that defy categorization, it provides something for everyone whether they are regular patrons of the arts or not. This year they’ve added Club PuSh, a miniature fringe festival with lots of live music, one-man shows, miniature musicals and multiple performances each night.

As we approach the festival I will be writing previews of the various shows and once the festival is up and running I will be providing reviews of as many of the shows as I can make it out to.

But now, a little over a month before the festival begins, I’d like to encourage you to volunteer. This will be my third year as a volunteer with the PuSh festival and I highly recommend getting involved. For those of you who are involved in the arts, this is a great opportunity to support other artists in the community, as well as meeting a number of other artists. For those of you who just love the arts, the PuSh festival provides complimentary tickets to shows for every four hours of volunteering that you do.

I have worked as an usher, I have poured wine for opening night receptions, I have sat at information booths for art installations, & I have driven to the airport to pick up artists. Again this year they are looking for people to volunteer in all of those capacities as well as others.

If you are interested in volunteering, please read the volunteer job descriptions for more information and then fill out the volunteer registration form.

The registration deadline is December 19th, so register now, before it’s too late!