Help support our friends ProEnglish Theatre in Ukraine.
Supporting our fellow artists as they continue to create and support their community during the war in Ukraine.
Recently we received an email from Alex Borovenskiy, the Artistic Director of ProEnglish Theatre in Kyiv, Ukraine. While it would have been completely understandable to be reaching out for money, he was actually asking for something even easier to give: support from fellow artists in helping to share the word about what is happening in Ukraine, and about the show they are producing from inside a bomb shelter. One that they are also being forced to live in while the city continues to be ruthlessly attacked by Russia.
This is a message direct from ProEnglish Theatre:
Hello, we’re ProEnglish Theatre, an independent theatre in English from Kyiv, Ukraine. We’re creating theatre performances in English, introducing Ukrainians to the Art in English on one hand and introducing Theatre created in Ukraine to world community – on the other.
Right now we are the Art Shelter in Kyiv, theatre turned into the bomb shelter housing local elderly people, parents with kids and 8 cats) We also share our personal experiences in different languages with the world. Our experience of Ukraine being attacked by russian invaders and Kyiv being shelled. Art will stand. Ukraine will stand. Stand with Ukraine
Their show, The Book of Sirens, is a new performance by ProEnglish Theatre of Ukraine, staged and performed from the bomb shelter//theatre in Kyiv: directed by Alex Borovenskiy and performed by Anabell Ramirez.
It has already premiered on Facebook, and can be watched at any time via this link. If you would like to help support the artists and their work, both as creators and as Ukrainians who are helping deliver medicine to their fellow citizens, you can do so by visiting their Patreon. We are currently looking into the best way to collect/direct one-time donations for those who cannot currently commit to a recurring donation.
If you cannot make a donation at this time, we still encourage you to watch the show, and share the link via your channels. Plenty of incredible art has come about because of tragic or horrific circumstances, but often it is done after the fact and cannot directly help those whose suffering was the inspiration or catalyst for its creation. This is a chance to help those who need it, now.
Please join us in showing that as artists, Canadians, and human beings, we support the people of Ukraine and hope for a quick, peaceful end to what has so far been over a month of horror for thousands of innocent people.
t’s a sad fact that all of us producers/creators have had to ask for “free” labor at some point in our creative careers. In a country that is sadly lacking in financial support for artists, it is often necessary to start off with an energy share model and have artists work on a project together with no guarantee of pay. So how do you do that and remain fair and equitable? Here are the key things to consider.
It’s a sad fact that all of us producers/creators have had to ask for “free” labor at some point in our creative careers. In a country that is sadly lacking in financial support for artists, it is often necessary to start off with an energy share model and have artists work on a project together with no guarantee of pay.
So how do you do that and remain fair and equitable? Here are the key things to consider.
1. Be Transparent
There are more shows I’ve done for little-to-no money than ones I’ve done for a fair wage (or really any at all). But there was one key thing they all had in common: transparency. When I am asked to work for an honourarium or profit share the first thing I request is to see the budget. Sometimes this is met with, “oh, well we don’t have a budget, really, it just needs to be cheap as possible”. ALWAYS a bad warning sign. If a producer hasn’t worked out their budget before approaching you (unless it’s just to ask, what would you want to be paid for something like this?) then they may not be accurately valuing their artists. Would I work on an interesting show, that has a budget of $1000, a venue that costs $700, and is asking me to work as a stage manager for a profit share? Probably. Would I do the same on a show with a budget of $10 000? Definitely not. Now, it’s not like there’s some magic number – that’s why a budget is important. A $500 show that has no venue cost and has budgeted to give the lead actor $400 and have the rest of the cast and crew work for free is not reasonable (to most of us). Likewise, there could potentially be some majorly exciting but expensive thing planned for that $10K show that really leaves no room for wages, but could provide an opportunity to work with an exciting new medium, or to be in a show likely to make lots back in ticket sales. And that’s the other thing any good budget should include – profit projections. If your “budget” shows you magically selling out a 500 seat venue for six weeks for your new work by an unknown author, I have some bad news for you. We could do an entire post on proper profit projections, but in short, if you’re a new group without the name power of a big star or popular show, you’re best to plan for 30% of your venue being filled for each show. Of course, in a 20 seat venue, that’s likely higher, but in a 500 seat one probably far lower. I like 100-200 seat theatres myself: good size for indie and generally safe to assume 30% capacity.
2. Be Flexible
When you’re paying your actors union wages it’s reasonable to ask them to follow a typical schedule – be there all day for rehearsal, not miss a day for an audition or any non-emergency reason – but when people are accommodating your budget it’s important you accommodate their schedule. That not only means working out a schedule that doesn’t interfere with their work or other commitments, it also means being approachable and flexible enough that they feel they can come to you to request a change or time off to go to an audition, or accept a one-off paid gig. My general rule of thumb is that each of my shows need about 80 hours of rehearsal. Since I can’t pay people enough to take 2 full weeks off to focus solely on a show, I spread those hours out over 2 months (up to 2 and a half if there are major holiday breaks in there, like over Christmas & New Years), and give them the entire schedule by the first rehearsal so that they can fit their other things in around it.
