Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Creative State

I'm in some pretty intensive prep for the summer season right now. My workload could be a lot lighter if I just focused on finding talent and getting jobs crossed off my list, but as important as those things are I'm also forcing myself to spend more time in the creative state.

The creative state is the time when I'm not worring about the minutiae of production challenges (and there are always a lot of those). In the creative state I stop worrying and I start thinking not of what I still need but rather what can I do with what I have. I read plays, I think about them, and I see them coming to life in my mind's eye. I hear their soundtracks, I see the set, the props, the costumes. I light the stage, and I put actors upon it and see what they do.

I ask questions, to myself, to the world's greatest wife, to the cats, to the chickens, to anyone who will listen, and then I ask questions to myself once again. Sometimes I need an answer, sometimes I get a different answer than I'm expecting, and sometimes I find that the answer isn't going to be easy to come by, if not downright impossible to determine.

In the creative state I get ready to direct my plays, and to help my associate directors direct theirs. It's not always a wonderful place, but it can be and one day it will be. I didn't spend as much time in the creative state last year as I wanted to or should have - life got in the way, and the economy distracted me. This year things are going to be a lot different.

The next time you're tempted to veg out in front of the TV or try to make it the next level on World of Warcraft take some time to go to your creative state, and see what happens. I think you'll find, like me, that it's not a bad place to be.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Celebrate World Theatre Day with Grinder Productions

On Saturday, March 27th Grinder Productions will be holding its annual Open Auditions at the Ennotville Library.

Saturday, March 27th is also World Theatre Day!

Come on out to audition, to learn more about theatre around the world and how theatre can change minds, change communities, and change you for the better forever.

More details to follow. Call 519-780-7593 or e-mail grinder@grinderproductions.org to book your audition!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Summer Job Opening

I'm planning on hiring a post-secondary student this summer, after being contacted by the folks at Brock University. On the off-chance I don't get any takers I thought I'd post the job here as well, in case anyone's interested. There's not a lot of money to be made, but if you're interested in getting a TON of experience in Children's Theatre and Education this summer this could be an ideal position for you (or someone you know - please pass this on).

Summer Job Posting: Director of Children’s Programming

Grinder Productions is Centre Wellington’s most diverse live theatre company. We are seeking an energetic, positive, out-going person to assist us with our Children and Youth programs this summer. Most of the work involved in this position will be conducted at our signature summer venue, the Ennotville Historical Library, a 19th century community hall located in the tiny Hamlet of Ennotville, Ontario, between the town of Fergus and the city of Guelph.

This position will have two areas of responsibility.

  1. Cast, direct, design, produce and assist with the promotion of our Children’s Series, 10 one-act Children’s plays, one each Saturday from June 26th – August 28th.
  2. Conduct two drama camps for kids ages 8-12, one in July and one in August. Each camp will be four weeks long, and cover the basics of theatre/performance. May conclude with a small show.

The Ideal candidate for this position will have:

  • An exceptionally positive attitude
  • The ability to keep track of a large number of projects at one time
  • Previous experience in Children’s theatre
  • Previous experience in theatre production
  • Previous directing experience
  • A Police check (PRC) may also be required (we’re looking into this)

Start Date: The week of May 9th, with the start of rehearsals for show #1

End Date: The week of August 22nd, with the end of the summer season

Remuneration: This position will pay $200 per week.

You will need to attend our Open Auditions, on Saturday, March 27th in order to cast the shows. One or more meetings will also be required for production planning and curriculum development.

Please e-mail your resume and/or portfolio no later than March 1st to:

Eric and Julie Goudie

Creative and Executive Co-Directors

Grinder Productions

Telephone: 519-780-7593

E-mail: grinder@grinderproductions.org


Monday, January 25, 2010

Dreamin'

I read this great post by Deb Ng over at the Freelance Writing Jobs blog this morning entitled "What is your Dream Writing Job?" I've been reading Deb's blog for a few months now, so I'm starting to understand how her Dream Writing Job is coming true, but it was interesting to read the responses from commenters about their dream writing jobs.

