Date: 2011 January

January 31, 2011, by
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by Michael Wheeler

* Strombo lays it down. I’ll be honest: I don’t watch alot of Strombo – what with him running concurrently at 11pm with the two greatest political satirists of our age – but you gotta hand it to him for this monologue on what will happen to internet access in Canada if the CRTC’s current ruling is implemented, what’s behind it, and how you can get involved on the side of OpenMedia.

*Someone let Richard Florida back in the building! Maybe it’s gauche to link to my own interview – but  I just suggested to NOW Magazine’s Jon Kaplan that the best thing about cultural policy in Toronto under Rob Ford was that we finally had an opportunity to move beyond the widely discreditedCreative Economy‘ theories espoused by Richard Florida that gained prominence during the David Miller administration. Guess not: Last week Florida was announced as advisor to a new City Hall panel to update Toronto’s culture plan called The Creative Capital Initiative. Something tells me we might have another ‘cultural renaissance’ on our hands. More on this as it develops – there are some smart people on the panel.

* Canadian Actors’ Equity Association (CAEA) and the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) have announced a new trial program geared at creating a reasonable way to contract new play creation.  I know, you’re bored already.  If you make new plays in Canada don’t be. The Tangerine Contract has the potential to fundamentally change the way you create work – dividing the process into four creation stages and providing the option to work by the hour instead of by the week. More news on this as it develops. Fingers crossed that this trial goes well and that artists, producers, and artist/producers enjoy working under it.

* Theatre 20 announced their intention to take the success of musical theatre in Toronto into their own hands: 20 established musical theatre artists from multiple generations have come together to start their own company that will create homegrown hits. Looks like they are getting some assistance from the Mirvishes including use of the Panasonic Theatre on Yonge St. It seems like this will go somewhere. I wonder if they will use the Tangerine Contract to make new works?

* The Tarragon Theatre opened the Toronto Stock Exchange? Yep it’s true. One good thing about theatre people is that they are very good at clapping.

* Luminato Artistic Director Chris Lorway announced he is stepping down. No word yet on what that means for the festival or what comes next. I for one am bummed about this as Chris was always quite supportive of this website and my work – even though praxistheatre.com gained some of its credibility and noteriety from a series of posts about the high degree of B.S. that led to the creation of Luminato in the first place. Proof that a structural, policy-based debate need not be a personal one.

January 26, 2011, by
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Margaret Evans as Jim Watts. Photo by Julien Lafleur courtesy of LabCab

presents

Jesus Chrysler

by Tara Beagan

February 16 -19 2011 @ 9pm

at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre as part of the 32nd Rhubarb Festival

performed by Margaret Evans, Christine Horne and Keith Barker

directed by Michael Wheeler

produced by Aislinn Rose

sound and lighting design by Verne Good

costume design by Scott Penner

asst. directed by Laura Nordin

stage management by Rebecca Powell

Jesus Chrysler at Rhubarb is the fourth stage of development of an evolving work centered on legendary Toronto activist and director Eugenia “Jim” Watts.

Click here to learn about our earlier iterations of this project at The Toronto Fringe, HATCH: emerging performance projects and LabCab.

January 24, 2011, by
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iPhone snapshot of the Connect TO panel at Hub 14 on collaborative strategies for independent dance

by Michael Wheeler

It has taken a week to soak in the experience of moderating a panel with Toronto’s independent dance community to have some clear thoughts to express about it. The stated topic of our conversation at the Connect TO panel at Hub 14 on January 15/11 was:

“Ways to rethink, define and discover strategies for the development and dissemination of contemporary dance work.”

To facilitate a conversation on this topic, I sent our six articulate panelists two questions to address:

1) What partnerships have you seen in the past that have surprised you? These don’t necessarily need to be binding legal partnerships. It could be a perceived alliance or initiative.

2) Leaving practical concerns aside – in your wildest imagination – what sorts of collaboration would you like to see in the future?

There were some fantastic answers to these questions and they varied as widely as the breadth of experience of the panelists. Answers to number one included praise for both labour unions and banks for engaging in surprising and inspiring partnerships with the dance artists, and answers to number two included a desire for a new creation space and increased touring networks to maximize the life and appeal of the work that is being created.

