#311 – Indie Theatre Roundtable with The Red Sandcastle and The Assembly Theatre

The Red Sandcastle is a 50 seat storefront theatre, where Anything is Possible! In May of 2011, Rosemary Doyle opened the RED Sandcastle Theatre, with the intent of giving theatre artists a canvas. That feeling that Anything is Possible! has become a reality with 922 Queen Street East acting as an artistic hub to rent for creators in theatre, dance, visual art, and music. The Red Sandcastle is managed by the Eldritch Theatre team of Eric Woolfe and Adrianna Prosser.

Instagram: @redsandcastletheatre

The Assembly Theatre provides independent and emerging artists with affordable performance space, and is always actively seeking new modes of outreach in order to better prioritize its use by under-represented and marginalized artistic communities. Co-artistic Directors Luis Fernandes and Cass Van Wyck keep the vision clear and the community thriving.

Twitter: @assemblytheatr_
Instagram: @assemblytheatre

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Phil Rickaby: Welcome to Stageworthy. I’m Phil Rickaby, the host of this podcast. Here’s a question that I’ve been thinking about for a while. Just what is the theatre community? We often talk about the quote unquote theatre community. What does the community think about this? What is the community doing about this?

And I love the idea of the theatre community, but often a moment after I talk about the theatre community, I find myself wondering what exactly is the community and how do I find it? Because a community is a social unit with a commonality, like a, an identity or a religion or values or, or passions. Or in the case of the theatre world of vocation, but a community needs to be a social unit.

Now I live in Toronto, which is a pretty big city for theatre, but there are small pockets of theatre all over this city. Lots of theatre clique’s for want of a better word. There are some names that everyone knows, and a lot of names that might be known within a single clique, but might not be known in another.

The problem with these clique’s is that they are both the theatre community and not, they are the community because for the people involved in that group, that’s their community, but they are not the community because they’re a small group for the larger theatre community. That’s something that’s more complicated to describe.

When I think about the theatre community, when I’ve asked people to tell me what they think about when they think of the theatre community in Toronto, the only thing they seem to be able to think of is the fringe tent or the patio or whatever we’re calling it. Now, fringe seems to be the one time of year when the theatre world comes together and forms a community.

We gather, we have a few drinks, we have some conversation. We talk about the amazing theatre we’ve seen. We talk about the things that we’re working on. We hang out and just enjoy being with other theatre people. And for 10 ish days, we have this place that we go. And when it’s over, that’s pretty much the end of the community for the year, because it’s the only time we seem to gather as a group.

When I first came to Toronto, when I first started hanging out and being in the world of Toronto as an adult, I learned that there was a bar called the Green Room and I assumed that was the theatre bar. And I thought to myself how amazing it was that there was this place where all the performers and other theatre people in Toronto could go and hang out.

Well, imagine my surprise and disappointment when I discovered that it was just a bar. Occasionally you would find some theatre people there, but it was not a theatre bar. And I think about New York city, where there have been restaurants that were integral to the theatre world, like the Edison cafe, sadly, no longer with us and a cursory Google search assures me that there are other cafes and restaurants that are theatre centric where people go, we don’t have that here.

There are a few places that have become central to the theatre scenes in cities here and there. At least during the fringe season, someone will have to let me know if they’re theatre hubs all year long in Winnipeg. The Kings Head becomes the bar of choice for fringe casts and crews. And in Edmonton, the performers shunned the beer tents and instead head to Steel Wheels.

But to my knowledge, these places, these hubs of the theatre community are temporary and mostly related to the local fringe scene, but it would be great to have a place that could be more of a regular gathering place, where we could talk about things happening in the theatre world, where we could meet where we could have community instead of making Twitter, our theatre commons, because Twitter is no place for discourse, but when we have no place to gather on the regular, how can we be a theatre community, I guess in the end, I don’t have an answer because I still don’t know what the theatre community is.

It’s something we talk about as though it was a thing and every now and then we get a taste of what it could be and then it’s gone, but I long for it. And maybe you do too. The only question is what do we do about that?

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And if you want to find me, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @philrickaby, and as I mentioned, my website is philrickaby.com. This week, I talked to folks from two of Toronto’s most vibrant indie theater spaces, The Red Sandcastle, and The Assembly Theatre. First, the inimitable Adrianna Prosser, who is one half of the Eldritch Theater team who took over the management of the Red Sandcastle just last fall.

And also joining me are Cass Van Wyck and Luis Fernandez. The dynamics duo who keep the assembly theater afloat. Both theaters have had their ups and downs during these pandemic years, but both of them have heroically managed to keep the doors open. Despite the hardship, they joined me to talk about what it’s been like, keeping the doors open, what the future holds for the indie scene, how it could be better supported and so much more.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit of light about, the indie theater scene. As it, as it relates to Toronto specifically, but just the indie theater scene across Canada, because we have Toronto theater companies that are represented here. I thought that, that, you know, we’ll talk mostly about Toronto, but I think it affects other places in Canada as well.

The ecosystem of indie theater seems, well, it seems, it seems a bit shabby. And by that, I mean that, there aren’t enough truly Indy spaces. I look at, I heard somebody talk about the indie scene in Chicago, for example, where there’s like all of these storefront theaters. And, and it’s just like this thriving community and in Toronto where we have essentially two storefront theaters, People as representatives of, of essentially the only two currently running independent spaces in Toronto.

What is, what do you agree that it, that the, that the scene doesn’t look so hot right now?

Luis Fernandes: Yeah, I’ll, I’ll start off by saying, I mean, the world doesn’t look so hot right now. So, I would, I can’t think of anything other than maybe, Amazon that is doing super awesome right now. So, yeah, I mean, I would say that that that’s a true statement.

But I think that’s more of a global thing than it is necessarily about any theaters.

Phil Rickaby: I mean, just if we were to think just to, to jump, to think a little bit, previous to, the, the pandemic I would also, at that time have said that, the indie theater scene. The truly indie theater scene didn’t look so great.

As far as the, the truly in these spaces, that we really, at the time before the pandemic started, we really still only had a grand canyon assembly and the red sand castle, I believe, as far as though those available and independent spaces went. So even there, we were sort of stuck in this situation where there’s not a lot of options for independent theater in this.

Luis Fernandes: Yeah. I mean, I mean, that’s, that’s more, I think, to say, I mean, in terms of artists creating theater, you know, I could, I would argue that before the pandemic, you know, there were a lot of different groups and people doing amazing work and stuff like that. I think that what we’re talking about here, which is spaces specifically, and there were a few that you didn’t mention there, like the attic and things like that.

Cause there are a few more than what was mentioned, but ultimately spaces, if we’re talking with spaces that that’s an issue and that has more to do with commercial rent, I would say. And, and, and, and lack of funding for artists in general. I would say I would, I would agree with you there, but I, I don’t know a time when there was a situation where even when spaces were doing well in the heyday of like the unit one oh twos and the storefront theaters, a time when money, funding and month to month sort of survival, wasn’t a thing. So, you know, I, I don’t, I mean, there’s two ways of looking at it. I think there’s always been a vibrant scene in terms of art being creative in, in, in impossible circumstances. And that’s, I don’t know about right now how much we are gathering that really limits that, but spaces have always been in trouble and it, and it’s taken some over some real, magic, a lot of those efforts, and a lot of different streams of income and, and, and finding loopholes and things to make that work in the first place.

