President’s Speech – VOS AGM 2014

Joel Varty - VOS President

VOS has always been about its people. It’s a family, it’s our family, whose members are more important than the shows they work on.  Each project is itself a unique challenge, not just to create a product, but to strengthen the ties between each and every person who is involved.

A stronger family: that is my personal mandate as president – to see that happen.  Because that is where the magic starts.

One person might begin with a great idea that many others jump on board with and it turns into a show.  Or maybe it starts with a challenge in a personal life that requires other folks to step outside their routines to help that person out – that family member in need.  I’ve seen this happen – I’ve been on both ends.  It’s where the magic starts.

My question to each and every member of VOS is this: are you ready to be inspired to create magic?  Are you ready to be the person with the little itty-bitty idea that turns out great because someone else believes in it, believes in you?  How about this: are you ready to be the first person to look at that itty-bitty idea and say – “I’ll help you.”

Some folks stand onstage, some in the wings, some backstage, at times underneath it, or way up on a catwalk, in the booth, front of house, maybe in the shop, the barn, driving, packing costumes, painting, planning, recording commercials, writing ads, filling out insurance forms, grant applications, sourcing equipment, sewing, knitting, building props, practicing knaps, babysitting, calling New York, endless emails, baking, and a boatload of other stuff I don’t even know about except that somehow it all happens.

It’s a family, and anyone who thinks one person is more important than another, is dead wrong.

I did a tour of the main theatre at Shaw last year, and I was delighted when the tour guide, a volunteer, referred to the entire company, himself included, as one big family.  Folks get hired and sign on as part of the family, and that includes everyone.  When we got backstage the set-folks were just getting ready to change from “A Light in the Piazza” to “Guys and Dolls” – a 2-hour process that is the most gruelling and precise exercise of anything you’ll ever see in theatre.  It’s the iron-man of the theatre Olympics.  This one guy stops in the middle of all that and demonstrates how one actor can move a 20-foot, 2 thousand pound set piece safely and easily across the stage.  Why did he take the time, this bearded techie dude who was sweating and working hard?  Because he called us his audience, the most important people in the world.  He was passionate about his job, and he and his team were so good that I wanted to sit in the theatre and watch them do that changeover.

So – how will you be fuelled by what VOS is doing?  How will you help to fuel what VOS is doing?

This group is different.  25 years ago Ruth Harcort and a bunch of others walked out of another group’s AGM and they vowed to be different.  It was about doing the right thing, about giving folks a say, about doing shows well, not necessarily doing 8 shows a year, maybe it was only doing 1 show, but doing it right.  VOS has been breaking ground right from the start, and we haven’t stopped.  From Les Belles Soeurs to VIMY to Shirley Valentine, from all those crazy G&S Operettas to Carousel to Kismet to White Christmas to Spamalot to Shrek; sometimes it’s about music, or the script, or it’s just somebody’s dream to make it snow.

5 years ago this group took a chance on me when I was the new guy, I have been given the chance some great roles, a play that I love, and I have been allowed to make a bigger contribution on the board and as president and executive producer, and that has made a huge difference in my life.  VOS took a chance with my kids, onstage and backstage.  It was VOS folks who picked me up when I fell down.

So here I am and I need you.  I need you to create, to be inspired, and to inspire others.  I need you to be part of the next generation of volunteers who run the VOS, who get to make the hard decisions, who maybe don’t get the applause, because that’s not what’s important.  What’s important?  100 or so members and volunteers who have a safe place to build something and take chances and be lifted up by each other.  And maybe, just maybe, if it all works out, there’ll be 2000 kids of all ages who don’t recognise you in the grocery store, who won’t know when you walk down the street who you are, but because you were holding up the barn, or singing backstage, or because you were applying makeup, or because you were holding the spotlight, or because you hauled back that curtain, or because you did whatever, that kid knows that magic is real.

Thank you for your support.

Yours –

Joel Varty