Thursday, October 21, 2010

5-Year Plan

In my last post I announced our upcoming 2011 Season which is an exciting new development for us. The past couple of years we've done 2 shows per year but it wasn't in any attempt to have an "official" season. We've been more of a project-based organization. And, for the most part, I've kind of been flying by the seat of my pants. Honestly. I just kind of make it up as I go along for the most part. I mean I've had short term goals or goals for a particular production but nothing really long term.

Almost 2 years ago I had someone ask me what my long range goals for Twenty-Something were and I literally stared at them blankly and then mumbled something-or-other about not really having thought about it much. And, back then it was the truth. It wasn't until about January/February of this year when I actually started to think long term. Now I've started to put in motion a 5-year plan that will hopefully (*knocks on wood*) take Twenty-Something Theatre to a new stage in its development.

Part of Stage 1 (Years 1-3 in the 5-year plan) is having an official season and the reason for having an official season is so that we can continue to develop our audiences. There are people that come to see all our productions. So, like other theatre companies, we want to be able to offer those people - and all audiences - the opportunity to save money by "subscribing" to our season.

So, on that note, we've got an amazing deal: a 3-Ticket Flex pass that you can use as 1 ticket per show (or bring 2 friends to see a show or see one show 3 times) and save 15%!!

Regular $54
Under 35 (with valid id) $43
Seniors (with valid id) $43
Preview $25

Click Here to Get Tickets

That starts at as little as $8 per ticket! So, help us continue to develop our audience base by "subscribing" to our amazing 2011 season.

Thank you, to those of you who have been there from the beginning and, welcome, to those of you who may be new to Twenty-Something this year. I think it's going to be an awesome year!

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Thursday, October 14, 2010

2011 Season

Drum roll please....

1) SPOTLIGHT: Nocturne by Adam Rapp and featuring Troy Anthony Young.

February 22nd - February 27th

"Rapp uses subtle, sensuous, bold and funny language...So detailed and poetic is the writing...that we buy and are powerfully moved by the whole thing." --New York Post

Adam Rapp's highly acclaimed play Nocturne begins as a former piano prodigy recounts the tragic events that tore his family apart. At only 17 years old the young man leaves home and sets out for New York City where he seeks an uneasy refuge in books and he reinvents himself as a writer. Throughout the next decade and a half he tries to cope with the ramifications of his own anguish and estrangement while making a desperate search for redemption. With a keen eye for human relationships and a deft ear for language, Rapp explores the aftershock of an unimaginable event.

2) WORLD PREMIERE: Prodigals by Sean Minogue. Directed by Peter Boychuk.

May 3rd - May 14th

“There’s an ache that runs through this play, and it’s about the difficulty of negotiating the terrain between adventure and compromise…Minogue is a promising writer” --Colin Thomas, Georgia Straight

(Cast from the 2010 workshop production at the Havana)

After a sold-out & critically acclaimed workshop production Prodigals returns for its official World Premiere. Set in a small bar in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, six young underachievers await the results of a murder trial that’s hit close to home. Their world of drinking, sarcasm and missed opportunities is flipped upside down when a former friend returns from Toronto to testify in the trial, reopening old wounds and creating some new ones as well.

3) SUMMER: Tough! by George F. Walker

August 23rd - September 4th

“Walker has an eye for the ridiculous and an imagination that packs his plays with action”
--New York Times

Bobby and Tina are nineteen. Bobby gets caught cheating. Tina finds out she’s pregnant. Jill, Tina’s best friend, hates Bobby and welcomes the opportunity to kick his ass. Sometimes life is tough. First written in 1993 this dark comedy by George F. Walker is a wrenchingly funny, painful, and honest depiction of the conflicting desires and troubled relationships that continue to epitomize young people today.

See you at the theatre!

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

VIFF 2010

So, if you’ve been following along with my blog for awhile you’ll remember that last year I gushed about a TIFF film called Cole which was directed by Carl Bessai. So, this year when I found out he was coming to VIFF with not one but two films I bought tickets immediately.

When I tell people who don’t know me or aren’t part of the community - you know “regular” people - what I do for a living I usually get “oh, like in film and tv” and then I have to explain to them that, no, actually, in something called the the-a-tre. After that there is always an awkward silence. At this point I just find it funny whereas I used to find it annoying. Because many people who know me know that working in films or tv is not my ultimate destination. I know shocker right?! I’m kind of a theatre purist in that way.

But after seeing Cole last year and hearing them talk about the making of the films it made me start to think a bit differently about it. Now, I’m not saying I’m going to up and leave the theatre industry to pursue Hollywood. I’m just saying that if the opportunity came along to work on the right project. A project like Cole. I might consider it.