Oddly enough, not everyone sees writing a best-seller as the fulfillment of their "writing dreams," though you'd be hard-pressed to find any writer who'd turn such recognition down. In fact, not everyone who's a writer actually wants to be one: some aspire to be editors, publishers or webmasters and writing is only a means to an end. The responses were both diverse and inspiring - a great many people had already reached their writing dreams and were living the life they had always wanted.

I was tempted to leave a response of my own. I tried, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't fit my "dream" into a three to five sentence comment on a blog. Here, a few hours and a generous dose of caffeine later and I still can't seem to do it.

Can the "job of your dreams" really be that simple when you're an entrepreneur, self-employed, a member of the creative economy and find it impossible to see the world in the black-and-white terms of self-help gurus, snake-oil salesmen and ideologically idiotic politicians?

I don't think it's a bad thing to have complicated dreams, or to accept that what you want today might not be what you want tomorrow. I've found that as I've gotten older my goals have coalesced a little bit - I no longer flit from one aim to another, and I tend to focus on more long-term goals than on short-term comforts.

I want many things, not all of them sane, rational or even meta-physically possible based on our current understaning of the universe and existence. The things I want don't necessarily make sense, and they don't necessarily complement each other - in fact some of them are outright contradictions.

Someone once said that life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. After almost 30 years of making plans I've almost gotten to where I can just catch a glimpse of life racing by (thanks, in large part, to the world's greatest wife).

So yeah, I'm going to keep on dreaming, probably, but I'm also going to keep on doing things in the here and now that make life better for myself, for her and for everyone else because, after all, life is the one dream we only get to wake up from once.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Season Poster

In case you've missed it...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Slow and Steady

I'm feeling a lot like the turtle these days. Winter on the farm, a never-ending bathroom renovation and no shows in rehearsal have really served to slow the speed of life down, if not the pace - I feel like I'm doing a lot of lugging around of stuff but when I look behind me it doesn't seem as if I've covered all that much ground.

These days it's crucial that I keep on the lookout for pit-falls that could knock me off by slow and determined course. Just because I can't see the finish line ahead of me doesn't mean that it's not there, it just means that I can't see it right now. Maybe it's because I'm spending so much time looking behind me, or maybe it's because I'm getting to the point in my life where I don't want it to be a race anymore, I want it to be a journey, one without a start/finish line, or a lot of markers along the way. Maybe I just want to enjoy the trip.

But we're not there yet. There's a season to bring to life, a writing career to establish, and a bathroom that always seems to be one job away from completion. This turtle is trying to go for a walk every day he can now, and here's hoping that by the time the snow melts and spring is upon us slow and steady will, once again, win the race.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lessons we learn

If you've read the newsletter (available here if you have been living under a rock for the past week) you'll know that we've got quite a bevy of plays coming up this summer.

Now I won't lie to you - 32 events over 10 weeks will represent a considerable new personal best for Grinder if we can pull it off. And while I'm optimistic about our prospects this year I hope no one mistakes this rather sizeable playbill for rash enthusiasm and foolish hope.

Our current season is built on the successes and failures of our past ones. We have had some great shows, and we have had miserable shows, and we have learnt things from all of them.

This summer we aren't doing any royalties-based projects - a lesson learned from coughing up our profit to Samuel French and Dramatists Play Service two summers ago. We will likely do royalty work again, but it's unlikely we'll commit to a dozen or more shows unless the costs come back down to a more reasonable level (which I highly doubt will happen).

This summer you'll also see more directors around the library, and more of yours truly out at the Belwood Hall. For some reason this seems to translate into more bums in seats all around. Personally I try to direct as little as possible, because I feel that other directors can give more time, effort and enthusiasm to a single project than I can to all of them at once. Another humble lesson learned.

So yes, it's 32 events (I hesitate to call them all plays, we do have some that are closer to concerts in nature). Yes, we're going to be busy, and yes, it will be a lot of work. Will we have 32 events next summer? I don't know. We might have more, we might have less, but whatever number we do end up with you'll know that it will have at least something to do with the lessons we learn.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Standby, Mackenzie - Chapter 1

This story will be published in 12 installments in the Grinder Productions newsletter in 2010, as well as here on the blog:


“Pipe comin’ in!”

Mackenzie was in the dressing room finishing her costume preset when LLG’s trademark innuendo reverberated through the theatre. By now the joke had gotten so old that she barely rolled her eyes – in fact she thought it a bit odd that LLG still even thought it was funny.

