Monthly Archives: October 2009

A Call to Action

OK gang here is a call to action for you. The Great Canadian Theatre Company and the Ottawa Theatre Network have put forward an Aviva funding proposal. If it gets enough votes the entire community will benefit. I have voted and continue to vote (it’s a daily thing). It’s easy to do, and you’ll be helping out tremendously.  If you’re not in Ottawa you can still vote and help us out. Here is the blurb from the Ottawa Theatre Network: 

Be a Part of Ottawa’s Renaissance: Vote Now, Vote Daily, Tell A Friend

Do you care about Ottawa professional theatre?

Do you want to help the Ottawa Theatre Network and the Great Canadian Theatre Company make a lasting contribution to Ottawa professional theatre?

Here’s you chance! It will only take a few minutes of your time. We promise. 

To find out more, click here: 

 Now go out there and vote!


Everyone in the Audience is a Reviewer

Theatre practitioners are always very concerned about reviews. This is not surprising since they have put in a considerable amount of time into a production. A review is a kind of evaluation, and everyone craves feedback therefore actors, directors, producers etc. take reviews very seriously. Reviews are also considered by many in the community to be an essential promotional tool. Bad reviews can kill a show and positive reviews can bring in the crowds—or so the thinking goes. Is this really the case?

It might surprise you to know that positive word of mouth is ultimately what fills seats for all the arts. When audiences are asked why they attended a show, the most frequent response is invariably: “I heard about it from a friend or family member.”  People trust the opinions of their family and friends much more than those of a professional reviewer.

This is not a new phenomenon and has been the case for a long time. What has changed is the speed at which word of mouth can travel. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and cell phones have forever accelerated this process. We live in an age where everyone in the audience is now a reviewer and should be treated with the utmost respect.

I believe that traditional professional reviewers still have a role play to in the process (just not a critical one as most believe).  Reviews are a good way of keeping the “story” of a show alive. Any publicity is good publicity. If people are reading about and discussing theatre they might be encouraged to go out and see it as well (providing their friends/family are interested).

In large markets (New York, Toronto etc.), or during festivals like Fringe, reviewers can also serve as a means of filtering out what is worth seeing. Even in this case, a bad review won’t kill a show. A one star show can attract as much attention as a 5 star show. Anything that differentiates a show from the pack can be leveraged successfully by promoters.

Because Ottawa is still a relatively small market, it is quite possible to see every theatre performance currently in production during the “regular” season. In short, there is no need for the review filter. The choice for the audience becomes “do I want to see a play this evening or not.”  It is crucial to recognize that audiences will be making that decision based on what their peers, families, and friends think. Everything else is secondary (at best).

I do feel reviews can start important conversations or focus the discussion of a show in interesting ways. This is why I write reviews and what I hope to do with my work. To achieve this aim, I am attempting to build relationships with my readers (in person, via social media, and this blog). If I am successful, it will not be because I am considered a professional reviewer but because my readers consider me a peer or friend. Theatre practitioners should strive to create these kinds of relationships with their audiences. That will ultimately bring more success than any 5 star review could ever bring.

Any thoughts?

The Story of a Score: Mozart’s Final Piano Concerto and the Blogger Blob

Wednesday night (September 30) I was pleased to attend Mozart’s Final Piano Concerto: Beyond the Score at the National Arts Centre.  The Beyond the Score series is an innovative concept created by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s creative director, Gerard McBurney. The first half of the program tells the story of the score (Mozart Piano Concerto No.27 in B-flat major K. 595) and for the second half the audience is treated to the work in its entirety performed by the orchestra. 

 In the NAC’s production, this story is told through a wonderful collaboration of local artists of various disciplines. Bill Richardson  (CBC radio) acts as a narrator providing historical, artistic and the cultural context of the score.  Well known local actor, Pierre Brault, effectively plays a whole host of characters inspired by historical documents.  Brault is famous for his one man shows with numerous characters. He is always fun to watch.

As a change of pace, Nick Di Gaetano and Thea Nikolik provide some comedic relief as characters from the Comedia del arte. I would have liked to see some actual mask work. Unfrotuantely, this wasn’t possible given the format of the piece.

In my view, Donna Brown’s  solo soprano performance stood out. A taste of opera was a real pleasure and this part of the program sent chills up my spine. Brown’s voice is hauntingly beautiful and I will keep an eye out for other performances by this talented soprano.

I could have done without the streaming 18th century paintings of Vienna, Mozart etc. This Powerpoint presentation adds very little to the show as a whole. In fact, it often distracts from the performances on the stage.   A few still photos in key places would have been more effective than this repetitve series of images.

The NAC orchestra played beautifully and Katherine Chi (piano) was delightful.  These skilled musicians really shined through-out the program. It had been awhile since I had seen an orchestra live and I had forgotten how powerful an experience that can be.

 Overall, the show is well done and worth seeing, but what I found most impressive was the acknowledgement by the NAC of the power and reach of blogs and social media. Jennifer Covert has been very active in building relationships with the community through Twitter and the blogosphere.  I am very optimistic that others will follow the NAC’s lead and this will lead to a greater engagement of the arts in this city as a whole. In a twitter conversation, Covert nick named us “The Blogger Blob”.  The nick name is quite apt. Much like that amorphous mass of B movie fame, bloggers are replacing and assimilating the “more conventional media.” This will only serve to enrich the arts scene in this city. I am very excited for the present (as much as the future). It is  a thrilling time for Ottawa and the arts!

 On a related note: I will be attending the Anxiety cabaret at the Cube gallery on Sunday. This also is a collaborative effort of local artists. It sounds like a great way to spend a chilly autumn evening.