Local Theatre Groups Forge Partnership In Uncertain Times

Monday February 1st, 2021

Posted at 4:37pm

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As theatres remain closed to the public, it hasn’t stopped two groups from planning for the future.

With Southern Ontario’s stay-at-home order in effect, Post Productions and Windsor Feminist Theatre (WFT) are joining forces. Looking past Covid-19, the two groups recently announced a partnership that came from a play scheduled for later this spring.

Seeing the potential, Post Productions’ Michael K. Potter has been excited from the start.

“WFT artistic director Patricia Fell contacted us in early November about the possibility of performing their new show (Dominatrix on Trial) at the Shadowbox Theatre in spring 2021,” said the managing director. “We were excited about the possibility because we’d heard so much about it from Joey Ouellette and Rebecca Mickle, who have worked with Post Productions many times. It sounded like an interesting, unique, and provocative production. We knew it had been scheduled to run at the Kordazone [theatre] in the spring of 2020, but that was cancelled because of Covid. Anyway, as we were negotiating, we started talking about other things and [Fell] raised the idea of a partnership. Fay Lynn, Nikolas Prsa and I talked it over and decided it was worth further discussion.”

Post Productions soon met and reached an agreement with WFT board members before their production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane. While entering the partnership based solely on collaboration, sharing resources and supporting each other, those are also things the group has strived for since being founded in 2016.

Despite having their own focus, Potter thinks there’s lots of common ground to bring them together.

“The more we talked, the clearer it became that we have a lot in common,” he said. “We at Post Productions have admired WFT for a long time. They take creative risks and tell bold stories about unsettling themes like we do. They’re fiercely independent but also pro-social and collaborative like we are. Each of us has our own venue that we encourage others to use. And, of course, each of us believes artists should be paid for their work. We’re two distinct companies with distinct identities, yet we share many of the same values and principles.”

It’s a sentiment echoed on the other side as well.

“WFT’s mandate to ‘Illuminate the reality of women’s lives and stories through theatre and the arts’ aligns with Post Productions principle #5, ‘Focus on character and story over all other aspects of theatre,’ said Fell. “This partnership will manifest through open conversation investigating collaborative possibilities relating to our separate programming goals.”

As for the non-profit theatre company itself, WFT was founded in 1980. Recognized as one of the nation’s first feminist theatre organizations, it’s also among Canada’s oldest.

Having such history, the experience is another huge asset for everyone involved.

“Windsor Feminist Theatre has been around for a long time, so they have a wealth of experience we can learn from,” said Potter. “They’ve done so many different things. They also have a lot of experience collaborating with a variety of organizations, experience working with all sorts of different artists. Post Productions is always eager to learn as much as possible.”

As previously mentioned, WFT will share their Suzanne Turnbull Memorial Amphitheatre on Pelee Island. This also presents an opportunity to eventually collaborate on WFT’s Greek Revival Theatre Festival. Another element of working together is Fell’s inclusion as one of this year’s judges in Post Productions’ fourth annual Windsor-Essex playwriting contest.

Acknowledging the mutual benefits, she also hopes to raise money for local artists and the economy.

“]Our contributions are] returned on Post Productions end with the Shadowbox Theatre and the Windsor-Essex Playwriting Contest,” she said. “Commonalities include the production of ‘risk’ theatre, working in an environment of shared mutual respect and compensating the artists we work with monetarily. We both bring a solid production history and the fundraising necessary to achieve that. On a more practical business level, WFT brings registered charitable organization status and partnerships with other important organizations such as Optimist International and Supporting Performing Arts in Rural & Remote Communities (SPARC.) WFT brings extensive grant-writing experience, and Post Productions also brings very effective marketing and advertising capabilities.”

