We continue our series of LivingArts Hamilton blogs featuring guest writers from a variety of arts disciplines across the community. This week, we're pleased to welcome Canadian theatre artist and founder of Tottering Biped Theatre, Trevor Copp. totteringbiped.ca
I’ve gotten in trouble for saying this before but I’ll do it again: this is the town where it’s easy to be an artist. As long as you’re a visual artist. A musician. Yes, I’m being facetious, none of it is easy – but with the amounts of galleries, live music venues, and festivals that cater to both it just seems possible in a way it isn’t for theatre makers. At least it wasn’t.
The theatrical ecology just isn’t there yet – no one person decided this, but here it is. So, I started to produce Shakespeare at the Royal Botanical Gardens two years ago with a die-hard mandate to pay the mostly young, up-and-coming actors I got to work with. Having a solid summer job has been transformative to these actors, who are now starting to stick around instead of headed off to Toronto to start their careers. That’s one piece of the puzzle.
Shakespeare is an easy sell, though. And the summer only lasts so long. A big piece remains unsolved: how to take the original work at the centre of my practise and mash it into the huge visual arts/music energy rolling around out here? I have tried and failed to capture that momentum. What’s more, I’ve seen a number of other local independent professional companies do the same. And that was the problem: we were all doing it alone.
Now four companies whose work I respect are pulling together to launch a season together, a season where each company will line up its best work while the others support the crap out of it. Just to say ‘season’ is kind of magical: none of us can pull that off, and it’s the kind of thing that audiences need: continuity, momentum, a presence that keeps giving and not another one-off that becomes a rumour before it has even spread.
We’re going to hurl ourselves at the wonderful beast one at a time while the rest make sure that the children are fed and the roof doesn’t cave in. It’s an act of faith like the visual artists who initiated the Art Crawl did – it says we can do these things - if we only do them together. I’d tell you all about the name of it and stuff, but that’s still being born. Whatever it is, whatever it’s called, however it comes to be, when Tottering Biped Theatre, Same Boat Theatre, Broken Soil Theatre, and Suffix Theatre do this thing next year we’re doing it to make a new kind of theatre possible in this town. Hopefully, we’ll help to make it easier for the artists who come after us.
It’s a big dream, but to be fair we got to see it happen before. We got to see our visual arts and music colleagues rise up and kill it out there and keep doing it every day. We just want to catch up.