After this we opened up the conversation to the forty or so other members of the dance community in attendance. We began by discussing the concept of “entrepreneurship” in the context of live performance, but getting bogged down in economic issues was not at the top of anyone’s list, so we ended discussing artistically driven partnerships and how to make the work stronger. Most people seemed to agree that curating a larger and more passionate audience for dance should be some sort of goal.

I concluded by thanking everyone for putting up with my relative ignorance about independent dance and emphasized I was impressed by the artists that had come together to create the Connect TO dance programming forum, which was in itself a successful example of a surprising and unexpected artistic partnership. At that point our two hours were up and many participants took advantage of the coffee, fruit and baked goods to talk less formally about theses sorts of things.

If I did it all over again, I probably would have tried to steer the conversation towards a comment made by panelist Ame Henderson, with regards to the ecology that the dance community comprises. I believe it is a useful term to talk about things like partnership and community. It assumes that within a healthy ecology there will be major organizations, but also mid-sized ones and independent artists. It is predicated on the idea that they are all related to and have an impact on one another. I also like that within the concept of ecology the whole is as healthy as its individual elements. It makes for less divisive debate.

Overall it was a privilege to be included in an inspiring event. I was pretty blown away my the fact that more than 40 artists and arts professionals from ANY community would show up in a blizzard during an extreme cold weather alert on a Saturday morning to talk about collaborative solutions to anything. If you were present and have any thoughts to add, feel free leave them in the comments. We talked about a lot of stuff and this post is quite a broad overview.

January 19, 2011, by
4 comments

By Simon Rice

"People from Aurora don't go to theatre school," Christine Horne, 2011

Last summer I set out on an exploratory series of audio interviews to gather candid thoughts and feelings on the theatre school experience. The first Exit Interview post laid out my reasons for embarking on this project. It has for numerous reasons taken until now to finally get my first interview online. But it will not be the last. If you enjoy this one, please stay tuned for more to come very soon!

Christine Horne is one of the most talented and successful young actors I have had the pleasure of knowing. I was also blessed to have once directed her in the 2009 Praxis Summerworks production Underneath. Christine’s introduction to the world of acting was by her own admission, somewhat accidental.

I sat down with her at a noisy College Street cafe in Toronto’s west end, days before she began rehearsals for her second Praxis Theatre production, Jesus Chrysler as part of Rhubarb at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

(If you would like to download this Exit Interview as a podcast, click the arrow above on the right.)

Christine Horne, York University, 2004

Christine Horne is an actor and producer hailing from Aurora, Ontario. Recent theatre credits include Romeo and Juliet (Canadian Stage), The Turn of The Screw (DVxT Theatre – Dora Award), Miss Julie: Sheh’mah (KICK Theatre – Dora nomination), Underneath (Praxis/Summerworks), Twelfth Night (Resurgence), Bluebeard (GromKat/Toronto Fringe), The Seagull (Wordsmyth), and Gorey Story, which she also co-created (Thistle Project – 4 Dora nominations).

Film and television credits include The Stone Angel (VFCC and MethodFest nominations), Othello, The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard, Little Films About Big Moments, Flashpoint, Republic of Doyle, Rookie Blue, Befriend & Betray, and King. Upcoming: Jesus Chrysler (Praxis/Rhubarb), and Andromache (Necessary Angel/Luminato). Christine is the Artistic Co-Director of The Thistle Project, Artistic Producer of KICK Theatre, and a graduate of the Acting Program at York University.

January 17, 2011, by
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What makes a video go “viral”? Everyone seems to be giving it a go these days, and Toronto theatre companies are no exception. But are these videos an effective way of selling a show to an audience?

Here are three promo videos of current or upcoming shows in Toronto as examples. What makes a video “forwardable”, and what would make you post a video on Facebook? Has a video like one of these ever propelled you to buy a ticket to a show?

Tarragon Theatre, The Misanthrope

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3NUVfn7Cjc

Crow’s Theatre, Eternal Hydra @ The Factory Theatre

Suburban Beast, Bravislovia as part of Rhubarb @ Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

January 12, 2011, by
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CTOflyer_web

by Michael Wheeler

Today marks the beginning of the four-day dance programming forum Connect T.O. Essentially, four established dance artists have come together to remount significant works that they have created during a time when a number of domestic and international presenters are in town.