Just then a loud crash and the sound of shattering glassware rang out on stage. Mackenzie ran down the dressing room stairs and out on deck.

“Pipe’s in.”

Juan stood before her with a piece of aircraft cable in his hand. A large metal pipe lay across the heavy oak table that Mackenzie had just finished pre-setting, with the broken remnants of a 6-plate dinner setting scattered about the set. Little Cheese burst through the auditorium doors, with Marlene and Trudy following close behind.

“What the – oh $*&@!” cried Steven.

“Is everyone okay?” asked Marlene.

“What the *%^*! were you doing!” asked Steven, not waiting for an answer from either of them.

“I was just finishing my dressing room preset when I heard a crash,” Mackenzie quickly offered, hoping to defuse any rage Steven might be building up towards here.

Juan sheepishly raised his hand.

“I was preppin’ the cyc pipe for the turnover. I think I saddled a dead horse when I was doing the rigging.”

A long line of expletives came out of Steven’s mouth.

“Juan you’re not supposed to be doing any rigging! What have I told you about rigging – a little knowledge is a dangerous thing! You’re only to be working with stuff that can kill actors under my supervision! And Mackenzie, you should have known better than to do your preset while Juan was working on deck. A freakin’ gel frame would be enough to break one of those glasses.”

“But I waited as long as I could,” Mackenzie protested. “We’re almost at the half now.”

Steven glanced down at his watch and let out another string of profanity, just as the stage door opened and the cast hurried back in from dinner. The two actors stopped their infatuated giggling from their budding showmance when they saw the stage.

“Oh that’s not good,” said Devin.

“Uh - I’m going to go to my dressing room now,” said Cynthia.

Before they could move the house doors opened and a gaggle of ushers sashayed in, gossiping and laughing as they moved to the large stack of programs that needed stuffed with promotional flyers. Though they were too pre-occupied with the House Manager’s latest joke to take much notice, their guffawing snapped Steven back to reality.

“Okay, I’ll take this up with Big Cheese later. Juan, get that pipe out of here and then start cleaning up the deck. Sweep, vacuum, mop, scrub, lick it with your *&^#@!ing tongue, just make sure that there’s no pieces of broken anything on it – we have actors in barefoot. Mackenzie you go out to the props shop and get another set of dishes – don’t worry if they don’t match, just make sure we have something for everyone. I’ll bring the main rag in and we can open the house. I’ll go give the cast the half.”

“What happened to Marvin?” Mackenzie asked. Marvin was the stage manager – gay as a three-dollar-bill and a crusty, well-seasoned veteran of the theatre.”

“He quit,” said Marlene. “Nervous Breakdown. Now we’d all better get to work.”

And with no more explanation than that everyone did get to work.

Mackenzie ran to the props shop and quickly began filling a box with dishes, wine glasses and cutlery. She searched in vain for a floral centrepiece, finally settling for Hurricane lantern with a ceramic base that she thought might match the colour of the tablecloth.

What an insane three weeks it had been. The message was waiting for Mackenzie when she got home from writing her last-ever high-school exam: the Summer Theatre in town was looking for an Assistant Stage Manager for their first show. They had gotten her name from the Player’s Guild – would she be interested in getting some professional experience? Mackenzie wasn’t really looking for professional experience – after all she had only worked on about a half a dozen plays between school and the Guild – but she was looking for a summer job, and what better summer job could there be than working in a theatre?

When everyone else but her got a pay check at the end of her first week Mackenzie realized that she’d signed up for a summer of volunteering, or more specifically being “volun-told” that she didn’t know the first thing about theatre. But still Mackenzie wasn’t a quitter, and she knew enough about theatre that abandoning any show, amateur or professional, was one of the worst things you could do, so she had stuck it out for the entire run of the play, which in about twenty minutes would be going up for its final performance.

Mackenzie ran back through the stage door with her box of props in hand. She could hear the sounds of the pre-show music in the auditorium, mixed with the low-murmur of a Saturday night crowd that was just beginning to filter in. Loud guffaws from the coterie of ushers punctuated the noise.

