Critical Uncertainties and Future Scenarios for Prairie-based Theatre
“We can’t take for granted what existed before. Any artistic director, any company needs to figure out, OK, the world changed, how will it affect my mandate, how will my organization respond? Anyone who has a plan that is ignoring what happened during this extraordinary moment of history…may face a difficulty to survive.” (Simon Brault, Director, Canada Council, 2020)
In March 2020, COVID‑19 as a global health crisis demanded an immediate closure of the performing arts sector. Within a week, theatres across Canada were shuttered and most are not anticipating a return of audiences until late 2021. The near and long term impacts of the pandemic on the sector are existential in nature with plausible fears that this crisis, now a year old, will jeopardize the sector’s viability. This major disruption to the status quo follows upon other major destabilizing events including the #MeToo movement, the Truth lars, Christine Brubaker, Taiwo Afolabi and Yvette Nolan, are to undertake research into critical uncertainties affecting prairie-based theatre, those dynamics in the environment that are particularly unpredictable, but may be central and essential to its future. The research will systematically explore probable, preferred, plausible and possible future alternatives, create a pattern-based understanding of the past and present, and consider the future trends and events for prairie theatre.
Anchored by the above noted events, this research will investigate the following questions:
– What are the specific critical uncertainties and implications on theatre practice in Canada and the prairies?
– How are prairie-theatre stakeholders responding to these disruptions?
– What are plausible trajectories/futures that might emerge as a result of the above?
– How might these disruptions:
– enable social transformation and aspirations of greater systemic justice?
– lead to the articulation of a regional performance identity specific to the prairie context?
– inform future research directions and training that can be explored through a research lab/incubator?
The researchers will use a hybrid methodology of Participatory Action Research (PAR) with its emphasis on inclusion and social justice, and Strategic Foresight (SF), a structured and explicit exploration of multiple futures in order to inform decision-making. Using PAR/SF we will work with theatre companies and artists from four prairie cities, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton and Calgary in a participatory process that augments scholarship around social justice and systemic racism, informs prairie theatres’ ability to plan and adapt for uncertainties, strengthens regional relationships between participating institutions, and supports theatre leadership to advance inclusion and representation. It will better equip practitioners to prepare for the future of their art, provide insights to funding bodies on how to shape grant programs to strengthen the prairie theatre identity in the national performance context, and prototype the potential for a future prairies research lab/incubator where academics and practitioners can investigate new forms of performance and research in a post-COVID-19 world. We believe this application will benefit from a review from the fields of