A recent article in The Globe and Mail by Paula Citron explains exactly why presenters and touring are so key in the dance world, and also draws a direct line between the 2008 cuts made to the arts by the Harper government and this festival’s impetus to find new ways to interest programmers who may be interested in presenting original works of contemporary Canadian dance.

I come in to this whole quite impressive, self -initiated, never-been-done-before festival as facilitator of the Panel Discussion occurring on Saturday morning at 11am at Hub 14.

What?

Yes. I am facilitating a panel discussion on independent dance.  Certainly my background is heavily invested in theatre, but this discussion asks questions around ways to rethink, define and discover strategies for the development and dissemination of contemporary dancework.

Collaborative creative strategies is a topic we touch on a lot in this space (see the post below), and one I am fairly obsessed with in the context of independent theatre.  Maybe (gasp) there are also exciting ways for theatre and dance to partner? Who knows? It will be an interesting discussion. As I said to organizer/choreographer/dancer Heidi Strauss, “If nothing else I have zero knowledge of the decades of grudges and biases that build up in a small artistic community.”  So hopefully I am joining the discussion with fresh eyes. There will also be food.

The panelists include:
Ame Henderson/public recordings, Meagan O’Shea/Stand-Up Dance, Laurie Uprichard/Dublin Dance Festival (Ireland), Jessa Agilo-Copeland/Arts Consultant – agilo arts, Mimi Beck/DanceWorks, and Myles Warren/dance officer, Ontario Arts Council.

Hope to see you at the panel  - or at one of the three Queen W. venues Connect T.O. is taking over with original artist driven performance starting today.

January 11, 2011, by
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Jonathon Young and Dawn Petten in Tear The Curtain. Eventually different mediums required different acting styles.

Jonathon Young and Dawn Petten in Tear The Curtain. Eventually Kim determined filmed and live sequences required different acting styles.

by Michael Wheeler

Probably the most surprising and luckiest thing about my professional development residency as Director in Training at The Tarragon Theatre is how much of it I ended up assisting and or observing director Kim Collier.

The decision to go to Vancouver to observe The Electric Company shoot a film for a multimedia piece they were working on as part of the Cultural Olympiad was a last minute add-on to a trip to Alberta to observe Tarragon Artistic Director Richard Rose as he transferred Courageous to The Citadel and directed Betrayal at Theatre Calgary. So it was an unexpected bonus when Kim and I hit it off, and the company invited me to return this summer, where I was her assistant on the World Premiere of Tear The Curtain at The Arts Club’s Stanley Theatre. In November, when The Electric Company’s Studies in Motion came to Canadian Stage (NOW Magazine’s #1 Show of 2010), I also had the chance to spend a week understanding how all the technology works in that show.

The combined effect of these experiences has been to explode my mind in terms of the possibilities that contemporary live performance offers, and I can’t think of a better set of experiences for someone who was searching to understand how complicated technical elements are integrated into large scale venues as a director. I had a moment during ‘video levels’ of Tear The Curtain where I found that I had abandoned my too-cool-for-school lounging seated posture to stand and make an “aaahhhh” kind of sound as the full scope of what Kim was about to accomplish literally came into focus. If you think I’m overdoing it here, I’m not the only one.

Beyond technical technique – I did learn a lot of less definable things as well. Working with Kim pre, during, and after winning the biggest prize in Canadian Theatre has been kind of amazing to bear witness to. Understanding the level of commitment and work ethic that gets you to that point in a career is another thing I will likely consider ad-infinitum. Seeing how the close knit group that comprised the core team behind The Electric Company’s productions worked is also something I want to keep in mind.

The biggest thing that has stuck with me about Kim though, is how dedicated she has been to her artistic community and fellow artists in Vancouver. Her accomplishments weren’t achieved by deciding how much of her time to spend on her art and how much to spend being a good community member. They are directly related factors and the improvement of one has led to successes for the other. Bottom line: If you want to do crazy shit – you have to work with your peers to make it possible. I asked Kim if she would talk to me over G Chat about this further and here’s what we talked about:

11:05 AM Kim computer praxisme: Hi Kim. Thanks for doing this

Kim: Very good, my pleasure.

