When Nanaimo played host to We Are The City, Gold and Shadow and The Wild Romantics last month, it was the culmination of a brand-new initiative organized by the Port Theatre.
The Port Theatre Youth Arts Initiative began in September and tasked six youths to organize and execute a live production at the theatre.
The program was led by the theatre’s marketing and administration assistant, Melanie Godel and aimed to provide the students, who were required to apply, with relevant work experience in the field of arts administration.
“This industry can be quite mysterious because there is so much that goes on behind the scene months or years ahead of the fact,” Godel said.
Over the course of the program, students learned about everything that goes into a live performance, such as selecting the type of show and booking artists to budgeting, contracts, marketing, venue services, technical production and more.
Among the six students selected to participate was Lindsay Britton, a musician who has aspirations of becoming an event manager and music festival organizer.
“I want to learn how to put on music festivals, shows, galas and fundraisers,” Britton said. “This was a perfect opportunity to get a head start.”
The group’s first task was to determine what type of the show it wanted. It was open to all types of live performances like dance or theatre, but decided on live music.
“We weren’t even sure it was going to be music at first,” Britton said. “As a group we figured the best draw would be this genre.”
When it came time to figure out which bands they wanted for their performance, Britton said the focus was on quality local talent.
“We wanted something that … had a local draw and that was going to be good music essentially,” Britton said. “You can put on a show that is going to sell, but it is not necessarily going to be the most talented people, it just might be a very catchy show.”
The six students were taught the ins and outs of the complex nature of negotiating with booking agents and reading and understanding contracts and riders.
“I had no idea what went into riders or contracts at all,” Britton said.
The group learned how to deal and work with booking agents as well as how to properly budget a show and what additional costs need to be factored in.
“You figure out how much you have to pay out for food, for hotels, for travel,” Britton said.
As the performance drew near, the students spent more and more time learning about the elements that come with show production, such as lighting and sound engineering.
“As a group we learned how to do all the wrapping of the cables,” Britton said. “That is something I already knew, but I didn’t know where those cables went.”
When the concert finally took place on May 14, it was end of a lengthy learning journey for the students.
Britton said she loves the excitement that comes with the big night.
“It is the feeling that you get at the event. Looking around and seeing all these people, you get this feeling of being a part of something that is bigger,” Britton said.
She will be heading off to the Art Institute of Vancouver this fall and she hopes to one day be able to recreate that excitement.
“That is what I want to create and that is what I want to do as a job.”
The Port Theatre is planning on doing the initiative again next year, but it is reviewing ways to modify the program.
“We are looking at it a little differently,” Godel said. “It won’t look the same.”
She added that the entire program began in September and finished in May.
“We are looking at how to streamline it and how to shorten the timeline to make it more efficient,” Godel said. “We are looking at something similar next year, but not necessarily having the group do the entire program … it is going to look a little different, but how, I can’t quite say yet.”
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