Born during such uncertainty, the partnership comes at a crucial time for local theatre. Looking to create more collaboration and support from its conception, Post Productions hopes this partnership inspires others to do the same. Beyond that, Potter wants it to help build momentum for the “a title=”Local Theatre Companies Assemble For Family Reunion – WWindsoriteDOTca” href=”https://windsorite.ca/2020/01/local-theatre-companies-assemble-for-family-reunion/”>Windsor-Essex Theatre Alliance.

Doing so is something he believes would improve the entire local theatre community.

“A rising tide lifts all boats, as they say,” said Potter. “There are no downsides to all of the local theatre companies working together to share resources, support each other’s work and raise the profile of our region’s ridiculously diverse and vibrant theatre industry. Now, especially as companies are looking forward to what lies ahead at the other end of the Covid-19 pandemic, I hope we’ve all learned how much we need and rely on each other to succeed.”

This is one of the qualities that WFT shares with their new partner as well.

“It is wonderful to be working with a fellow theatre company that believes in coming together and supporting one another as a whole,” said WFT board member Kianna Porter. “This relationship is a great start to building a better art community. One where we as artists can brainstorm and come up with innovative ways to keep theatre alive in these times. Two companies who believe in producing thought-provoking, unique pieces and paying artists for their work. This shows community and hopefully inspires some change and real action towards a better future for artists.”

Part of that change for Potter is cross-pollinating with other groups to reach a wider audience. Making it a bigger focus since 2019, Post Productions has strived to bring in people who haven’t seen a play since being in school or even at all. This has resulted in many non-theatre goers returning to experience more shows afterwards.

It’s this same philosophy that’s driven him to co-promote with other groups like WFT. Having built up their own loyal audience over four decades, Potter knows many of them haven’t seen his production company’s plays and vice versa. Instead of viewing it as a bad thing, though, the managing director sees it as an opportunity for both groups to reach more people.

As the partnership continues, both groups hope to co-produce shows in the future. Building something together that they wouldn’t be able to separately is a prospect that excites Potter as well.

He isn’t the only one looking forward to bringing their sensibilities together either.

“This exciting partnership between Windsor Feminist Theatre and Post Productions will encourage new and diverse forms of theatre, encompassing each of their mandates in the spirit of supporting artists with unique visions,” said WFT Vice President Collette Broeders. “It brings Interdisciplinary and intersectional together with programming drawn from a broad range of theatrical disciplines, bringing forward and merging works from theatre, literary arts, music, community arts and dance.”

These roots in performing arts will provide a regular showcase for the partnership as well.

“The Shadowbox Theatre being a collaborative artistic space is something we’ve all been quite proud of at Post, and this is another important chapter for the venue,” said Post Productions’ outreach director Nikolas Prsa. “WFT has many shared principles and values with Post, but their productions have a flair and approach unique to them. Audiences and fellow producers will come to the Shadowbox and be amazed at how two companies will be able to pursue their visions under one roof and show how versatile the space is. For performers and companies that do not have a permanent venue, choosing to rent a stage is no small logistical feat. The way we see it, the more viable options companies have to share their art, the better.”

Even though they’re actively pursuing other collaborations, Post Productions isn’t ready to make any more announcements just yet. Still, the group is spending their time away from the stage wisely.

Like the last time they paused on performances, work has continued behind the scenes to keep things running. Five productions are currently in various stages of development, and their annual playwriting contest was just launched. If that wasn’t enough, the theatre company is reorganizing their space at Shadowbox Theatre, getting ideas together for grant applications and conceptualizing a new venture they hope to announce in 2022.

Given the work that goes into each production, these preparations are being made to improve the experience when audiences return. After all, it’s those same performances that fuel such partnerships as the one Post Productions has with Windsor Feminist Theatre.

“I think Post and WFT will continue to do what they do best, presenting exciting productions that will be remembered for years to come,” said Prsa. “I foresee plenty of holistic exchange between our organizations while also staying true to our values and missions. At a time where so many things are up in the air when it comes to art, I hope it’ll be encouraging to see the two of us coming together to forge a colourful future full of it.”

 

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