11:06 AM
me: Are you in Montreal right now?

Kim: No I am in Toronto at One King West.

me: Oh cool, I was there yesterday with the camera for the Studies in Motion archival, it seems nice.
11:07 AM First thing I wanted to ask you about was Progress Lab. Can you describe what it is and how it came about?

Kim: Okay, let me do some writing.

me: Take your time. It’s a slow kind of interview-y thing.

11:14 AM
Kim: Progress Lab began as I was sitting on my front deck one morning thinking about the theatre and what I was curious to learn more about. I have always been fascinated with company management models and I had been thinking a lot about the divergent structures required for creation-based companies vs. companies that produce existing plays. There seemed to be no model to refer to, but rather the structures respond to the creation process.

Anyways, I was thinking about how I knew a lot about Electric Company and how we work creatively and as a company and thought it would be super stimulating to invite other creation companies together to discuss how they create and as well learn about their company models. We were fortunate to get a flying squad grant to help with this, so we struck a committee from the creation companies Neworld, Boca del Lupo, Radix and Electric Company and began planning a 5-day conference including guest speakers on the history of Vancouver Theatre, Creative Contracting, Blake Brooker to talk about One Yellow Rabbit, etc. Each company had a half day to talk about their work and creation processes and all the companies shared ideas around management, etc. Individual creation artists were invited too as well as the larger community to open sessions. We produced a written record of these meetings.

In the end, we found so much common ground and advocacy ideas that we realized we wanted to keep meeting on a regular basis. But with so many people is was hard to pick dates fairly. So we began this idea of meetings on the full moon- kind of a half party, half dialogue sessions at someone’s house. When you arrive you would write down hot topics for the night to talk about. Then we used a stopwatch and gave each topic say 10 minutes or half hour – that sort of thing. These informal sessions where spaced between party sessions say for 1/2 hour or hour. After that we would just drink and eat and talk.
11:18 AM

11:20 AM When the stopwatch finished we would talk about more hot topics. By the end of the night you have a great party going but also the conversation was focused. We have been doing these informal party / dialogue meetings for years now. The idea is inclusive…if you want to come…you ask but the focus is still Artistic Directors, Creators, and now Producers too.

11:24 AM The great thing is, good ideas are always born, advocacy ideas initiated, shared information on grants or ways to lobby, new ideas for shared programming like Hive. But most importantly these parties have built community and have often helped people go on when they are fatigued in their AD or Producing roles. They don’t feel so alone in their struggle and it helped to be in the company of others who share the same challenges but ultimately whom inspire you.

Andrew Wheeler as Eadweard Muybridge in Studies in Motion. As better projectors increased the visibility of performers bodies their physical vocabulary had to adjust.

Andrew Wheeler as Eadweard Muybridge in Studies in Motion. As better projectors increased the visibility of performers over the several years that this show toured Canada, actors had to increase the subtlety of their performances.

11:25 AM Me: So these meetings generated the idea for Progress Lab?

11:26 AM Kim: : Progress Lab are these meetings. Progress Lab is not a producing body, it is an gathering of theatre people in dialogue
although outsiders have come to view is at a body. It just so happens coming out of a great party night drinking scotch on my back deck we all agreed to make the first Hive together. The idea was hatched at a Progress Lab meeting. By this time Progress Lab was hosting the presence of 11 companies: Theatre Skam, Neworld, Electric Company, Leaky Heaven Circus, Rumble Productions, Boca Del Lupo, Only Animal, Western Theatre Conspiracy, Radix, Felix Culpa, and Theatre Replacement.

11:29 AM me:  One more thing about Progress Lab – it is also a building. How are the people and building related?

11:36 AM Kim:  : The building is four companies coming together around our collective desire to have a production space for making our theatre art. The four companies Electric Company, Neworld, Boca del Lupo and Rumble Theatre were/are sitting at a similar operating support base. There was a logic to partner with people you like, work you respect, but also with companies that in terms of their infrastructure and finances would be able to come to the table around this vision equally.

Me: Okay so, can you explain what Hive is and how it came about?

11:46 AM Kim: At the core we wanted Hive to bring us together as artists, to put us in the same space creating side-by-side and to be fueled by this relationship. As well we wanted it to be spontaneous and the created work to happen at the same time together. So we booked the space, would draw lots for what area in the space you would get, and then we would have two weeks to create an installation like work for a small audience.

