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Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Sunday Feature, February 5, 2011

Humans (photo: Jaclyn Turner)

Tableau D'Hote gets by with a little help from their friends
by Sarah Deshaies

A month ago, Tableau D'Hote Theatre, a Montreal theatre company with a focus on Canadian content, was facing its final curtain call. Financial difficulties threatened the company, which was founded six years ago by Mathieu Perron and Mike Payette. In a world where many theatre companies don't last more than two years, Tableau D'Hote was already an anomaly, as the struggle for funding is something that many theatre companies, and small businesses, face.

But with a little help from some friends and an indie fundraising website, Tableau D'Hote may yet see another few more years – or at least, see its latest project up and running.
Perron and Payette set up an account for their cashstrapped company on fundraising site, IndieGoGo. A message of appeal was published on their page under the following headings: “Our story,” “The impact,” and “What we need and what you get.”

And so they turned to the Internet for help. IndieGoGo allows for “crowdsourcing” - users rallying their networks to raise funds.

A snippet revealed the story succinctly: “Our production of Humans, which opens in February, is being produced only two months after our least successful box-office production in 6 years. As such, we need an extra boost of cash flow to help our designers bring their world to life.” 

Last fall's production of Acadian play Dark Owl at Mainline Theatre led to a loss on the company books. An average show at Tableau D'Hote can cost between $30,000 and $60,000. Perron told CharPo contributor Valerie Cardinal for the Concordian that in January the company has largely been run on his and Payette's investments.
“We calculate that over the past six years, we've at least invested close to $100,000 to $110,000 from our personal funds into our company. This entire time, something that I don't think people have been very cognizant of is that the company is entirely self-financed." He also told Cardinal that he thinks English theatre in Montreal is hurting financially because of a lack of funding from grants, as well as having a smaller target audience than the French market.

And so they turned to the Internet for help. IndieGoGo allows for “crowdsourcing” - users rallying their networks to raise funds. It charges a four per cent fee once a funding goal is reached (or nine per cent if that goal is not reached) and a three per cent fee goes to third party payment processors. Target users include mobile app makers, comedians, community builders, treehuggers and “nomadic storytellers.”

Like a business plan gone public, Tableau D'Hote's site listed objects needed for its set, and the cost of each: “Risers: $140, moveable block: $340, cardboard boxes: $125... .” You could have almost added: “Live theatre... priceless.” A message above stated that a donor would be paying for more than just boxes: “Your contribution would directly aid in the creation of a beautiful homogeneous design. A work of art that exists for the world of 'Humans' but also stands as a work of art in and of itself.” A few contributions were listed – they ranged from $10 to $115. There were a few freebies: thanks in the program for a $25 minimum contribution, and a part of the set for any donations $100 and over.

It seems like a few program thanks are in order, and some people might be walking away with part of the set - not only did Tableau D'Hote reach their goal, they surpassed it. Perron, in Satuday's Gazette, revealed that the company raised $4,000 – a grand more than what they were originally aiming for. 

On Saturday night, Tableau D'Hote premiered its version of Daniel MacIvor's Humans, directed by company favourite Liz Valdez – with a little bit of help from some friends.

To help Tableau D'Hote, head to  indiegogo
Humans by Daniel MacIvor runs until Feb. 13 at the Segal Studio. Read Gaëtan L. Charlebois's review of Humans.

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