Archive for July, 2011

July 18, 2011

Numbers and Experiences and You

I’ve been rattling on a lot lately about numbers not lying. And experiences being what change minds.

If the numbers are right, I’ll take experience over them any time.

I hit go on this website on May 9, 2011 – seventy days ago.

In that time there have been fifty-six posts (live feeding to Twitter, Facebook and Linked In), and forty-seven comments  (actually on the blog, not including “I love your blog! comments IRL and on FB) and eight pages worth of tweets. Facebook friends have jumped by five percent, Twitter followers by twenty-one percent, and Linked In has nearly doubled.

Shares are happening, folks are subscribing, retweets are happening and web stats are fairly solidly, always above a certain number of visits, and some predictable unique visits. The tag cloud is changing in size.

So?

So now what? This is the moment where folks sometimes get lazy. Or forget about it – the site is up, it’s running no problem, there are some awesome days with hundreds of visits and days with twelve and it’s fun and all to analyze why there were hundreds (link on a BlogTO post) and why there were only a dozen (no blog post on a holiday Monday) but to what end? This analysis is fine and you can write it down and congratulate yourself for analyzing. But what do you do with those numbers? Do you keep doing what you’re doing or do you take a minute and go a step further?

On July 8th I posted a poll asking whether or not folks would want to complete a survey about why they come to this site and read the blog. 83% of respondents said yes they would! 17% said probably, but it couldn’t be too long or complicated. I believe the 83% want to, I believe the 17% just a little bit more. So in the next couple of days I will whip up a survey that is neither long nor complicated and post it. I’ll put the link in blog posts for five days and we will see the results. Data geeks everywhere are celebrating worldwide, and lots of my friends are rolling their eyes. Survey coming!

July 17, 2011

Sunday Roundup – July 17

Okay it has been a really busy week with few posts due to a LOT of running around. Fringe Fundraiser, Summerworks Fundraiser, Awake, more Fringe…you might wonder what all these things have in common besides art. They all have success in common.

I was thinking yesterday about the money spent on something like the Fringe, what’s called ancillary expenses – money spent outside of the actual ticket. That’s the money that supports the economy, the bigger picture that some folks can’t seem to grasp.  So i thought I’d do a little breakdown over the course of a week’s worth of Fringing. I’ll leave out ticket price.

For every day I Fringed I spent the following:

$2 – $5 Tipping the Fringe
$5 on freezies for an overheated tired staff
$5.50 per beer at the tent – figure two for me and one for someone who needed one, so $16.50 plus tip so let’s say an even $20.00
$10 on dinner either from Southern Accent or Butler’s Pantry on site
$12.50 on a taxi home.

That’s $52.50 an outing, with an outing lasting maybe four hours. Not including a $10 ticket. So over three days (I was there more but three is a round number) that’s $157.50 spent not on art, but other things I did and ate and drank because I was seeing art. Money spent on local businesses and a neighbourhood.

So let’s say last Friday the folks out for the evening spent that amount each. So multiply $52.50 by these people:


and i think you’d have to agree that art just might be an important thing to have in a city not just for the culture part, but as a building block of the local economy.  Photo above by Corbin Smith of torontoist.

Ten day festival, folks. In case you’re willing to dismiss the photo above as, “well of course! It’s Friday night!” – here’s a shot of last Monday, taken by Gideon Arthurs. I know – nobody goes out on a Monday

ANYWAY…. what else went on?

Taking a Day Off – I took a day off. I’m not very good at it.

I Hate To Say I Told You So – nope. no gravy here. Could we possibly put that phrase to bed, please?

Fundraisers! – Both Fringe and Summerworks – Fringe Locally, Summerworks Nationally.

It has been a hot, a little sticky sunny sunny week with no signs of stopping. I hope you’re enjoying it, staying hydrated and sunscreened. Have an awesome day.

July 15, 2011

Fundraisers!

It’s Friday and there are two very different fundraisers going on in town.  First off, the annual Fringe Fundy is taking place tonight at 5:30 pm  – Eat Locally, Fringe Nationally includes an amazing dinner at Southern Accent, tickets to The Soaps by National Theatre of the world, and time in the hottest watering hole in July – the legendary Fringe club! Tickets are $100 and dangerously close to sold out so get on the phone if you want one – call 416.966.1062 and get Adam to book you.

On a national level what started as a one company show of support to the Summerworks funding issue has turned into seventy supporting companies and a dozen readings across Canada. Visit thewreckingball.ca for more information and a reading near you.

