Shannon Farrell is a queer playwright, stage manager and Artistic Director from Mississauga. Shannon hopes to continue her artistic journey via her theatre company, Start The Riot Theatre, which she shares with her best friend and Co Artistic Director MJ Walker.
Shannon is a graduate of York University. She has a BA in Theatre. Shannon specialized in playwriting and devised theatre at York University.
What is a theatre school?
A theatre school is an undergraduate or graduate program at a college or university or a free-standing institution which trains students in the theatre arts. Schools can specialize in specific streams of theatre or offer a variety of specializations for students: for example there are schools for actors, directors, designer and production etc… Theatre schools are learning institutions which offer students intensive training. This training can be practical or theoretical, or both. For example students may take a practical course about how to hang lights for theatre, or they may take a theoretical course about the physics of lighting design.
Do I need to go to theatre school if I want to work in the theatre? No! There are no official prerequisites to enter the theatre profession. However, theatre school offers a learning ground for students to learn and practice the fundamentals of their profession, experience what it’s like to work in a professional environment, and meet future peers before entering the work force.
Shannon is a playwright and has written several plays. A reading of Shannon’s newest work, North of Orion, recently premiered at Start the Riot Theatre
Shannon is an artistic Director. Shannon is co-artistic director of Start the Riot Theatre. Start The Riot Theatre is an interdisciplinary theatre company focusing on prioritizing opportunities for emerging artists of all backgrounds.
Shannon is a stage manager. She has stage managed for Alumnae Theatre, Sapling Productions, Madison Burgess, Emily Rapley Productions, Obsidian Theatre and What Would The Neighbours Say?
Shannon Farrell: Summer Ensemble 2021
Shannon is a 2021 Crane Creations Theatre Company Summer Ensemble Member. She worked as an Artistic Producer in the 2021 Summer Ensemble. This was Crane Creations Third Annual Summer Ensemble and Shannon’s addition as a member of the ensemble, helped make this year a memorable experience for everyone. Farrell’s fellow 2021 Summer Ensemble Artists Producers include:
- Jordine De Guzman
- Temilola Gafaar
- Robin Kadigamar
- Nicci Pryce
- Emmanuelle So
- Mya Wong (Communications Intern)
Due to lock down restrictions a large portion of the program was conducted over zoom. Shannon Farrell as well as the rest of Crane Creations 2021 Summer Ensemble handled the transition beautifully, and Shannon was quickly able to adapt her talents to a Zoom’s online platform.
Shannon is an artistic producer in the 2021 Summer Ensemble. She participated in many activities and project with Crane Creations Theatre Company as a Summer Ensemble Member. Shannon assisted in the production and organizing of many events. She assisted in the workshop of the play Mirror. She assisted in the play translation project of Ivan Cankars works. Shannon assists as an organizer in Bridges Festival 2022. She assists in producing they play Terror, which is playing at Clarke Hall, Port Credit Mississauga. Shannon assisted SpringWorks! PuppetWorks Festival 2021.
Shannon assists Artistic Producers Aimee Poulin and Aditi Sharma in day to day activities. She was part of important and lively discussion and debates about the Canadian theatre industry. Shannon learned about the industry of theatre and what it looks like to be a professional full time artist. She learned about theatre in Mississauga. Shannon wrote grants and presented pitches for future theatre projects. She organized and participated in a seminar held by Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council. With her fellow Summer Ensemble members she explored the arts outside of Canada as well, and conducted workshops and presentations on prominent International and Canadian artists and theatre companies.
What is an Artistic Producer?
An artistic producer has an essential role in theatre. They oversee organizational operations and all aspects of a theatre production. Artistic Producers are responsible for the strategic planning and production of theatrical events and take care of the financial and managerial functions to make these theatrical events happen. They also manage day to day activities to make a company run. An Artist Producer balances the big-picture with everyday tasks required to make a business run. An artistic producer must be have the following skills: event management, time management, project management, teamwork, problem solving, leadership, financial planning, business management and communication. Their roles and duties constantly change depending on the need of the theatre company. In summary, an artistic producer is the person who makes theatre happen.
What Does an Artistic Producer Do?
- Look after the finances and manage how the budget is spent
- Hire creative and technical teams
- Issue contracts
- Organise and manage technical, stage management and workshop functions
- Agreeing projects and financial backers
- Agreeing production timelines
- Finding and booking venue
- Setting ticket prices
- Selling tickets
- Create and implement marketing strategies
- Holding regular meetings with Directors, creative teams and Artists
- Hold regular meetings with stakeholders
- Ensuring legal compliance such as copyright law, insurance liability, payroll and tax
Who is Shannon Farrell? An interview with Shannon.
Q: How did you get into theatre?
