Date: 2010 May

May 31, 2010, by
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Thanks to Impolitical for bringing attention to this clip that explains perfectly why you won’t be hearing from me until after The Africa Trilogy opens. (Don’t worry, interim editor Aislinn Rose will keep the content flowing in the meantime.)

May 29, 2010, by
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Galileo Reading

A reading of Birgit Schreyer Duarte and Jacob Zimmer’s new translation of Life of Galileo at the Festival of Ideas and Creation presented last week by Canadian Stage.

by Leora Morris

I don’t think the text is the only thing that will make the public reading of Life of Galileo on Sunday night clear, funny, and moving.  It’s also the spirit of the project, the impetus for the coming together.  In the past week I have witnessed the preparation of a remarkable cast, meeting with the dual focus of reading this new translation of Life of Galileo and thanking a fellow artist.

Part of the impetus for the event was to hear Tracy Wright, a pioneer in the Canadian independent theatre scene, read the character of Galileo among an all-star cast of friends and colleagues.  This has shifted slightly in the last few days: Tracy is currently recovering from surgery and so the reading is now in thanks to her. We are aiming to Skype the live performance to her.

A thank you in the form of a Brecht play.

I enjoy this concept because – although we celebrate and thank people all the time with awards ceremonies, money, booze, love poetry, pictures, and song dedications – we don’t often gift people with theatre. A staged reading feels somehow more fitting as a “thank you” than a full production: it is both an incredibly high-calibre professional performance AND a reminder of why it is happening in the first place.

My favourite moment of our read through recently at Canadian Stage was in the middle of Scene 6, when Daniel MacIvor (as Cardinal Barberini) poked Fiona Highet (as Galileo Galilei) in the side and they broke out into laughter.  What a treat to see both the characters at work and the old friends at play underneath them.  In fact, that is where the thank you is located, in watching all these actors (many of whom Tracy has inspired) take pleasure in each other and the script.

I suspect this layering works because readings permit a certain amount of personal style that isn’t necessarily valued in a fully staged production (when I prefer to watch a person be subsumed by their character, no trace of them in sight).  Brecht would have liked it too, I think.

Join Small Wooden Shoe, and a huge cast of performers in giving thanks to Tracy Wright at Convocation Hall at University of Toronto on Sunday May 30th at 7pm. All proceeds from this evening of community theatre by professionals goes to The Actors’ Fund of Canada.  Details here.

Leora Morris is Associate Producer on the project.


May 25, 2010, by
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Text:

“Suppose I were not to talk to you about Democracy, but about the sea, which is in some respects rather like Democracy! We all have our views of the sea. Some of us hate it and are never well when we are at it or on it. Others love it, and are never so happy as when they are in it or on it or looking at it. But certain facts about the sea are quite independent of our feelings towards it. If I take it for granted that the sea exists, none of you will contradict me. If I say the sea is sometimes furiously violent and always uncertain, and that those who are most familiar with it trust it least, you will not immediately shreik out that I do not believe in the sea; that I am an enemy of the sea; that I want to abolish the sea; that I am going to make bathing illegal. If I tell you that you cannot breathe in the sea, you will not take that as a personal insult and ask me indignantly if I consider you inferior to a fish.

Well, you must please be equally sensible when I tell you some hard facts about democracy. When I tell you that it is sometimes furiously violent and always dangerous and trechearous, and those familiar with it as practical statesman trust it least, you must not at once denounce me as a paid agent of Benitto Mussolini, or declare that I have become a Tory Die Hard in my old age, and accuse of me wanting to take away your votes and make an end of parliament, and the franchise, and free speech, and public meeting, and trial by jury.

Our business is not to deny the perils of Democracy, but to provide against them as far as we can, and then consider whether the risks we cannot provide against are worth taking.”

Image:

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Sound:

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3332 Marie Jones performs in Citizen Theatre‘s inaugural performance: A PWYC staged reading of GB Shaw’s: The Apple Cart: A political extravaganza at The Piston on May 25th at 7pm.

May 21, 2010, by
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Text:

“And let our hope succeed.  I have great hope.”

Image:

beacon flame

Sound:

Click here

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Agamemnon - Picnic Disturbia_1
Photo by Photography Division

Laura Nordin (pictured with co-star Carlos Gonzalez-Vio) stars in the Theatre Cipher production of Agamemnon at the Church Hall of Christ the Saviour Cathedral (823 Manning — three blocks north of Bloor between Bathurst and Christie) Wednesday through Sunday at 8 PM, between MAY 22 and JUNE 5. Tickets are $10 – $20 and can be purchased here.

May 18, 2010, by
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Photo by Photography Division

Photo by Photography Division

Totally tacky…Kelly Straughan and Melissa Jane Shaw cornered Factory Theatre Artistic Director KG (Ken Gass) at the opening night party of Featuring Loretta and began an impromptu audition.

