Posted at 6:00 am
The resumption of festivals and tours, combined with a general labor shortage, is weighing on the performing arts community. Result: faced with a clamorous lack of technicians that threatens shows throughout the province, Culture Trois-Rivières opted last week to cancel five shows, including one by Marie-Mai and a performance by The dark side of the moon by Robert LePage.
“It is unimaginable to believe that today, after a pandemic, we have to postpone or close a performance hall due to lack of staff,” exclaims Martin Leclerc, from productions of the same name, who experienced a similar situation a month ago. The producer had to postpone some of his performances in Saint-Hyacinthe because too many people had caught COVID-19.
“For many places, we are one step away from having to consider cancellations or postponements,” says David Laferrière, president of the Professional Association of show hosts RIDEAU.
“We resume like there is no tomorrow,” adds Mr. Laferriere. Such a frenetic recovery affects the mental load of the teams, according to the RIDEAU representative, who is also the general and artistic director of the Gilles-Vigneault Theater in Saint-Jérôme.
We have an occupancy rate for shows of almost 100% for the fall. This is unheard of. It pushes, but we don’t have a choice because we can’t ignore the two years of delays and repositioning that we’ve had.
David Laferriere, President of the Professional Association of Show Hosts RIDEAU
This funnel effect means that the community rips off the workers, explains Caroline Johnson, co-director general of the Regroupement des festivals regionals artistesdépendants (Refrain). “And it even goes beyond stage technicians,” she notes.
According to an online study carried out last March with Refrain member festivals, almost 24% of those surveyed foresee human resources problems after the pandemic and 15% believe that there are significant problems in terms of maintaining jobs. Despite this, only 1.7% of the festivals mainly fear the lack of stage technicians.
Six months notice for skilled workers
For his part, Martin Leclerc also points out the lack of specialized workers. Previously, he would book artisans a month or two in advance to make sure the technical teams answered the call. Today, he is doing it six or eight months in advance.
The schedule and editing time also played a role in Culture Trois-Rivières’ decision to cancel five shows that were to take place in June. “We had to consider the number of working hours and the number of resources available for each of the specific days [avant d’annuler des spectacles] says Mélanie Brisebois, director of performing arts at Culture Trois-Rivières.
A setup like The dark side of the moon It is very demanding. It takes a lot of people. And we arrive near Saint-Jean-Baptiste, where there are many events in the region.
Mélanie Brisebois, Director of Performing Arts at Culture Trois-Rivières
According to M.me Brisebois, it is not justifiable to ask artists to limit themselves to smaller formats that require few resources, as has been done in the last two years. “It’s fine in a particular context like a pandemic, but after that, we want to go back to normal because the act of creating doesn’t feel like your wings are clipped. »
“If we go to productions that require less staff, yes, we risk making the current situation worse,” adds Mr. Leclerc. The goal is not to eliminate important professions either, we are in short supply, but there is a limit to reducing the quality of a show at the creation level. »
A bigger problem”
The pandemic and the cessation of cultural shows have cruelly weakened the troops, although the problem of lack of manpower was already present before 2020, according to Mr. Laferrière. “It is important. We have witnessed many people who took their lives in the last two years. It weakened many structures both in theaters and on tour teams. »
Finding themselves unemployed, artisans reoriented themselves during the pandemic, but working conditions add to the reasons for this exodus.
We must make the environment attractive, attract new generations and review budgets. People at cultural events are war machines. So we always end up finding a solution, but it’s not easy and it’s worse than before.
Caroline Johnson, Co-Director of Refrain
METERme Johnson also raises the burnout of workers, who are often forced to perform tasks that do not correspond to their duties.
According to her, to remedy this shortage, it is first necessary “that the cultivation medium be brought to the same level as the other fields.”
Looking for solutions
“It will not be resolved overnight, Mélanie Brisebois presumes. We must continue our efforts of brainstorming and consultation to find new initiatives for training or corporate sponsorship. In this sense, the community is mobilizing. Since March, Culture in Action has been leading a project whose intention is to solve the shortages and needs of manpower in culture. Their goal is to present an action plan in December.
There are several solutions on the table. The co-director general of Refrain raises the idea of establishing a directory that broadcasters can consult to complete their team when necessary. However, again according to the survey presented by the organization, economic issues are the most feared among 52% of the participating festivals.
To deal with this critical situation, the performing arts community will need the help of cities, municipalities and RCM, says David Laferrière, who is eagerly awaiting how the recovery plan announced by the government materializes.
“The cultural community always works miracles with two 25 cents, but here I think we have reached the end of what we could do, he believes. It’s not just about being able to put on a show anymore, it’s about being able to maintain the physical and mental health of our teams. »
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