About Gracing The Stage

April 28th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Gracing the Stage originated as a weekly emailed update, with picks and concise listings of theatre, dance, comedy, film, and music events occurring in Toronto, Canada. Written by Steve Fisher since 2002, the email edition is closing in on the 300th edition, and has over 1,000 members subscribed to the mailing list. The website features weekly editions of the update, with nightly, hotlinked picks, a full calendar, and occasional profile posts about special shows and festivals occurring in Toronto.

The email inbox here at Gracing the Stage has been getting swamped lately, so here’s a few FAQs that will hopefully clear things up (and clear the email inbox of inappropriate content). Bios follow below.

Q: Are there any basic requirements for events listed on Gracing the Stage?

A: Yes.

- Events MUST have some element of live performance or film screening to qualify for inclusion on the update. Even a fundraiser for a performing arts company is ineligible if there is no performance taking place. This also precludes classes, seminars, parties, and industry meet and greets.

- Events must be in metropolitan Toronto, ON, and must be directly accessible (or at least, just a few minutes walk away) via the TTC subway and streetcar system.  If a car, train, or bus is required to get there from the downtown core, it isn’t likely to be listed.

- The update is written with performers, students, and regular (and by that, I mean frequent) patrons of the arts in mind, so price is definitely a factor; we want to encourage people to attend several shows a week, which doesn’t happen if one event eats up a reasonable entertainment budget for the week (or the month). Generally, a show must have regular priced tickets available for less than $50, and additionally, offer a student/senior/arts worker discount, or rush pricing, so that it’s possible for the cash-strapped to see the show for less than $30.

FREE, Pay What You Can, and under $20 events are often favoured.

Q: There’s this show I think should be on Gracing the Stage! How can I get it mentioned or listed?

A: Send a press release to steveATgracingthestage.ca. I can’t promise a reply, but it will certainly be read.

Even better, send a media invite (with press release attached) to steveATgracingthestage.ca! There’s no deep-pocketed investors propping up this site (in fact, it doesn’t make ANY money…yet), so shows Steve isn’t comped for must be paid for out of pocket (which doesn’t happen often these days). Again, I can’t promise a response, but I will do my level best.

Make sure you have an up to date website (and Facebook presence – more on that later), with high resolution photos (or at least decent quality pics) of your performers easily download-able from said site. Many theatre companies, for instance, include a link to their site in their press release, plus a password to access high res pics (though it’s more convenient to just have them publicly download-able from your website).

Also, make sure your creative team, particularly your performers, are listed prominently (you wouldn’t believe how many press releases, even last minute ones, don’t mention who’s actually PERFORMING the show!), and that your ticket pricing is prominently listed, transparent, and easy to understand.

Q: I’ve noticed many of the events in the listings are hotlinked to Facebook events! Should I send you a Facebook request?

A: Facebook is a terrific resource for bloggers and arts listing editors. Facebook pages and event listings provide a standardized format that’s easily linked to, with all the details necessary to list, find, and attend the show. Any company looking to promote their event should have a Facebook page, and create individual events for the run of every show they produce. Even Gracing the Stage has a Facebook presence.

As I said in the website recommendations, make sure your event / page includes your performers (and pictures), and ticket pricing. Do NOT create a “personal” account for your event or company (I only “Friend” individuals), or a group for a time sensitive event.

However, I’m a bit old fashioned in how I use my personal Facebook page, and believe I should actually be personally acquainted with my FB friends. So, even if you’re someone I may idolize and have common friends with (like Leslie Feist, or Daniel MacIvor, or Sarah Silverman, for example), I will automatically turn your friend request down unless we’ve met face-to-face on multiple occasions.

Trust me, if you’re out on the town and seeing shows in Toronto, meeting me face-to-face is an easy thing to do.

I will still happily look at (and possibly become a fan of), your Facebook page, and RSVP to your event invites.

Q: There’s this band you should hear! Also, how can I get their music / video on Gracing the Stage?

A: MySpace is still the best way to sample a band’s music (it’s pretty much all MySpace is still good for), but if you’re hoping to get your song on Gracing the Stage, that will usually only happen with an MP3. Email me a few, or even better, email a link to where said MP3 is hosted.

I’m a deft hand at finding MP3s of bands, but the easiest way to ensure your music is easily found is to make sure it pops up on Elbo.ws, a music blog database.

