Persephone Working Group: UPDATE – March 8, 2021
For the past two weeks, the Working Group has been talking with theatre artists, audience members, and other individuals interested in the health and future of Persephone Theatre. We have had one-on-one phone conversations, Zoom calls, walk & talks. There have been virtual gatherings, and thoughtful and impassioned e-mail correspondences.
These are some of the things we are hearing.
Many people are open to the idea of a leadership model that is different from the current single Artistic Director partnered with a General Manager structure. People have suggested a flattened pyramid, perhaps a triumvirate. People have talked about a model with an Executive Producer with no direct artistic responsibility and a team or committee responsible for artistic programming.
To that end, members of the Working Group spoke with artistic leaders across the country who had been part of organizations that had been led by co-artistic directors, or a team of artistic directors. To our surprise, these leaders spoke quite positively about the experience, with the caveat that the model requires strong communication and clear agreements about responsibilities.
People also talked about terms for the artistic leader or artistic team, many setting five years as a possible timeframe, some suggesting seven. Several also suggested an overlap or staggered transitions for any artistic leadership.
Many people talked about not necessarily changing the model but changing the practices within the extant model: consultation on programming, incorporating Indigenous practices like talking circles and consensus building, an artistic advisory that is consulted over the course of the season, collaboration with the community, generosity, an open door policy.
The words that keep coming up in discussions about what people want to see in a new artistic leader or leaders are empathy, kindness, generosity, welcoming.
Another word that we are hearing a lot is “hub.” Several people have articulated a desire that Persephone become a hub for the artistic community, a creative centre, a shared resource. People talk about opening up the Tier II lounge so that artists can make meetings there, allowing Rehearsal Hall B to be booked if it is not being used by Persephone or another company, giving artists access to photocopying at cost. People suggested monthly community gatherings in the lobby to allow artists to network and catch up. Several people talked about the need for deeper, stronger connections between the University and the theatre.
These are the things we have been hearing. We are still inviting conversations, still continuing to hold gatherings, so please feel free to contact us. Our contacts are below.
In the next two weeks, the Working Group will also be attempting to craft a call for artistic leadership that reflects the desires of the community, that is open enough to invite all kinds of candidates, whether individual or team, that is honest enough to encourage innovative and energetic artist leaders to want to be a part of the transformation of the theatre, to imagine it into a post-pandemic world.
Everyone we have spoken to is hungry for change, for a more connected, more inclusive theatre. Artists from across the country have sent us notes of encouragement, have told us they are watching, that they are hopeful that Persephone can be a model for the rest.
We are working on it.