Because the thing is when you hear Carl Bessai talk about filmmaking - which I’ve now had the pleasure of hearing three times - you can see that it isn’t about celebrity or being famous (which is what I equate with most Hollywood film and television projects) its about making great art. It just so happens that his medium is film. He’s a storyteller just like the rest of us. And I happen to really like his stories.

The first weekend of VIFF I went to the screening of Carl Bessai film #1: Fathers and Sons. Jay Brazeau, who many of you will know from the Vancouver theatre scene, is hysterical. He plays a Russian (I believe) father to Ben Ratner’s son and in one scene they have a knife fight that is amazing. This film is much different than Cole in that it is made through collective creation. Something we hear a lot about in the theatre world. They do this in films too? Who knew?! So all the scenes are improvised around a central theme which is the relationship of Father to Son (or vice versa). It’s funny and poignant and has a very raw feel to it. It’s been so popular that they’ve actually added an additional screening on the 15th of October at 11:20. So go check it out. You won’t regret it.

This past weekend I went to Carl Bessai film #2: Repeaters. One of the films three leads is Richard De Klerk who also played the lead in Cole (The one thing you’ll notice about Carl Bessai films is he recycles a lot of the same actors) and also helped to produce the film. This time instead of Lytton for Cole they used Mission for Repeaters. And they all moved out there to make the film and had their offices in an old Residential School building they used to shoot the film. And again, they just went out and drove around to find cool locations and stumbled upon a BC Ferries junkyard that plays a part in the final scene of the movie. It's a pretty intense thriller and there is another screening of this film on Thursday, October 14th at 6:30pm so I won't spoil it for you.

When you hear Carl and the actors talk about making the films they speak like they are a small family. And, I like that. Because that is exactly what I love about theatre. The intimacy. The small intense amount of time you spend with people creating and telling stories. And, if that same feeling can be translated to the filmmaking process, then that is a process I might want to be a part of some day.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I Hate Halloween

Hello, my name is Sabrina, and I’m a costume designer that hates Halloween. There I said it. Halloween is probably my least favourite day of the year. Some of you hate Valentine's Day well I hate Halloween. Okay, maybe “hate” is a strong word but “strongly dislike” could be appropriate.

Maybe you can trace it back to being traumatized as a kid when I got chicken pox twice on Halloween and couldn’t go out trick or treating. (The doctors like to tell us that once you get chicken pox you are immune. Well I’m living proof that’s a bold-face lie.) Maybe it is because I have a deep-rooted fear of all horror movies involving someone being possessed by the devil. (Blood and Guts. All Good. Scary Devil. Bad.) Who knows?! All I know is that I "strongly dislike" a once-a-year day that most people love.

Every year around the beginning of October, I get the same question, mostly from people who don’t know me very well or I’ve just recently met. I tell them I’m a costume designer and they ask “What are you going to be for Halloween?” eyes wide with anticipation that I’m going to announce some phenomenal costume that will blow their minds. And when I say “you know, I haven’t really given it much thought” they look at me as though I’m crazy. Okay, call me crazy, but I haven’t been thinking about what I’m going to be for Halloween since November 1st of the previous year because I’ve spent the past year worrying about costumes for a variety of other projects. So, I’m sorry to disappoint, but my Halloween costume falls to approx #99 on a list of 100 things I need to do in a year.

So, yes, part of the reason, I "strongly dislike" Halloween is that I spend most of my year making costumes as a job. Yes, I love my work. But, when it comes to my time off, the idea of coming up with and/or making another costume is about as appealing as… drinking piss. Okay, maybe not that bad, but it is definitely not high on the list of the things I would choose to do because to me it just feels like more work.

But part of it is also that Halloween in many respects isn’t really about the costumes anyways. For most young people, it’s just another reason to party or for girls to dress up like whores. (Wow, I’m officially starting to sound old). Again, call me crazy, but my top priority in life isn’t deciding whether this year I’m going to be a slutty nurse or a slutty school girl…or a slutty witch or a slutty…okay, you get the picture. Halloween is generally not about making up a creative costume. For girls it’s about doing the one thing you can’t do the rest of the year without risking social judgement and that is wearing lingerie as actual clothing. And, for the guys, well hell, I think that is pretty self-explanatory (read above statement).

All you need to do is a search in Google Images for ‘Halloween Costumes” and you will find among many other examples this:

So, no, I haven’t given my costume much thought. Well that’s a lie because the truth is I haven’t given my costume any thought. The truth is I probably won’t even dress up. Yes, folks, sometimes the truth hurts.

