About a month ago, former NV Literary Associate (and now Production Assistant) Pamela Sevilla and I traveled to Alberta, Canada to attend the LMDA (Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas) Annual Conference at The Banff Centre. The LMDA is a consortium of theatre artists whose mission is to "affirm the role of dramaturg, to expand the possibilities of the field to other media and institutions, and to cultivate, develop and promote the function of dramaturgy and literary management." I've been a member of this organization for a number of years and have found that a lot of my work is informed by the conversations LMDA has generated and since Native Voices is devoted to new play development, the conference was the perfect place to reflect on our process and discover new ways of improving our work.
A few things about this particular conference:
1. It was located in one of the most breath-taking sites imaginable: The Banff Centre which is situated within the Canadian Rockies. The centre's mission is to inspire creativity and it certainly lives up to its promise! Every morning Pam and I would walk to the Vistas Dining Room for breakfast and marvel at how lucky we were to be surrounded by such a peaceful scene. Actually, the photo above was taken from our breakfast table. Can you imagine how hopeful your day would seem if you had that sight to wake up to every morning?
2. This year marked LMDA's 25th Anniversary and to celebrate, the conference committee decided on a retreat-style format that perfectly complemented our setting. Instead of having key note speakers or a group of panelists, conference delegates were able to pose session topics at the top of each day in an Open Space format facilitated by Misha Glouberman. Misha's approach to this "un-conference" allowed attendees to connect with one another on a more personal level as ideas and interests were constantly flowing throughout the rooms and constantly linking new people to each other. Everyone's ideas were valued and no opinions were taken for granted.
3. To represent the indigenous perspective on the topics at hand, LMDA invited First Nations playwright Tara Beagan (Ntlaka'pamux) to attend the conference as a guest. Tara was recently the playwright-in-residence at Native Earth Performing Arts and, as you may recall, Native Voices presented a scene from her play Miss Julie: Sheh'mah alongside Stone Soup Theatre this past May. To have an artist on-site who openly acknowledged the original caretakers of the land we were on and to be so open about such controversial issues as race and censorship was really refreshing. It seems as if Banff gave everyone the freedom to let their guards down in order to freely exchange ideas and concerns they would have otherwise been too wary to bring up.
So, all of this to say, I've returned from Canada with a renewed sense of purpose and mission not only for myself as an artist but for Native Voices as a company. My mantra for this upcoming season is one of transparency: as Gotthold Lessing (the father of dramaturgy) used to say, "For me the greatest beauty lies in the greatest clarity." I'm determined to return to my original purpose of this blog which was to "discover what makes NV tick" ... to pull "away the wizard's curtain and [expose] all the behind-the-scenes minutiae we've worked so hard to conceal."
In addition, I'd like to set up this blog as a forum for other artists to engage in a conversation about what interests them. What would you like to hear about? What questions do you have to ask? What answers do you have to offer? One of the things I learned from the LMDA Conference is that we learn best when we learn from each other and I'm incredibly eager to hear what you have to teach me. Of course, that only works if we're able to hear from each other so I encourage you to post your comments here without fear of judgement or anything else of the sort. This is an open forum led by you, our readers.
Lastly, I do not claim to be an expert in Native theatre or new play development. What I am is a theatre artist and an audience member with an insatiable curiosity and an open mind. Perhaps, together, we can discover new avenues of thought and journey towards a greater understanding of ourselves and of each other.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
More images from Banff...