We wanted to reach out into our larger community and create an event that would be undeniably fun and intriguing and provide an access point to the theatre for perhaps an audience that does not currently attend theatre. So the event houses 11 installation pieces around a central cafe and bar. Audience members can come and go between pieces, chat at the bar about what they have seen and then take another offering from the smorgasbord of theatre. After three hours, the artists pour out of the spaces and join the audience for another part of the evening -centered around the programming of a band or DJ. This means we are again in dialogue with each other and our audience.

11:48 AM me: The band/DJ element reminds me of the approach Summerworks and The Fringe have also taken to make the experience of theatre seem more appealing than just sitting in an uncomfortable chair for two hours in an itchy wool turtleneck.

Kim: Yes, well theatre can be anything can’t it –  provided there is a audience and a performance element.

11:51 AM me: Speaking of which – your production of No Exit came up unprompted in the comments of a recent post: We were talking about the necessity of a “live” audience in theatre and the production was cited as a “live” show where the performers had sections with no connection with the audience. First off – was that the case? Did the performers have no sense of the audience that was there when they were performing for cameras offstage or was it recorded? Also – how did that change the nature of the performance?

11:58 AM Kim: The performers performed live to 7 cameras, on stage but unseen because they were in a room. But they entered live and could be seen live in action whenever that door opened. Their performance on the 3 projection surfaces was in a way mediated by the live performer – the valet on stage. We connected I think in a “live” way to the performers in the room through him. Nevertheless, I consider the performance utterly live, because it is all live, just not seen in the usual way.

me: A lot of your work involves some intersection between live and projected performance. Do you find you have to direct actors differently because they have to create performances for different mediums?
Jonathon Young (foreground), Andy Thompson, Lucia Frangione, and Laara Sadiq in No Exit. Some actors perform live for an audience via offstage cameras.

Jonathon Young (foreground), Andy Thompson, Lucia Frangione, and Laara Sadiq in No Exit. Some actors perform live for an audience via offstage cameras.

12:03 PM Kim: Yes, i do think the performers find this challenging. In No Exit the performers in the room can’t really feel the audience but they can hear them. The performance is very minutely staged. Inside the room, what the performers have to do to stage themselves into the cameras and build blocking to be realized in the projections is radically different then how they would normally related to each other in their given situations.

12:10 PM But it is not just a question of mediums – it is also about content and what you are hoping to achieve with the piece and the style of the piece. In the case of Studies in Motion- in 2009 the projections lighting the actors was low, we had to bump our performance style in order to communicate effectively with the audience through the dimmer light. However, now in 2010 our projectors are stronger and therefore the acting style more flexible to subtle moments. In Tear The Curtain, we needed to be very sensitive to the intimacy of the camera for the film units and create believable characters in that context. We thought that our stage units would draw on a more film style of acting to create a stronger unity to the piece, but in the end, I felt that our stage techniques in performance were very important to maintain in the stage sections to not only balance the work against each other, but to communicate the story.

12:13 PM me: Cool. So – this use of video, projection and a mix of mediums seems to be a growing performance genre. How do you recommend emerging artists learn more about creating this sort of work? Is there any key equipment or philosophy to creation so that we all don’t reinvent the wheel?

12:21 PM Kim: Experimenting is important. To be in a rehearsal room and try things out, get a feel for how your mediums will work together. At Electric Company we started doing design dramaturgy. This dramaturgy lives beside the more traditional view of dramaturgy. As we build plays we need to analyze of course not just the words in development, but the piece as a whole; which is all the elements that come together. Knowing your gear is super important – understanding both the creative potential and the creative limitations of the gear. As well, knowing the media design process in relation to your larger process is so important. I attempt to marry the media right into the work as soon as possible in the rehearsal room.

Progress Lab (the building)

Progress Lab (the building)

12:22 PM me: So just to pull everything together here – Progress Lab (the building) must be really great in terms of facilitating that sort of creative process.