So I think the problem is more about like, about the commercial rent in Toronto, because I mean, you know, simply as it stands right now would be considered I think, reasonably priced, which is still impossible. You know, that’s where it comes from. It just, it’s a money thing. I think there’s a lot of amazing artists doing work in the city.

Phil Rickaby: Absolutely. And I don’t want to discount the work that artists are doing. They still need a place to do it. And like you said, the cost of space is still is, is a problem. I will go into a little bit more about that. We can talk a little bit more about that shortly, but I know that, let’s Adriana and Casper, that’s something to add.

So let’s start with Adriana. I saw her hand first and then.

Adrianna Prosser: Just on the subject of money. He’s not always the thing that it comes back to, but speaking specifically of indie theater in the apocalypse, that right now, the red sandcastle theater, and I know that I’ve seen the assembly theaters, social posts about donations.

We just, ran what I would consider a successful campaign for donations, to do a renovation and restore of the space. And we were also submitting for grants, from the cultural arts fund from government of Canada. And we actually just got confirmation that we are getting grants from the government to do specifically safety protocols within the theater.

So, we can, have better risers with hand rails and, and make sure that the washroom, can accommodate wheelchairs and whatnot. And all of those funds are specifically allocated. So I am. CRI laughing over here that I am getting so much money. I mean, it’s still not, not a lot of money, but a lot of money to an indie theater.

But I can’t use any of it for rent. So I’m kind of doing like this fetal position of like, cool, cool, cool, cool. We’re going to make this a beautiful space for audiences and performers, but am I going to be able to keep the lights on? So it’s a very difficult thing to try to translate to our patrons, to be like this.

This is really great. We’ve got a grant, but none of it can actually go to this month’s rent. And so it’s kind of like, it’s like we have money, but please give us money. Like, I dunno, I I’m doing this tap dance and it feels really awkward. And I don’t know about you guys at assembly. If you’re experiencing that.

Cass Van Wyck: Yeah, I’ll jump in and, kind of share that sentiment when it comes to specific grants, or I guess, lack thereof when it comes to operational grants for it in the theater spaces. I know a lot of, operational grants that are available out there through, you know, Canadian arts council and Tara’s concentrate council.

Always have a minimum operating budget. In order for you to be able to qualify, which always really makes me laugh because I’m like, man, I could come up with $150,000 operating budget if I had to. But you know, I’m used to working on a lot smaller of a budget. And in order for me to qualify, to get money, I need to inflate this, to be a crazy, I mean, not that $150,000, isn’t, you know, I, I would love to have that for it for operational purposes, but the point I I’m, I’m sharing with Adrian.

That I think a lot of the grants that are available are, production specific. So we can get, you know, a grant to do a play and cover one month’s rent for that play. Which is great. But then what about the other 11 months in the year?

Adrianna Prosser: I feel that so hard. I feel that,

Cass Van Wyck: so, yeah, I, I totally get you where you’re, you’re getting this money, which you’re very excited about.

You don’t want to be, you know, ungrateful for in any way, shape or form. But the irony that we also share is that, you know, we, we, you know, need to have a space to do it. And,

The, the, the. Lack of support from, I would say all government levels, provincial, municipal, federal, when it comes to these kinds of spaces, our spaces specifically, is just really disappointing.

And, I I’d be curious. I know you brought up Phil kind of Chicago and how Chicago has this vibrant storefront, indie theater culture, there, and I’d be really curious to hear how that is possible because. I mean, this is me making a big assumption, but I’m assuming, you know, Chicago being kind of a similar city to Toronto, that those rent prices are probably not ideal either.

So I’d be curious to hear how, you know, so many have been able to not only, not only survive but thrive, you know, I think that’s something we hear a lot within our community is we’re surviving, but are we thriving? And, I’d love to see coming out of this pandemic a way for us to, you know, not be working and, and, and struggling month to month, but figuring out a way of how we can, you know, be moving forward, sustainably that that is going to see a legacy of this.

Not a, oh, are we going to make it to next month?

Phil Rickaby: Yeah. Luis

Luis Fernandes: I’m not sure if I’m being heard right now, if I am. I just wanted to add to that, you know, in the world where you could create art in these spaces, however, there was a fighting chance. I mean, you, even in our worst case scenarios, what sometimes. Created an atmosphere of hope was the ability to create art, you know, make something perhaps that hits, hits off and, and create some sort of buzz for the space or, you know, there’s always the art itself.

That could be the selling point to continue the sort of work that we do and create some kind of a word of mouth. And I think that in this current circumstance, I mean, without being able to do those things, it’s, it’s, it’s really, it’s, it’s really diff I mean, now, now we’re in a place where we’re just looking for funds.

I think I’ve always been a place where I’m looking for funds. But it was always through this means of actually doing this work. And if I could get the work out there into the world, even if it didn’t make it, I mean, even if it just made it some monies back, even if it lost a little bit of money, there was this, this, this feeling that we could do something and it could create something, and this current atmosphere that it’s impossible to have a vibrant scene when you can’t even create and gathered.

Phil Rickaby: Yeah. Cass.

Cass Van Wyck: Yeah. Just to add on to what Louis just said, Louis and I talk about this a lot with. You know, the assembly is a completely volunteer run, artists space, no one who, volunteers, their time to help run. It gets paid Louis and myself included. But this has always been fueled by what Luis said is this ability for us to provide space for artists to do what they do and create beautiful works of art.

And that also goes for Louis and myself, right? We run this space. So we have a space to do what we do. And for the last two years, we found in our, our subs in a position where we’ve been working, we’ve been putting in twice the amount of administrative work to save this space without getting the, you know, kind of pay out of being able to perform or provide space for, for artists to perform.

And it’s, it’s quite a, It becomes quite a thankless kind of job after a while. Cause you’re not see you’re putting so much effort into it without seeing what we’re used to, you know, getting out of it by having artists in the space and, and us being able to use it as well.

Phil Rickaby: It’s exhausting. It’s like all of that administrative work is certainly not why I’m sure any of us got into the theater is not to spend a lot of time doing administrative work is just a by-product of trying to keep a theater open.

Cass Van Wyck: And yeah, and you know, it was never just quickly that the administrative work is par for course, right. That just comes with running a space. That’s just going to be the way it is, but it was always worth it because there were always beautiful young, emerging, interesting artists in our space using it for what it’s supposed to be used for.

And when you take that out of the equation, which what we w which is what we’ve seen over the last two years, you kind of start questioning what you’re doing and because all you’re doing is this administrative work without the payout.

Phil Rickaby: Yeah. There’s, there’s sort of like the question and I sort of posed it with, with Adriana before you guys joined, which is, you know, back in the late sixties and early seventies, there was a real push on the governmental.

That that Canada needed a theater scene. And so there was money to create theater companies and theater spaces. And so we ended up with some, you know, wa which are now the established theaters in Toronto, the, for example, the factory theater past Muray and, and, and, and tearing on theaters. But it’s almost as though at a certain point after though after that, the government was like, and that’s enough, we need no more.

And we need to offer no more support for spaces or to create spaces because we have those. And so those spaces exist without there being any way to realistically, without a Herculean effort, like you guys have done to create a new, new performance spaces, Louis.

Luis Fernandes: Yeah. And I, and I think that’s like, well, that’s a natural progression.

I think of anything. And it’s something that I’ve, I’ve. You need those startup bare bones, shithole spaces in order to, you know, they, they need to exist because there is a, You know, there, there is levels to this thing. There are, there, there is the room for experimentation. There is art being created that doesn’t have a shot in hell of being sort of monetized.

