ROZSA FOUNDATION GRANTS: TRICKSTER THEATRE'S STORY

Updated: Mar 30

by Lisa Mackay

Students perform as part of a Trickster residency

Granting programs are at the very core of the Rozsa Foundation. The foundation has been awarding grants to Calgary arts charities since its inception, carrying on the legacy of philanthropy of Drs. Ted and Lola Rozsa and helping them pursue new initiatives and opportunities. It has also allowed the Rozsa Foundation to develop relationships with arts organizations, and keep on top of the changing needs and challenges faced by the sector.


Trickster Theatre, which produces theatre in schools, is one of those companies that has had a long relationship with the Rozsa Foundation. They have received several different grants, were the subject of a Rozsa-funded research project with the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary, and their founder David Chantler received the Rozsa Award for Excellence in Arts Management in 2017. “It is because of this combination of touchpoints that Trickster has grown in so many different ways,” said David Chantler. “The Rozsa Foundation, of all the funders, is really about innovation, and has helped us adapt and move forward in new and exciting ways, through grants and professional development. Every one of the many advancements we have put in place over the last ten years has a Rozsa Grant at the very start, and I am sure this is the case for many Calgary arts groups. They are the default funder of new pathways in Calgary.”


Trickster's journey of innovation began in part with a Rozsa-funded research project with the University of Calgary that instigated an initial entrepreneurial spirit in terms of the school-based programs and residencies they offered. The study followed 359 students at various schools that undertook one of three programs: 1) an Arts Integrated Collective Creation (AICC) experience that explores a global issue using music, drama, dance, and art to collectively create a performance; 2) Kids Go Global, an Educational Social Enterprise (ESE) experience that explores a global issue using a website and entrepreneurial coaching to collaborate with non-government organizations to fundraise for social need; 3) a combined program of both AICC and ESE. The programs were all developed and implemented by Trickster Theatre, and the results have been shared widely as a basis for developing a Socially Empowered Learning Framework in schools. “The research allowed us to innovate and propelled our residency programs to a different level, while also giving us credibility for our supported classroom offerings,” explains Chantler. “It also triggered support from other sources, thanks in large part to the reputation of the Rozsa Foundation and its research findings, which showed Trickster Theatre moving forward in meaningful ways.” This leveraging of Rozsa grant money to secure further financial support is an important piece of the Rozsa Foundation’s granting philosophy, and Trickster Theatre has used it effectively several times. In 2016, Trickster received a Rozsa Grant to support a Canada 150 video series where Trickster worked with students from 55 different school communities across Alberta. The initial funding of $13,500 from the Rozsa Foundation enabled them to get the project off the ground and helped them raise an additional $237,000 in funding to support Canada 150: Our Many Faces. Most of this was federal, and enabled some major upgrades to Trickster’s sound and video components, as well as supporting the creation and sharing of the video essays, the integration of video content into their school shows, the sharing of show footage, and the development of a cross Canada school trustee database to share content. “I believe the Rozsa support was instrumental in getting the funding from Heritage and the Alberta Human Rights Commission,” asserted Chantler.

"They really are the go-to arts funder for seed funding, for being willing to fund on vision before you reach a marketable level. They are about innovating, creating new pathways, new partners, new possibilities.”

Following this success, Trickster Operations Manager Nimrodel Whiting took the Rozsa Arts Management Program in 2017-2018, and Trickster received a Rozsa Action Learning Plan (ALP) Grant to enable them to bring Nimrodel’s plan of developing a professional training program for Trickster artists to fruition. The resulting program continues to be used to bring the company’s 30+ theatre-trained team members along on their digital evolution and as an on-boarding program for new hires. This has helped Trickster not only improve internal processes, but also worked to draw talented professionals to the company to expand on their theatrical training.

Web banner from the Kids Go Global website

All these developments into video and digital program delivery positioned Trickster Theatre perfectly for the wild and crazy events of 2020. This is not to say that the year has been easy for the company, but the investments in video and digital equipment and artist training enabled them to respond quickly and effectively to the new reality. Trickster received an Online Programming Grant from the foundation and Trickster At Home was born. Chantler says they have done 10 years of development in 2020, and are working on 2 new program formats that will be completely online. “Because of the Rozsa Grant, which we were again able to leverage into additional funding through the wage subsidy program and other sources, we were able to train our artists to be full video and editing professionals. We have hired two full-time team members to do video training and were able to hire a videographer for 4 months to design the courses,” reports Chantler. “All of this got us up and running, and back into schools – which opened much faster than theatres – with, again, a whole new level of offerings.”


David Chantler accepts the 2017 Rozsa Awards for Excellence in Arts Management

Since Trickster is as of this point only permitted into schools within the Calgary Catholic Board, their artists are now doing teacher training on how to adapt and present their residency programs. The Kids Go Global website has been re-imagined to provide K-12 teachers across Canada the resources to bring Global Event Day programs such as International Water Day or Kindness Day into their classes at no cost, with an option for them to purchase additional Trickster expertise to design the day. They are also creating digital workshops for teachers to use on their Professional Development days, and will be venturing into longer teacher courses on storytelling. “With the Rozsa Foundation COVID relief funding, we were able to widen our pathway to the development of artists into the program and harness a lot more creative power,” says Chantler. “The Rozsa Foundation is able to be so much faster at turning grants around, and their immediate response enabled us to pivot quickly and create something that could drive more funding. They really are the go-to arts funder for seed funding, for being willing to fund on vision before you reach a marketable level. They are about innovating, creating new pathways, new partners, new possibilities. I only wish there were more Rozsa Foundations!”

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