November 11th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 44
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Trickster puts on a good show despite funding cuts
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Ezra Black Photo
Students at Isabelle Sellon School in Blairmore participating in Trickster Theatre.
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
At one point during their performance at Isabelle Sellon School on Oct. 27, students participating in a Trickster Residency did impressions of artists by launching themselves at the audience with outstretched palms yelling, “alms for the poor!”

It was an excellent performance.

Trickster Theatre spent a week at ISS preparing the students for the show. They provided the lighting, sound, curtains, costumes and props. Professional actors were with the kids, helping to lead the performance.
This was Tricker’s sixth residency in the Pass since the early 1990s. The Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA) usually helps fund the event. Back in March, the Jim Prentice government made a 5 per cent cut to the AFA (from around $28 million to $26.6) as part of a fiscal plan for the cash-strapped province.

The AFA chose to concentrate that five per cent into two programs. “The two with the least developed lobby powers,” said David Chantler, producing director of Trickster Theatre,” which were school presenters and individual artists both of whom took a big hit.
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Trickster is the largest recipient of AFA residency funds. Before the cuts they received just over $1 million per year but that sum was halved, said Chantler.
As a result, their current season is 30 per cent smaller than last year’s.
“We found out in June when the jury results were released. We lost over $200,000 of bookings that day,” said Chantler.

Usually the AFA provides funding assistance to help schools pay for residencies. The funds can cover between 50-75 per cent of the cost up to $15,000 but the AFA did not help fund Isabelle Sellon’s residency.

“We managed to put it together with some great parent and school support,” said Chantler. “At a much discounted rate.”

The NDP just announced a $5 million increase to the AFA. However, Chantler doesn’t know if the AFA intends to reinstate the funding to the schools.
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“They tried to kill the entire program 4 years ago. This time they just took an axe to it. There are many in the arts community and perhaps at the AFA as well, that believe that all AFA money should go to professional organizations and not to schools. But, there has never been any willingness from the Department of Education to look at sharing the cost,” said Chantler.

The AFA residency funds nearly 50 full time artist positions but Chantler said government money is funding the wrong artists.

“The program we did in the Pass serves a great school and community. The subsidy per participant is very low - much lower than the subsidies going - over and over again - to season ticket holders of the opera or ballet or any of the big theatre companies in Calgary,” he said. “Why should those people get their arts experience funded over and over again, and the kids of Alberta get virtually nothing?”

The company has been asked by Horace Allen School to return to do a residency next year.

“Hopefully the government puts some money back into the program so that is possible,” said Chantler.
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November 11th ~ Vol. 85 No. 44
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