And there needs to be spaces that art too. And I think that that’s why space that the exist. It’s not just because of people who are priced out. But as well as people who want to do stuff that doesn’t necessarily have a shot at becoming like that, not every piece of every art that’s created is, is going to create this, you know, like make mad money and go to Mirvish and, and, and take off and fly throughout the international thought.

What happens. There to be those spaces. And what I think naturally happens any success in the world of arts is at a certain point with legitimacy comes, and, and more and more, you know, more wealth, whatever, whatever that means the arts comes. I think that you, you, you start to go to a different tier and, and when that happens to a group like the Terragon or, or the faculty, it becomes more of the establishment more so than the, you know, the Vanguards that are trying to create something new, that that’s a natural process that people move to another, another realm.

And, and there needs to be something that comes out after, after that, you know, factory and terabytes represented and, and, and pass by representatives. And they still are. I still am still thankful that they’re there. But they don’t represent what they did under inception, which was, you know, oh, the factory was a literally a factory, you know, and it it’s, it’s moved far beyond that.

And what happens when things take on that success? There is nothing, there is no thought or plan on how. The little startups again, there’s just that it’s people like us that take on that burden and I hate to use the word burden, but it truly is because you really are, you know, I’ve been doing this for over 10 years of just throwing in so much of my effort and never, not, not always seeing a return, not everything in life requires that return.

But it, it, it can be such a thankless job. I think Cassius have used the word thing cause it is. And so what’s the game plan here. I got a provincial on a, on a federal, like what, what’s the gate? Like, how do we create places for art to like, to just create for the sake of creating? Like how do we make that happen and when, and how and how do we make it so that the people who, who do create something that works, have have the, the, the support to like lend that hand at all of branch and recruit and, and pass the torch as it were.

There’s just, there’s theater just is literally just flying blind, you know? And, and I think there’s art in general, but certainly in theater, People are doing it. And we’re lucky when we can create unions and, and, create, alliances, but it’s all just happening randomly, you know,

Phil Rickaby: Cass.

Cass Van Wyck: Yeah. And kinda bounce off that point.

That Luis just made. I feel like, you know, I too am incredibly grateful for the factories that have gone to the past. Mariah’s, you know, the soul peppers who, you know, contribute so much to this theater scene, not only in Toronto, but Canada wide as well, but I think the problem is I think folks forget really easily where they started.

And I think kind of, as Luis says, there is a natural progression, right? I heard someone say this once and I thought it made a lot of sense that there’s really only two potential outcomes currently for indie theater venue. The either turn into the factory theaters, the, whereas the Terra guns, or they shut down, there’s no continuous sustainable method for indie theaters to just continue being in these scrappy, small Parkdale basement, black boxes.

It’s either going to be one outcome or the other. And that to me is the saddest part because what the theater is essentially doing is creating affordable space for artists and traditionally, you know, young, emerging artists to come and experiment and, and try new things and be weird and interesting and different.

And. Ultimately, we are providing space that is going to, you know, create a new generation of artists that will then filter in to the factories, the past memorize and the tear guns. And so whether they know it or not, they need us because we’re the ones who are providing affordable space for these young artists to try new stuff.

Phil Rickaby: There’s sort of a, like the, the idea that there are two options for a space, the size of say the attic or sort of the, the assembly or the, the red sandcastle does that they can grow or, or, or shut down is tragic to me because these spaces are so important to the ecosystem of, of, of theater. And I want to talk in a minute about, some other things about how some of those established theaters might be able to extend the knowledge all of branch towards us, but I know Adriana has something want.

Adrianna Prosser: Just me now getting into my darkest timeline ranch, about capitalism, because that’s what I think of when you say you have to thrive or die. And, and like you either get bigger, like, like, like the factories in the terror guns, or you go tits up like the box. Hmm. I just, it makes me really frustrated to, to hear that and to know that that’s the, that is the society that is the arts and culture scene that we have cultivated here.

It makes me very sad that unlike when I visited, the UK, that there are those black box spaces that are very much focused on. Whatever you want to do kind of deal like that. You’re saying that it’s it’s, it’s your first timers. It’s I have a dream and 50 bucks in my pocket kind of people. And I know that that is really where, Rosemary Doyle was starting.

When she first opened doors to the red sandcastle theater, her motto that we actually have held onto now that she’s passed, passed the torch to Eric Wolf and I is anything is possible. And that anything is possible mantra for the space is that it is a black box. That is the way you get it. When, when you book it, that does not mean that it has to stay a black box.

You can paint the walls, you can play paint the floor. You can turn it into a jungle. As long as it goes back to factory settings, no pun intended, to black box, you can do whatever you want there. We want you to explore. We want you to claim the space as yours. We want to be as welcoming as possible. And I know that that is not.

What it’s like for every rental space. I know that when, when I was initially talking to Rosemary, that that was a very big thing for her, for us to continue that idea of when you come in, you can take over the space and that’s why we are releasing. We’re really hands-off and, and, you’re, you’re just renting the space.

I, I joke that we’re kind of like the WestJet of, of theaters where like you just, you get the theater, you know, bring in whoever you want to bring in for your team. If you need any help we are there. You’ll just have to, you know, pay for that body to come and help you and bring their expertise and their talent to you.

But that’s really what the idea is to keep it, keep it simple. And, and let that space be what it needs to be for you. Rather than I know, again, talking to Rosemary that she wanted to rent some spaces, you know, 10, 20 years ago. And they were like, okay, well, you, you can’t paint, you can’t, change the light grid.

You have to use this team. And like, there’s all of these different stipulations. And she’s like, okay, but. This is my show. I want to do my show and they’re like, okay, well you have to do it within these parameters. And I know that that was a big push for her to open up red sand castle. And that the idea of a sand castle is that it’s impermanent, right?

You build a sand castle on the beach and it will wash away that day. And the beauty is, is that it will wash away, right? That impermanence is part of that. Dare I stay a static quality that, aesthetic experience of like knowing that this is not a permanent thing. And this was a big thing that drew Eric and I to taking over the red sand castle, because we truly believe in that kind of idea of like, build it, love it, applaud it, and now take it down.

Right. And I think, again, like we’re talking about these spaces that, these permanent structures and, and all of these rules and them getting so big. But yeah, they, they start to have to fill out those bigger britches and, and, and follow those rules, that to get the bigger grants to thrive. And then all of a sudden, you know, and, and I’m, I’m spit balling.

I am not trying to put words in people’s mouths, but perhaps, perhaps, perhaps they get snared by their own trappings because they do have to get bigger and bigger so that they can, like Cass was saying earlier, like you have to meet a certain threshold for you to apply for those operational grants. Okay.

Well then we need to get that money. We need to expand. We need to play ball so that we can thrive.

Phil Rickaby: I think there were a couple of things, like there’s such a narrow view as, as far as, the. The way we look at indie theater and, and funding so that you have to be at a certain level. So you would have to let’s say, if you were going to get an operational grant, we would have to, to pad your, your, your budget so that it meets the requirements that you could get the money to, to be able to pay your rent and pay some people to run the theater.

And but to do so, to be able to maintain that you would then have to POS to, to, to, you need to then bump up the amount that you’re, you’re charging people to create the art. And then you end up in that, in that very situation. There’s so much so little support for a theater is like, the box, which sadly has gone grand canyon, which was a great, like such a, such a great attempt to create, both a performance and community space.

It just couldn’t survive the pandemic. And so we ended up with like, like just this, this tragic situation of these wonderful spaces that just don’t find the support that they need. And I know Louis has something.

