Small Print Toronto stages creative writing workshops and literary events for children and young people. Their programming is designed to inspire them to explore a vital question: How do stories work?
My ‘5 Questions’ explore the no less vital issue of how festivals work, and hopefully provide some answers to that dreaded question: what do festival people do the rest of the year? Chris Reed, founder and Artistic Director, is sharing insights into his daily tasks, learning curve and working style.
1. Hi Chris! Totsapalooza was in February, CAKE took place last weekend and The Little City Festival is on June 16. What’s a typical day right now?
One of the best parts about the Small Print Toronto project is that none of my days are ‘typical.’ Things are in a state of constant flux. I’m always juggling concerns that loosely fall into different baskets – future programming, promoting our current programs, stage management, growing the organization, funding (or lack thereof) and so forth. And I’m fortunate to be surrounded by talented folks with whom I can develop creative responses to such concerns.
2. You’ve been organizing Totsapalooza for 5 years now. What gets easier with time? And what doesn’t?
Our track record with Totsapalooza gives us some insight into what to expect in terms of audience behaviour and ticket sales. Importantly, though, we are constantly discovering better ways to do things next time around. And even though the show has started to sell out in advance, I still fret about our guest authors and musicians having to perform to a near empty hall. Those worries stay the same.
3. Before, during or after the festival – what’s your favourite moment, the one that makes it all worth it?
My favourite moments of any show are usually at the end; comparing notes with my teammates and audience members, and then looking at the photos. Despite the fact that I am surrounded by a remarkably capable crew, I become too consumed by that old stage manager’s dictum – ‘what needs to happen next?’ – to fully enjoy the show while it’s in motion.
4. What other festival would you love to attend as audience member?
5. What are the specific challenges – and rewards – of programming events for children? And what about the parents?
The most rewarding and challenging aspects of programming for children are one and the same: their reactions tend to be brutally candid. Kids will start talking, and even get up and run about if a presentation does not engage them. Conversely, they are quite willing to suspend their disbelief about the most ridiculous premise for a story if you present it to them with sincerity and a sense of respect. By and large, the parents in our audience provide us with constructive feedback about our programming choices. And they are wonderfully supportive of the Small Print TO project as a whole.
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Small Print’s next event is Rhyme Stew Crew, a rap-poetry workshop for children age 8-12. The tagline says it all: “Where Dr Seuss meets Dr Dre”. It’s free, and it’s on Sunday, May 5th – 2-4pm – at the Lillian Smith Library (239 College Street, Toronto).