The Status and Future of Production Ottawa

Hi there, Ottawa.

In January 2012, officially launched. Things had been slowly getting in place since June 2011, but an official launch day is a big deal. It makes things official.

REVIEW: A Midwinter's Dream Tale

A Midwinter’s Dream Tale @ The Great Canadian Theatre Company

Production Ottawa was started with the goal of becoming a singular repository of information for everything happening in Ottawa and places nearby – the more that’s happening in a thriving and growing city, the more important it is to have a single place to find out about it all. One stop instead of dozens. More, I wanted to give a voice to those doing the producing, wherever possible, such that they could easily reach people with the message they needed to share: Why should people come and see my show?

You know the arts section you wish the local papers had? The magazine that was all about Ottawa theatre? The place that covers everything equally? That’s Production Ottawa.

It seemed Ottawa agreed. The theatre community jumped on board and supported the initiative more quickly than I would have ever imagined. Fast forward now to these eighteen month later and Production Ottawa has published 470 articles including more than 200 reviews. We’ve produced 150+ videos and published 57 photo galleries that have been seen by thousands and we’ve had those photos used in both of Ottawa’s major newspapers. We’ve covered community theatre, professional theatre, high school theatre, and internationally touring shows. We’ve covered both small independent niche shows and major musical spectacles.

Dangerous Liaisons @ The Ottawa Little Theatre

Dangerous Liaisons @ The Ottawa Little Theatre

We haven’t managed to hit the “everything” mark yet, but we’ve gotten closer than anybody else and have become one of, if not the, most thorough sources of theatre coverage in Ottawa. And we certainly boast the most thorough publically available events calendar anywhere.

None of this came without a lot of work from a very small team. Mostly, myself and Reena Belford. Plus, of course, our photographer, David Pasho, and  contributions from a wonderful team of occasional reviewers, Matthew Champ, Valerie Cardinal, Joshua Chenoweth, Kurt Shantz, Meghan Murphy, and Douglas Connors.

Reena was the amazingly committed person without whom the event calendar never would have become a thing. Not to mention jump starting our Twitter and Facebook platforms and sharing the responsibility of preparing all those preview articles.

My own work on Production Ottawa, between coordinating things and other background work, getting articles up, attending media calls and producing videos, and seeing and reviewing shows averaged just over twenty hours a week throughout the entire of 2012. That’s average. Some weeks were a full-time forty.

This was work Reena and I were both happy to do to bring Production Ottawa to where it is now. We knew it was a start-up venture and period of growth and that there was a lot to get done to reach and maintain to a certain level of quality.

Life Brings Change

Production Ottawa reviews Stones in his Pockets, a play by Marie Jones, directed by John P Kelly

Stone in His Pockets @ The Gladstone

My life has changed significantly in the past six months and I no longer have twenty hours a week, or even half that, to spend with Production Ottawa any more.  (Not that that would have been able to last forever anyway.) Anybody who knows me knows I’ve loved doing this. I love the people I’ve gotten a chance to meet through Production Ottawa and nothing makes me happier than to be able to support their work and passion by seeing it promoted. But other priorities emerge and life’s demands on me have been ever-increasing.

Reena, too, has had to end her involvement with Production Ottawa to focus on new opportunities, like moving, getting married, her family, and spending more time acting.

(This is all what accounts for the disruption in service you may have noticed in late April and throughout May of this year.)

Media Launch for the 2012 Ottawa Fringe Festival

Media Launch for the 2012 Ottawa Fringe Festival

Back in January, we’d had a general meeting with some of the players in Ottawa Theatre whose support has been immeasurable and the tone of the meeting was all about continued growth and how we could provide even better coverage. Which makes it doubly disheartening to be announcing only six months later that Production Ottawa will be going on a near complete hiatus starting immediately.

The Future of Production Ottawa

We will be finishing off the summer with a few final reviews – to properly send off the season – but afterwards, no new articles or reviews will be posted to Production Ottawa until the hiatus ends. We will continue to attend media calls and do photography going into the new season, but only for Facebook galleries (which have always been very popular). Email contactus©productionottawa•com for these details.

This hiatus will likely run through the end of 2013. During these next months, I’ll be re-evaluating what Production Ottawa is able to do and the kinds of coverage we can continue to provide. I would love to see Production Ottawa continue to be the most thorough source of coverage for Ottawa theatre but what I’m not willing to do is to continue Production Ottawa as a partial source of information. I don’t want to make choices about who gets coverage and who doesn’t nor do I believe that that’s remotely as useful.

Hroses, produced by Evolution Theatre in association with MiCasa Theatre

Hroses, produced by Evolution Theatre in association with MiCasa Theatre

I mentioned earlier that the theatre community quickly jumped on board and supported what Production Ottawa represented. That was from the outside. Now we need to see some of that same support from the inside. The most basic truth is that without a much larger team of volunteers than we’ve had, there’s no way that Production Ottawa will be able to continue to function past this hiatus. At all.

Production Ottawa Needs You

This is the call to action. If you believe in what Production Ottawa represents and what it can do for the local theatre community, if the coverage Production Ottawa provides benefits you, or will benefit you in the future, we need you to get involved in making it possible for it to continue.

Melissa Morris as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ The St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival

Primarily, we need people who are able to commit three or four hours a month, mostly working from home (or wherever) on the website. The kinds of things that need doing:

  • maintaining the event calendar and ensuring it’s kept thorough and up to date. It will generally see a major update two or three times a year, with additional work adding info that’s emailed in.
  • maintain updates and presence on Twitter and Facebook. All tweets are generally pre-scheduled every week and Facebook posts go up whenever articles do.
  • preparing and updating preview articles (show pages) for upcoming and currently running shows.

Second, we need writers/contributors who want to write articles about things going on in within the community and who can commit to submitting one article every month or two. Season launches, parties, other cool events, or anything else that might interest people.

Third, we need writer/reviewers who can commit to seeing and writing about at least one to two shows a month (within our established review guidelines). Please ask about this only if you’re as willing to call out what doesn’t work in a show as you are willing to give it praise.

Just to repeat the standard volunteer disclaimer, these are not paid positions. Your reward for working with Production Ottawa is primarily in the satisfaction that you’ve helped support the local theatre scene. Plus, occasional comps to shows.

If you have any questions or are interested in getting involved and helping this city get the coverage it deserves, email volunteer©productionottawa•com

A look at Bear & Co.'s The comedy of Errors

The Comedy of Errors, presented by Bear & Co.

The other big way you can help Production Ottawa is to share the work. This is more about when we’re back in action, but please make sure those who would be interested see this article. Share the links and galleries to your friends, even occasionally when you aren’t in the show. Make them aware of Production Ottawa and what it offers. On one hand, we’re only as good as the coverage we provide. On the other, we’re only as good as the people we reach.

And that’s the state of things. I would love to continue captaining this ship, but I can’t captain and crew anymore. If enough people jump on board to make it feasible, Production Ottawa will be back fully in action at the beginning of, or before, 2014. If not, then Production Ottawa will stay dormant and we’ll have had a good run that ended way too soon.

Keep being awesome, Ottawa, and one way or the next I’ll see you at the theatre.

Allan Mackey

About Allan Mackey

Allan Mackey is editor-in-chief of Production Ottawa, which, really, is too fancy a title. He also acts as show producer for Should You See It, making sure you get your answer in just about two minutes every time. He writes stuff and occasionally turns that stuff into movies. Keep being awesome!