Luis Fernandes: Yeah, just that. And you kind of hit it on the head a little bit there, but, you know, when we said these spaces didn’t survive or survive or become the, you know, become a factory or, or a Terragon, I think what’s important to notice or to note rather is that these spaces weren’t mismanaged, these spaces were like, when the box went down, when you don’t want to go too, in depth, we were booked for six months in advance.

You know what I mean? It wasn’t like these spaces. We’re being managed well. And weren’t somehow despite the odds succeeding, because there is that demand. There is, there are people in the city who need to do this or who are doing this. So what’s, I think it’s worth noting that when they, when things fail, it’s not always, when we say support, it’s not just about money.

It’s about factors out of our control, because so often these spaces aren’t just storefronts, but they’re like derelict buildings or from more, or, or converted sort of loft spaces of like large the box went down because the building itself was sold. Everyone was removed from that building. You know what I mean?

Even about myths. It’s not about, even though there’s no support for the space in the sense that oftentimes our spaces are just places that are we’re allowed to use, because they’re like in a rundown area or a building that is kind of condemned or, you know what I mean? So we’re already finding these light, like these things, but they’re, they’re, they’re, they’re already on shaky ground to begin with.

Not even is about money. It’s about. These buildings could on a moment’s notice, he’s just taken away from us. You know what I mean? And, that was the bigger issue. In my opinion, though, the pandemic has made it to that. If you can’t create art, then there’s no way to create money to, to do this without doing the thing it was intended to do.

It’s impossible to, for this to survive. But before that, if we want to get into that, some of the root causes is because we’re basically finding these spaces in the cracks of Toronto. And sometimes that’s actually advantageous because when you use a proper storefront, you have neighbors, you have people above you and, and, and, and to do theater in the city is so challenging just from sound up from a sound perspective alone.

And so it’s almost advantageous to be in a factory somewhere or somewhere off the beaten path, but these spaces are always, you’re always on a month to month, they’re always a moment away from a condo developer snatching up the rights or. Large facility, a new Sobey’s is going it’s a moments away at any time.

So what we’ve been saying throughout this pandemic and will a lot of the other interviews we’ve done and stuff is that there needs to be a priority on the spaces themselves. We always look at, especially with the funding model, it’s from a project to project thing. So you have to already be in motion to already have a very well-developed idea to get funding, but you can’t even do the work if there’s not a physical space to do it in.

And I think that we have a cart before the horse kind of thing here, where if there was funding just to keep these spaces in existence, I don’t even need to see that we already don’t. I don’t, I already don’t see a cent. So it’s I have about, you know, money for me. It’s about if they could just be a sustainable.

Or some kind of grant that’s specifically designed to keep spaces because the money that people throw into projects is sometimes much larger than like the bare bones cost to keep the space operation for the year. So I just think that that’s, that’s the issue that the target of where that money goes is not in the right place.

These spaces need to be considered, not just the art, but the spaces themselves. And I think that that’s, that’s

Phil Rickaby: what we’re. We also have this situation where, and this is. Pretty specific to English, Canada, where, the vision of, of, of the arts and, and, you know, back in the day, some of our, our politicians have very much played on this idea that like Harper and Mo both my carers would talk about the, the artistic elite as though everybody who’s making art is just already a rich person.

Who’s complaining about, about the money. They’re not getting from the government or whatever. There’s, there’s this lack of value in the arts and in theater and, and, and, and, and all these other things. Whereas if you look at when I’ve spent time in, in a city, like, like Montreal or places in Quebec, the there are all of these like neighborhood theaters where people just go and it’s, it’s this wonderful, vibrant scene that.

’cause in French Canada, they really value their arts and the theater. Whereas in English, Canada, it’s, it’s like, it’s a frivolous thing and there’s no, they, the average person doesn’t see the value in it. And it’s a serious problem as far as, as far as the form goes. Sorry, cast cast w please jump in.

Cass Van Wyck: Yeah, no, I think kind of piggybacking off what you just said there, I think you’re absolutely right in places like Montreal and Quebec specifically, they’re so good at preserving Quebec culture and they are rightly so, you know, supporting theater, which contributes to that culture. They support arts, which inherently creates that culture and sustains that culture.

And I think when, when you don’t quite understand the. To tissue between those two elements. It’s very easy to write off the arts community in general. I think people are very quick, very, very quick. You see it in the education system, you see it within, even within the pandemic, right? You see, you know, what kind of funds have been available to us throughout this time?

It’s, it’s just not a priority for folks. And, and you’re absolutely right that there are so many examples, not only in Quebec, but all over the world that, put a lot of money and resources into their, arts communities, because they recognize that it is a direct, influence on, on preserving and, creating.

Culture and, and, and it’s really too bad that we quite haven’t figured that out, in, in Toronto and in the kind of I’ll speak to Toronto specifically. Cause I don’t wanna make any assumptions about other cities in Canada, but it’s, it really is like, it’s really, it’s sad. It makes me really sad to hear.

I mean, it makes me happy that there are places in home where they actually are recognized and, and are actually being supported. But it makes me sad because I’m like, see, see what could be possible. You see how wonderful this is. Can’t you see that? And it’s really, you kind of feel like you’re screaming into the void a little bit.

I think something we and Louis and myself have been an Adriana. I’m sure you can relate, you know, you, you, you find yourself just screaming from the roof. No one, you know, it’s such a, the people who get it, get it. And the people who don’t get it really don’t get it. And we just don’t get

Adrianna Prosser: it at all. And Phil talked about how all of a sudden the government in the sixties, and they did that, not because they were like, oh, look how there is a, you know, we need a little bit more arts and culture.

Wouldn’t that be grand? No, they were doing it for the PR because it was the Centennial of the confetti. What it, the, the constitution act of 1867. And they were like, oh no. And they did it for the museums too. And somebody who spent over a decade working for the museum. And most all of my life in, in the theater scene here in Toronto and the GTA.

I I’ve seen that, that government, that government mentality of like, we will give you this because it looks good because something important is going to happen. And it’s going to look good on us to give you funding, but the life cycle and the longevity is just, it’s not even put, there’s no forethought for that.

So screaming into the void of like, but you held my hand. Why are you smacking it away now?

Phil Rickaby: Yeah.

Yeah. Two things, two things there I’ve found. And I’m sure you guys have heard this there’s theater seems to be the only. One of the few art forms where I hear somebody say something like I saw a play once and I didn’t like it.

So I’m done with theater or something along those lines. Like as though somebody would say something, I saw a television show once and I didn’t like it. So I am done with television. Whereas somehow in, in the theater world, somebody sees one play that they didn’t like, and now they no longer there.

They’re not interested on another front. I, the company I work with, for my day job, there’s a branch of the company in Berlin. And, they, the, one of the guys who heads up that office has often spoken about how in Berlin. People consider going to the theater, a right. And tickets are subsidized so that there are always a large chunk of very cheap seats to the theater because the government gives so much to the theaters that, that the idea of not going to the theater is, is ludicrous to them.

And so they’re like, I like, like you’re saying, there are these places where theater is valued, and the government still sees it as a value, but again, we’re kept quite weak as far as the voice here, cast and then Louis.

Cass Van Wyck: Yeah, I think I have a, a, a theory about why, what you said, which is a hundred percent true that people are very quick to kind of write off theater after one bad experience.

