Festival's Garratt, King return from PACT invigorated - May 17, 2018
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Gil Garratt and Rachael King of the Blyth Festival are back from the annual Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) conference in Ottawa invigorated and encouraged.
Garratt, the Blyth Festival’s Artistic Director and King, its General Manager, were both instrumental in the conference, the theme of which was “The Future of Storytelling”. They both sat on panels in the nation’s capital to discuss telling stories both on and off the stage.
Garratt, alongside Lindsay Delaronde, the Indigenous Artist in Residence for the City of Victoria, British Columbia, hosted a panel on the future of Canadian theatre.
There were three groups, Garratt said, which debated the future of Canadian theatre. One group looked ahead five years and another looked a decade into the future. Garratt and Delaronde, however, were asked to look 20 years into the future of theatre.
He says that after a few discussions with Delaronde, they decided to take an unorthodox approach to their panel, welcoming everyone to sit around them and turn it into more of a discussion, rather than a seminar.
Garratt said it was a “special conversation” about Canadian theatre.
He said that the goal should be to celebrate and the opportunities within Canadian theatre and celebrate telling Canadian stories, but also recognize the challenges and destruction that is also part of Canada’s history.
Garratt said that both he and Delaronde felt that there would be an ongoing theme of reconciliation and healing in Canadian theatre in the years to come.
The Blyth Festival is currently the national organization’s representative of Region 4, which includes every theatre in the province that isn’t in Toronto.
In addition, the theatre is an integral part of the PACT Rural Caucus, which Festival representatives helped to found three years ago.
As a result, both Garratt and King were involved in a number of discussions over the course of the weekend, which also brought them together with familiar Festival faces, former Artistic Director Eric Coates, now of the Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa, and John McHenry, now of the Sudbury Theatre Centre.
King’s big contribution to the weekend was on a panel on storytelling. She was a key member of a panel that discussed a theatre telling its stories, but from a non-theatrical aspect.
The panel was comprised of non-artistic directors and King said that she focused on the relationships at the heart of the Blyth Festival. Whether it’s with a local organic community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm or with The Citizen, King said that the theatre is unique in Canada and its relationships, heritage and storytelling are at the core of what the theatre delivers.
Over the course of the weekend, Garratt said, one of the foci was on analytics relating to theatre customers. Getting to know your customers, where they come from and why they come to the theatre, he said, it integral to getting to know your audience.
Garratt, however, said that the Festival already hits the ground running when it comes to that type of analysis. Knowing audience members, donors and sponsors, Garratt said, is crucial to what the Festival does and its place within the community.
In addition, in regards to storytelling, Garratt said he felt invigorated when he heard other theatres talk about the need to connect with their communities. He said that it’s important for a theatre to craft a season that will connect with the community and tell stories that will be of interest to the locals.
Garratt said that the Blyth Festival doesn’t often have to make those considerations, because all of the stories produced on the Memorial Hall stage are of interest to community members, in accordance with the Festival’s mandate.
The Festival’s season opens with a remount of The Pigeon King on Friday, June 1, followed by the opening of The New Canadian Curling Club on June 22, Judith: Memories of a Lady Pig Farmer on June 29, 1837: The Farmers’ Revolt on Aug. 3 and Wing Night at the Boot on Aug. 10.
For more information on the Blyth Festival or its 2018 season, visit blythfestival.com.