April 21, 2015

What’s in a QDF Season Launch

The QDF Calendar and season Launch are massive undertakings for the QDF team. No sooner do we put one to bed, and we are on to the next – Reminder: deadline for submission to the fall Calendar is July 20th.   Together these two tools offer opportunities for our members to connect with their potential audiences. Moreover, these tools allow audiences to explore and connect to productions.  While the Calendar is a handy listing that increases the awareness of happenings, Launches offer a unique opportunity to preview said offerings and, what I personally love, the opportunity to track work in progress.

While we would love to be able to have all the members of our Calendar perform a piece from their plays at our launches, we know that the realities of their work makes that impossible.

Let me break it down for you. In broad strokes, there are three different types of producing companies amongst our members; professional, independent and community.

Professional companies have the tightest restraints when it comes to what they can and can’t do, because they work according to union regulated contracts. If a company is not in rehearsal at the time of a launch, it is neigh impossible for the Artists involved to participate. In addition, some productions are co-productions, which rehearse out of town, and only come to town for their run. We schedule launches on Monday as most theatres are closed on that night. Yet if a show is in its run, it is again contractually challenging to ask the Artists to make themselves available on one of their few nights off.

Independent companies, while not so heavily regulated, can also encounter problems.  Depending on when their production goes up, they may not have even held a table read for their play as yet. Some independent companies have an infrastructure that supports their development and productions. Many are independent Artists coming together to create opportunities to get their work before an audience.

Community Theatre is made up of committed individuals, who for the most part, work outside of theatre, and who carve out time to dedicate to their passion. As such, the rehearsal process must be more accommodating of outside commitments, and getting folks together for an event like a Launch, can be very challenging.

Doing regular launches keeps the potential participants manageable – no one wants a 4 hour preview show. We do not screen our participants. If they want to participate, and submit all the material needed by the deadline dates, we do our very best to accommodate them.

Though the timing of the event is relatively predictable, participating means that a company must take the time to produce a mini-piece within the other work they are doing. The early stages of rehearsal are a sensitive and vulnerable time in the production process. The Artists involved may not feel they audience ready. In addition, for them to get the best out of the opportunity, means that they are not with us just for the time they are going to perform, but must also make themselves available for a tech run. This means that participating Artists must commit a good part of their afternoon, for the three to four minutes you will see them on stage.

Based on our awareness of these challenges, and our desire to put members’ needs first, we are constantly looking for way to facilitate the process, broaden participation, and keep launches engaging and informative for audiences.

So, right about now, you might be asking yourself is it worth it, and why do it?

IMO, the answers are YES! We do it because it helps Artists and theatre companies to develop and invites audiences into the process.

Depending on where they are in the development process, participating in a launch can help a company to a) test how an audience is reading the play b) help Actors to get in touch with and deal with opening night nerves c) help to focus their marketing campaign 4) increase public awareness of the company and the work to come 5) become aware of other practitioners and the work being presented, thus acting as a networking event.

As an audience member, one should not come to launches expecting a fait-acompli. Unlike trailers at a movie, which tend to be clips from a finished product, theatre is alive, and the work presented, for the most part, is still in final development. Work is often presented bare boned – no sets, costumes or special lighting. This means that the work will often grow between the launch and the production. Even before I worked for QDF, I went to launches for the same reason I see the same production more than once; it allows me to perceive the growth and development of a production. For me, the process of theatre is as engaging as the productions are, and any chance I get to peek behind the curtain is still a wonder for me.

Moreover, even as a theatre practitioner, I have preferences when it comes to the type of theatre that engages me. While I can and do push myself outside of my comfort zones, I too have limited disposable time and income, and launches allow me to decide where I want to make my theatrical investment.

So what can you expect if you participate in a launch?

If you are a theatre company, you can expect to work with an experienced team, who is happy to lend support and share best practices. You can anticipate an evening planned to put you and your work first, placing it within a neutral frame, allowing you to shine. You can anticipate a team who will look for ways to accommodate you, as long as doing so, does not diminish the process for others.

If you are a theatre lover, you can anticipate an evening of creative variety, an opportunity to see work in progress, and to share in insider tales and spontaneous reveals. You’ll be surprised now and then with give always, and performances you will never see again.  We’ll even throw in a little nosh.

For us, the QDF team, it is an evening of joy, sharing in our community’s creative accomplishments and offering an opportunity for the public to do the same. .

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