And truth be told. I think it, it starts in the education system. I would make the argument that most. People first introduction to any sort of play or theater, comes from a school experience. And 99% of the time, it’s an English teacher teaching Shakespeare. And, I don’t know about your experience on your English teachers teaching Shakespeare, but I had one who pressed play on a tape recorder.

Well, actors read the play and we sat there holding the books following along. And, I think that’s a horrible way to teach theater in general, but I think it’s an extra horrible way to teach Shakespeare specifically, because I think when you’re, when you’re first and I will fully admit it, Shakespeare is not a hundred percent.

My thing, I respect it. I respect. I can do it

and I genuinely genuinely love seeing it, but it’s not what gets me going. So I just like starting from that place, know that. However, I think what, when that is the first introduction that young folks are having to theater in general, they’re seeing these very high level language presented in front of them.

They have teachers who can teach a prop properly and they’re going, I’m not smart enough to understand this. I don’t like it. And when that’s your first introduction to theater. Why else would you go and see anything else? I get it. I totally totally get it. If teachers were teaching, technically technically in Ontario, the curriculum states that they have to teach a classic piece of theater in, in, in English.

It doesn’t say Shakespeare anywhere. And so if teachers could, English, teachers could start teaching other classical works, you know, Shaw, what have you, that is a little bit more digestible for, you know, folks who, you know, I go to see Shakespeare sometimes and I still have trouble with the language, you know, let alone a 14 year old.

Who’s reading it out of a textbook, you know? And I just feel like if that is people’s first introduction, To theater in general. I kind of get, I kind of get that. That’s why they don’t want to continue going on. And again, it’s, I don’t think it’s, if you had a teacher who actually knew how to teach Shakespeare, I think it would be a completely different.

Game. I don’t think it Shakespeare in general. I think it’s the lack of knowledge on how to actually talk about it. And so very early on, folks are getting exposed to something that they are perceived perceiving as very high-level very smart and something that they’re not smart enough to understand. So why would I see any

Luis Fernandes: it’s that

Phil Rickaby: Victorian attitude of Shakespeare as literature, as something to read, which it was never intended to be in the first place.

And so we’ve carried that through, into our education system where we sit down and we read it first and maybe if we’re lucky we can see it live, but it was never meant to be read as literature. I could rant about that for quite some time, but, that’s not this topic.

Luis Fernandes: Yeah. And beyond that, I was going to say that the other, the other big factor, I think is just the lack of a creation of an art object.

You know, most these days people generally take in their art, or whatever the entertainment is, whether it’s video games, movies, everything comes into your home where you could conceivably test these things on your own time. And then, so if you listen to enough Taylor swift, or you really started to get into UFC that when the UFC comes around to your town or Taylor swift comes to your town, you’re going to buy tickets because you’ve already got a chance to consume art in your own home, and then take that love and fandom into the next logical realm, which is live in some kind of place with other people celebrated as well.

With theater. There is no creation of that art object. It’s a very, transit. the word. But it just, isn’t this thing that’s sort of material, you don’t necessarily walk away with something that you possess. That’s why I think people still love that physical program because it’s shows I was there. I have this physical proof.

Otherwise you’d have nothing. It’s nothing. I have the beauty of theater personally. That’s what I love about it is that when I think of the shows that may meant something to me, it’s a time, it’s a place. It’s not something I can revisit on my, on my computer anytime I want. But that’s also inherently the problem with selling theater.

You know, you need people these days consume on, especially now the pen down, they’re consuming in their home. They, they, they, they have a comfort in which they can consume as they want. And then when, and then sort of theater asks you to leave your home. It asks you to leave your comfort zone. It asks you to confront things that perhaps you weren’t prepared to do.

That is a challenging type of art form. That’s why I think we love it, but it’s also makes it very difficult to sell. And I think that’s really the problem as well,

Adrianna Prosser: but I would raise you, I raise you digital theater

Luis Fernandes: and I mean, obviously that’s fantastic.

Adrianna Prosser: The room, the thing that was born and beget of the monster, that is the pandemic,

Cass Van Wyck: but remember the problem,

Luis Fernandes: but the problem with digital theater in my opinion is that digital means that you go to film when you’re in the world of film.

A lot of us swept production value. There’s a lot of ability to put CGI and film has so much of its own tricks and magic. You bring theater to that, the theater tricks, like if I have a sheet and it becomes a ghost, then it becomes my mother. Then that’s magical, but I’m filming. It looks ridiculous because I’m talking to it.

And they’re there. The inherent exchange of me doing this in front of you transforming something in front of you lacks. I’m not, I’m not saying that there’s not fusion there cause obviously, you know, multidisciplinary art exists. So obviously that’s, there’s lots of ways of fuse it. And I think it’s a wonderful idea, but what we’re seeing right now, in my opinion, during the pandemic is moving theater to digital only shows the cracks and it’s, if it’s like, it’s like two different languages that doesn’t always co less eyes as a theater artist do not have the same tricks and tool belt in the world of film that I have as a theater artist.

So I need film expertise to do, to create that fusion art and do it well. And I feel like, to ask theater artists to become filmmakers, all of a sudden it’s difficult.

Phil Rickaby: That’s right. I want to jump in. I want to jump in really quickly because there are two things that I want to say about, the desire to see theater, because we know that people from Canada will travel to a place like New York and go and see plays there.

So we know that people will go to see theater. There’s a difference in people’s minds between the thing that they are seeing on Broadway or in New York. And the thing that they’re seeing here, there’s some kind of hot sauce, some kind of magic dust that goes there that allows people to see it on the other side to address the digital theater thing.

I’ve seen several different productions that were filmed in the. With no special effects, no special tricks, just cameras. And I found them just as engaging, just as engaging. I’m not there. I think there’s a difference between like I’m recording this and sending this over the internet to here’s a three camera setup, which by the way, the, theater in St.

John, a small theater there, they’ve done that. They’ve wired up their theater with three cameras that they can, when they did their fringe. Last year, they had a small audience in digital tickets, which allowed them to have a three camera setup and people were able to stay at home and still have a similar experience.

So the one that we had there, I’ve seen a number of things from the, from the, the British theater, which are filmed again, three camera, no special effects, just like the camera. We’ve seen that also, of course, there’s the there’s, the Disney plus edition of, of, of, of Hamilton, which was also, I mean, they did some extra films.

But largely what you saw on stage without any extra things it is possible, I think. And I don’t think that anybody’s saying that that digital theater will replace theater. I believe it is another way that we could, have it as an experience CAS.

Cass Van Wyck: Yeah. I, I don’t disagree with anything that you just said.

I think the ethic, there’s a difference between what you’re describing and another way that I’ve seen a lot of digital theater being performed over the last, two years where a lot that I’ve consumed has been. You know, literally playing to the camera, you know what I mean? Using, using zoom or whatever online platform they have, to perform to, right.

As opposed to it being a traditional play on a stage that just happens to be captured with, you know, a three camera setup, because I agree with you. I’ve also watched a lot of those productions and I agree with you. There are, I mean, I’ve seen the handled, the Disney goes Hamilton, and I’ve seen a lot of what’s going on.

Luis Fernandes: Like you said,

Cass Van Wyck: that the British productions and they’re beautiful, they’re filmed beautifully, where I see the issue with that is this is a luxury that is only afforded to what is already quite a commercialized segment of our industry because they have the money when you’re looking at a theater is I’ll speak for assembly specifically.

I mean, a. We’re not filmmakers. So we don’t have the capabilities. Even if we had the money, we don’t have the skillset to be able to shoot something on that kind of a scale that would create a similar experience for someone. If they were actually sitting in the theater and B we don’t have that kind of money to be able to invest in, being able to produce that kind of work.