KG was totally unimpressed. Good thing the Seventh Stage production of 9 Parts of Desire looks like it will be a hit…

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by Michael Wheeler

In many of the circles I run in “Equity” is a dirty word. It is often uttered derisively, and under one’s breath. Something to be avoided at all costs, and dealt with only when absolutely necessary. For Canadian theatre artists trying to create their own work – dealing with this hostile force is one of, if not the biggest, obstacles to pursuing their craft. It is frequently uttered in conjunction with other dirty words.

I think this is a darn shame.

As an artist who unabashedly wears his progressive convictions on his sleeve, I really WANT to like the professional association that represents and fights for the workers in our industry. I think in many ways theatre artists are the canaries in the coal mine in terms of the 21st Century economy: Increasingly our labour is becoming casualized – purchased by employers who offer no benefits or job security on a contract-by-contact basis.

Although there are exceptions, like the year-round acting company started by Peter Hinton at the NAC, in general the North American trend has been to move away from providing steady work and opportunities to local artists. South of the border, Mike Daisey has articulated in great detail the huge amount of money pouring into buildings and institutions as “arts funding”, while the conditions for theatre artists rapidly deteriorates. We are experiencing many of the same conditions and we need a strong professional association to advocate on our behalf.

This is why CAEA is important to all of us. We are caught in a grander paradigm of precarious workers with no security or opportunity to create savings. CAEA has a crucial role to play in advocating and organizing against this disturbing trend in support for artists. In particular, by ensuring the best rate of pay and working conditions in successful profitable productions.

Unfortunately, like some sort of auto immune disease, the vim and vigour with which the association should be protecting artists with the major producers and funders in the country has been turned loose on its own membership. Where the energy of the organization should be going into finding new opportunities to expand and enhance our industry, significant resources are going into shutting down and intimidating member-initiated projects.

The consequences of this misguided strategy have been immense and devastating for independent theatre creators. Unlike artists in competing markets like Boston, Chicago, NYC and LA, Canadian artists have no way to get new work off the ground under a specific company name. There is the option to produce under the Co-Op agreement, but this requires every production member to be part of Equity and does not allow shows to happen under the name of a theatre company. Unable to brand themselves (a key element of building an audience), use the artists they want to work with, and raise tens of thousands of dollars to put on their first play – a huge number of indie theatre productions fail, or simply do not happen at all. It has not been an awesome era to be an emerging theatre artist in Canada.

Those productions that DO happen succeed only after long, stressful, unreasonable, and often hostile negotiations with CAEA. The cumulative effect of this extremely dysfunctional relationship is that those companies that have survived are bitter and lacking in any sort of trust in CAEA to look out for their interests. It was this situation that led to the formation of The Indie Caucus, to provide a unified voice to these concerns. This led directly to a 96–1 vote demanding a response to indie needs at the CAEA 2008 AGM in Toronto. Incredibly, this vote was ignored, until a 42 -4 vote at the 2009 AGM in Montreal to move on this issue post-haste.

All of this has led to the incredibly important, i-won’t-talk-to-you-if-you-don’t-go Regional AGM to address indie issues @ 7pm at Theatre Passe Muraille this Monday May 17th. Just as important is the recent announcement that CAEA will be establishing the Independent Theatre Review Committee to gather feedback from across Canada on this issue. If you would like to join this committee you have until just May 20th to put yourself forward. They will likely be taking nine new members. Seeing as the committee started with three Ontarians (well 2 from Ontario and one from the “dance region”) – if you are not from Ontario and you have an Equity card, your odds of making the committee are VERY GOOD. There is only one actor from Toronto so far, so there is some room there too.

Fundamentally what is missing from existing CAEA agreements is any cognizance of five dramatic shifts going on in Canadian theatre:

1
There are very few artists under 35 who categorize themselves solely as “actors”. We all have multiple identities now. Someone is a playwright-dancer-director, another artist is an actor-choreographer-writer, and I even know a stage manager-lighting designer-poet. These are the people creating art now. Most importantly, we are all producers. If you try to explain this to anyone at CAEA they look at you like you’re speaking gibberish. It’s like there are no check boxes to accommodate this reality so we’re just going to pretend it isn’t the case.

2
Where are the young people? Have you been to the theatre recently? As a thirty-three-year-old I often find myself THE YOUNGEST PERSON IN THE AUDIENCE! This is a major crisis. Who is going to come to the theatre in twenty years? We need to take drastic and immediate action to make theatre accessible to a younger generation of theatre-goers. This is going to require engaging and supporting younger and emerging theatre artists instead of persecuting them. It’s time for a Youthquake - and unlike in Slings and Arrows it is going to take more than a slick marketing campaign.

