Ashley Ballantyne is not only the hard-working, enthusiastic Associate Director of Communications atCanadian Stage, she is a dedicated and sincere promotor of theatre in Toronto and beyond. Hailing from the East she has done us, and the Toronto theatre scene, a favour by making Hogtown her home. She consistently keeps us smiling with her witty banter and her homemade martinis.
Learn more about this gal below!
1. Where do you work? Can you sum it up in 3 sentences or less?
I’m the Associate Director of Communications at Canadian Stage, a not-for-profit theatre company based in Toronto that presents an annual season of contemporary theatre and dance.
My job is to manage publicity for each of our productions and communications for the company as a whole (this includes everything from social media to house programs to graphic design). And to top it all off, I work very closely with the Associate Director of Marketing and an incredible team of colleagues on all of Canadian Stage’s marketing, communications, education and audience development initiatives.
2. Why the arts? What’s made you focus your extra energy on theatre?
I’ve loved theatre since I was cast as the Wicked Witch in an elementary school production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Years of high school musicals later, I did an undergrad in Theatre Studies and English at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia and got really excited about the behind-the-scenes work required to get bums in seats and produce a show. From there, I pimped my BA with a post-grad diploma in public relations from Seneca College and worked with two incredible PR agencies in Toronto, while volunteering as a publicist for community theatre groups and sitting on the board of directors for The Toronto Fringe Festival. For me, working in the arts is the perfect way to combine my passion for the theatre (and flair for the dramatic) with my love of communications.
3. The arts have a reputation for being lots of work and little pay – true or false? Care to elaborate?
It’s true. The arts are lots of work and funds to pay people to do this work can be very limited. And funds to create/produce/present theatre and then to sustain it can be limited. The recent closure of the Vancouver Playhouse has sparked a very vital conversation about this very topic.
4. What’s the best thing about working in theatre in Toronto?
I love the passion and energy that exists in the theatre community – on stage and off. I love that I get to work with performers (and colleagues) who will show up at the theatre before 6 a.m. (on a two show day!) to film a segment with CP24 Breakfast to help promote the show. I love that as a publicist I get to talk to and hang out with some of Canada’s most talented artists (like having a latte with directorAtom Egoyan right before he chats about the play he’s directing on CBC’s Q). I love talking to the media every day and am lucky to have the opportunity to build great relationships with the many wonderful journalists, reviewers, segment producers, editors and writers that support the work of Canadian Stage. I love that Toronto has a group of amazing writers and bloggers (like Theatre Isn’t Dead’s Christine Gresham!) who post, tweet and review theatre in their free time because they want to support the work they see on stage. Ultimately, it really comes down to the incredible people who are part of Toronto’s theatre community!
5. What’s the worst thing about working in theatre in Toronto?
There are lots of challenges about working in theatre in Toronto but for me the hardest thing can be reading a misleading or inaccurate article about Canadian Stage – especially when I know only part of the story is being told. That said I really appreciate the discussions and debates that exist around the work we put on stage. Creating art and theatre is about starting a conversation.
6. What’s an adjective that can describe most of your days at your job?
*Octopusal: a term coined by Canadian Stage Artistic & General Director Matthew Jocelyn meaning “to have many arms” or “being everywhere at once doing many things” (as you would if you were an octopus with eight arms and legs).
Between PR’ing shows, writing about, planning for, and sharing details about our current season (and all the while prepping for and promoting the upcoming season) and managing a zillion other things that fall under the (very) wide marketing/communications umbrella my days are typically jam-packed, fast-moving and always exciting.
7. Describe (in 3 sentences or less) what your favourite memory is from your current job.
There are so many, but I’ll pick a publicity-themed favourite…
During our production of RED (a play about famous Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko) the cast (Jim Mezon and David Coomber) had a series of rehearsals with director Kim Collier and some local artists to learn to “Paint like Rothko”. We were able to bring a writer and photographer from The Globe and Mail to one of the painting sessions where we had a blast with the cast and creative team and a bunch of paint. As a result, The Globe team put together a gorgeous and intriguing feature article about the play, the rehearsal process and the show. And I was pretty excited (okay, I was ecstatic) the day I opened the front door to see our story above the fold on the front page of the paper.
8. What’s the last play that you saw that really made an impression on you?
<em “mso-bidi-font-style:=””>The Game of Love and Chance (starting previews at Canadian Stage on April 16!) I saw this show when it opened at the Centaur Theatre in Montreal a month ago, and I’ve been talking about it ever since. Partly because that’s my job, but mostly because it is a boisteriously theatrical, irresistibly hilarious and completely contemporary production of a wonderful 18th century play. Everyone should come see it!
9. If you could do any other job, arts professional or not, what would it be?
I’d like to be a professional puppy-sitter or someone who spends all their time on a beach in Nova Scotia (but only when the weather is perfect).
10. If the Toronto theatre scene was a woman, what advice would you offer her?
I’d tell her that having many partners (you know, artistic collaborators) is exciting and important. And I’d tell her to talk to everyone – audiences, colleagues, partners, artists – listen, observe and share all your successes and all your challenges.