So, although it’s great for, I guess, theater as an entire ecosystem, because it is still a way for folks to be engaging in theater in some capacity. I think it’s really only afforded to a certain segment. And I think that for a lot of indeed productions that I’ve seen anyway, over the last couple of years, it’s been very much so.

Not on a stage and being filmed like a movie, it’s someone performing to a camera on their computer from their living room, which is a different form of theater, but it’s not the same. It’s not the same thing. And I think there has to be a distinct between those

Phil Rickaby: two, that kind of zoom theater is sort of like a thing that we did and we’ve had to do in the pandemic in a lot of situations.

Do I think that, that, that’s not exactly what I’m speaking about when I talk about when I’m talking about digital theater, because it is. The difficulty with that is that many of us spend so much time in zoom calls and the like in our daily lives that to, to, to make the decision that, oh, this is now entertainment.

If it’s just another zoom thing, I. Physically make that distinction because I’m still sitting in the same place I was when I was doing all of my zoom meetings throughout the day, I can’t dis my brain. Doesn’t just, doesn’t make a distinction. But the, so for example, the St John theater company, I mentioned earlier, they didn’t put a lot of money into their setup.

They had three cameras, it was a live stream, and there’s just a very simple switcher program that they usually just had somebody to switch back and forth. It doesn’t have to be an expensive thing the way that, the way that it would say Hamilton onstage was, I, and, and a live stream performance. Again, it doesn’t, it can be, if you have that, that camera set up can be both dynamic, but also I think, exciting, Yeah,

Adrianna Prosser: I agree with everything.

I think that the, the thing that I love hate and hate love about digital theater is the fact that the community was like, we need to still create, we still need to have, a space to create whether it’s in person and or online. And I am teaching myself how to do digital theater for my renters, because a lot of that.

I have been asking, well, can I do this, can I do this online? Can I live stream it? If, if there is a lockdown and, I actually specifically signed up for a wifi that has a huge upload rate rather than just download rate to specifically cater to, the creators that wanted to explore that, because I think it’s cool wild west stuff that’s happening right now.

I think, I think the people like, like the fact that it’s a. Really deep hate, really deep love, really deep frustrations, really deep. Oh my God. I can’t believe I’m seeing the show that is taking place in Spain because they went digital with it. You know, I love all of that. And I also really, really love, the benefits of having better access, for people who have different abilities or barriers in their life that they can’t come down to the red sand castle theater, and see an Eldridge theater show that they can actually do that and then hit the captions bar and they can read.

And I just want to put out for people to, to bookmark. I know that we’re talking about like the Hamilton that has $2 million, like they have the Mickey mouse money. That is not what I’m talking about, but I also think that there is a confusion for the general audiences that think that we can produce stuff like that.

Thank you, Cass. We are having to learn a complete different skill. I went to theater school, not film school. But also on the flip side of that, there is a lot of really great technology that is out there that is free and or close to free. And check your privilege also the ability to have your smartphone, and use that as a camera and as a streaming surface, service that you can also check out a movie from 2003.

Well, before all of this pandemic, baby, like pivot to digital, a movie called Dogville with Nicole Kidman and, Paul Bettany and they filmed a staging and the staging was all just like paint, like, like, lines on the floor of a black box stage. That I think we could do, you know, with, with like what, what, what Phil is saying, about this, this fringe, where, where they’re setting up, and just trying, trying to figure this out as best they can and trying to bring their audiences in, in a time where we cannot gather.

And yeah, I totally agree. It will never take the place of, but it could be really complimentary. Like it could really step in stride with where theater is going. Because we do have this technology. More readily available and really, really accessible. I point to OBS is a free service that you can download and you can do that flip switch editor, with the different streams that are coming in and, and put it out onto whatever live stream on your YouTube or your Facebook and whatnot.

And that’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around with either a DSLR camera or even just my iPhone. So it’s, it is a love hate, and I agree with everybody here and I agree that, it’s not, it’s not what I want to be doing, but I definitely still want to be creating. And I know that that’s what we were saying earlier is like this need to create and to be able to have open doors to the people who are throwing spaghetti on the wall.

But right now the walls don’t exist because we’re in another lockdown. And audiences can’t gather safely. So I’m going to ride this dark hole. And see where it takes me and maybe complain

Cass Van Wyck: a bit along the way, but still do you know what

Luis Fernandes: I mean? Do you know what I mean?

Phil Rickaby: Yeah.

Luis Fernandes: Yeah, I just wanted to say, I mean, I completely agree. I do think that some of these, particularly when it comes to accessibility, you know, cause the assembly, as an example is not a hundred percent accessible due to it. Just the nature of the way that the building is set up. And so obviously there are some aspects of this technology technology coming into play that I think will always linger.

You know, these, I love the, the digital program has been a cool thing as well. There’s been a lot of innovation that this has created. So I don’t, I don’t want to be the curmudgeon, obviously fusion here, but I just think that, you know, for me personally, So much a theater is the act of going somewhere, because for me, I just don’t see how I, you know, my shows really, in my opinion, you’re a part of the charm is being in a room and watching someone douse themselves in spaghetti sauce.

That’s like, you know, you can’t, you can’t get that experience from the comedy show unless you’re there to see it, the absurdity of it, you know, and for me, when I think of going digital, I, I just know myself as a consumer of streaming video, a consumer of video games and just the, the, the, there’s just such a queue here at home for my entertainment, time.

And I just can’t imagine competing with, you know, the MCU and these things. When you can see that as well, or my show, my 30 minutes show comes up, you know, I don’t want to be in that realm. I understand that there there’s a lot of, possibilities for fusion there and I agree, but. I prefer it. Come to my theater and see something wild, weird and crazy.

You know, I don’t want Hondo

Adrianna Prosser: P Hondo, Pete, but I really want to go back to what you were saying earlier is that you can’t like the nature of going to theatre and the big buy-in that you were saying, something like that you can sample Taylor swift before you go to her concert. You people can sample assembly and then be motivated to go see your show.

Like, I feel like, do you know what I mean? Like I know that,

Luis Fernandes: and that’s where the value is. There needs to be, there needs to be that element. Of course, I’m bringing, bringing the work, bringing the art to people and let them come to see the show you why you want to just show up these great. I completely agree with that.

And that, and that, and that kind of in the, in sort of promotional slash. Bringing the archivals homes area. I completely agree. There’s a lot of potential there. And in fact, the only way our art can compete with other arts is to play in that realm as well. So I, no doubt, I guess that’s where the distinction for me lies is using it.

As you said, complimentary supplementary to the artwork that we do. Absolutely. It’s fantastic. Fantastic tool. It can, there’s, there’s actually a lot of potential there and potential, but I I’m just saying strictly about, like, I just still want to have that physical component.

Phil Rickaby: Nobody had nobody wants to nobody who does theater wants to just do the digital theater as a supplement, because I keep thinking about these, these, these people that I’ve met, who, and you know, they’re not supposed to do this cause people aren’t supposed to film shows and people do, but fans who can’t get to New York, we’ll watch the film.

Yes. It’s pirated. And we don’t want them to do that. But when they have the opportunity to go to New York, do they say to themselves, I know I already saw it because I saw that parrot and video. They always say, no, I’m going to see that because I was so close. Like I saw it, but I want to experience it.

