FASS 2017

This post has been a long time coming. It probably started back in August, when so many of the problems that Committee saw in December were sitting on the table and I decided I was out as President (another story that I won’t get into right now0. The TLDR: FASS needs restructuring, and not by committee.

The decision to cancel FASS is a difficult one. One of the hardest decisions committee ever had (and will ever have) to make. Committee was faced with no president, no producer, no company coordinator, and an uncastable script just three weeks before auditions. Committee still didn’t want to make the call to cancel.

Could we solve the producer role? Could we get a President? Could we finish the script? Can we afford a failed show? The answer to any one of these questions is probably yes. The answer to all of them simultaneously should be no.

Take a look at the people who resigned. Over the past few months, I have watched Megan and Emily struggle to keep the show together. It has been a very stressful time for the both of them, in a time that is typically a low-stress, preparation mode time for the Director and Stage Manager. Usually, the team is reviewing the script and planning ahead. Instead, they have been fighting tooth and nail to ensure that the writing process happens at all. They have been panicking about the producer, the company coordinator, the vice, the script, the president, the band, the planning, everything. That all came to a head at the meeting.

When your creative team is all voting to cancel, you should be listening to them. FASS needs dedicated, skilled people. But FASS also needs people who are willing to listen to those people when things are going wrong.

FASS needs a small group of people dedicated 12/12 months of the year, so that 70+ people can arrive and care about FASS for 2/12 months. This isn’t a problem, but an observation. This small group of people gets smaller each year, and their workload gets larger. Even the best committee members struggle. And when several sane people tell you something can’t be done, it probably can’t.

I resigned from my Past SM seat after the stage manager, when committee was still trying to decide whether or not to cancel. With no stage manager and no script and all the problems from above. FASS has a lot of great elements, but it can also be blinded by its weaknesses.

Everybody gets a part can’t mean everybody gets a mission-critical leadership role when they want one. The structure of many roles on committee doesn’t leave a lot of room for learning the skills on the job or for second & third chances. Doing that burns out other committee members who have to save the day. That’s what happened over the past few years. That’s what happened this year. Look at all the fantastic committee members that spent a few years on committee, burnt out, and never came back. That’s what needs to be addressed.

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“Fixing FASS” doesn’t boil down to solving one of the issues.

Keeping the spirit alive and fixing FASS are two separate things. Fixing FASS is not about putting on a variety show in January, although many people have great ideas on how to keep the spirit alive through parties and talent optionals. Those are all great ideas and those should happen, but that shouldn’t be placed on the people who end up rebuilding.

I’m really glad Committee will be running a variety show, but Committee now needs to find the entire creative team they need to organize it. Putting on this variety show moves committee’s focus to the short term, and not on solving the problems that desperately need fixed. Immediate fires and short term problems are why committee never gets to plan for the future.

Fixing FASS is about restructuring, about building a solid plan, and about putting the right leadership team in place for the 2018 show. It’s going to be long, it’s going to be messy. It’s going to need highly-skilled people at the helm, some of whom lost their patience with FASS over the past few years. Some of the people that are the most passionate about FASS are still not people who can do this. What FASS needs most right now is people who are willing to listen to skilled people, even if you don’t like what they will say.

My recommendation is to pick a small group of dedicated, skilled people who can work on the governance and the structure problems. Throw out the committee model for now. Give them the power to talk to the company, brainstorm possibilities, and implement a strong structure that can carry FASS into the future. Maybe that structure looks nothing like today’s FASS. Don’t give them other work. Everyone else focus on keeping the spirit alive, running parties, variety shows, etc.

FASS brings a lot of great things to the table. It’s a great social activity for the dark winter months, a place to find friends, act, sing, dance, build, and perform. But it also needs help.

Yes, you all want to help. Help by finding the right people to fix the mess and let them focus on that.

Organizational Design

I’m really interested in organizational design: how we work and what makes an organization work effectively.