3
We are at a major competitive disadvantage – when other major American theatre centres have access to agreements with American Equity that allow projects to get off the ground when they are at an early stage, when no one is going to make any money off of them anyway – it makes Canadian theatre much less likely to be daring or new. Are we artists who create daring and innovative work or are we just a place for productions from other places to tour to?

4
Canadian theatre has really sub-par engagement with diverse communities. Both in terms of audience and practitioner our industry is overwhelmingly white. This despite Canada being home to several of the most multicultural cities in the world. How can we do our job to reflect life back to our citizenry if we only reach and look like some of the citizens? This is a crisis of relevance. CAEA has to look at this situation, take a deep breath, and decide that a quota for the percentage of Equity members in indie productions is destructive and frankly, discriminatory. The door will continue to be closed to these communities unless their participation as both audience and artists in is encouraged.

5
We need to start working together. How much energy has gone into this multi-year internal battle to have CAEA stop treating its younger and self-producing membership like they are commiting a crime for trying to create new work subsidized by their sweat and hard work? We have much in common and lots to work on to create art and an industry for a new generation of theatregoers. It’s time to bury the hatchet and getting on with the making of this new era in contemporary Canadian theatre. There is no desire to diminish the hard work and many gains CAEA has made for Canadian theatre artists in the past, but it is time to move on and make some gains for the future.

May 10, 2010, by
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Vancouver's newest theatre, The Revue Stage. Photo by David Cooper.

Vancouver's newest theatre, The Revue Stage. Photo by David Cooper.

  • There are two new Toronto theatre blogs by politically-minded companies to check out: Studio 180, The company behind Stuff Happens, The Overwhelming, and The Laramie Project (amongst others), has started up this new blog on their website. Meanwhile, Pandemic Theatre a young company with two new shows coming up, Imbalance and My Gaza Tis of Thee, has created a website that wins my heart by A) Having their blog be their homepage, B) Telling the gov’t often and articulately what they think of their regressive social policies. They’re having a fundraising kegger on Friday.
  • Do Nonprofits Embrace Social Media? Here’s an excellent online powerpoint kind of presentation that explains where we are with all of that after a survey of over 200 nonprofit execs. Two most interesting stats: 1- 88% are experimenting widely with social media. 2 – 79% are uncertain of how to demonstrate social media’s value for their organizations.
  • The Arts Club has opened yet ANOTHER venue in Vancouver. The Revue Stage looks to be an intimate space for “new and innovative works from both emerging and established artists”. Combine this with the opening of both Progress Lab (as a creation space) and The Cultch (with two more indie friendly performance spaces), and Vancouver has some much improved indie theatre infrastructure all of a sudden. Now they just need some money to make the theatre… oh, right.
  • Applications for The Next Stage Theatre Festival in Toronto are now available. The deadline is May 24th, 2010. If you have show you’re looking to take to The Next Stage – it’s time to get your sh*t together. Last year every show got reviewed in Eye and The Star and there’s nothing much else going on in January theatre-wise so it’s a great opportunity.
May 7, 2010, by
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Deaf Community Consultant, Jamilla Ross, details how Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing patrons can attend sign language interpreted performances of The Africa Trilogy in this video shot by Karyn McCallum.

For more detail on this video, ASL performances at Luminato, and all sorts of other online media about the show check out  The Africa Trilogy Blog.

Canada Prize Image

by Michael Wheeler

Last winter the Canadian cultural community was shocked to learn the only new cultural funding of the big “2009 stimulus budget” would be an international $25 million Nobel Prize of The Arts/ competitive arts festival with qualifying rounds where the grand winner in each category would perform at Luminato. Soon after, it was revealed that falsified documentation about who’d been consulted was used to pitch the prize to the government. (Exactly how did that process work?) At the same time voices in Quebec were becoming increasingly uncomfortable about the Toronto-centric Anglo bias to the project, and many other voices nationally in the cultural sector began speaking out against cutting domestic funding in tandem with creating a large international award. Soon after, the initiative was classified as “under review” and no one ever heard about it again.

Well guess what? It’s back.

Minister James Moore announced yesterday that The Canada Prizes will happen, are no longer connected to Luminato, and will be administered by The Canada Council. There is a five-member Advisory Panel that will do some super-fast, but extensive consultations with “key figures in the arts and culture sector” before advising the Minister on the best way to set the thing up by the end of the summer. For anyone unlucky enough to be considered “not-key”, you can contribute your thoughts through an online form available for just 17 days at this link on the Canadian Heritage Website.

It’s hard to have a single opinion about all this: In some ways putting this cash in the hands of The Canada Council is the best, smartest, depoliticized way to distribute arts funding. So fundamentally I’m not sure that the specifics of the award will be all that controversial as long as it is distributed by an arms-length jury. The crazy part about this whole process, and the media coverage of it so far, is the lack of attention to whether the prize is a good idea to begin with.