12:27 PM Kim: Essential. We came to understand at Electric Company that the most important next step we could take to support our work was to secure the creation/working space. Waiting till tech in the theatre to bring your elements together seemed too late for us in terms of making work that in very interdisciplinary; it leaves a large part of your process very vulnerable. We love the new space and are so excited to be able to now build work with that incredible support of a space in which we can rig, project, build our sets, etc

12:28 PM me: Amazing. Okay – well that took longer than I thought but I didn’t want to stop as it was all so interesting. Can you take a picture of yourself with your computer and send it in? Thanks for doing this Kim. You’re the best.

Kim: Bye!
CCFA_Logo_ENG_col_sm

January 7, 2011, by
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Friends, family and colleagues were all shocked by the sudden death of actor, writer and director Gina Wilkinson after a short battle with cancer on December 30, 2010. All who were connected with Gina are welcome to attend a memorial in her honour later this month and a new fund to support emerging female directors has been established in her name:

Gina’s Memorial
Monday January 24 @ 3pm
Jane Mallett Theatre
27 Front St E, Toronto

Tax-deductible donations to establish a fund for The Gina Wilkinson Award for Emerging Female Directors can be made payable to: “Ontario Arts Foundation – In memory of Gina Wilkinson” and sent to:

Attn: Alan Walker, Executive Director
Ontario Arts Foundation
151 Bloor St W, 5th Floor
Toronto, ON, M5S 1T6

January 5, 2011, by
2 comments

Text:

“A teacher gives freedom. Nothing more.
And the style?
It flourishes in the poetry of each individual.”

- Philippe Gaulier,
The Toromentor
le jeu, light, theatre

Image:

Charles image

Sound:

First you are a beautiful human person by FIXT POINT
______________________________________________________________________

Gaulier classFIXT POINT is proud to present Philippe Gaulier in Toronto:

OPEN CLASS OBSERVATION - On the final day of the Bouffon Masterclass with PHILIPPE GAULIER

January 7th, 2011 from 2 to 4pm at Canadian Stage, Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street Toronto). Tickets are $20 PURCHASE TICKETS IN ADVANCE HERE - Limited Space

January 3, 2011, by
20 comments

by Michael Wheeler

Less than one month into his tenure in as the new ‘Arts Czar’, a position just created by Mayor Ford, Jeff Melanson has taken to the comments of the Torontoist website to launch a critique of their year-end post about Nuit Blanche:

Melanson comment

To summarize, the substance of Melanson’s comment comes down to three points that he makes related to the Torontoist post: 1) That arts funding will not be reduced under Rob Ford as Mayor; 2) Nuit Blanche is supported by Scotiabank and thus is especially not under threat as a corporate sponsored activity; 3) Any critical take on the arts in Toronto is misinformed and in fact anti-Toronto.

1) “government funding reductions are not on the table”

The only guarantee we have that Ford won’t cut the arts in a couple of years once he’s weakened key allies first is that Melanson will quit his non-paying, just-invented, part-time job if he tries. This isn’t a guarantee – it’s somewhere in between a red herring and an afterthought. I learned this was the deal, because I read the overwhelmingly positive, ‘Star is Born’ kind of interview with Melanson in The Globe and Mail that he provides as an example of laudable research and analysis. Just to clarify: articles that promote Melanson’s approach = good journalism; articles that critique it = bad journalism.

More significant is that Melanson already has a documented history of pulling a fast one on the Toronto arts community while technically appearing to increase arts funding: In early 2009, The Canada Prizes fiasco was caused by an incredible breakdown in the democratic process when the late David Pecault went over the head of Heritage Minister James Moore to convince Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to approve the only new cultural spending in the 09 federal budget to fund a $25 Million Nobel Prize of The Arts to be awarded annually in Toronto, a fact confirmed just last week by The Toronto Star’s Martin Knelman.

Eventually, it was revealed that the flimsy document used to propose the project had the names of a number of people and organizations that didn’t actually support it, and it was shelved due to this blatant misrepresentation of industry support and the backlash against what was generally agreed was a terrible idea across the country. Jeff Melanson is listed on this controversial document as one of the four key founders of The Canada Prizes, an initiative that would have massively increased “arts funding” in Toronto with 0% going to Toronto culture or artists, while cash, profile and prizes were awarded to artists from around the world. Two years later, scant details on this program have been announced by Canadian Heritage other than it will now be administered by The Canada Council.

