Pandemic Pivots & TNB’s Fall Festival

I can’t go on.
I’ll go on.
– Samuel Beckett

If you’re someone who enjoys live performance, you should check in on the venues and artists you love. Without ticket revenue, theaters of all kinds of struggling. Artists, designers, and technicians, who rely on live performance for their livelihoods (and who chose lives in the arts to create the intimate, profound, and immediate experiences that only live performance can create), have been forced to set the public (and revenue-generating!) parts of their creative practices aside indefinitely — even as we have all relied on the arts to get us through the past six months of uncertainty and confinement. It’s a good time to check in on your local theatre company, music venue, or arts organization to find out what you can do to support them. Here are a few ideas:

– Purchase artwork directly from artists. Your purchase will help your favourite artist to recover some of the revenue lost from cancelled tours and performances. Check their website for links or send them a message to ask about what they might have available for purchase in your price range.

– Support an artist on Patreon. This is a great way to offer sustained support to an artist whose work you admire, to get an inside view of their process, and to stay in touch with them between projects.

– Donate to an arts organization or relief fund. There are many organizations that could use your support and many programs offering help to vulnerable and marginalized artists. You may wish to choose one local to you or dedicated to a community or type of artistic creation that’s especially important to you. They won’t be difficult to find, but if you’re stuck, check with a local arts council.

– Participate in an on-line class or training opportunity. Many artists are offering virtual classes, workshops, and lessons as a way to connect with audiences and share their craft. Here in Fredericton, Solo Chicken Productions is offering an amazing list of performance workshops in October that you can tune in to from anywhere! It’s such a smart way for people to connect and use this difficult time creatively.

– Tune in to a live-stream event and invite others to join you. I know, we’re all a bit Zoomed out at this point in the pandemic, and we all know by now that virtual is no substitute for the real thing. But have you stopped Facetiming with your mom because she’s better in person? No. Because you care about your mom, and you want to keep in touch. When you show up for a virtual event, you show artists, venues, and — importantly — funders that you care about live performance and still want access to it.  Lots and lots of such events are free, and they’re more fun to watch with friends — even friends who you aren’t in the same room with. It’s a great way to introduce a friend to a new artist and to help that artist build their audience.

When you do check in on your favourite arts organization from the before times, I expect you’ll discover the innovative ways they are finding to make new work under our current limitations, to reach for the energy and connection of live performance from afar, and to position themselves for better things on the other end of this period of global crisis.

Theatre New Brunswick’s Fall Festival of New Plays

In my neck of the woods, I’m especially impressed by the smart pivot my local theater company, Theatre New Brunswick, has made. I was rehearsing an amazing show with them in March when everything got COVID-cancelled. The province’s only professional English-language company, they would normally be announcing the line-up for their new season right about now, but instead they will use this season to invest in the work of New Brunswick playwrights — myself included. With their Fall Festival of New Plays, TNB is providing creative support to a dozen writers who have new projects in the works, pairing each of us with actors and dramaturgs who will help us to develop our scripts and bring our shows one step closer to production. I think it was a stroke of brilliance on the part of Artistic Director Natasha MacLellan to embrace the current moment as a time for incubation and growth.

I’m delighted for my new solo show, Les filles du quoi?, to be included in this line-up of exciting new works. The show would have premiered this summer at Vermont’s Lost Nation Theater (which is also doing some interesting pandemic pivoting), and I’m am brutally homesick from Vermont. But having the chance to work through dramaturgy and design questions during this downtime is an immense gift and some consolation for being stuck on this side of the border.

The fun begins October 15 with Maritime theater titan Norm Foster’s “Wildly Romantic”! You can find the full schedule for the fall festival on TNB’s website, and I will post more information here as the virtual events draw closer. There is not much making me feel hopeful these days. But artists continuing to reach out to audiences with new work, and audiences receiving that work with earnest and abundant appetites, does give me the sense that the ground is still beneath us and we can walk forward together.


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