published: 2018/08/27 17:50
Bums in seats. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this phrase. In theatre, this refers to the number of people in the audience of a performance. We strive for it, worry about it, obsess over it. We want to sell tickets! We want people to see our show! We’ve worked so hard!
We see 300+ interested parties on a Facebook event. We gather followers as people ‘re-gram’ our show posters and behind-the-scenes photos. We see people re-Tweeting links to buy tickets. We hear from our friends and family that the show is getting a lot of buzz; people are excited; they can’t wait to see it. We think we’ve got those bums in those seats - those seats we’ve been rehearsing in front of for weeks. Those seats we’ve been pouring our blood and sweat and tears over. We push ourselves through the last stretch of rehearsal, eagerly awaiting the moment we will walk on stage to a full house. Opening night comes. We’re excited; we’re buzzing; we hear our cue; we step into our light…
…and we catch a glimpse of our co-worker and her roommate in the third row from the front, centre. A few other shadowy figures are sprinkled through the audience.
We still perform. We still do our best. We still reveal to the spectators the fruits of our labour. And we think about the 300+ interested parties on the Facebook event, the likes on our Instagram photos, the re-Tweets, the friends with all that buzz. And we wonder:
What went wrong?
Where was everyone?
Why didn’t they show up?
Why aren’t we showing up for each other?
This question isn’t limited to the theatre. This question reaches beyond. I see this happen at fine art exhibit openings, at dance workshops, at coffee shop open mics, etc…We’re not showing up for each other. Artists and ‘laypeople’ alike.
Sure, we’re busy. We are all working. We have budgets to stick to. There are duties, obligations, other plans, the need for rest. But, there are little ways we can support arts and culture in our communities without breaking the bank or compromising our own sanity, because, the truth is: it is not enough to simply ‘like’ or ‘share’ something anymore. If the arts and culture in our communities are going to stay relevant, we must start showing up for each other. And we must start recognizing the real cost of not showing up – not just monetarily, but culturally. We must understand what a disservice we pay to our entire community when we do not support the arts and culture within it. We must see how the community becomes stagnant, content with the status quo. We must grow.
There are countless studies being done about the impact of arts and culture on us as individuals and as communities – a simple search on your browser of choice will reveal them to you – that reveal undeniable benefits of a creative presence in all stages of life, from early childhood development through adulthood, and into old age. We cannot continue to minimize the impact.
It’s said that all artists want to change the world. I believe this to be true. I believe that art and culture serve to remind us that we are more alike than we are different. I believe that it can connect us – to ourselves, to others, to our communities – in ways that nothing else can. I believe that we live in a time when this could not be more vital.
But, in order for this to happen, we must show up.
We can do this in small, yet significant, ways. We can buy a book of poetry by a local storyteller to send to loved ones instead of mass produced cards filled with saccharine salutations. We can attend a free or low-cost performance by artists that we have never heard of, in a venue we have never been to. We can volunteer at an organization that we have been following on social media, but have never gone out of the house to engage with.
As artists, we can be showing up across disciplines. Are you a dancer? Go to a theatre production. A musician? Go to a fine arts gallery. A designer? Go to the symphony.
Tried it - didn’t like it? Fine. Good! Think about it. Question it. Learn from it. Ask yourself why you didn’t like it, what you would do differently. Then keep showing up to find something that you like. Then go make something that you like.
And then continue to show up.
To be challenged.
To be inspired.
Elana Bizovie is an actor, director, and arts administrator situated in the Central Okanagan, BC. She received her training at the University of Alberta and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in anthropology and drama. Her passion for the life changing possibilities that storytelling offers has developed into a strong interest in multi-disciplinary approaches to performance art. She is focused on creating more opportunities for artists across all disciplines to collaborate on collective creations that reflect voices in the community. She is fortunate to work as an administrative assistant at Cool Arts Society, which offers art programming for adults living with developmental disabilities in the Central Okanagan, while she continues her studies in the Arts & Cultural Management diploma program through MacEwan University. Elana is continuing her work as an artist while she completes her studies. Recent acting credits include roles in Neverwhere (Red Dot Players), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (St. Andrew’s Players), and The Comedy of Errors (Shakespeare Kelowna). Elana is currently directing ‘The Russian Play’ and ‘Essay’ by Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch for New Vintage Theatre’s ‘Secret Theatre Project,’ which will be presented in a non-traditional theatre space in September. She will then take to the stage again with roles in two theatrical productions this fall.