3. Be Thoughtful
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are just thoughtless or selfish, especially when you’re the one doing a favour. Of course we all feel our shows are important, maybe they’re the greatest thing to come out since Hamlet, but if you are not paying your cast or crew a full wage, you are not doing them a favour – they are doing you one. Let me say that again: a profit-share or small honourarium is not the same as a wage, and if you talk to your cast or crew like they owe you something you’re going to have some very unhappy people, and likely some subpar work because of it. Too many times I have been offered a $50-$100 honourarium for what is upwards of 60 hours of work, and yet if I insist (or even request!) on taking a day off in my schedule to do something else, I’m met with furious emails about how I’m “being paid to do a job”. No, I’m not. I’m being asked to work for free with an agreed upon “thank you” that works out to about $1.60/hr. When I’m the one producing I make sure to remind myself of this, even if there are times when your worker is making things very difficult, because again, at the end of the day, it’s a group of people agreeing to put in time and effort with no real compensation all because the group feels it’s something worth doing. To keep up that kind of energy do things like bringing snacks to rehearsal (I’ve never met an actor who will turn down food), buy everyone a coffee, any little pick-me-up that you can fit into the budget, do it. And you know what goes a long way and is totally free? A thank you. Say it earnestly and say it regularly, and at the end of the show write out a card that lets them know how much you’ve enjoyed working with them, and that you appreciate all they’ve done.
4. Be Improving
Not as catchy sounding but I wasn’t sure how else to phrase it – what I mean is, recognize what you could be improving on and each time you do a show make sure you are doing better in at least one of those ways. For this list we’re talking primarily about budget, so think to yourself, ok, I couldn’t pay everyone this time and I tried a profit-share – did that work? Whether it “worked” is of course subjective, but try these as benchmarks: 1. did you make what you projected and what you told your cast & crew you were aiming for? 2. if not, did you make enough to give the actors the equivalent of at least minimum wage for at least the time spent performing each show? If not, I’d say no, it didn’t work. There are certainly shows where everyone is happy if they get $100 at the end of it, because they are going into it not expecting anything and are ok with that, but even if your cast seems content this show you want to be doing better for the next one, because that’s why you asked this group to make a sacrifice: so you can mount something ambitious that will help you do something even better next time (and that “better” needs to include better pay if that’s something you’ve negotiated here).
5. Be Honest
Similar to being transparent, make sure you’re being honest, both in the lead-up and run of the show and in the reconciliation afterwards. When you’re showing your cast and crew the budget and profit-projections, be honest about where that information is coming from – did you make it up with numbers that sounded right? Is it based off your past shows? Off someone else’s? A best case scenario, or worst one? As you go through the show and work on things like fundraising and selling tickets let your cast and crew in on how that’s going, and how they could help. Don’t go over budget, BUT if somehow you think you absolutely HAVE to, talk to all involved in the profit-share first, and get their consent: they have agreed to a certain budget and you as producer no longer have total control over that as long as their pay is somehow dependent on how that budget changes. Plus, in indie theatre, we’re all used to asking favours, and that great deal that you had on a set piece that has now fallen through? tell your team! They may know how you can get an even better one. Ticket sales during the run of the show are a little tricky – some people want daily updates so they can worry along with the producers and some want to focus on their own roles. I always tell the team that I won’t be announcing it, but they are free to ask me and I will share all numbers, provided they keep that to themselves until the end of the run. It can be tempting after a good selling show to go and announce you’re well on your way, but be sure not to do that unless you know you’ve met your goals for the whole run, because ticket sales can be varied. Likewise, chances are your team knows if the audiences are small and the show is going to lose money, but that isn’t a worry to share with them. Keep morale up, tell them you as producer have things under control, but know that it is your responsibility to answer them honestly with any questions about things like their profit-share.
This should go without saying, but the same is true after a show: let everyone know the money situation even if you think it’s obvious to them. I was once hired to stage manage something and offered either a small up-front honourarium or a profit-share that, with a sell-out run could have been higher. I chose the later not because I thought there was a chance of a sell-out, but because I know how hard it is to get funds up front, and thought it was likely I could get close to the same amount with a share. Ticket sales weren’t great, but this was one my earlier shows and I didn’t bother to ask for a detailed budget up-front, and to me it didn’t seem like a very expensive show, so it was hard to judge. The run finished, I heard them saying in passing sales weren’t what they hoped, and then that was is. No follow-up, no final reporting with an apology that there were no shares but a note that they were happy with what we’d achieved, nothing. That became a team I decided not to work with again. I once had to write to my cast and admit that their profit-share amounts were going to be something like $7.85 per person – seems trivial, but, for one, they were owed that, and two, there have been times where that money would have been significant to me because it could feed me for a day. Thankfully that cast was not as desperate for money, and I believe they all offered to donate it back to the company, but had they requested it I would have been writing out several very small cheques, because that was what was agreed to, and you need to be honest about that.