And, the truth is, I hate Halloween.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Monday, October 4, 2010

Choosing A Season

What have we done in the past? What haven’t we done in the past? What did we do last year? What were themes we explored in the last production? What themes haven’t we explored? What themes would I like to explore? What are our goals for the future? What plays will help us reach those goals?

And so on and so forth…

These are only just a fraction of the questions that go through my mind when choosing plays. Choosing a season is hard. So, when I am critical of other companies and their play choices, I get how difficult it can be. And, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for larger companies who have boards and subscribers to answer to.

It is easy to choose the first play your company ever does because usually you start the company in order to do a play that’s been nagging at you in the back of your mind. You really want to do such and such a play so you start a company. That’s the easy part. The hard part is actually putting on that first production.

The second play you do is still easy enough because I guarantee if you had that first idea to do such and such a play then play “B” is not sitting too far behind such and such a play in the back of your mind. And, the second time you produce a play, the producing part gets a little easier because you’ve done it once, learned from your mistakes or missteps (hopefully) and are ready to do it again.

But eventually at some point, you will inevitably run out of plays that have been sitting in the back of your mind because other people have done them by now or they just aren’t right for your company or whatever. And, then it is not so easy any more.
Because as your company grew over the years, it established a mandate and a set of goals & criteria that reflects that mandate so, now when you choose a play, it is not just about ‘oh, that’s a cool play, I’d really like to do it’ any more, it’s about asking yourself all those hard questions.

Sometimes it can still be easy. You can happen upon a play that just speaks to you and also happens to answer all your questions and fit the criteria. But more often then not it is hard. You read plays upon plays upon plays and it is not that you dislike those plays but for one reason or another they don’t quite fit. So you make the best choice you can at that time and hope and pray that it works out. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. Not every choice you make as an Artistic Director/Producer is going to hit it out of the park. That is a given.

So all you can hope for is that the majority will be “successful” (by the set of criteria or goals you have chosen that makes it a success not just monetary success). And, that when a play or production is not as successful as hoped that you go back and assess the “why’s and how’s” and use that information in the choices you make in the future.

Coming up with our very first official season of plays (announcement to come soon), was definitely a bit of a challenge. First because through the years we’ve established the winter spotlight production that features one emerging (there’s that term again) artist. First year of the series: easy. I knew exactly the play I wanted to do and I knew exactly the actor I wanted to do it. Second & third year: still fairly easy because they all started with an initial idea. But this year after a three-year cycle of putting a spotlight on an actor, director and then playwright, I decided it was time to come back to an actor.

So, you see, without really meaning to, I established a set of criteria for myself that I have to now follow. I need to find a one-person play (and an actor to do it) that also fits the mandate of the company. Not as easy as just choosing a play because I like it.

The new spring production was easy (not even easy, a given) and is basically the reason we are moving into a 3-show season. You can probably guess what that production is and if you can’t you’ll just have to wait for it.

So, onto our third and final show for the year, our annual summer production. This one was the hardest. As it should be. We’ve got five years under our belt. So, that means there is a lot more to take into consideration before I make my decision. What did we do this past year? What have we done in the past 5 years? What haven’t we done? If for this year I want to do a Canadian play then that narrows the selection pool down. If I want to do a play with younger characters after doing Blue Surge because the characters in that play were on the high end of our target demographic then that narrows the selection pool even further. These are just a fraction of the types of things I consider when making my choices. Again, it’s not just a matter of “Oh, I like that play” any more. It has become a lot more complicated than that. And, I can only anticipate that it will get harder and more complicated as the years go on.

This upcoming year we’ve established a 3-show season, and if I would like to continue with that the following year, then what?! I’ve got to choose 3 plays based on a set of criteria that have been established over the years. The craziest part is that I haven’t even announced this coming year’s season and I am already thinking about the following year. Choosing a season is hard. I can’t imagine having to choose and balance 6 shows per year or god forbid 17 shows like they are doing at the Arts Club (6 at the Stanley, 5 at the GI, 3 at the new Revue and 3 Touring) this year. That gives me heart palpitations just thinking about it.

Anyways, no need to give myself a heart attack at the moment, I’ve chosen the plays for our upcoming season. That is done. Now I’m just working out a few of the logistics. Then, the exciting part, official announcement time.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Friday, October 1, 2010

EAA (Emerging Adult and Artist)

If you are anything like me you are sick to death of the term “Emerging Artist”. Well, unfortunately, we all better get used to the word “Emerging” because a new term has been coined to describe the 20-something crowd and that term would be the “Emerging Adult”.

