Meet Up or Shut Up Gets People Talking

For Edmonton’s theatre community, Alberta Culture Days did not wrap up quietly, but rather with a resounding “ah-so-kah!” as over 75 involved individuals met to discuss the state of the industry in The Club at Citadel Theatre.

According to Megan Dart, of Catch the Keys, “The opportunity for Meet Up or Shut Up was brought about through Alberta Culture Days. The Citadel Theatre was already offering a series of community events throughout the weekend, and wanted to create an opportunity for Edmonton’s theatre industry to meet and start a conversation about the state of our industry. Both Catch the Keys Productions and Rapid Fire Theatre joined forces with The Citadel, and —voila!— Meet Up or Shut Up was born! It was our hope the event would allow people in our industry to put names to faces, and to start a meaningful conversation about how we can better work together to elevate and celebrate our industry. Ours is a vast community, and there are important connections that haven’t been made or reinforced yet. [We hope that Meet Up or Shut Up], as the first in a series of ongoing meet ups, will accelerate and advance artistic innovation in Edmonton’s theatre community.”

Walking to The Citadel, I was a bit nervous. Since my involvement with the theatre community is purely on a volunteer basis — my theatre reviews and work as Managing Editor of Sound and Noise are without pay —  I was nervous about joining a group of people who are completely embedded in the theatre community.

It turns out I didn’t need to worry. Hands down, Meet Up or Shut Up was the best networking event I’ve ever attended. The first of its kind in Edmonton, the who’s who of the theatre community was there, and ready to put names to faces, talk about issues they face, and share interesting initiatives they’re working on.

While the majority of the event was spent on the “meet up”, there was also a round-table portion focused on finding solutions to various scenarios faced by theatre companies. Within 10 minutes, each group had to discuss their scenarios (surprisingly, most did not involve financial issues), and find three ways they would solve the problems faced by the fictional companies. The exchange of solutions to common problems is one of the areas that shows the most potential for these types of gatherings — as Meet Up or Shut Up becomes larger, there is the opportunity to bring a wider range of participants, to help inspire the outside-the-box thinking that the theatre industry needs to keep pace with our world.

The final portion of the day was Ken Bautista’s presentation of the Theatre Edmonton Project. The Theatre Edmonton Project is meant to continue the discussions started at Meet Up or Shut Up. It is an incubator of sorts, where members of the community, new or seasoned, can connect, share ideas, and work collaboratively. It’s a bit like Startup Edmonton, which makes sense, given that Ken is a co-founder of Startup Edmonton.

In Megan Dart’s words, “[Sunday’s] event was a great success — we’ve already heard overwhelming positive feedback, and people seemed energized to continue the conversation. I think the energy we captured yesterday will build the momentum we need to keep The Edmonton Theatre Project going.”

The next Meet Up or Shut Up event is October 15 at the Mercer Warehouse. The time is to be announced — sign up at theatreedmonton.com to receive more information. Megan says, “we hope to continue conversations started at Meet Up or Shut Up, and have a sort of visioning meeting for what The Theatre Edmonton Project could be, to prioritize some objectives, and to plan next steps. The beautiful thing about The Theatre Edmonton Project is it doesn’t belong to any one person or organization, but is open to anyone and everyone in Edmonton’s theatre community who is interested in bettering the industry. All are welcome!”

– Jenna Marynowski

P.S. A few cool things I learned during the event:

  • Theatre Alberta’s app, which aims to list almost all the plays going on in Alberta;
  • Want money?! It’s in Edmonton! Check out the granting programs at the Edmonton Arts Council and Edmonton Community Foundation;
  • There is a huge desire for increased networking and learning opportunities – whether those are events like Meet Up or Shut Up, partnerships, mentorships, or workshops.
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