I don’t agree with the people who say you should never ask artists to work for low or no wages, because I think there is more you can get out of art than just money, and because nearly every one of us has had to start out with nothing to try and build something to get enough attention to help us make something bigger. It’s a sad necessity of theatre in Canada. However, there are right and wrong ways to do this, and as an artist the last thing you want to do is contribute to the idea that somehow artists don’t deserve pay, or to the fact that most of us are continuously precariously employed (at best). To keep theatre sustainable we need to sustain our artists, and recognize that if they can’t continue to make their art, no other part of theatre sustainability really matters. The next time you decide to mount a show, first ask yourself, what is the least I can use to get this across? By doing that, can I pay everyone well? If you still can’t and you still think the art is worth making, be sure to follow these steps to ensure everyone you involve feels the same way and understands the same things – be a part of the sustainable solution, not the problem.
Toronto, ON (September 7, 2021) – Bygone Theatre plans a return to performance for our 9th season. Having taken a break from productions for a year due to the pandemic, we are now happy to announce the shows we have planned for 2022. Artistic Executive Director Emily Dix (Best Director, Broadway World Awards Toronto, 2019) is taking the helm in writing two original stories inspired by classic Hitchcock films, is set to direct a vintage radio podcast, and a show that will bring two of Canada’s greatest comedy legends back to the stage.
October sees the return of our popular Retro Radio Hour – this time in podcast form – sure to get you in the Halloween spirit. Our following shows currently in development are planned for 2022, and exact dates will be announced soon, as COVID protocols are put into place.
Canadian comedy legends WAYNE AND SHUSTERare being brought back to the stage, performed for the first time by a new generation in a collection of their classic skits. Bygone Theatre is honoured to have the chance to work with the duo’s descendants – Brian and Michael Wayne and Rosie Shuster – to bring these much-loved sketches back for a new generation of comedy lovers.
A new play inspired by the John Steinbeck short story that was the basis for the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name, LIFEBOATis a tension-filled WWII era drama. A civilian Allied ship is sunk in the middle of the ocean, and an unlikely group of strangers find themselves trapped together in a lifeboat, drifting aimlessly at sea. When a half-drowned man is pulled from the wreckage all seem eager to help – until it’s discovered he’s a German soldier. As the only man aboard qualified to navigate the ship, the survival of all involved seems to depend on him, but can the German be trusted, even if his life is one of those at stake? And as the days drag on and supplies dwindle, will he remain the only “enemy” on board?
In another twist on a Hitchcockian classic, THE BIRDS is a Cold-War Era thriller that examines what happens when the line between truth and propaganda becomes dangerously blurred. New York Socialite Daphne Daniels is headed to an old family cottage with her brother and husband for a weekend of R&R, but when her husband is unexpectedly delayed and their neighbours turn out to be Daphne’s old flame and his new girl, tensions run high. Things take a bizarre turn when reports of violent bird attacks start flooding the airwaves and the sudden crisis brings out everyone’s deepest fears and darkest convictions.
We’ve been busy behind-the-scenes through our 2020/21 hiatus: we have once again been accepted into the Business/Arts Artsvest mentorship program and look forward to their training and the opportunity to have matching sponsorship funding. This August, we were thrilled to be nominated for Best Live Theatre in the Toronto Star Readers’ Choice Awards, the results of which will be announced this fall. In September we will be launching our new education initiative, a series of workshops available for students grades 7-12: Careers In The Arts; The Audition Process; and Something From Nothing: How to Produce Your First Show. Through the generous support of writer/producer/story-teller Jane Aster Roe, Bygone will be expanding and improving our Youth Production Assistant program and adding a generous honourarium to the position.
On March 26, 2021, our partner the Youth Climate Report, led by Dr. Mark Terry, was honoured with a United Nations SDG Action Award, and we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to showcase a short video outlining our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the award ceremony. We continued to develop our Sustainability Mandateand announced the three core branches of that program: Mend and Make Do; Vintage Aesthetic (Not Vintage Values); and Indie Unite. These initiatives will be the basis of this year’s web programming. We also implemented a new Diversity and Accessibility Mandatewhich will shape all our work going forward. Finally, we are currently raising funds to support the launch of a large-scale theatre sustainability survey that we hope will help encourage better sustainability processes not only in Toronto, but the entire theatre community.