As for videos, YouTube and Vimeo are the gold standard for accessibility, and I rarely embed anything that isn’t on one of those two sites (if possible, see that it’s posted in HD, or HQ).

Q: Do you see EVERYTHING you list on Gracing the Stage? How do you decide what makes it on, and what doesn’t?

A: Steve sees 5-6 shows a week, often seeing several in one evening. Colin tends to stay in more, but is arguably more knowledgeable about music and comedy on the internet (Steve still hasn’t figured out how to subscribe to a podcast – seriously).

Obviously, there are plenty of things that I DON’T see (especially one night only shows), but generally, I recommend shows based on the performers involved, and the producing company. Past work is usually a very good indicator as to whether or not a show will be worth your while, and I see a LOT of comics/bands/actors/dancers/playwrights, etc., etc., when they’re just starting out.

Recurring shows (especially comedy and music residencies) won’t usually be on the same update several weeks in a row, though they may be worth seeing that regularly (for instance, Laugh Sabbath, Sunday Night Live, Ghost Jail Theatre, Monkey Toast, and other recurring Sunday night comedy shows generally “take turns”).

Q: Do you do interviews on Gracing the Stage?

A: No. Gracing the Stage produces arm’s length coverage and profiles  of events and artists. In actuality, we may know artists and companies featured on the site quite well, but the level of familiarity and depth of coverage should remain consistent for both local favourites and out of town acts (that said, there is an obvious and intentional bias towards local talent on Gracing the Stage).

Q: Do you do reviews on Gracing the Stage?

A: No, not typically. The weekly update is written to be an overview of the various performance scenes in Toronto, and a concise selection of listings of nightly events.

For festivals like Summerworks, Fringe, NXNE, and TIFF, I may feature capsule reviews for the sake of clarity, but individual shows should not expect full reviews (especially “in exchange” for comps).

Q: Are there any other online resources besides Gracing the Stage I should check out?

Oh, man, are there ever! Someday, I’ll find the time to put up a proper links page. In the meantime, you should read the list of suggestions at the end of this post for who you should check out, and send press releases to.

If you have any further questions, shoot ‘em off to steveATgracingthestage.ca.

Steve Fisher. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

Steve Fisher (he does most of the writing stuff): An alumni of Ryerson University, holding a diploma in Acting, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theatre, Steve’s love for the performing arts was fostered in high school, when he attended Canterbury High School for the Arts in Ottawa. Since his graduation from Ryerson, Steve has worked intermittently as an actor, performing operetta with Toronto Operetta Theatre, and in the odd Fringe show here and there, but increasingly, he found himself more devoted to attending live comedy, music, and theatre, and writing about the arts he loves so much in his weekly Gracing the Stage updates.

Steve’s 1,000+ mailing list base was accrued mainly thorough face to face interaction with artists and patrons active in the various Toronto scenes; he can be found out at shows 5-6 nights a week, and often several per night.

When not attending shows, or writing about them for gracingthestage.ca and Torontoist (where Steve has begun contributing as an Urban Planner), Steve spends his meagre free time working as a building superintendent in the Toronto area, and teaching reservist sailors weapons handling and seamanship skills as an instructor in the Canadian Naval Reserves, holding the rank of Leading Seaman.

Colin Greenway.

Colin Greenway (he does most of the tech stuff):  Long before meeting Steve at Ryerson Theatre school, Colin is accustomed to being the man behind the curtain.

Needing exposure to large amounts of electricity and table saws, Colin began doing stagecraft during high school, including three incredible seasons with the Driftwood Theatre Group.  Throughout this time, Colin kept up his passion for all things digital, but he lets other people call him a ‘tech guru’.  Today, Colin works as a Health Information Systems consultant, covering everything from clinical data mining,  fixing ultrasound machines and advising doctors from all specialties.

Being the ardent music fan, Colin will listen to everything under the sun.  He has also participated in many fictional bands such as the slam poetry Jazz Funk trio called the Handsome Colin Five and Die Unterseebooten Ist Kaput, an East Berlin inspired electronic prog rock collective. Colin is currently trying to put together a Rockabilly act with the ghosts of Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick and Timothy Leary but communication has been difficult, especially after signing Hunter S. Thompson as band manager.

Catch Colin on XboxLive with GamerTag ColinSG or listen to what he listens to on CBC Radio 3

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