State of Theatre: Joanna Barotta

Joanna Barotta is an equity Stage Manager. The position of the stage manager is essential to any theatrical endeavour. The role of the 'Stage Manager', above the many other functions he/she undertakes, is to maintain the integrity of the directors vision once the play has begun its public viewing. (people rarely realize that director's usually work their last 'shift' on opening night.)

Her theatre credits include: Spain (diy and Kneeling Bus Theatre), Gotterdammerung (Canadian Opera Company), Richard 3, Queens 4 (Vagabond Knight Company), Tideline and Suburban Motel (Factory Theatre) and Tosca (Opera New Brunswick).

What is your opinion on the current state of theatre in Toronto?

"There are so many fantastic emerging artists and only a handful is being given the support to develop their work in a way that appropriately publicizes their potential. As a lot of people know, putting on a show from the first production meeting to the 'post mortem' is an immense undertaking that can dig deep into the pockets of the producers who are usually waiting tables to support their "habit".

Having the right people see your show is so important but it's hard to get those right people out if you don't have the funds to mount it properly. Also, what happens to a show once it has been mounted with reasonable success (by success I mean that the theatre didn't explode and everyone is still alive and still eating) is yet another challenge for those who believe in the show. It just seems that artists need to spend each day fighting to be heard when it's hard enough to just be heard in your day to day life."

What needs to be improved upon?

"Basically, we have festivals like Fringe and Summerworks which are a fantastic start. I like both concepts of lottery and selection by a jury but I don't think it's enough. I think Canadian theatres mandated to support Canadian work really need to look at their seasons and have a slot each year for a new play by an emerging artist. I'm not going to get into specifics but some of the prominent Toronto theatres constantly produce work by established artists. But if one were to take a chance and have a spot dedicated to emerging plays, giving them the same technical facilities and structure offered to the rest of the shows in the season, I think it would be a huge step towards really giving our new voices a chance.

Where do you see yourself in all this?

"Since I bounce between opera and theatre, I seem to choose (or be chosen by) the more emerging theatre artists to act as a stage manager. My past few theatre shows have been produced by some fresh faces and I would like to continue in this pattern. Opera is a wonderful venue to work in because the scale is so vast so when I am given the opportunity to stage manage a play, it's always exciting to know that I am supporting a new voice.

I also like to bring on board as many new and talented people as I can because production people need those connections as well. I am proud to say that there are a few new artists that I know I will continue to work with and support because I am able to bring them some security and calm in a time when they most needed it.

Is your current show representative of that?

"My most recent show was Spain with diy and Kneeling Bus Theatre. It was full of those fresh faces I mentioned earlier. I will be stage managing The Russian Play for the Hatch Festival in February and I am truly looking forward to being a part of a new and dynamic team of talented people. I will also be assistant stage managing Dido and Aeneas/Acteon for Opera Atelier's tour to Korea which I think is important because I love variety."

Joanna will be heading abroad to Seoul, Korea for Opera Atelier's Dido and Aeneas/Acteon in January. You probably won't see her. Catch Joanna in the booth at the Hatch Festival for The Russian Play from February 19 - 25, 2007. Joanna will be at the Canadian Opera Company as an Assistant Stage Manager for Luisa Miller in March and April. You probably won't see her then either!

The State of Theatre in Toronto is a weekly series where theatre artists and affiliates, professional and emerging, will be interviewed on their thoughts on the subject.

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