We have to tell our stories

by Jini Stolk

One of Donna Walker-Kuhne’s most emphatic recommendations during her recent workshop with Regent Park/Parliament arts organizations, was “we have to tell our stories.” Please note that she didn’t add the word “better” to that pointed message: first and foremost, we have to tell our stories.

During this depressing (at least to me) Olympics season I went back to a piece I’ve been saving: Why Arts coverage should be more like sports. In this speech, made by Chris Lavin (senior editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune) to a past Association of Performing Arts Service Organizations national conference, he compares the extensive sports coverage in U.S. newspapers to their declining arts sections – and concludes that sports execs have become masters of self-promotion. They tell better stories than we do.

Reviews are not stories. Neither, most of the time, are feature interviews about an upcoming production. Stories are about people and places. Readers want to hear from the actors, dancers and musicians; they want to know how things are going behind the scenes. They want to be told about the training, the trials and tribulations, the coming back from adversity. God help us, maybe they want to hear about “the Moms.”

And they want to hear about the place. How does it feel to work there? What’s the history? Who are the neighbours? Are they interested or wary? Who attends, who participates? Why? What do they get out of being involved with your show or company?

We should be winning Golds on this one: perhaps a few more practice sprints are needed.

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