by Lisa Mackay
In the early days of the pandemic, it became increasingly evident that life in the arts was changing forever. Not only were arts organizations going to be devastated financially, but now they also had to re-examine their missions and mandates and figure out how to fulfill them and continue to serve their audiences in this new reality. The direction was clearly pointing to digital and online experiences, but many were unsure how to make that happen.
The Rozsa Foundation created a grant stream to help provide arts companies with the resources that could bring them into the digital realm, and collaborated with Calgary Foundation and Calgary Arts Development (CADA) to make funds accessible to artists and arts collectives as well. One of the funded projects was a podcast by mother-and-son team Griffin Cork and Karen Johnson Diamond entitled The Breakfast Dish.
The Breakfast Dish immediately stood out as an interesting project because the crux of their content is a focus on artists moving their work and creative output into the digital world. The Rozsa Foundation believes that the ability to move programming online in inventive ways will be crucial to the arts in the coming years and is committed to helping the arts sector navigate this process. This podcast ties in beautifully to this by not only showcasing the many online programs available to arts enthusiasts, but also delves into the creative process behind these presentations.
Recognizing that arts audiences often treasure the “live” element of their arts experiences, and that they may be wary of or dismiss an online presentation, Karen and Griffin set out to address this perception.
“Viewers may have a preconceived notion that what they are watching will be behind a ‘fifth wall’ and that they will feel even more removed,” they explained in their application. “Our job is to help audiences see how artists are recreating themselves and their practices. We’d like to show them how artists are reaching their viewers, that the screen isn’t a barrier to enjoyment, and that “live entertainment” could still means it is happening live.”
The guest of their second episode, Haysam Kadri, spoke to this when discussing the process of bringing this summer’s Shakespeare by the Bow production into the digital realm. “We had to ask ourselves, how do we tell the story of Romeo & Juliet in the best way possible, in only 55 minutes, using the technical elements to their full advantage as an integral element of the production?” explained Kadri. “We needed to create a dynamic show on a static platform, where it is so easy for the audience to disengage, and in doing so discovered how well the technology could help us tell the story.”
It is discussions like this that Griffin and Karen are interested in bringing to a wider audience; the process of creating an experience that embraces our current reality vs pre-Covid-19 business as usual. “For us, the hook is that it’s just a conversation, enthused Griffin. “We want to get to know the person behind the work, not just the work. The work is important, and a large part of our show is laying out simple instructions on how to best experience that work, but we believe the arts are the most vibrant when they are powered by bright people. It’s a people/person/audience/viewer/reviewer/friend/family industry.”
Griffin and Karen believe that hearing artists describe not only their program, but the creative journey that brought them there, will resonate with arts patrons and entice them to join in online and continue supporting the arts. “Our audience is every arts patron and arts supporter who can no longer attend their favourite live performances: people who used to revel in live theatre and dance at concerts and who are now looking for ways to keep art present in their lives,” says Griffin. “The Breakfast Dish shines a spotlight on where to find the actors, dancers, painters, writers, directors, filmmakers and other artists who have lost their outlet due to COVID-19 and have found a new avenue.” For more info on The Breakfast Dish, and to listen to their podcasts, you can find them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TheBreakfastDish) and on iTunes podcasts.