The scene onstage was still one of chaos, with Juan, Marlene and Trudy all scouring the floor, carpet and furniture for any remnants of broken dinnerware, and Steven lying underneath the table, where a large and dangerous-looking crack had formed.

Mackenzie got to work setting the table, almost enjoying the rare chance to watch the others frantically working, too busy to critique her efforts or carry on their conversations in “theatre-speak” a language they knew full well she couldn’t understand them.

Juan, the House Tech, was better known around the theatre as LLG – the Latin Love God. It was a self-styled title that he’d come up with on his own, but it did suit him up to a point, if you counted one-nighters with inebriated college friends of the cast as “love.” He certainly looked Latino, and he certainly acted Latino, more Che Guevara than Ricky Martin. Between his political views, his mild-chocolate complexion and his disarming charisma Mackenzie couldn’t blame the three girls he’d been with in the past three weeks for being fooled. But after three weeks of seeing Juan’s true self – selfish, vain and just a little too creepy by half – she wasn’t about to let herself become conquest number four.

Marlene brushed past her with a dustpan full of broken china. She was the company’s General Manager, though she spent most of her time slaving away in the box office taking orders. She was one of those skinny old ladies with skin like boot leather that you wouldn’t dare cross in a million years. Right behind her, as always, was Trudy, the Marketing Manager. Trudy spent as much time in the box office as Marlene, but somehow just never seemed to handle the pressures of the job quite as well. Where Marlene would just step out for a smoke every 90 minutes or so Trudy was given to biting the skin off her lip, so much so that it would flake and bleed. To cover it up she was always liberally smattering on the lip balm, and Mackenzie often thought she smelled like a fruit stand.

Another epithet erupted from under the table as Steven rammed the drill bit into his finger. Steven was the Technical Director for the theatre, and the one who was ultimately in charge of getting this show up on time. Unlike LLG, Steven’s nick-name – Little Cheese – wasn’t one of his own choosing, and it was only ever used behind his back. He was little – just over five feet in height, and easily “cheesed,” or made angry. He was a career techie who’d already seen and done it all by the age of 25. He’d been a roadie for Our Lady Peace. He’d been a truss-spot op at the Oscars. He helped build the set for Titanic and he’d designed, built, lit, or been a grunt on more shows in the past ten years than most people do in a life-time. Somehow, though, all that experience hadn’t translated into a lot of skill, at least not enough to fix a broken table without resulting in swear words and a few drops of blood.

Despite the drama at the half everything was ready and the show did go up on schedule at 8pm, with Steven calling the show cold from Marvin’s prompt book. Everything went reasonably well, all things considered, and any closing night antics anyone had planned were quickly and mercifully forgotten. At intermission Mackenzie was able to finish her preset in record time, and had just completed double checking it when Steven showed up backstage.

“Big Cheese wants to see you outside,” he said.

The Big Cheese. Frank. Frank was the Artistic Director and the undisputed head of the company. Marlene might have got stuck with all the dirty work but it was Frank who called the shots. Like Steven no one dared call Frank “Big Cheese” to his face. In addition to being quite sensitive about his ongoing weight problems Frank could be an absolute monster at times, and anyone who got on his bad side wasn’t going to last long – either in the company or on the planet. Mackenzie had made a point of staying out of his way as much as she could for the last few weeks. Tonight, after the strike, when she was planning to tell Steven and Marlene that she wasn’t interested in helping out with the next show, she was really, really, really hoping that Frank would be out partying with the cast.

“Hi Macky,” Frank said, surprisingly affable. “How’s the show going?”

“Good,” she replied, unsure if Frank was aware of the pre-show excitement.

“I guess you heard about Marvin.”

“Yeah – that’s too bad. Marvin was so nice.”

“Yeah, he was, wasn’t he? I really wish we could have had him all summer. Now I know you have to get back before the second half starts, but I need to ask you a question: are you interested in making a little money and working for us for the rest of the summer?”

Mackenzie’s heart skipped a beat.

“You want to offer me a job?”

“Yeah – we need a stage manager for the next show. I can clear it with the union. We’ll pay you union rates – works out to about a grand a week.”

“A grand a week?”

“Hey – actors and directors starve and struggle. Stage Managers get rich and drive BMW’s. If you’re interested I need to know by the end of the show.”

