Par Table de concertation de la relève du CQT
The Conseil québécois du théâtre (CQT) invites the Quebec theater community to read the open letter written by Table de concertation de la relève du CQT (Issue table for emerging practitioners).
Recovery of what, exactly?
We are the emerging practitioners you paved the way for; some refer to us simply as “the next generation.” We’re evolving alongside you; we’re bright and engaged, but many of us are also already out of breath, already a little broken. Faced with what has become of the theatre sector after two years of the pandemic, we call on you, our colleagues, to take stock of where we are at and reimagine the way we work—the professions which some are fond of referring to as “our industry” but which we call our community. This letter is a call for solidarity.
Right now, in spring 2022, the theatre landscape in Quebec has been cobbled back together from ruins. The ruins of people’s lives, after so many burnouts, lack of financial security, a relentless stress that has worn us down after the postponements, cancellations and programming bottlenecks. And the ruins of an imagined future: that of all the potential creative work in limbo in our imaginations, where we fear it will remain for good.
All of us have been struggling to keep our heads above water for the past two years, to save a failing structure, “promote theatre” and work toward a restart and recovery. But what exactly are we trying to recover? A system that rests on the backs of workers paid ridiculously low wages or, sometimes, not paid at all? A reopening with no social safety net? With productions put back on the stage at no risk to programmers? A recovery with almost no space given to research or reflection? Seeing our colleagues overworked, exhausted, we all told each other: “never again.” But the minute theatres reopened their doors, it went up in smoke. We left those vital reflections behind us, those ways of thinking that had inspired our confined minds to do better.
May 2021: the next generation gets organized! We host a virtual event and discussion between emerging theatre practitioners, bringing together dozens of young artists: Jasette de la relève théâtrale. Performers, creators, playwrights, directors, dramaturges, assistant directors, stage managers, technicians, technical and production directors, and cultural workers used this space to talk about the state of their profession, their creativity levels and employment opportunities. So many voices echoed the same concern: is there any room for us?
As the theatre community works frantically to restart activities, we feel the necessity for a group who will keep these reflections alive, come up with concrete strategies and actions, and represent our best interests. In fall 2021, the Table de concertation pour la relève (issue table for emerging practitioners) was created, supported by the Conseil québécois du théâtre (CQT). We are writing to you today as members of this forum. We would like to work together towards a thought-out recovery that reflects our desire for equity and well-being.
We invite you to join us in establishing and reinforcing equitable production conditions that support and nurture practitioners, and to move away from a productivity-centric mindset that impedes creation and always ends up working against us in the end. Rejecting the imperative to be productive provides fertile ground for research-creation work, the kind that allows you to explore, to lose yourself, fail, and begin to shape something, and that allows the next generation of theatre practitioners to go out and engage with their practice. A working environment for artists without the imperative of having to present work at all costs. An environment that provides trust and support. And, when it comes time to present our work, we need to make sure we have adequate production conditions. A programmed work must have funding. Production needs to happen with real support that includes financial, administrative and artistic engagement.
We are evolving in a fragile ecosystem where there needs to be greater collaboration between generations. How can we ensure the plurality of voices, identities and practices essential for a healthy dialogue between us and our audiences? Everyone can do their part: institutions and established companies, arts associations and schools, producers and funding bodies. Initiatives created for and by the next generation play an important role, but have their limitations, and often leave us exhausted. We’re inviting you to open up your doors to us and create space for those entering the profession, so that everyone can find their place within the community. We don’t want more of us to have to walk away for good, as so many already have over the last two years.
We love our work, but we don’t subscribe to this culture of precarity. We don’t believe in sacrificing ourselves, our mental health and our bodies in the name of our “vocation.” We have no wish to stay in a toxic relationship with our practice just because that is what our community has always known. We can collectively do better and use this “relaunch and recovery” to demand better working conditions for all. It’s imperative that we continue to fight for employment insurance reform that recognizes our unique status and is adapted to our reality, and that we push for other measures to sustain our financial well-being.
The last provincial budget and pandemic measures give us hope. But we need to see the money actually trickle down to the artists. We want to be part of the discussion. We need to also question how ethical it is for company successions to limit fair redistribution of public funds. Change can happen outside the governmental structure too; we can take concrete action within our work teams: the right to disconnect, to not have to submit to the pressure of creating work without adequate funding, implementation of anti-harassment policies, and beyond. These measures must be sustainable to prevent an exodus of young artists from the profession.
We are calling for transparency and horizontality, employed for the collective good in our theatres and associations. Each of us has a responsibility to help build a community based on equality. A community that is feminist, anti-racist, decolonial, anti-ableist, and inclusive of members of the BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+ communities. A community that makes space for marginalized individuals across the profession, people who are self-taught and people who trained outside Quebec. We need to end this culture of competition, cultivate a nurturing environment and decompartmentalize the performing arts. This is how we move towards a real dialogue with the world around us.
We applaud initiatives launched by various organizations to better integrate emerging practitioners into the theatre community, including internships, grants from different funders, audition and residency opportunities . We hope these initiatives, which are emergency measures, remain part of the theatre landscape for good. We’ve included the documents from the Jasette event along with this letter. They include additional information on these initiatives and some of the solutions we’ve come up with for the future.
This spring, we’re meeting with large groups of French- and English -speaking graduates from theatre schools and alternative training programs, as well as self-taught individuals. Starting this fall, we’ll be sending out members of our group to meet with you: artistic directors, arts councils, and any other organization with the power to support the next generation. We’re reaching out. Let’s take advantage of the clean slate we’ve been left with after the pandemic to finally start a dialogue across generations. Let’s begin a new chapter together to create a healthier, more inclusive community. Because, frankly, you can see as clearly as we do that we don’t just need to recover, we need to rebuild.
Document: La jasette de la relève
If you would like to support this letter by including your name to the list of signatories, please click HERE.
If you are interested in the work of the succession table, write to us at this address firstname.lastname@example.org
Table de concertation de la relève (Issue table for emerging practitioners)
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