#RiseMTL is Montreal Theatre Hub’s new journalistic series featuring local artists and companies who are spearheading creative community initiatives for artistic and social activity in response to COVID-19.
Thomas Rodriguez is observedly one of Montreal theatre’s promising emerging creators and connectors as the Founding Artistic and Executive Director of The Opportunity Theatre Company (OTC) – a fitting name to encompass his passionate efforts to provide local artists with a space for creative expression, production experience, and market visibility.
Within just one year since the OTC’s official launch last April, Rodriguez has already proven a positive force in the community with his warm presence, collaborative spirit, entrepreneurial sensibilities, and demonstrated support for fellow professional practitioners (notably those on the independent front). Among his endorsement initiatives have been cross-promotional activities, regular online recommendations of stage works, and co-productions; relationship building appears to be at the core of the work.
The company’s inaugural – and sold-out – production of Before It’s Too Late (co-written/performed by Rodriguez and cowritten/directed by trusted collaborator Laurie Dumont-Bal) had opened and played for one night of its three-day run at the MainLine Theatre before the Québec government ordered the closure of the venue on March 14th due to the COVID-19 developments.
It was a devastating hit – but, in its resolute disposition, the company quickly stood up on its feet to fire back a responsive new initiative: The OTC Online Show. (#RiseMTL indeed).
“This pandemic has put a lot of artistic projects on hold, including my own,” begins Rodriguez. (As you read this, hundreds of theatre events have already been cancelled and postponed in Montreal this season). “With this project, I wanted to make sure that artists have access to a platform where they can continue to express themselves, create art, and make themselves visible in order to grow in their communities.”
Beginning Saturday, May 2nd at 8PM, and every week thereafter, the OTC will showcase a different artist as the featured host of its Online Show (Jeremy Lewis – “The Court Jester” – kicks off the first edition). Artists of all performative disciplines are invited to submit to the show, and those selected are given a 15-30 minute segment. Performances are broadcast through live streams or a live viewing of a pre-recorded video, through Facebook Premiere.
“I believe there are a lot of benefits that can come out from OTC’s Online Show,” Thomas asserts. “Artists get to keep developing themselves and their careers. For instance, each artist presenting for our show receives a full marketing week on every Opportunity Theatre’s social media platform. We work closely with each person to establish their goals, their needs, and what they would like to promote. We then create a tailored marketing strategy and establish together what we should post over the span of their week.”
The digital platform then serves as a point of connectivity between performers and new audiences.
“Since the OTC’s Online Show is free to watch and is easily accessible online, we can reach out to people who in normal times do not regularly go out to see the work of artists. I am hoping that this project, and others like it, will move more people to go out and encourage the art world, once this pandemic is over. We’ll need their support more than ever,” he articulates.
Above: Thomas Rodriguez explains the OTC Online Show
On the personal rewards and challenges of the production process for the Online Show, Rodriguez naturally looks to the opportunities as opposed to the barriers.
“We are still in the early phase of this project, but I can already see that this is helping me grow as an artistic entrepreneur and as a producer. It’s forcing me to face challenges that are completely different from the ones that one may encounter when producing live theatre. Figuring out the logistics of how to present a wide array of performances online while also ensuring quality content, is by far the most challenging part of this project. I’m looking forward to seeing how this will evolve over time,” he reflects.
As one with the vision, resourcefulness, and impetus to create and connect in times of crisis, Thomas’s initiative is an embraced endeavour in artistic and social engagement.
“The arts community should still have a place to congregate and to celebrate what makes this life and humanity so beautiful. I strongly believe that art will always prevail, no matter what we go through as a species. I strive to reflect that through this project.”
The OTC Online Show premieres Saturday, May 2nd, 8:00 PM EST
To tune in to the broadcast and for more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/2957313840991471/
If you have a project idea and would like to submit to the Online Show, proposals can be forwarded to: email@example.com
#RiseMTL by Montreal Theatre Hub
Are you or do you know of someone who has started a creative community initiative in response to COVID-19? We’d love to feature them as part of our #RiseMTL series. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org