Sean (playwright for Prodigals) sent me an article back in August that appeared in the New York Times called “What is it about 20-Somethings?”. I was too busy back then to take the time to actually read it properly but I knew it was something I wanted to address because what this article discusses is at the very core of why I created Twenty-Something Theatre.

Back then I had no idea that the notion of “Emerging Adulthood” was even being discussed. All I knew was that as a 25-year old there were some things that I was going through in my life that were very specific to me and my friends and I had the idea to put on production that reflected our lives on stage. What became of that idea was our inaugural production of This Is Our Youth.

Reading this article on “Emerging Adulthood” and looking back at This Is Our Youth, I have a new appreciation for the play and the playwright because it appears that Mr. Lonergan was way ahead of his time. Lonergan wrote the play in 1996 yet Jeffery Jenson Arnett (the coiner of the term “Emerging Adult”) didn’t publish his first article on the subject until 2000 in the American Psychologist. Originally a fellow by the name Kenneth Keniston (what is with these scholars and their alliterative names) declared “a new stage of life” in the American Scholar in 1970 and he called it “youth”.

“In the late 60’s, Keniston wrote that there was a ‘growing minority of post-adolescents [who] have not settled the questions whose answers once defined adulthood: questions of relationship to the existing society, questions of vocation, questions of social role and lifestyle’.” And, moreover, among the many characteristics of “youth” the most important was a “pervasive ambivalence toward self and society”. If that doesn’t describe the characters in “This Is Our Youth” or a most of the characters we’ve explored throughout the past 5 year then I don’t what does.

So what does this new stage in development mean for theatre? Well, back in April, Aslam (Eliot in Prodigals) articulated in his guest blog post what I have believed for many years. I’m paraphrasing but he basically talked about how he views Twenty-Something Theatre as a continuation of the work done by TYA Theatres (Theatre for Young Audiences) such as Green Thumb Theatre or Carousel Theatre.

Erik Erikson (again with the alliteration) developed in 1950 a highly regarded life cycle model that is based on the 8 stages of human development: infant (0 – 1.5 yrs), toddler (1 – 3 yrs), preschool (3 – 6 yrs), school age (5 – 12 yrs), adolescence (9 – 18 yrs), young adulthood (18 – 40 yrs), mid-adulthood (30 – 65 yrs) & late-adulthood (50+). In 1966 the Young Peoples Theatre, now known as the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, was formed and is Canada’s largest TYA company. Carousel Theatre was formed in 1974 with Green Thumb following suit in 1975.

All three of these companies are dedicated to producing theatre for toddlers thru to adolescents which covers approx 18 years of life while the rest of the theatre-producing world generally targets the rest. The rest being what many like to refer to as the general theatre-going population - which with the average life expectancy in Canada being approximately 81 years - covers the next 63+ years of life. Doesn’t this seem a little odd to anyone else?

Even then these TYA Theatres break down their shows even further and specifically designate certain shows as being suitable for or appealing to a certain age bracket. For example, if you go to the LKTYP web page for their 2010-2011 season you will note that all the production are listed by date and then under the date the grade range. Or, Green Thumb has their 2010-2011 season of plays listed as either elementary or secondary. Why do they do this? Because it is a well known and accepted fact that a 5 or 6 year old has different needs then a 15 or 16 year old.

This may seem obvious to us now but the addition of a new stage in life called “Adolescence” only came into existence in 1904 when G. Stanley Hall published a massive study on the subject. Hall’s original book had its flaws but it “marked the beginning of the scientific study of adolescence and helped to lead to its eventual acceptance as a distinct stage of life with its own challenges, behaviours and biological profile”. Then recently Arnett began to believe that something similar was happening with those in their late teens and into their twenties and that Erikson’s model that defined “young adulthood” as between the ages of 18-40 might be too broad because “the 20’s are something different from the 30’s and 40’s”.

As the NY Times article discusses “The 20’s are a black box and there is a lot of churning in there. One-third of people in their 20’s move to a new residence every year. 40% move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of 7 jobs in their 20’s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever. The median age at first marriage in the early 70’s, when the baby boomers were young, was 21 for women and 23 for men; by 2009 it had climbed to 26 for women and 28 for men, 5 years in a little more than a generation.”

Furthermore, the article goes on to discuss how we’re in a “changing timetable for adulthood” because traditionally adulthood was marked by 5 milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. “In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men, had by the time they reached 30, passed all five milestones” while according to data from the US Census among 30 year olds in 2000 “fewer than half of the women and one-third of the men had done so”. Plus closer to home a Canadian study said that a “typical 30-year-old in 2001 had completed the same number of milestones as a 25 year old in the 70’s.”

