With today’s exciting announcement pertaining to the 2015-2016 Grand Theatre Presents (GTP) season, we were fortunate to catch up with Jayson Duggan, Performing Arts Manager with the City of Kingston’s Cultural Services Department. Jayson offers considerable insight into what his job entails, and more specifically, what goes into putting together an entire season’s worth of programming at the Grand Theatre. You can check out full slate of performers coming to the Grand Theatre next season via kingstongrand.ca, as well as Jayson’s predictions below regarding which shows are sure to be crowd-pleasers.
1. Tell us about yourself, your background with respect to performing arts and how you came to be involved in The Grand Theatre and Kingston’s arts and culture scene.
I am the Performing Arts Manager with the City of Kingston’s Cultural Services Department. Upon my return to Kingston in 2011, I spent 18 months as the Artistic Administrator for the Grand Theatre Presents program before taking on the role of Performing Arts Manager. Prior to 2011, I was employed at Hamilton Place Theatre and McMaster University where I programmed a wide variety of performing arts. My undergrad degree came from Queen’s University where I studied musicology and I began my programming career by booking artists into Alfie’s Pub.
2. As the Performing Arts Manager with the City of Kingston’s Cultural Services Department, what does your job entail and what are your key responsibilities? Describe a typical day of work for you.
As the Performing Arts Manager for Cultural Services, my primary role is the curation of the Grand Theatre Presents (GTP) program. The GTP program will feature 40 national and international performances including education shows between October 2015 and April 2016. I am involved in all aspects of the program from the initial scouting and booking that occurs up to 18 months prior to the performance date through to the financial settlement following the performance completion. I also work with community partners to co-present performances both at the Grand Theatre and in the community, as well as being responsible for “The Rockin The Square” summer shows in Market Square.
Another key aspect to my role is grant writing as the funds we receive from various grants go directly to support numerous artistically adventurous programs.
3. With today’s announcement regarding the 2015-2016 Season at the Grand Theatre, can you speak to the challenges you encountered while developing the overall program? What factored into your decision making process selecting a diverse array of performers, which includes the likes of Howie Mandel and The Hong Kong Ballet?
Diversity is key to the success of the Grand Theatre Presents (GTP) program. Our mandate is to provide a multi-discipline performing arts season that offers entertaining, educational and cultural experiences for the whole Kingston community. The 2015-2016 season will be a program representing 10 different genres including: dance, theatre, kidstage, jazz, blues, world, rock, country, cirque, comedy plus educational school performances.
I issue a lot of offers over the course of the booking season and work to confirm as many of those desired artists and touring companies as possible; however, there are a number of reasons why a show may not confirm including artist or venue availability, shifting tour schedules, financial restrictions etc. Constantly revising the short list is the nature of the business and many times artists that are pursued for one season end up being included in the next season.
4. The Grand Theatre offers young people the opportunity to experience world class theatre, dance and music via the ‘School Programs’. Can you tell us more about this program, and how the attraction of younger audience members fits into your overall strategic vision/goals?
Exposing our young community to the Grand Theatre and the programs we offer is critical to the future of the GTP program. We work very hard to offer performing arts experiences for the schools that incorporate key curriculum connections and offer learning guides and material for the teachers. In 2015-2016 we will be presenting four Kidstage theatrical productions including The Mixed Up Fairytale, Goodnight Moon and the Runaway Bunny, The Cat in the Hat and Big Bad Wolf.
We also will be presenting a musical performance by Yamato, the drummers of Japan and two exclusive school performances featuring Green Thumb theatre from Vancouver who will be performing “Still Falling” and the Living Voice’s production of “Through The Eyes of a Friend” (The world of Anne Frank).
We are keenly aware of ticket price barriers in relation to our family programs and we ensure that our Kidstage productions have children’s tickets starting as low as $7.50 plus service fees and many of our other programs have $5 eyego prices for secondary school students and IMPACT! discount pricing for those patrons under the age of 30.
5. Kingston’s arts and culture scene has seen some fairly significant and positive growth over the past few years. Looking forward, what do think are the biggest challenges facing venues such as the Grand Theatre with respect the presentation, promotion and development of the arts?
The growth has been spectacular and Kingston is an incredibly vibrant and exciting arts community which was one of the primary reasons I returned with my family to Kingston in 2011. The Grand Theatre plays a key role within the cultural fabric of the performing arts community in Kingston, as it is not only a home to many local community groups but also a stepping stone for many developing and rising stars whether they be musicians, choreographers, comedians or playwrights. The Grand also continues to be a remarkably intimate venue and many performers return again and again due to popular demand.
One of the biggest challenges that the theatre and the GTP program will face will be the ongoing need to cultivate our audience for the various streams of programming that we present. One of the solutions is through our continued emphasis on engagement and education related activities. As an example, all of our dance performances are combined with master class workshops in the community, preshow conversations and post show talkbacks that allow for our audience to become better connected to the performers and the art form.
6. Last season The Grand Theatre sold over 25,000 tickets, which included numerous sold out performances. If you had to guess, which three acts from the 2015-16 program do you think will be in the highest demand? Why you think that these specific performances have the ability to sell-out?
2014-2015 was a remarkable year and we did have many shows that exceeded our expectations including seven complete sell outs. I would estimate that the fastest selling performances for 2015-2016 will be comedians Ron James and Howie Mandel (Season Opener) and musicians Jose Feliciano, Jesse Cook and Downchild. All of these artists are established high profile artists that will appeal to both our “pick 4 or more” subscription buyers and individual show ticket buyers. The “Pick 4 or More” subscription tickets are now on sale at the Grand Theatre box office or by telephone at 613.530.2050. The subscription ticket program is the only way to access the best seats at the best available price right now. Individual show tickets will be on sale starting August 24th pending ticket availability.