It’s last weekend of the Fringe – there have been some amazing shows, some fantastic people and I highly recommend you get out there and take in at least one before it’s all over and the magical Fringe Club reverts to a regular old parking lot. Go take a peek at some pics if you’d like. Massive shoutout to the incredible staff and volunteers, what you do is AMAZING and I am so proud to know you.

 

July 12, 2011

I Hate to Say I Told You So…

In May I posted about the upcoming Toronto City Services Review, and the survey you NEEDED to fill in.

In June I posted about the Toronto City Services Review Roundtable that I attended.

It’s now July and the results are coming in. Derek Flack has a fulsome article in BlogTO  – italics mine.

“As far as levels of service go, City spending seems anything but outrageous. “Over half of the services that report through the Public Works Committee are provided “at standard,” which is generally the level required by provincial legislation or the level generally provided by other municipalities,” reads the report. “30% of services are provided at slightly above standard offering some opportunities for cost reduction by lowering the service level provided. 17% of services are delivered slightly below or below standard.”

Let me get this straight – we offer excellent services in some areas and we’re going to save money by dropping the standard? I thought Rob Ford ran on a platform of customer service?

Royson James of the Star questions this as well.

“a list of nickel-and-dime, nip-and-tuck manoeuvres — Toronto could potentially, possibly, save up to $10 million to $15 million in departments that spend $1 billion, one-third of which comes from taxes.”

Apparently there’s no gravy. Not even au jus. Not even pan drippings. When I was at the roundtable the woman next to me cheered when someone mentioned getting back the $60 car tax. I asked her if she realized that was one of the reasons we were here. You could tell by her face she did not.

I’m baffled, bewildered and sad. And then my bewilderment ceases when I read the comments section and realize exactly the type of person who voted for this mess. This is a choice one from Chris Hume’s article yesterday:

Stop these freeloaders, Rob!
Here’s what I don’t understand. I am REQUIRED to pay 100% property taxes even though I use only a fraction of the services I pay for. I don’t use community centres, fire services, parks, schools, skating rinks, EMS, swimming pools or waterfront trails. My house and my commercial properties are built, so I don’t care about planning or permits. I don’t need city engineers or clerks or landscapers or economic development people or animal control or daycare or shelters or, for the love of Judas, the TTC or bike lanes(ugh!)! So that means I pay for all the freeloading punks and hippies who don’t contribute anything but use everything. It’s no wonder Mayor Ford wisely spends his free time in Muskoka. I know our Mayor will make things right again.

It’s signed Conservative to the Core. I hope for his sake (I really do) that we never get to this point.

ETA: In the interest of presenting all sides, here’s a link to Sue Ann Levy’s column – she thinks there’s still gravy somewhere.

SIDE NOTES

Fringe is on all week and it’s amazingly amazingly popular – shows are selling out, lineups were in place and here’s a view of the Fringe Club last night. You know, because nobody goes out on a Monday. Photo by Gideon Arthurs.


July 11, 2011

Taking a Day Off

I’m taking a day off. I’ve been Fringing a lot, working a lot, worked all weekend and so I find myself today caught up with nothing on fire, including my hair. Invoices out, reminders sent, final reports done, marketing all caught up. Rather than worry about the next thing I have to do (create a reader survey)  I’m taking advantage of it and taking the day off while I have a chance. A well-timed article I saw today courtesy of Sheila Sky struck me:

Life goes on: Why it’s OK for arts groups to downsize, take a break or — gasp! — even go away

“As audience members, we go see a show, clap, and head home. We may not know that the choreographer was up to the wee hours of the morning sewing costumes, or that the playwright had to rent a van to move the set. Life for small arts organizations is as DIY as it gets.”

It’s an interesting piece. I have lots of thoughts about it, which I may post later after they’ve percolated into something coherent. In the meantime, stay cool, it’s gonna be another scorcher out there, so hydrate and sunscreen and don’t go at it any harder than you have to. Take your cue from my neighbour’s cat who is asleep in the only cool patch of shade on the patio.

I’m seeing Kim’s Convenience tonight at Fringe – I’ve heard amazing things.

July 10, 2011

Sunday Roundup – July 10

Let’s face it this week has been about Fringe for me – a lot of time seeing shows, comparing notes, promoting shows and hanging around the tent. It’s fantastic this year – there’s a great vibe to it and people seem to be spending a heck of a lot of time there.

What went on this week?

Fringe Plays I Apparently Should Not Have Bothered Seeing – bit of a response to an article in a daily indicating that things like venue and dramaturgy (having it) are what makes a show a dud. I disagree.

