Rumble Theatre, headed by Artistic Director Stephen Drover, is on the cutting edge of Vancouver, Canada's indie theatre scene. They are committed to producing and commissioning new Canadian adaptations of classic works, and championing local emerging artists. As an emerging actor working in Vancouver, Rumble Theatre has greatly impacted my development as an artist. I would not be the performer I am without Stephen's mentorship, guidance, and the efforts Rumble makes to engage with the emerging artist community. The Living Room series is a great example of this: Each season Rumble hosts four events, free of charge, where they invite two established artists from the community to speak on a pre-determined topic relevant to life in the arts.
The Living Room series provides a platform to foster meaningful connections between emerging and established artists outside of a project-based context, and they work to remove the weirdness of “networking.” The Rumble team is committed to creating an environment specifically for emerging artists, where they can gather to chat about theatre in a pressure-free environment; a guided forum where you can lounge on comfy pillows, drink cheap beer, eat chips, and participate in that evening's discussion. The Living Rooms are always a-buzz with eager young theatremakers coming together, moving on from our insular school environments to learn early in our careers the benefits of relying on and sharing with each other. I've made and deepened many connections at these events: friends of friends, people I'd seen in shows, or at shows and had never had occasion to just talk to outside of a “Congrats! You were great!” at an opening night. It is incredibly freeing to be in a space with like-minded individuals, talking about what you all love to do, sans the pressure that usually comes along with “talking shop.”
Each Living Room focuses on a different topic, and these topics all address something I feel is very important for recently graduated theatre artists: moving past your individual practice or craft, and learning about what it is to be an artist. These are things they don't necessarily tell you in theatre school about the frank realities of attempting to be a working artist. For example, two of my favorite topics have been “Babies and Theatre: starting a family and managing your career,” and “Working Nationally.” My own artistic journey was impacted heavily by the discussion at the “Working Nationally” Living Room, and the inspiration it gave me led to some of my like-minded actor friends and I taking a trip to Toronto to meet with theatre companies there to see the art they make. I very well may not have done this without one of the artists on the panel at that Living Room talking about the “psychological barrier of the Rocky Mountains,” and how it is important to overcome that and work towards building a national theatre community.
To me, though, the insight from artists I respect is not the most valuable thing to take away from these events. The biggest source of comfort and inspiration comes from the fact that no one has the answers. These artists are not there to “teach” us anything; it is not a lecture. Rather, we are all coming together from different walks of life, with vastly different careers and experiences, and committing to sharing these experiences and admitting that no one really knows what they're doing. We are all in the same boat, and the very people you look up to and think have it all figured out have just as much to learn from you as you do them. It has been a vastly powerful thing to witness, and it has time and time again helped to fuel my fire and affirm my commitment to my career. Anyone can be an artist if they are willing to sit in the not knowing, to figure it out as they go along, and to consistently make the time and effort to connect with and lean on their community. This is what the Living Rooms are about more than anything: bringing together a community of artists, and allowing us a space to lean on each other and foster common ground and understanding. That is, after all, the only way we will survive.