A: My high school drama class is where I felt the most happy. For once I looked forward to going to class. I had some really great teachers in high school who saw that I was really enjoying myself and remember my teachers telling me, ‘you know, it seems that not only do you enjoy this but you are also good at it and you could do this as a career’. I didn’t know that I was that good. Even in high school I wasn’t completely convinced that you could do theatre as a career. I had people around me who told me that you can pursue this in a post secondary world. They really encouraged me.
Q: What was your favourite part of the Summer Ensemble?
A: I didn’t know how hands on it would be towards the last week. I didn’t expect to be building a bear puppet. It was my favourite things, because it was so shocking to be building a bear head that has a functional nose. I’d never built a puppet before. That is what’s so beautiful about working in theatre. You never know what will happen next and you really have to be the person goes ‘I guess I’m doing that now’. I love being that person and I love learning from those experience.
Q: During the Summer Ensemble you were an artistic producer. You are also an Artistic Director and a Stage Manager. What does Leadership in the arts mean to you?
A: Artistic producers have an incredibly important role. We forget how physically involved the administrative side can be. You think you just stay behind a desk all day. That’s not true. Regardless of your role, leadership is incredibly important. You have to be willing to do what you need to do to make the show mobile. That means going above and beyond what your job description is. We are all working towards the same goal so why would we ever draw the line at what we do. You need to be willing to take initiative and throw yourself in there to help your company, people and show.
Q: You are also a playwright. Do you have a writing process? What’s it like?
A: It’s like PANIC! PANIC! hope? It’s a lot pacing, frustration, and a lot of getting up and walking away from it. Sometimes I have to step away from writing for a whole week. My playwriting experience is all about learning patience.
Q: Do you have any advice for first time playwright?
A: Nobody is on a timeline their first time. You have to set deadlines for yourself.
Another piece of advice is to ask yourself what you want to learn about yourself. I have been writing plays for five or six years. It always feels new. It’s always a gateway to lean something new. It is a continuous education.
Q: Why do you enjoy playwriting?
A: It is an incredible selfish expression. I’m a selfless person so writing is my place to be selfish. It’s my place to work on myself, my message, and my art.
When you write something you also receive a touch of immortality. I’m reminded of the story of Emily Dickinson. Anything she published she did so anonymously. After she died, her sister found all of her work, nearly 2,000 poems. She preserved her experiences and her thoughts in her writing, and even though it’s been over a hundred years we still know her work. Writing is an act of preserving my experience.
Q: You’ve also had your work produced. What’s it like transforming a work from page to stage?
A: It’s different for every playwright. You have to find out how much you want to give away to a director. How much you want to be involved. Is it ‘Go crazy! See you opening night!’ or are you involved in every line change suggestion? For me, my willingness to let another person take over depends on the subject matter.
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: I’m a big outside person and a big summer person. I’m a kayaker. Anytime I’m up at my cabin we are on the lake. I’ve been kayaking for five years now, every summer. I take my dog with me. There’s any island I paddle to on the lake. I’ve being on the water and in it. I love the woods. I love being up north with the freshest air. When you are deep in the woods up north, you can’t hear anything but the water and birds. I also bird watch which basically means I sit in a tree and talk to myself.
Q: What’s your star sign?
A: Virgo – Virgo’s are quite picky. They are very my way or the highway. I’ve broken that stereotype by being in Artistic community. I do have some anal traits. I’m organized in my work and I like doing things in my way when it comes to that, but with theatre it’s about working together.
Q: Do you have a favourite food to make?
A: I love sushi, but I don’t trust myself making it. I’m Irish. The amount of times i’ve had potatoes for lunch is astonishing. I would eat mash potatoes all day if I could. I also make a really good grilled cheese.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
A: There’s the regular advice, ‘Don’t expect it to be easy. Just because it’s fun, doesn’t mean it’s easy.’ Which is true. It’s emotionally taxing too, because your work is also your passion. The more you care about it the harder it is. The best advice I got is to keep programs of shows you go to. Find out who the stage manager is, or the director or the designer. Find out if they have an email. Offer to buy them a coffee. I shadowed at SoulPepper’s production of “Beauty and the Beast’ by getting n touch with the stage manager that way. Networking is not a bad idea.
Learning from other people’s experiences is so important especially in theatre. It help you make less mistakes. I’ve talked to playwrights, and shared my ideas, and they were like “I tried that too. Here is what you need to know.” Most people don’t get out of university and get a job straight away. Only very lucky people do that. Gain as much experience from other as you can and build connections, that is what will get you a job.
Where to Find Shannon
Shannon Farrell is one of the many talented and inspiring summer ensemble members whom we had the pleasure to work with. So, allow us to introduce you to her peer: Bénédicte Mbaididje