Louis. Yeah. I

Luis Fernandes: think that therein lies the rub. I think that like the, for me, the digital idea of the digital ticket makes the most sense when you are viewing it live. You know, I think that that’s, that’s part of it too, for me. Right. You’re right about that. Like, I, I, if I can be at the, at the met, I could be, if I could be at that theater and you know, off-Broadway, then I see the value, then I completely agree if it’s, I get to sit in my virtual seat kind of idea.

When you start to speak of that, I get more excited as a theater artist. Therein lies a little bit more. What I’m saying is the idea that you’re in a place in time and sure it’s on a screen versus being there, but that’s kind of exciting to me versus the idea of a pre-canned thing. And I think that when we start talking about that about live streaming like that, then I get excited actually.

And that changes the way I look at it completely

Phil Rickaby: because the live stream, the live stream theater, if there’s an audience still in the room, you’re still hearing the audience’s reaction. And maybe there’s a thing they saw, but you didn’t, or they’re reacting to something you’re like, why did they do that?

There’s all these things that pique the interest and make you want to go see it, which is, which is like one of those, augmentations that it can offer CAS.

Cass Van Wyck: Yeah. I fully agree with what everyone’s saying here. I think where my, to use Louis’ word curmudgeon kind of pops in is. I hear all of that. And I hear so much work and I hear so much for learning.

Adrianna Prosser: Oh my God. He would be so applauding you right now. Like everything we’re saying you are Eric right now. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Cass Van Wyck: Yeah. It’s like, it’s not, and this is not me. Like, listen, putting on a plate is f-ing hard, hard work of the medium that you are using. It is very hard. And I think kind of coming off the last two years, there’s not a lot of gas.

The engine lab. I will speak for myself specifically as an artist, as a venue owner, as all of these things. There’s, there’s. So much as a human living in this world right now. I love you right now.

And I think in order for all of this beautiful, new, very exciting digital innovation and synergy between theater and film, you need folks who are starting not at 25%, 100% someone who’s starting from a place of excitement and, you know, and as full. Right. And, and I think, I think from my perspective, when I hear like, oh, all these new technology and there’s all these free services and blah, blah, blah, I’m like, listen, man, I’m just trying to.

Figure out a way to pay my heating bill next month. You know, I don’t have any more energy. And again, maybe that’s not for, maybe that’s not for me as an artist right now. Maybe that’s not, you know, this isn’t, you know, separating myself as an artist from a venue owner or to kind of once upon a time. I think married very well because the ideas is, you know, running this space will then provide a space for me to do my art.

But over the last two years obviously has just been a running of the space, saved the space, find the money, keep the lights on kind of thing. And so when the idea. Me having to learn it and,

 No, absolutely nothing. So I think it’s for the artists, I applaud these artists who are able to do this right now. I applaud the venue’s who are able to do this right now because, and I think maybe, like I said earlier as an indie theater venue, you know, there’s only so much time. There’s only so much money.

There’s only so much energy and, it’s beautiful. What, what folks are being able to do? I’ll speak for myself. I just don’t know if I have it in me. I remember roller Dono and Louis, so maybe you have something to add there on Assembly’s behalf

Phil Rickaby: and that’s the, that’s the, I mean, the, the, the, the thing is that we’re all, especially when, when, you know, the running of these spaces is largely volunteer.

We can only put in where we can put in, and if we’re excited by something, we’ll put the effort into it. But in, in, in some other ways, we can only do what we can do. It’s been two years, we’re tired.

Luis Fernandes: Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s the key. I, I think that, you know, obviously I’m a very optimistic sort. I, I mean, I run a theater space, I would have to be. And so for myself, I, I, I feel like we are, I mean, we’re talking like I’m excited having this conversation with you. All right. Now the first time in a while, I got to even have this kind of discussion about the things that I love.

So I’m thrilled, you know, when I, when this optimism is coming from a place of, I just want to see art again, I want to be involved again, you know? And so like that this is fantastic. It sucks that it’s coming from a place of crisis. I think that’s what we have to remind ourselves. You know, it was all, I think theater is always a place of crisis, but now I feel, it doesn’t feel like it’s self-inflicted, it feels more like, like.

There, there are just forces beyond my control that are kind of forcing my hand. So it’s a different, it’s hard to want to pivot when you were doing something just fine as it was. And then now you’re being forced to change because of circumstances versus, you know, being late, letting the work organically, take it to a place like that.

You know, I’ve had projects in my life where I’m like, Ooh, what? By, by virtue of the themes in this, wouldn’t it be amazing if we did a great campaign using social media or, you know, digital ways to get into the work with socks is that I think what CAS is expressing is we’re being, we’re just trying to, we’re innovating due to survival and it never feels as fun or as exciting because, you know, if, if me and cash are putting our show online, now we’re doing that because we have no other choice.

It’s not because we think it’s an exciting idea. Right? I think that’s why. This is what I’m, when I, when I see myself or hear myself being reticent. It’s because of that is because I, you know, I want to go back to doing my art again, the way I was doing it. And now I’m making choices based on other factors.

And I think that’s what she’s expressing. And I, and I agree with that, but I try to be optimistic. I think it’s still great that we’re working more, keep on keeping on, you know,

Phil Rickaby: absolutely one more thing. And then I just want to jump into just a brief other topic.

Cass Van Wyck: Yeah. Very quickly. Very, very quickly. I think Louis nailed it.

I think. This kind of innovation and new technology and all the things were coming at a different time when like Luis said it was coming out of necessity and crisis. I think I, as an artist would have a completely different view on, what the potential for that could look like. I think because it’s coming, when it’s coming and how it’s coming, makes it a much harder pill for, for me as an individual to, to swallow.

I just wanted to add that.

Phil Rickaby: Absolutely, absolutely. Now I sort of teased this earlier. We sort of went onto a whole bunch of other topics, but I was thinking about, about, you know, we have the theaters that started Indy and became established. You know, we, we, we named them earlier, the Toronto theaters, factory terror going to theater pass where I, our sort of like, there, there, the level between like truly Indy and like larger scale stuff, Mirvish and whatever, they they’re, they’re sort of like lower mid area, but they started it as indie theaters is there.

And can you envision some way that they might be able to not offer financial assistance, although, you know, remember nice. But also to be able to offer, mentorship, a voice suggestion, that sort of thing to help theaters that are truly Indy to be able to keep running and to be able to like, to be an additional voice, to keeping those, running.

Luis Fernandes: That’s a hard thing to expect, because I do feel like these days we’re more competition than we are in a place where they want to throw us a lifeline. I mean, I think that the, the keeping the lights on for all theaters, whether mid large or small is a, is difficulty. There’s a real and are seen. Cause even in the, in the heyday of storefront theater unit one or two theater, you know, San classical and us have always been different because we’re from different sides of the city.

But when we were all sort of clumped in the same area, there was a real competitiveness, because we’re all trying to do the same thing. We’re all trying to survive. And so it’s so hard and, and, and yet to the benefit of all, like, and yet somehow there was still people trying to reach out and help one another.

It was a beautiful thing. But it’s just so funny to me. I just don’t see that happening. I mean, are there ways that could help us a million ways, but from my experience running a space, all I’ve I’ve seen is the small backspaces. Competitive with us and them doing things and borrowing from our systems and our price points to become competitive with us.

And now when I am trying to find bookings at the space, people are saying, well, I could get that basketball. I backspace for X, Y, and Zed, and what they don’t understand. No, the hidden cost of paying for the technician and paying for data. There’s always, it’s always going to be a bit more expensive, but, and yet, and yet our prices are as they are so we can keep moving.