Friday, January 15, 2010

Finding the Grinder in the Grumblings

If you're a regular reader here you may have noticed that over the last little while the postings have had more and more to do with my writing life and less and less to do with my theatre life at Grinder Productions. I'd like to assure you all today that this imbalance is only a temporary one, partially brought on by the season, and partially brought on by my continued attempts to make this year the year I finally break free of the financial chains that are holding me back.

Theatre is hard work - anyone in the business will tell you that. It's even harder if you're trying to make money at it, as I am unabashed-ly doing. So far, I have been utterly unsuccessful in that attempt, so to make up the difference I must write as much and as often as I can, both to earn my keep and to drive down the costs of future productions. I believe that 2010 is the year where we'll finally see a "flip" of sorts: the money, however small that comes in, will be enough to pay the bills and eradicate the debts. When that flip occurs a lot of good things will start to happen, and you'll see me blogging more about our increased capacity, production values and jam-packed audiences.

I'll always keep on writing (little known fact - I was actually a writer before I'd ever entertained the notion of going into the theatre) but it will take on a quieter, more reflective role in my life - the unwinder instead of the breadwinner, and that's when there'll be more Grinder in the Grumblings than you've been seeing lately.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Plays for sale

Want to own a copy of your favourite Grinder Play? Check out our online storefront at Lulu.com, and purchase download-able or print copies of Home Farm, Muzzle Blast, All My Sins Remembered and many other classic Grinder plays. Also available is Tech Theatre 101, an indespensable resource for anyone in charge of getting a play from the page to the stage.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My zone on Helium

Check out this zone I built a while back on Helium - lots of good advice and information!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Calling all bloggers

Hello fellow bloggers!

I'm trying to put together a list of the Grinder members who blog, as well as other bloggers who aren't members who find this blog interesting and informative. My goal is to put together a "Grinder Blogs" list and include it in the newsletter, as well as help me keep up-to-date about what all of you are up do.

Please leave me a URL in the comments section, or shoot me an e-mail at grinder@grinderproductions.org.

Thanks!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Working on the Website

A few months ago I mentioned that I've created a portion of the Grinder website dedicated to resources for helping actors called "The Actor's Toolbox." I'm currently working on expanding that to include resources for all aspects of theatre, from directing to designing to tech to theatre management, etc. Is there anyone out there who knows of some good resources they think I should include?

Links in the comment section, or e-mail grinder@grinderproductions.org.

Thanks!

PS - Visit www.grinderproductions.org to see the toolbox in its current state!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year's Message from Grinder

Before I sat down to write my New Year's greeting for 2010 I went back into the archives and read through the previous posts that kicked off 2008 and 2009. It was both illuminating and humbling to read those posts that seem so long ago yet really weren't, and a little bit embarrassing, I must confess, to read some of the silly things that I wrote.

Okay, so not all of it was silly. In fact, I think my post in the beginning of 2009 made a lot more sense than my post in the beginning of 2008. 2009 was the first year I entered at least partially filled with hope.

So what about 2010? Now that we're through the "naughts" and into the "teens" I really feel like we've arrived in a distant and exotic future time, one that seemed unreal when I was a child.

Time magazine has put out a special edition on they 20th anniversary of 1989, the year of such monumental change that it has in many ways created the world we live in today. In case you missed it (as I very nearly did) 1989 marked the fall of communism in Europe, the Tiannamen Square massacre, the beginning of the end of apartheid in South Africa and the birth of a little thing called HTML and the World Wide Web.

Twenty years later it truly is a different world, a different reality, a different game. Twenty years later the boy who was too young to firmly grasp what he was seeing on his brand-new colour TV has become the man eager to grab hold of the limitless potential this astounding new world. In 1989 there were no bloggers. No locavores, texting, sexting or Blu-ray. No fast, easy, free communication, no seamless networks, no digital platforms from which anyone could, with more brains than money, build, create or become almost anything that could be interfaced through a screen, a keyboard and a mouse.

I started off 2009 with hope. I'll start off 2010 with optimism. Yes, vast challenges lay ahead, as they always do, and it would be foolish to wish them away. But there's so, so much reason to not just be hopeful, but to be optimistic, to believe that this is the year that will go down as the one where things really started to take flight.

Happy New Year!