Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Vancouver Experiment

On Friday, 99seats wrote an interesting blog post about the mandates of a handful of mid-level, NYC not-for-profit theatres:

Pretty hard to tell which is which, right? Or who's doing what kind of work? It's all the same language about "nurturing," "supporting," "encouraging," and "challenging." It says nothing about style or approach. Nothing about the content. Shouldn't that be important? The problem is the grant language, the corporatespeak that dominates our conversations. It's safe, fuzzy and easy and it's the lingua franca of the arts.

So I thought I'd take a look at a few Vancouver Theatres in the same category (mid-level, not-for-profit), but then I remembered that Vancouver doesn't really have mid-level companies. We have a lot of smaller, independent companies & the two big ones, but not much in between. So I've picked 5 companies that are on the larger side of independent or as close to mid-level as Vancouver has.

Company 1:

XXXXXX is dedicated to the creation of new performance works using unique processes of collaboration and extra-ordinary interactions between performer and audience. XXXXXX is devoted to discovering and actively seeking out international, national and regional artists to collaborate with in creating new works drawn from our collective experience. XXXXXX is committed to providing professional opportunities to diverse artists and individuals in our productions and tours in both emerging and leadership positions.

Company 2:
XXXXXX endeavors to bring life to classics, past and present. It is interested in producing plays that are both rooted in myth and that have contributed to the mythical landscape of our society. We want to question perceptions of classical theatre and find the pulse, rhythm in the plays that contribute enormously to our cultural identity while, at the same time, freeing them from the confines of traditional staging. We want to push the boundaries of classical interpretation, approaching classics not as literature but as events.

Company 3:
XXXXXX exists to develop and present professional Canadian theatrical productions. It encourages explorations in content and form, and introduces new works to the public. XXXXXX stimulates and develops public interest in an evolving Canadian cultural perspective.

Company 4:
XXXXXX aspires to delight, provoke and stimulate dialogue by producing theatre that rigourously explores the spiritual aspects of human experience. We foster new work and established plays, develop emerging artists, create an artistic home for established practitioners, and engage the community at large.

Company 5:
XXXXXX deepens intercultural dialogue through theatre. We do this by producing French-Canadian plays in English translation and cutting-edge contemporary works from the world stage, including work that has been translated or adapted from its original language.

Sure, there is still the same grant-speak, but these talk about content. Classics, French-Canadian, New Canadian, Interactive, Spiritual. And there are lots of others: Asian-Canadian, contemporary, musicals, site-specific.

Looking at these 5 mandates, I'd say that Vancouver is very lucky to have such variety in what is being presented.


lindsay said...

Grant writing makes my head spin. It doesn't do anything except please grant readers.

Here's my question. Do those companies produce Canadian works? All the time? And what is a professional Canadian theatrical production exactly? Are their missions matching their seasons?

That's what usually gets me, is the disconnect between what's being produced and what they say they produce. (I know nothing about Vancouver companies, I'm thinking TO here)

SMLois said...

From what I've seen of the companies (I've only been in Vancouver for about 5 years), the ones who say that they will be producing entirely Canadian/French Canadian plays,do plays that are written by Canadian playwrights. So they might fail a CanCon test if they were radio or TV. But for the most parts their missions are matching their seasons.

The other companies - the one that promise New Works include Canadian new works & some new plays from American & International playwrights.

Because Vancouver's two largest companies focus on: A - Contemporary Works (post 1950's) and B - Musicals & Pulitzer Prize Winners (with an occasional new play), it is up to the independent companies to pick up the slack in other areas.