Personally, I believe it’s quite probable “arts funding” as a broad topic will actually go up under Melanson. The real question is how and what will be funded. More eight-year-olds in tutus at The National Ballet, or across the city, are probably something Rob Ford can live with. Is now a good time to bring up the play about G20 I have been thinking about? Okay, maybe not. What if it was a commercial hit?

2) “Unfortunately your lack of investigation has once again missed a major factor in Nuit Blanche’s success. That factor is the private sector support of Scotiabank (note – Scotiabank is in the actual name, so it should have been fairly easy to pick up that one). Nuit Blanche is a very good example of bringing together both public and private support.”

The crazy thing about this one is that it is written right in the Torontoist article: “Since Nuit Blanche is already mostly a privately funded event—thanks, Scotiabank—it’ll probably continue regardless of Ford’s slash-and-burn efforts” prompting one commenter to write, “Did you even read the post Jeff?” What this tells us more than anything is that Melanson probably didn’t read the post more than once before deciding to respond in a huff. If he did, he would have realized that he spent half of his time refuting a point that was never made. It also makes his parenthetical ‘dig’ at the author’s “lack of investigation”, possibly worthy of an apology. Do Arts Czars have to apologize when they’re wrong?

Again, there is a more troubling layer to this response, namely that Melanson thinks “Scotiabank Nuit Blanche” is the “actual” name of the event. Perhaps he is unaware that Nuit Blanche is a concept that occurs all over the world, most notably in Paris. In these cities the “actual” name of the event is “Nuit Blanche”. Toronto is the only major world city to sell a corporation naming rights to a Nuit Blanche.

This could be what Melanson would view as being “entrepreneurial”: selling the right to change the “actual” names of public events to corporations. It is an interesting debate, but certainly not one where there is a lot of consensus, with at least one prominent city hall activist calling for Torontonians to refer to the event as BMO Nuit Blanche in any of their social media communication about the event.

3) “I do appreciate the Torontoist and your attempts to “inform” our communities. … Cynicism, negativity and misinformed opinion will not serve Toronto well”

I’m confused why it’s not obvious when you use quotes around words like “inform”, people know that you don’t really mean it. It’s like showing that your fingers are crossed while fibbing.

As for the demand for a positive response – if one thing’s for sure when you’re Rob Ford’s Arts Czar – it’s that Haters Gonna Hate. Even if after this inauspicious start, he does an incredible job, there will still be someone in the blogosphere with an axe to grind. This is a position that is going to require thicker skin. People say untrue things on the internet all the time – how do you think Rob Ford ended up Mayor?

Since this disastrous posting, Melanson has arranged a second, ‘Star is Born’ interview, this time with The Toronto Star’s Richard Ouzounian that fails to address the Torontoist posting or The Canada Prizes, but does make him seem like the next Justin Bieber.  This was presumably to do some damage control on the whole situation, and also add a little clarity regarding his priorities and mandate.

Melanson has some good ideas, especially about homegrown hits and the importance of increased diversity.  Clearly his arts education ideas borrow heavily from the gospel Simon Brault has been spreading. Brault has been pushing a national Participaction type program for the arts, which makes sense since Brault is CEO of National Theatre School and Melanson runs the business side of the National Ballet School.

Most disappointingly, he refers confusingly to Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) as “an advocacy organization”. This is a statement from someone as experienced as Mr. Melanson, that can only be characterized as deliberately obtuse – certainly someone in his position knows the difference between an “arts service organization” and an “advocacy organization”.  TAPA is an “arts service organization” that provides a variety of services to performing arts organizations across the city. Occasionally it advocates on behalf of its members – as well as running workshops. TO Tix, The Doras and a number of other community-based programs.

A good example of an “advocacy organization” would be The Arts Summit, which has been successfully advocating for fourteen years for increased government funding of institutions with operating budgets of $5 million or more (like the National Ballet) while keeping the door shut to smaller organizations and independent artists. If I’m wrong here, prove me wrong: get independent artists and mid-sized organizations from across the country a place at the table when The Arts Summit comes to Toronto from April 1-3 2011.  As long as these major institutions dominate cultural policy through formal and informal networks, whether or not “arts funding” goes up or down is just window dressing to the real decisions being made behind closed doors.