news, updates, and conversations from Volcano Theatre

Friday, 19 June 2015

Recap: Finding the Right Fit, an artist development talk

From L to R: Adiyana Morris, Franco Boni, Mumbi Tindyebwa, and Ross Manson

Mondays in theatre are usually known as 'dark days,' being the one day of the week the theatre is closed. But those who came out on Monday, June 15 to Finding the Right Fit: How a Life in Art Happens were illuminated. A mixed group of theatre artists - youngish to oldish, students to working professionals, directors and arts administrators - came out to hear from three of Toronto's boldest artist directors.

Guest speakers, Franco Boni (Theatre Centre), Mumbi Tindyebwa (IFT Theatre), and Ross Manson (Volcano Theatre), happily shared their career experiences and industry tips for an hour long talk. Moderator Adiyana Morris, Volcano's current Metcalf Arts Management Intern, led the discussion in the upstairs lobby of The Theatre Centre.

The informal conservation included topics of mentorship, leadership, childhood ambitions and failure. Each question was framed by a famous and provocative quote to get the speakers and audience thinking. It was an engaging discussion that organically unraveled into an open discussion with the speakers asking each other questions and the audience following-up on statements.

Audiences members had good laugh

There were many highlights, including when Adiyana asked the speakers about their formative years and how they found themselves in theatre. Franco admitted to having no recollection of memories prior to Gr. 3 but from that point on he described himself as bossy and a natural organizer. Picturing Franco as a dictator-esque 3rd Grader got the conversation off to a great start. Yet is was even more interesting to find out that his first leadership position that had the most impact upon him was heading to the Rhubarb Festival, entrusted to him at age 28. Franco also spoke candidly about spearheading the $6.2 million capital campaign to house the brand new Theatre Centre. He admitted to constantly tackling challenges that can feel like day to day failures, but, all in all, his dedication to putting the art first is a testament to his successful career. 

Mumbi made great points around audience engagement and making theatre representative of the communities you are trying to attract. She believes that artists and producers should focus more about how their content relates to the audience than how much the ticket price is. Her example was that  the same person who you think can't afford your ticket is willing to shell out $100 for a Jay-Z concert..which goes for low and high income earners. Hence, it's less about price and all about demand.
Ross made an interesting analysis what he considered failure as an artistic director and conceptualized it in three ways: 1. failure of a project (which is sometimes a good thing if the idea inevitably doesn't float); 2. failure of a relationship between two peers or producing partners (which can really suck); and 3. failure of a one's ego (the suckiest of them all). His honesty put things in perspective in the realm of leadership and risk.

Who do you think had the last word...?!

The conversation closed with some useful tips. The speakers suggested that participants think about reaching out to a mentor they really admire, and to share a new idea with a peer sooner rather than later. Basically, best Monday ever!

A special thanks goes out the Theatre Centre for hosting the talk and all three (amazing) guest speakers!


Ross Manson will be leading The First Two Days: Utility, Respect and the Right Brain, a professional development course at The Volcano Conservatory (July 31 - August 2). To register and/or find out more about his course (and others) click HERE.

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