Repeating last year’s successful strategy, the Ottawa indie theatre series TACTICS is once again reaching out to communities beyond their loyal theatre fans, in order to build audience.
Who’s going to be interested in this year’s lineup? Artistic Director Bronwyn Steinberg identified a diverse range of groups: teens, their parents, and anti-bullying advocates. Fans of spoken word, poetry, hip-hop and storytelling. Theatre fans looking for new play development. Dance aficionados. Fans of indie singer-songwriter music. And foodies.
This is the series’ third year. Steinberg proudly announced that from the first to the second year, the TACTICS audience grew by 55%. She attributes that growth to the way that Jessica Ruano (last year’s marketing and communications director) connected productions with organizations and communities beyond the usual theatre audience. As Steinberg put it, “A lot of the productions that tend to end up in TACTICS do have a community or political tie-in.” TACTICS retains this strategy for 2017.
For instance, last year, Cart Before the Horse Theatre (CBHT) forged a partnership with Epilepsy Ottawa for their production of Perfect Pie, because one of the characters was epileptic. Producer Megan Carty and director Gabrielle Lazarovitz said that a large part of their audience were people they’d never seen in a theatre before. So this year, CBHT has connected with the Ottawa Bullying Prevention Coalition to promote girls!girls!girls! by Canadian playwright Greg MacArthur. The play is a response to the brutal death of Reena Virk in Victoria and the Columbine Massacre in Colorado. CBHT has built an enthusiastic audience of teens and parents with Perfect Pie and The Shape of a Girl and chose girls!girls!girls! for that audience.
Jacqui Du Toit is performing the other Main Stage Series production, The Hottentot Venus – Untold, the story of one of the first indigenous African woman from the Khoisan clan to be taken from her home, Cape Town, South Africa and put on display in a ‘freak’ show at 225 Piccadilly, London in 1810. Du Toit’s target audience are the poetry, spoken-word, hip-hop and storytelling communities. She runs an arts venue (Origin Arts and Community Centre) that is the only venue in Ottawa run fully by people of colour.
Carty and Lazarovitz say that being in TACTICS Main Stage Series provides them with a larger theatre and audience than they could afford on their own. Therefore they can put more resources into their productions (cast, lighting, sound) to yield a better experience for their audience.
Steinberg has changed the format of TACTICS this year so the Main Stage plays run back-to-back. Her plan is to build energy and momentum between shows the way that festivals like undercurrents and the Ottawa Fringe do. But unlike those festivals, each production inhabits the theatre space for the full run, so designers can arrange the Arts Court Theatre space to fit the needs of their play.
Steinberg has added a new Workshop Series of five shows to TACTICS this year, since the theatre will have time available for the last week and a half. This will give fans of new play development an advance look at what some Ottawa indie theatre artists are working on now.
For instance, Madeleine Boyes-Manseau is presenting a work in progress, Wanting, based on stories of her grandmothers. She directed Wolves > Boys and Happiness™ and performed in The Open Couple and To Hell in a Handbasket. Boyes-Manseau said that being advertised in TACTICS means that she expects a bigger audience than she could attract on her own. She can afford to go beyond a simple staged reading to include mise-en-scene, sound and lighting that she will test out in front a live audience.
Boyes-Manseau is excited that dance aficionados will be coming to TACTICS to see Amelia Griffin’s solo dance theatre piece Uknadian in the Workshop Series. Griffin was choreographer for the popular The Ghomeshi Effect in January. Boyes-Manseau and Steinberg see this as an opportunity for fans of dance to try out theatre and vice versa.
Indie music fans can look forward to Lucila Al Mar’s album release party for her new album, Nada es Para Siempre // Nothing is forever.
Taking a page from GCTC’s popular Chefs & Shows, TACTICS has asked Tarek Hassan, chef of Gongfu Bar Food Cart to put together a dinner, Show Plates, with four other local indie chefs. The menu, an amuse-gueule and four courses, is a pre-show meal preceding a performance of girls!girls!girls! Tickets are limited and include both dinner and show.
TACTICS is not trying to be a festival with something for everyone. Rather it is inviting communities of different specific interests to come together and meet each other through the media of theatre, poetry, storytelling, dance, music and food.
TACTICS runs from April 19th to May 6th at Arts Court Theatre (2 Daly Ave). See their website for more details and to buy tickets.