Take me for example: I just turned 30 in June. I am not married nor do I find it likely that I will get married in the near future. I don’t have any children. And, I have definitely completed 2 of the 5 milestones: I completed school and I left home. I tentatively could say 3 out of 5, if at this point in my life I considered being an artist financially stable, but I’m just going to err on the side of cautious here and go with a good solid 2.5 out of 5. Wow, so according to this study, I’m not very “adult”. I’m actually approx 50% of an adult. You could call me a… wait for it… an “Emerging Adult”.

Henceforth I would like to be referred to in writing as “Sabrina Evertt, BFA, EAA” (EAA = Emerging Artist and Adult). Thank you.

Even though this milestone method of determining adulthood is a little dated (Really?! thank you for pointing that out NY Times writer Mr. Robin Marantz Hening) because it doesn’t include those who are single or childless by choice or unable to marry even if they wanted to because they’re gay (yet another reason why Canada rocks!); however, it is becoming increasingly clearer that getting to what is generally thought of as adulthood is happening later than ever. Psychologists and academics are all starting to believe that “what we’re seeing…is the dawning of a new life stage” and in the same way society adjusted to the emergence of “Adolesecence” society will also need to adjust to the idea of the “Emerging Adult”.

This includes creating theatre that speaks to a new generation of 20-year olds who have different needs now then they did a generation or two ago and why theatre for “Emerging Adults” in my opinion could be seen as the new TYA. And why, “Twenty-Something Theatre” is in many ways a continuation of the work that begins with theatres like Green Thumb or Carousel. It is about telling stories that address the needs and wants of a specific stage in life.

“Just as adolescence has its particular psychological profile, Arnett says, so does emerging adulthood: identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a rather poetic characteristic he calls ‘a sense of possibilities’. A few of these, especially identity exploration, are part of adolescence too, but they take on new depth and urgency in the 20’s. The stakes are higher when people are approaching the age when options tend to close off and lifelong commitments must be made. Arnett calls it ‘the age 30 deadline’”.

I think Jennifer, who is quoted in the NY Times article (from her original article that appeared something called the “20 something Manifesto”), sums it up perfectly by saying “It’s somewhat terrifying… to think about all the things I’m supposed to do be doing in order to ‘get somewhere’ successful: ‘Follow your passions, live your dreams, take risks, network with the right people, find mentors, be financially responsible, volunteer, work, think about or go to grad school, fall in love and maintain personal well-being, mental health and nutrition,’ When is there time to just be and enjoy?” Many 20-somethings struggle to “figure it all out” and with all the options that we have today as opposed to a few generations ago its no wonder that many 20-somethings postpone “adulthood”.

So, it looks like, whether society likes it or not, “Emerging Adulthood” may just be here to stay and because of this we need to start thinking of ways in the theatre world as to how we can understand this new stage in life and adapt accordingly. Creating theatre companies like Twenty-Something Theatre that specifically targets that stage in life is one way but there are plenty more opportunities out there just waiting for forward-thinking theatre-makers to jump on.

I know, in the theatre world, we talk about “audience development” all the time and you might ask how this is any different. This is different because it comes at it from a different approach. It isn’t about sitting around dreaming up ways we can get young people into the theatre that already exists. It’s about creating theatre for young people that doesn’t already exist.

In the same way that TYA Theatres split up their programming to suit the needs of specific age or grade ranges that have different needs so too wouldn’t it make sense to create general theatre programming that targets specific age ranges or stages in life. I doubt anyone would disagree that a 20 year old is at a different stage of life than a 40 year old.

Or, theatre companies who have two stages could use their Studio stage (or “B” series of shows) for programming that is geared towards a “20-something” crowd. This doesn’t mean that all audiences won’t show up and enjoy it. It just means that you are being specific about who you are targeting and why.

Because, at the end of the day, in order to appeal to us 20-somethings (I say “us” even though technically I’m now a 30-something but only by approx 5 months) you are going to have to come to us because we definitely aren’t coming to you. We are too busy trying to “figure it all out” and “follow our dreams” and be “financially responsible” and “fall in love” and “maintain personal well-being, mental health and nutrition” (that includes alcohol, right?! Red wine is okay, right?!) all the while maintaining a healthy ambivalence and optimism towards the whole thing.

Wow, I’m exhausted just writing about it, so I’m going to go and put an end to this extremely long post because, well, looks like I've got stuff to figure out because I just hit that “age 30 deadline” and technically that means I should have it already figured out. Hmmmm…better get on that.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

***Read the entire NY Times article here