Packing Up My Tickets In My Old Fringe Bag  – since better folk that I write great articles on how to Fringe, I choose to  let you know what I keep in my bag of tricks that keeps me Fringing happily.

Fringe Day Two – a good time is being had by all. Highlights for me include Awake (yes, I know I’m working on it, but I do like it outside of that) and Remember Maggy.

Fringe Day Three and the Idea of a Survey – I will check the poll tally tomorrow, and proceed from there.

Quick PSA for the Artist’s Health Centre Foundation Don’t Forget to Register with AWHIP Many of you have asked about affordable health insurance options for those not covered by an employer or union insurance plan.  One month remains for you to register with the new Arts Workers Health Insurance Plan (AWHIP). As 200 participants are required in order for this plan to become a reality, carefully review the information, available on our website and contact the insurance provider directly with any questions.

Tweets i Enjoyed This Week
beyondwallsTPM Kisses and theatre? It’s #nationalkissingday and the first day of #FringeTO . Coincidence? We think not.
iamdavidmiller
At the official opening of the 2011 #fringeTO. What are you going to see?
Shelley Carroll
At last! A use for the alleyway @ Honest Ed’s! #FringeFest #tocouncil http://yfrog.com/khnxlhwj

A couple more photos – click for an article. And as promised  – video of the Poster Sprint courtesy Ms. Hyunju Park – thank you! And a direct link to the NOW reviews – they’re coming in!

July 8, 2011

Fringe Day Three and the Idea of a Survey

Here we are bright and early on the dawn of Fringe Day Three, when my Fringe-ing begins in earnest.  Am off to see Cancer Can’t Dance Like This, Remember Maggy, and Pitch Blond all at Tarragon, heading down to Factory later on to see Saved.

Item: Some of the shows don’t have websites so I’ve just linked everyone back to the Fringe site listings  – you might need to scroll a bit).

Check out the Wrecking Ball site – the list of companies across the country having simultaneous fundraisers is growing.

And yesterday marked the anniversary of this website and blog. I had a great conversation with a good friend and amazing artist Shay Hahn about it. Via Facebook of course. I’ve known Shay for years, I love his work and he is one of the artists I know who is really good at marketing himself and his work. We talked about tone and content, the purpose of the blog in relation to the site – all the things that I love talking about and making my clients do and think about and have not really had time to crystalize in my own head for this site/blog. Of course, being a marketer, I do like surveys. So i was thinking of asking you – the people who come here the most, what exactly you are doing here. I’m not talking quality, I’ve got stats and pingbacks and trackbacks galore, I’m looking for the qualitative answers. So first step – gauge interest in participating. An informal poll to see what the numbers would be like for people willing to take a survey/give me their thoughts and opinions on the site and blog. So….

Gotta go  – today is laid out like clockwork. Happy Friday!

*Fireflies  by A. Shay Hahn, 10x12inches, acrylic on canvas, framed for the Royal Families
July 7, 2011

Fringe Day Two

Yesterday was an extremely busy day on many fronts, so there was no blog post. I’m going to have to figure this one out as the next two weeks will continue to be insane.

The Fringe officially opened yesterday at 4 pm – ED Gideon Arthurs, Board Prez Randy Sabourin, and the Davids Miller and Mirvish all spoke about the importance of what we do, the power of art – it’s a great feeling at that tent – everyone is there for the sake of art. Mr. Miller spoke a bit about the craziness of the costumes, the inventiveness of them, and recalled fondly when his photo was taken last year with a young woman whose costume was “ahem – a private part – of the – female anatomy…” Despite his being polite enough not to actually SAY what it was, I’m pretty sure he meant this young lady…

 

Last night was the opening for Awake, the piece I’ve been working on with Expect Theatre. It is a deeply moving show.  Enormous shout out to the entire cast and crew and design team and a shout out to the very full house. I highly recommend you go and see it. Get your tickets now – it’s been mentioned as a contender in a ridiculous amount of press – off you go.

In other news, companies across Canada are holding a staged reading of Catherine Frid’s Homegrown  – it is a fundraiser with all proceeds going towards Summerworks. For the official press release and a complete list of companies (which is growing every day), visit http://thewreckingball.ca/.

Finally, it is my personal tradition to document the Fringe by taking not great pictures with my crappy cell phone camera. I say that in advance as I know there are better pictures out there. I’m still happy to share them – today’s theme is costumes.

