SummerWork’s S.L.I.P. program really gets down to business

Published on: August 27, 2013

Filled Under: SummerWorks Festival

Views: 1196

The fact that art can also be a business isn’t a new idea, but it’s still an idea that needs help. A lot of help. Fortunately the S.L.I.P. (SummerWorks Leadership Intensive Program) initiative is here to pave the way for artists to hone their talent and (gasp!) perhaps actually profit from their art. Below, two intelligent and talented ladies tell us more about it. Jordi Mand is the S.L.I.P Program Director and Sasha Singer-Wilson was a 2013 program participant.
PicturePhoto by Scott Gorman

1. S.L.I.P. sounds like a great program; what element did you benefit from the most?
It is a great program! It’s kind of like adult summer camp with a professional twist.

It’s hard to choose just one beneficial element, so here are a few: The opportunity to see such a varied range of work (we saw seventeen shows in two weeks!) and then engage in critical and thought provoking discussion is a foundation of S.L.I.P..  We focused on actively listening (big thanks to the lovely and talented SummerWorks General Manager, Lucy Eveleigh, for introducing and breaking down this concept.  It was a huge theme for the group over the course of the program.)  We met a remarkably diverse and eclectic group of artists, and had the privilege of being privy to their processes, how they marry “art and business”, and how they “do it all”; wearing many creative hats at once. It was neat to pick out the resounding themes, despite the diversity of the artist mentors and panels, which came up repeatedly.
Perhaps the greatest thing I am taking away is recognition of the schism that I have been creating between the “art” and the “biz”.  There can’t be a divide here! This realization is empowering in moving forward with the next steps of creation and production of my work.

2. Your S.L.I.P. mentor was Kristen Thomson (amazing!); what was that like? Since most artists would probably salivate at the idea of working with her, can you share some choice advice you received?
Kristen is a fiercely talented and incredibly fascinating woman. Her honesty and openness are such gifts.  One of the things that’s really stuck with me from speaking with Kristen was in response to a question regarding balancing her creative work with her family life, to which she responded: “You have to be engaged with balance at all times. It’s not like you get on top of the balance beam and then you’re there. You get on top of the balance beam and then you make little adjustments to stay up.”
Kristen was so graciously open about her discipline (for example, a physical practice before writing, Monday to Friday, after getting her kids off to school), her history (did you know I, Claudia started as a twelve minute piece using an egg timer in Theatre Columbus’ Mayhem Fest?) and the importance of protecting oneself from the opinions of others (say goodbye to Facebook during creation and performance!)

3. What’s some choice advice that YOU can provide to any future S.L.I.P. participants or anyone who’s thinking of applying?
Do this program. It is phenomenal. Over the course of two weeks you see a remarkable amount of theatre; have the opportunity to talk about what you’re seeing in a safe environment; you gain astonishing access to people in the field that may have previously seemed out of reach; and you are granted an opportunity to engage with the community in your own unique way, bringing all of who you are, which is celebrated and encouraged. S.L.I.P. is a fundamental stepping-stone for artists who want to make their own work in Toronto and beyond. Participating in S.L.I.P. is an investment in the future of theatre in this city. Do it! Do it! Do it!

4. Did S.L.I.P. help you overcome your fear of budgets and schmoozing? 
S.L.I.P. definitely helped me to overcome some of my hang-ups about budgeting. The energetic and engaging Richard Lee walked us through a session on budgeting that not only debunked some of my personal myths surrounding the subject, but also broke the whole thing down in a straight-forward and practical way. Making a good budget is a creative act, and must be treated as such!

My whole approach to the thing that I previously called “schmoozing” has evolved. It’s not “schmoozing”, it’s connecting, and connection is rooted in authenticity, truthfulness and excitement in sharing what you’re passionate about.

5. What’s next for you?
I am currently at work on two full-length plays: GO!”(working title) and What Love Is, as well as the screenplay adaptation of my first play, little tongues. I co-create an ongoing, web-based, pocket-sized writing project, these five minutes, and do weekly writing jams with the lovely ladies of the these five minutes: resident writing group. And, I will begin the inaugural Soulpepper Playwright’s Circle in September, facilitated by the fantastic Guillermo Verdecchia.

More on Sasha, at


1. As S.L.I.P. Program Director, what’s your fav. part of your job? (other than a paycheck!)
I have a few favourite parts! I love the interview process and talking to our potential participants. Year after year, we have incredible people apply for the program and it’s a real pleasure having the chance to sit down and meet the people we short list for interviews. I love working with the artists that we bring in and dialoguing with them about what information they want to bring to the group. And I love seeing what our alumni are up to and how they have used what they learned during S.L.I.P to help propel their careers forward.

2. The S.L.I.P. program seems pretty unique in what it offers to artists; what are the elements that you feel make it stand out from other ‘mentoring’ programs in the city?
I think the fact that we choose a smaller group (12 participants) helps. It means that we can customize the experience specifically for them so they can get the most out their time in S.L.I.P. The intensity of the program is also unique. Our participants are programmed for 13 days straight from10:00 am until late in the evening. It is a truly immersive experience. I also think the number of artists that our participants get to meet and the quality of the dialogue they get to have with them is what makes the program different. This year, our group met with 45 artists. We ask all of the artists we bring in to be as honest and open as possible with the group – and they certainly are. The discussions are frank, energetic and inspiring.  Also, each participant is partnered with a mentor who is involved with SummerWorks in some way. Our participants get to spend some time with their mentor leading up to the program and then during the festival. Plus, the group get’s to see a whole bunch of SummerWorks shows. Having the program take place during a major performance festival helps to contextualize what the group is learning about.

3. Can you provide an inspirational example of how the S.L.I.P. program has helped it’s participants?
I have many examples but a more general one that I will use is looking at some of our alumni who have now moved into large positions with really exciting companies. We’re seeing our participants take over existing companies and also starting new ones. Any time I hear one of them say they wouldn’t be where they are now without S.L.I.P…that’s a great feeling.

4. For artists interested in applying next year, what are the key elements you’re looking for in S.L.I.P. participants?
Passionate, smart, curious emerging artists who aren’t afraid to put themselves out there and ask questions. The program really is designed in a way where our participants get the most out of the experience when they apply themselves fully. They get out of the program what they put into it. We have applicants from all mediums (theatre, dance, visual arts etc.) and artists who identify themselves as wearing many different kinds of hats (producers, general managers, artistic directors, writers, dancers, actors, directors etc).  We are looking for people who want to learn as much as they can from the artists we bring in – people who are engaged, focused and hungry to learn.

5. If money wasn’t an obstacle what’s your ideal S.L.I.P. program?
We talked at one point about having a mini version of S.L.I.P that we could take to different parts of the country. I still love that idea. For me, in an ideal world, the program would be a few days longer – as there never seems to be enough time to cover everything that we want to – and as soon as the program is done our participants would each be partnered with a theatre company of their choice and they would move from the program into an internship at that company.

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