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The Changing Theatre Landscape

New Models in Use by Theatre Artists, Groups and Organizations

April 29, 201529 April 2015

Performing arts / Theatres

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In a situation where “the growth in the number of artists attempting to start new [theatre] companies [exceeds] the growth in the funding available”, this report, based on a review of relevant and recent Canadian reports, attempts to identify “key practices, approaches or models that theatre artists, groups and organizations are implementing or adapting to ensure their art-making is viable and thriving”.

The report outlines key challenges in the theatre sector: “artistic innovation, new technology, changing demographics, different patterns of audience engagement, and limited resources”.

Regarding the “organizational structures, working practices, and behaviours” that are changing in order to better support theatre-making, the report highlights:

  • A number of discussions and meetings between theatre practitioners regarding new ways of meeting the sector’s challenges.
  •  “A lot of networking and collaboration among similar-sized theatre organizations”.
  • Administrative structures (“integrated project cores”) focussing on project development rather than traditional theatre seasons.
  • A greater focus on resource sharing between theatre companies, including co-productions and more supportive relationships.
  • Greater use of alternative or temporary venues and spaces.
  • An American service organization that develops “powerful technological tools to address the challenges facing artists and arts organizations”. These tools include a “cloud based database for managing ticket selling, donations and contacts for relationship building” as well as “an online database to connect artists and venues/spaces”. The online venues database is being adapted for use in some Canadian cities, including Toronto and Hamilton.

The authors caution that much of the Canadian literature is based on urban centres and anecdotal. In fact, they indicate that “a lack of reflective information on the theatre sector makes it very difficult for theatre artists and organizations to successfully navigate the rapidly [changing] theatre landscape…. More research specific to theatre [is] urgently needed.”

For arts funders, the authors indicate that that “the evolving theatre producing models and new ways of developing plays will require changes in the grant application process”, including changes to grant application forms, changes to funding models for new play development, blurred divisions between project and operating funding, longer-term project funding, and more funding for cross-disciplinary work.

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