 

July 5, 2011

Packing up my tickets in my old Fringe bag…

It’s that time of year when the articles start coming out about Fringe with picks and how to go about your Fringe experience. I like reading them all.  Here’s only a couple:

The Way I See It

Toronto Sun – contains the awesome line “for in the end, the magic of theatre flows from the people involved.”

And since there are so many, I don’t need to write one – instead, I’m prepping my Fringe bag.

My Fringe bag has been with me through four Fringes now, and has gotten me through many things. It’s a big black shoulder bag, and here’s what’s usually in it that optimizes my Fringing experiences. What’s in it started with the basics from the Fringe website

  • Two Fringe programs – one is mine, one to give away to someone who needs one.
  • Water  – get a decent sized water bottle and keep it full. Fill ‘er up at drinking fountains, restaurants etc. any chance you get. Dehydration is for chumps.
  • Umbrella. Just in case. It makes a nice sun shade. ETA:  A hat. Waiting in line in the sun hatless is no fun. Tip from Megan Benjafeld.
  • Wallet – contains a fiver to get my Tip The Fringe button (do this right off the bat. In fact, help the staff by being a good example and showing the rest of the line how it’s done). Also contains a selection of toonies as I will tip and re-tip the Fringe. Also contains cash for the fringe tent as there is no onsite ATM. Why, you ask? Security reasons. You need a certain level to keep a big box of money onsite like that. The more you know.
  • Blackberry. I just –  there it is. Nothing better than getting a tweet or text about an AMAZING show you HAVE to see, or being the tweeter or texter.
  • Sunscreen – I forgot this last year. I will not forget it this year. Red is my colour, but not on my skin.
  • Sunglasses and chapstick. ALWAYS. Squinty eyes and chapped lips are not a good look.
  • Two hair elastics.
  • Medication – don’t forget your inhalers or insulin or whatever else you require and remember to take them when you are supposed to. You do not want your Fringe experience ruined due to illness.
  • 2 pens and a small notebook – jot things down, make little drawings etc.
  • Business cards – I always have a stack.
  • Flyers for the show you are working on.
  • Gum or mints or lifesavers. Quick sugar hit.
  • A healthy snack. Bring a piece of fruit, or some cut up veggies. Wash down with your water. You cannot live on bar snacks and candy and beer for two weeks. You can try, but it won’t end well. ETA :veggies and fruit are all fine and good, but you also need some nuts in that bag. Or granola bars. Tip from Megan Benjafeld. Item – I did not forget to put nuts, I’m allergic to them. If you are not, then by all means, go nuts.
  • TICKETS! I am a plan ahead Fringer. All my shows are booked and there are many I will catch on the fly as well. However, only that day’s tickets are in there. The rest are safely at home. Whatever your Fringe style, your tickets are the truly important part
  • YOUR WATCH. You must be on time. This is how Fringe works. There are no latecomers. I am sorry you drove in from Ajax/couldn’t find the theatre/got caught in traffic/it was raining etc. I am truly sorry. It’s disappointing, But those are the rules. Do not yell at, swear at, or push the staff. Do not storm by, do not try to shove by. I know it’s on time by your Mickey Mouse watch, but the show is not being called on your Mickey Mouse watch. I am sorry. And quite frankly, other patrons will back up the staff before they back up you. it’s Fringe – it says everywhere there are no latecomers and is one of the few places in our Starbucks society where a rule won’t be bent.
    The most graceful acceptance I ever saw of “you’re late” was the woman who dropped her head in disappointment, laid down the flowers she’d brought for a cast member and went to sit and wait in the sunshine.
    The least graceful acceptance I ever heard of was the woman who screamed and swore at the FOH staff and shoved one out of the way and stormed into the theatre.I supposed I should say something like, “be sure to pack an open mind and a sense of humour“. Yes, do that too.

    Am sure I’m forgetting something. What’s in YOUR Fringe bag?

July 4, 2011

Fringe Plays I Apparently Should Not Have Bothered Seeing

Bizarre article in the Star/Toronto.com on how to avoid seeing bad plays at the Fringe. Apparently there are ten things to avoid so you can only see good shows. I posted this note on Facebook last night, and got some good comments back, comments that made me think.

” Isn’t the entire point of the Fringe that you can’t apply rules to theatre? That’s called “formulaic” and is generally considered bad.”

“He misses the essential point(s) of the fringe and what we grapple with post-fringe in order to make our work. I think (my) company has broken all the rules and played to sold out houses and high praise even from his newspaper.”