The stated goal in the Ministry’s press release is to “brand Canada as a centre of excellence”. Which is a good idea – except for one thing – after we’re branded as excellent, we will have to create things that are excellent. Things aren’t looking so hot on that end – between the policies of current Federal and Provincial governments and the economic crisis – actual monies for art going to artists is way down.  Farewell DFAIT, Trade Routes, PromArt, small magazines, endowments, and BC artists. Bonjour a huge amount of money to an artist at the top of his or her career and the administrative and production costs of a massive international ceremony.

So more than anything this just seems like putting the cart before the horse. We would like to be branded as excellent, we would like to be perceived as excellent, but we are going to reduce the funds that would lead to excellence. (We will however throw you a big party if you ever get there.) It is a common approach to Canadian cultural funding these days that is a lot like encrusting the tip of a melting iceberg with gold. It should also probably be noted that it creates an inverse relationship between the creation of art and “fancy galas“.

Since the majority-that-almost-was in 2008, the Conservative government has been looking for ways to appear pro-culture while not actually funding any of the art or artists that contributed to their unrealized ambitions. This prize fits firmly in this category of things that will allow the government to say that arts funding is “up” while continuing to decrease the amount that is actually allocated to culture, either directly through grants to artists or indirectly by subsidizing rehearsal, performance space, equipment, travel costs, etc.

mooregonucksgo584

Ironically, when the Minister of Official Languages and Canadian Heritage re-announced the prize yesterday, he received extensive coverage in the media – for something seemingly unrelated: In a hockey-induced fit of pride over the weekend he’d twittered the Vancouver Canucks were “Canada’s team in the playoffs”, seemingly unaware that many Canadians consider Quebec a part of Canada. (And all of a sudden we got a glimpse of how they could just forget to put French in the opening ceremonies of a Canadian Olympic games.) In an article in today’s The Globe and Mail he remains unrepentant and stands by his tweet and seems unabashed by the notion that Tweets Have Consequences.

So here we are right back where we started eighteen months ago, except everyone’s a little more hurt and a little more bitter: Anglophone artists are increasingly starved for support, francophone artists are armed with multiple instances of the government trying to exclude Quebec from the definition of Canadian culture, and a hostile government is inventing new and interesting ways not to fund the ecosystem that creates Canadian culture in both official languages. I am going to be so relieved to talk about this era in the past-tense.

If you want to read THE OLD Canada Prizes outline – the one that no one wants to talk about anymore – click here. It seems only fair that interested citizens wishing to provide feedback to the government have (unredacted) access to the documents used to create and approve the initiative.

Harold THE 2010 HAROLD AWARDS!

WHERE: The El Mocambo (464 Spadina Avenue)
WHEN: Monday, May 3rd, doors @ 7:30 p.m.
WHY: Because it will be awesome!
TICKETS: $10 at the door
HOSTED BY: David Gale

Since 1994, The Harold Awards have come to represent the independent and hard-working spirit of Toronto’s vibrant theatre community. Since 1994, it has been a boisterous, mischievous, frequently intoxicated, hilarious celebration.

If you’ve never been, make this the year you break the seal. Attendees are not even supposed to mention the other awards show, so we won’t do it here, but let’s just say it’s nothing like it! Click the link to learn more about The Harold Awards and how they work.
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Independent Theatre Think Tank: Exploring agreement options outside of the CTA & ITA

WHERE: Theatre Passe Muraille
WHEN: Monday, May 17, doors @ 6:30 p.m.
WHY: Because it took 3 long years to get here.
HOSTED BY: CAEA Ontario Council Policy Advisory Group.
PANELISTS: Naomi Campbell, Michael Rubenfeld, and Rebecca Northan.

After voting to create a solution that encourages (as opposed to discourages), the creation of indie theatre in a 96-1 vote at the 2008 AGM in Toronto, and again in a 42-4 vote at the 2009 AGM in Montreal, this is the first tangible sign CAEA is finally taking the concerns of membership on this issue seriously. This will likely be the only opportunity for Equity members to contribute to what this new solution will look like.

The Ontario CPAG and members of the newly formed Independent Theatre Review Committee will be available to update the membership on this issue, who will be able to contribute their own ideas in a general think tank session. This is not intended as a beef session but rather as an opportunity for CAEA members to contribute new ideas as the committee begins its work on a new generation of independent theatre agreements.

Members should contemplate the following question:
“What do you want in an agreement that is outside of the CTA or ITA?”
Members should avoid ever complaining about Equity stopping or hindering them from creating their own work ever again if they don’t attend. Book your babysitter/night off now to avoid disappointment with your career and/or industry.

UPDATE:
This comment came in soon after posting.
Equity Clarification