So they’re not as cheap as possible. You know, they’re, they’re, they’re cheap enough that we can continue doing this and we don’t get paid even so well. That is cheap as humanly possible. So I’m finding I’m in competition with these backspaces more. So, then there is a synergy where they can help us and that’s, I think that’s sort of a across the board with theater is survival becomes.

The norm and we’re just all trying to like, keep our own heads above water. And so I don’t know if there’s a thing there as of late through, especially Vic, I will say Vicki Bono’s again, of the, of the, of the, you know, formerly the box of the attic. And for me, the comments, you know, she’s been one of the only people in th in the indie community that has actually attempted.

Oh, it’s excessively thus far. There’ve been a couple close calls and, sandcastles been involved in the us and, and, and grand canyon to create some kind of system where we are all helping each other. But it’s just so hard to do when we’re all just in survival mode and, and she’s suggested, and I still, I, I championed this idea as well, because there are times when my space, someone asked to use my space.

It’s, I’m not, it’s not available. I want to pay that back booking forward and give it to sandcastle or give it to Vicki. Or I want to do that and we need to have a system here. So it’s been so hard for even us to create our own sort of ecosystem. And, and, and I just don’t see. Those theaters reaching out, down to us.

I just don’t see it because I think that they’re trying to stay relevant because I think that also as well, younger and emerging artists will always gravitate towards the cheapest option. And so we have the, I guess the one beauty of our model is that we sometimes have some really great shows, some really things that you wouldn’t have seen because they happen to be young and vibrant and coming from somewhere unique, you know?

And I think that that. They want to capture that too. And so they need to be competitive with us. And I think that that’s the problem

Phil Rickaby: right now. I always, I just have to cause there’s, I mean, we often talk about the, the, the, the, the competition in, in, and I actually think we don’t talk about it very often, the competition between theaters, between theater companies and all this sort of stuff.

And, and I think that for those companies say, for example, those, those, those mid those mid to, to, to, to higher level theaters. Bye bye now. Collaborating with feeding into and, and talking to these spaces like, the attic and the sand castle, and not talking to the artists who, who participate there, they’re essentially missing out on the, on, on, on the exciting work that happens there.

That feeds that, that ultimately, allows the artist to springboard from the independent theater. So the next one, and then of course, bringing in the new artist who was like, oh yes. If I do my thing at the, at the attic, I, then we have the support of these other theaters that maybe I can take it somewhere else.

Sorry. I went off on my soap box. Cass

Cass Van Wyck: yeah, I agree that. I think there’s a bit of a disconnect there. I think from my perspective, the one thing that would be incredibly helpful is kind of going to bat for our spaces when it comes to funding, when it comes to.

You know, government support, et cetera, et cetera.

And I know that’s kind of a big ask because that means a smaller piece of the pie for them, because there really is only so much money that is being given to the arts. And I think specifically in this time, you know, every dollar counts, whether you’re an assembly theater or sand castle or the factory, you know, every single penny matters right now.

And I think the problem that I see specifically is. There’s just a heck of a lot less support in general for the sand castles and the assemblies and the addicts. Then there are the Terragon, the factories, the past fries. It’s just, just across the board in general. There’s, there’s more and it’s because they have more visibility, right?

They’re there, they’re bigger. They produce a lot of incredible work that is, you know, understandably, you know, give them a lot of client within our, within our city. But I think something that I’ve and I think has become incredibly apparent over the last two years, is that within the ECOS, the Toronto theater ecosystem, every single, like, like in the environment, you take one species component out of an environment and the rest collapses.

And I think we are in. You know, danger of losing these smaller indie theater spaces, which I’m not a hundred percent sure the larger companies understand what sort of effect that would have on the greater community and greater ecosystem. And so I don’t, I would love to see some sort of like, you know, we support the indie theater movement.

We support the indie theater venues, hate government, Hey, artistic bodies, giving money. Please make sure there’s enough. There’s a big enough piece of the pie for them as well. That’s a big ask. I understand it’s a big ask, but I also think that the consequence of not doing that might be bigger than sharing a piece of that.

Phil Rickaby: The ask that you’re, that you’re making is, I mean, you think about how, how much, you know, it’s financial, maybe they’ll lose out the amount that, that it would cost to keep the doors open at the assembly. And the, the, the, the, the red sand castle is, is actually, would actually be such a minuscule fraction of them, of the money that’s already coming in.

And really all that where they would need to do is to be able to, to, to, to make sure that the one we’re talking and they have connections that, that, that, that you guys don’t when they’re talking to those people, to make sure that, that these indie theaters, which are important to our eco ecosystem are just as important as we are.

And, and, and that’s sort of an important thing because it would calm. A fraction, the tiny sliver of the budget of some of these places to keep the doors open at, at, at, at the storefront theaters in Toronto, the, the attic and this and the sand castle. And it would almost be money that was unmissed by them.

That’s, that’s just my opinion as an non accountant

Luis Fernandes: you’re here.

Phil Rickaby: I we’ve gone over the time that I had, I had anticipated, any last words from anybody. And, and thank you so much for giving, so generously of your time, this, this evening, and I really appreciate it. Any, any final words? I just

Adrianna Prosser: would really like to thank, your listeners who are very much a majority of theater creators in the GTA and Ontario and beyond, and just like, thank you.

We are running on fumes. We are trying so hard to give CPR to our community and we want, we want to come back as quickly as possible. We want to come back safely but quickly, and just like, thank you for your patience. Thank you for your donations. I know I, we couldn’t do it at red sand castle without you.

And I know assembly just had, a donation campaign as well. And just thank you. I know we are all running on fumes. The apocalypse is just really exhausting.

Luis Fernandes: Louise. Yeah. I just wanted to add that she, thanks Adriana. You said it would exactly what I wanted to say. Just obviously with this campaign, people have been very generous.

You know, they’ve really helped us get through this. And I just wanted to say thank you to all the people that have donated. There’s still an opportunity to do so to go check us out on our website and on our Facebook page. Cause there’s still an opportunity to do so if you, if you have that within you to do so, I know it’s a tough time for all.

But thank you to all who have given and, and helped get this theater supported and, and all that that goes beyond just monetary to people who have just really supported what their words of encouragement and, and standing by us during these tough times. And we’re very thankful for all those people

Phil Rickaby: without turning this into a telethon, I would say that, that, that if somebody is thinking, oh, I couldn’t possibly afford to donate money to the Red Sandcastle or to The Assembly like literally.

A $5 donation. If everybody listening to this was to donate $5, you would put such you would, you would be putting so much towards, towards keeping the doors open at these indie theaters that it doesn’t take as much as you think it doesn’t have to be a massive donation. It can be small, it can be whatever you can afford, but it would mean so much.

And that’s my telethon moment.

Cass Van Wyck: Yeah. Just, just to add onto that too, it doesn’t even need even sharing on social media, sharing the links, sharing to friends, sharing to family. I mean, I understand like Luis says, this is a really difficult time for everyone artists specifically. And so if it’s, you know, not in the realm of possibilities to dine it, to donate financially, even being able to, share on your social media platforms, that would be that alone, is, is, worth its money and goals.

Phil Rickaby: Thank you. Thank you all for talking tonight. I really appreciate it. And I, I hope that, I hope that, that, that we will be able to do this again next year in person in person. Wow. Think about that.

Cass Van Wyck: In person! That sounds great.

Adrianna Prosser: Thanks everyone.

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