This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into Ottawa’s theatre scene—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Bronwyn Steinberg on the future of indie theatre in Ottawa, or read posts from Jacqui Du Toit on storytelling, Cameron Bishop on community theatre, or Pierre Antoine Lafon Simard on French theatre.
Bronwyn Steinberg is the new Artistic Director of Lunchbox Theatre in Calgary. She is a theatre maker and director who has directed at GCTC, The Gladstone, Arts Court and in parks with A Company of Fools during the 12 years she lived in Ottawa. She is the founding artistic director of TACTICS, Ottawa’s curated indie theatre series.
Apt613: What is the current state of independent theatre in Ottawa?
Bronwyn Steinberg: The indie community in Ottawa is bursting with potential. I truly believe that it can be a place where artists build their careers and thrive. Of course, there is always the temptation for emerging artists to head off to Toronto and Montreal, but I think that more and more artists are recognizing the potential here and sticking around. As someone who toured and moved around a lot as an emerging artist, I personally found a powerful shift happened in my own career when I decided to commit to my life in Ottawa and to contribute actively to building the arts scene I wanted to be a part of. I know for sure I wouldn’t have gotten the job I have now without making that commitment. And it was heartbreaking to have to leave my beloved Ottawa community when I took this job [at Lunchbox Theatre], but I’m also so excited to see how the next generation of indie arts leaders in Ottawa continue to build the scene according to their goals and dreams.
If you care to make a prediction… Where is indie theatre going in 2021?
Wow, if I could make an accurate prediction about 2021, I would be a genius… or a fortune teller. I do know I’m excited to see how artists continue to find ways to tell their stories and connect the community, whether it’s a big triumphant return to live-in-person theatre, or in the digital space, or some kind of hybrid.
Where in your wildest dreams could Ottawa theatre go in your lifetime?
I dream of an Ottawa theatre community that is interconnected, inclusive, and thriving at all levels. Where students and emerging artists work alongside established professionals, and everyone can learn and grow from each other’s influence and perspective. Where artists are busy all year long with a mix of their own passion projects and working to support another artist’s dreams. Where everyone has a living wage, by being paid industry standards anytime they are working on a contract, and with meaningful support like a Basic Income that acknowledges that artists are in fact always working (translating our experience of the world into art and stories)–whether we have a contract or not.
What is the best innovation to take place in theatre since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?
I’m most inspired to see the community rallying together to have big conversations about our practice that we normally don’t have time to get into. There’s a genuine desire to make sure that when we return to “regular” theatre production, we do it in ways that are safe, respectful, equitable, and inclusive. And it’s not just a desire–companies and artists are using this time to do the work and the research to make genuine commitments and take meaningful action.
Who is the future of theatre in Ottawa?
I can’t wait to meet them! And for now, I’m very excited about the PRESENT of theatre in Ottawa. Of course, I’m particularly thrilled that Ludmylla Reis and Rebecca Benson have taken over artistic leadership of my beloved TACTICS. I can’t wait to see how they, the team and artists at Fresh Meat, artists working at Youth Infringement and Fringe, and those working in other spaces I don’t know yet, will ALL shape both the present and the future of theatre in this community.
Tell us something you wish somebody told you when you started your career in theatre.
If you build it, they may not come. But you will still have built a thing. And you’ll bring people together. And learn, and grow. So keep on building it. Try not to worry about if “they” will come.
Back in 2015, Apartment613 took a look at the future of Ottawa across several different sectors. In 2021, we’re bringing the series back, asking experts, artists, and community leaders to shed some light on their local field or industry, as it stands now and where they think—or dream—it will go over the next few years. Every week we’ll profile a different cultural sector in Ottawa, leaving no niche unexplored—from social justice to theatre, bars to sports, to the future of the municipality and its natural environs. Keep an eye out for a new batch of posts every Tuesday on Apt613.ca.