This graph is why:

Some great articles on organizational design and management:

Quick Review: Ralph + Lina

I wen11700550_488461367977284_8265313957317331058_o.jpgt to see Ralph and Lina at the Kitchener Waterloo Little Theatre today, which was awesome.
Ralph + Lina is an acrobatic comedy that follows the story of a Italian couple in the face of war, immigration and old age. Edge of the Woods Theatre’s husband and wife Dan Watson and Christina Serra take the stage

to tell the very Canadian story of Serra’s grandparents and their struggle to make a better life together in a new country. Christina Serra had listened to the stories since she was a little girl, love stories of how her Italian grandparents met and how the Second World War nearly destroyed their relationship. “It’s a classic, universal story with lots of melodrama,” says Watson.

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KWLT’s 2016-2017 Season Preview

Season Poster Example (2)Over the past month or so, I’ve been working on a pretty big project. The Kitchener Waterloo Little Theatre recently announced our 2016-2017 season and I had the opportunity to design our promotional marketing material. The posters will stay up in our lobby and we’ll use this material for each show before that show’s own artwork gets created. This was my first time doing any form of graphic design, so I’m really proud of the results.

We have a really interesting mix of shows next season. We start off with Lucky Stiff, a musical farce that follows a shoe salesman on an adventure with his dead uncle’s wheelchair-bound corpse in Monte Carlo. Next, a cast gets food poisoning, so the remaining actors decide to improv a Shakespearean Christmas show in Scrooge Macbeth. Lion in the Streets presents surrealistic imagery as a young girl searches for her killers. Immigration Acts asks the audience to decide between two views of multiculturalism in Canada in two one-act plays. Then we close our season out with a lot of pink with Legally Blonde!

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A Guide to Student Politics: For the Candidates

Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 4.06.48 PMToo often, we talk about the voters. This is for the candidates. Having been a candidate at least a half-a-dozen times for various races, I remember what you’re feeling. You’re working through the busiest and most chaotic weeks of yourself. Don’t forget to enjoy it.

  • The race will be difficult: anonymous twitter accounts, harsh media criticism, angry comments and personal attacks. Invest in thick skin.
  • When the smallest item of your platform becomes a sticking point, find a way out. Stop talking about it, change the subject, bring up a new idea. The campaign is too short to get stuck on a small issue.

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A Guide to Student Politics: And They’re Off! Well, Half of Them

And here we go again. The most wonderful time of the year is finally upon us—the Federation of Students elections, of course.

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Team Gold off to a running start, but without anyone else.

I don’t know what it is about the Federation of Students Exec elections, but every single year, one team kicks off right at midnight… and one doesn’t. I watch the elections at Laurier, Western*, Queens, and Waterloo, and Waterloo is the only one that seems to do this.

This year is no different. Somewhere around 1AM, Team Gold’s website was up and running, and their candidates had introduced their candidacy on Facebook and Twitter. Flash forward to this morning and there’s not website in sight from Team Fusion (the next largest team), Team Purple Crush (which may or may not be a joke), or any of the independents. (more…)

A Guide to Student Politics: Election Season is Coming!

Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 3.50.24 PMIT’S ELECTION SEASON!

This is the first year in a very long time that I have no connection to the student union elections happening across the province in the next few months. I’m not running; I’m not preparing to run; I’m not supporting a particular candidate or candidate(s). Instead, I can watch from the sidelines. I forgot how much fun that is.

Once a year, candidates sprint across campus at midnight (the first second campaigning is permitted) and plaster the place with as many pieces of paper as the rules will allow. There’s an art to postering with speed, efficiency, and enough tape to ensure your posters last the morning. I should know: two years in the Mathematical Society as an exec and two years of elections taught me the exact optimal size of tape loops, the value of high-quality masking tape, and the importance of a midnight plan.

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It’s all about the midnight plan.

For the next few weeks, your candidates give up school, sleep, and a social life to practically live on campus trying to get you to vote. The experience is somewhat surreal in the first couple of days because you can’t quite believe that the campaign is finally happening or that you’re finally a candidate. So, so, so much planning goes into it. Give them a chance. Find the issues you believe in. Who knows, maybe you’ll get caught up in the chaos of it all?