A Note from Artistic Director Rachel Aberle
I am delighted and humbled to be writing my first statement to the public as the Artistic Director of Green Thumb Theatre. First, I want to extend my thanks to all of the artists, colleagues, community members and friends who have been so encouraging and supportive as I have stepped into this new role. I am keenly aware of the responsibility I have to the young people, artists, and communities we serve, and to the continuation of Green Thumb’s commitment to excellence. The outpouring of support, and faith in me to live up to these responsibilities has meant a great deal to me, particularly on the days when the title of “Artistic Director” makes me feel a bit like I did when I was a kid trying to pull off walking around in my Mom’s high heel shoes.
My first two months in this position have been full to the brim. Sorting through the logistics of Green Thumb’s first ever “digital tour” which will premiere in May, meeting with some of our playwrights on commission, reviewing over 150 fantastic artist submissions for our Celestial Being colouring book, and formulating a playwright development program that I am very excited to be announcing in the spring are just a few of the activities that have been filling my time.
I want to make particular mention of Green Thumb’s workshop of The Mystics, a new play by Kim Senklip Harvey (and Green Thumb’s first new play workshop to take place completely over Zoom!). The Mystics explores a young Indigenous person’s journey to connect with their ancestors and their land. Kim is a fierce artist and advocate, and I am so appreciative of the drive she has to explore this story with integrity and love, her willingness to challenge herself in her artistic exploration, and to challenge me as an artistic leader to think outside the box and strive to support the creation of work for and about communities that have been underserved and underrepresented for far too long.
I want to thank everyone who took the time and care to respond to Green Thumb’s Racial Equity Survey back in the fall. Amal Rana of Cambium Arts & Education took great care collating the data and major themes present and offering key recommendations. Breanne and I, along with Green Thumb’s Board of Directors, have been discussing the company’s next steps, which I look forward to sharing with the broader community in the coming weeks. Given the deep engagement survey respondents showed with their participation, it is important to us that we respond with the same level of conscientiousness, and present tangible action items articulating how Green Thumb will be approaching the work of forwarding racial equity within the organization.
I want to briefly speak to the experience of holding introduction interviews with directors, something I have been doing via Zoom this past week. Due to the pandemic, and the resulting uncertainty surrounding what exactly our next season will look like, it may seem like a strange time to investigate who out there might be a good fit for future projects with Green Thumb. Certainly for me, it has been strange to meet with so many promising artists and not be able to concretely tell them exactly what opportunities lie ahead. That being said, it has been tremendous to connect with artists who are passionate and excited about creating excellent theatre for young audiences. I have met so many people that I am so excited to find opportunities for, and to connect with other artistic leaders when I can.
These meetings have been significant, in and of themselves. Theatre has a standard practice for learning about up-and-coming actors – we audition them. Avenues for opportunity are less certain for directors, and the road to success is often paved by knowing the right people. I know this is a system that has not served everyone fairly, and that has left many feeling like they were not represented on artistic teams, even as they may have started seeing themselves reflected more on stages. If you are in a position of artistic leadership, and you have made any statements about forwarding equity within your organization, or having more diverse representation both on and off stage, I strongly encourage you to hold open calls for these kinds of introductions. Yes, they are a significant investment of time, but I have done them exactly once and I can already tell how essential they are.
Lastly, I have to say that each day that I get to do this job, I am struck by how fortunate I am to get to continue to work in a field I love, engaging with artists – even as the path back to live performance seems like a long and unsure one. I know there are many in the arts who are not in the same position, and I sit down at my work-from-home office every day with a keen awareness of how lucky I am.
March 1, 2021