“Is the author involved aware of the rules involved in staging a show at the Fringe? Is the author aware that it would be a tad difficult to store the set for Miss Saigon in a 3’x6′ space backstage at Tarragon Backspace? I saw Ian McKellen do “Acting Shakespeare” but I guess it was a dud, because it violated Rules# 3 and 6…Ditto Julia Sweeney in “Letting Go of God” and Tracey Erin Smith-Alter in “The Burning Bush” but I guess only that last one counts because it was a Fringe show…”

and from another post on said article from the amazing Sharron Matthews“It is like the writer is encouraging patrons and audience members to NOT come to the theatre…to not be adventurous or have independent thought when choosing a play or musical to see at the festival…to only go to pieces that are endorsed by critics…to not take a chance on something different…to basically go against the whole spirit of what the festival is.”

Maybe it was tongue in cheek. But what about the readers who believe it, who are hitting print and tucking it into their Fringe programs? The more I thought about it the article, the more I realized that some of the shows I’ve seen over the years clearly WERE duds according to the 10 reasons listed in the article. I didn’t know I was seeing duds at the time – I know better now. Some highlights/duds I saw are listed below – I hope you weren’t fooled as well. If you were and I’ve missed one, please let me know. We only have each other to rely on.

The NOAM CHOMSKY LECTURES breaks rule 7. (A variation of No. 6). Two names everywhere.  I don’t care if those names are Daniel Brooks and Guillermo Verdecchia it’s only two names and there needs to be more.

THIS IS A PLAY violates #6, and #4. “A play about a play about a play about itself. Deconstructivist hilarity.” Too ambitious based on the tag line and Daniel MacIvor all over it.

THIS HOTEL # 2. Really?  The Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse? How am I supposed to find a theatre when there’s a bloody TENT in front of it, and these people dressed in shirts that say Fringe Volunteer are selling tickets and yelling “tip the fringe!!” all over the place?

THE DROWSY CHAPERONE Don’t get me started. #1, #4, #6, #7 everywhere. Did this show even go anywhere after the Fringe?

DA KINK IN MY HAIR – same as above. And same question – no idea if this piece had any shelf life.

ROMEO AND JULIET REMIXED – #4 with a bullet – the description says toss in glitter, glow sticks and throbbing house music. Add a club kid named Romeo, and a raver named Juliet. Mix in a DJ, a dance floor, and you’ve got Toronto’s most innovative environmental production ever! YOU WILL DANCE! content, language, gunshots, strobe lights, audience members may get wet! Too much! Too, too much!

OSCAR REMEMBERED  – I saw this, I don`t quite remember,  but I bet it broke Rule 1.Avoid dramaturgy. And that`s coupled with 2. Crappy Venue. If you didn’t, I apologize for my accusation. Still – crappy venue.Thank God Bruce liked it.
(Recommended)Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst St.
   Working from the excellent script by Montreal playwright Maxim Mazumdar, Denis Couillard ably performs this one-man show tracing the tragic downfall of Oscar Wilde from the perspective of the man who brought him down, Lord Alfred Douglas. Historically speaking, it was young Lord Douglas, nicknamed Bosie, who goaded Wilde into suing his own father for calling the flamboyant playwright and famous wit a “sodomite.” The subsequent trials led to Wilde’s imprisonment, disgrace and an ignominious and impoverished exile. But instead of exposing Bosie as the true villain he is, Couillard’s fey and affected portrayal, while unsympathetic, doesn’t generate the outrage in the audience that it should. – Bruce DeMara

PHONEY-   # 2 and “one woman mixed media” clearly violates #4. Again – thank God Bruce liked it.
(Recommended) Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst St.  A late bloomer to the comedy scene, Shelley Marshall presents herself in a one-woman mixed-media show filled with pathos and humour that doesn’t fully satisfy. At 30 minutes, it’s just long enough to give us a sense of Marshall’s comic talents, mostly seen on the screen behind her, which replays slices of her tragicomic earlier life. In fact, too much of the funniest stuff is on the screen, in the form of her acid-tongued old nanny, a man-hungry mother and Marshall as a young child with a mannish hairstyle and oversized glasses that cause everyone to mistake her for a boy. Starting out in frumpy pyjamas and fuzzy slippers, she eventually emerges from her chrysalis as a strong and happy adult through one of the most side-splitting onstage costume changes ever to grace the stage. Then all too soon, it’s over. A little longer and stronger and Marshall could become a real comic gem. –  Bruce DeMara

My point being besides poking fun at the article is  – go. See what you like. See what looks promising to you. Take a risk. It’s at the most an hour and a half and ten bucks. Stretch yourself. Use your imagination. Fringe.

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