Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Halifax Audition Project

On Monday and Tuesday of last week, the inaugural PACT-Equity Audition Project took place at the Dalhousie Arts Centre in Halifax. I was fortunate to be able to attend the first day, as well as the evening forum and networking mixer.

What a great experience! Kudos to both Equity and PACT staff, who worked very hard to make sure the project focussed both on the needs of the artists and the needs of the directors. And my special thanks to PACT President Eric Coates, who was a real driving force in this.

For those of you who did not know about the event, here's how it worked. Auditions were conducted in front of a panel of 6 directors, including both freelance and ADs. Most performers had the chance to be seen by two panels, so twelve directors. Each audition lasted for ten minutes, which the artist could use however they wished. In response to a request from the directors, we were able also incorporate callback sessions at the end of each day.

Slots were first opened up to Equity artists from the Atlantic region, with special outreach to both professional and aspiring artists who identified themselves as aboriginal, a visible minority, or a member of an ethno-racial community. This last initiative was a specific outcome of Equity's recent policy-writing on diversity issues. Applicants were guaranteed an audition slot on a first-come first-served basis.

Two weeks later, auditions were opened up to ACTRA members and to members from across the country. In the week immediately prior to the auditions, the few remaining spots were offered to apprentices. As a side note, members came from as far away as Vancouver to be part of this project. Over course of the two days, eighteen directors saw over one hundred artists.

Every artist was welcomed and offered a bottle of water while they waited. Each of the three panels had a stage manager who assisted in the running of the audition. About ten minutes before the call time, the artist was taken to a private space, where they could warm up or just decompress. The SM would review the process with the artist, let them know who was in the room, how it was set up, and answer any additional questions that they had. When it was time for the audition, the SM returned and brought the performer to the audition space and introduced them to the directors.

On the Monday evening, two open forum sessions were held in the Dunn Theatre. The first focussed on how best to make an impression on a director, and the second on how to propose projects to an AD for inclusion in a future season. I'll compile the material from those two panels for posting on the Equity website. We capped the evening off with a social mixer in the sculpture court at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium. The local theatre community was invited to both these events, and the turnout was excellent.

And, so how did all go? Would it be unforgivably immodest of me to say: really well? Well it did! – at least if I am to go by the feedback sheets we asked all participants to fill out. Almost all artists indicated that the event met or exceeded their expectations. For many, the opportunity to meet close to twenty directors (both in an audition and at the social mixer) was the big draw. Word is that the director panels were also pleased with the outcome.

Other positives mentioned included the freedom to use the ten minutes of audition time as the artist wished, and the luxury of having a private warm-up space available, not to mention an SM on hand to answer questions and to introduce them. Intriguingly, while many artists cited the heightened tension of auditioning before a panel, just as many cited the lower tension of not being scrutinised by one director for a very specific role.

In the "we're still learning column", several people asked for longer audition times, more directors or the opportunity to meet all three panels (natch!), more formal feedback on auditions, and scheduling of the forum and mixer at a different time. And the number one request from the members? More of these, more often and in more locations. What can I say – we're workin' on it.

Thanks again to all who participated on both sides - you made the event the success that it was.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Audition Project

It's almost here!

Next Monday and Tuesday in Halifax, PACT and Equity will be jointly sponsoring an audition opportunity with ADs from one coast to the other. Enter the Audition Project. As well as scheduled audition slots, members are invited to attend an evening forum focussing on how best to make an impression on a director, and how to pitch a project to an AD.

Last I checked, there were still a couple of slots open – details and application info are posted on the Equity homepage.

I'll be there on Monday, and in attendance at the forum, so stop over and say hi.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Independent Theatre Review Committee begins work

A motion was passed at the March meeting of Council, striking the Independent Theatre Review Committee, to look at the future of member engagement opportunity in the spectrum of theatre not currently covered by the CTA/ITA.

Council has appointed Councillors Kerry Ann Doherty (Ontario and 2nd VP), Sharon DiGenova (Dance) and Kris Joseph (E. Ontario/Outaouais) to the committee to get things up and running. Their first job will be to bring more people onto the committee, seeking representation from across the country and in keeping with Council's diversity policies.

One of the most important aspects of the committee terms of reference is that it will be expected to consult broadly. Member interest across the country is anticipated to be much greater than can reasonably be accommodated on a committee of any workable size, so extensive outreach will be done to ensure that all members have an opportunity to participate in this discussion. As part of this, the committee will also be asking CPAGs across the country to connect with their local membership, both for sharing information and for collecting input.

In addition to seeking contributions from an artist engagement perspective, the committee will also be hearing from independent theatre engagers (both members and non) and Equity staff, to gather information on their needs and challenges in regards to member engagement. Council intends for this work to result in a comprehensive approach to improve and facilitate member engagement opportunity across this range of theatre.

If you are interested in being part of the steering committee, details on how to submit your name for inclusion will be available in the next short while. Please keep an eye on e-drive postings and this blog for startup details.