Date: 2011 February

February 28, 2011, by
3 comments

Reilly Dow will illustrate the The Digital You – creating a visual representation of our discussion through graphic recording.

If you are an Equity member attending CAEA’s AGM in Toronto tonight – this year there is something a little different.

From 8pm to 9:30pm I will be moderating a discussion on the way social media tools like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube have been rapidly transforming the theatrical landscape in a panel called: “The Digital You.”

The panelists for this discussion are: Ross Manson, Maev Beaty, Marjorie Chan and John Karastamatis. These artists and arts professionals represent a broad range of social media use in conjunction with performance. I think it will be a lively discussion and I am excited to see what it looks like at the end as a graphic recording.

Hopefully we will be able to digitize and share this recording!

From the pinkfish.ca website:

Graphic recording is a powerful tool for synthesizing conversations, dialogues, meetings and events. The recorder creates large-format visuals in real time, tapping into the collective intelligence and wisdom of a group and bringing it to life with graphics.  These “murals” act as a public memory, and help participants in any meeting or conversation share complex ideas easily.

February 25, 2011, by
17 comments

“You Should have Stayed Home” the documentary airs tonight on CBC. The play gets workshopped this spring and presented soon after.

by Michael Wheeler

How I Got Arrested and Abused at the G20 in Toronto, is one of the first Facebook notes I can think of that practically everyone I knew had read or had at least heard about. Says a little about the circles I move in, but whatever. I had never met its author, Tommy Taylor, but I knew he was in theatre, and I remember taking a little pride in the fact that the person who had responded most scathingly and appropriately through social media to the G20 debacle was one of us.

So when Tommy contacted me to see if Praxis Theatre would like to collaborate with his company The Original Norwegian to adapt his facebook note for the stage, it only took one beer with him and collaborator Julian DeZotti to ensure we would get along, to jump at the opportunity. As a company dedicated to new works by local artists, many of which have been adaptations, this project made a lot of sense for Praxis Theatre in terms of taking what we do, and pushing it one step further by adapting a html social media document. Throw in that we have heavily leveraged our political and online engagement as a company, and it does seem like an awfully good fit.

To celebrate this new collaboration and I interviewed Tommy on GChat earlier this week.

9:10 PM

me: So what made you choose, “You Should Have Stayed Home” as the name of the piece you have chosen to make about your experience at G20 in Toronto?

9:18 PM

Tommy: The documentary on tonight’s The Fifth Estate on CBC, which I appear in, is also called “You Should Have Stayed Home.”  (So now people have commented online that the CBC is being callous, rude or that they are “a government pawn”.) So, I rung in with: “I called it that because that is what most people said to me afterward.”

The documentary explores what is wrong with that statement–it attempts to see past the sensationalizing of broken windows and burning cars to show the truth of what happened that weekend. “You Should Have Stayed Home” is not the literal or glib title you might think. I was held in detention for 24 hours and it was horrible, but what I found to be more horrifying was the way average Canadians reacted with apathy and indifference… thus “You Should Have Stayed Home”.

9:19 PM

me: When you say commented online – do you mean on your Facebook page or other places?

9:21 PM

Tommy: Oh, the Facebook. That’s where a lot of G20 talk happens. Different groups, my page, other activists’ pages, Dalton McGunity’s page…

9:22 PM

me: So, speaking of Facebook – this is how I heard about your experience. You wrote this 11,000 word Facebook note complete with video and images – want to throw out some other stats about it?

9:25 PM

Tommy: Facebook is how everyone heard about it. Since I published it on Tues. June 29 I have received about 5,000 messages from about 21 countries and it’s been translated into 7 languages by various people. I went from around 300 ‘friends’ to around 1,300.

9:26 PM

me: How long after G20 did you write it and why did you decide to?

9:27 PM

(i also love that we have to qualify statements to clarify that actions were taken by people not computers)

G20 Detention Centre

9:37 PM

Tommy: Well, after I got out of the detention centre on Sunday night around 10pm, I hadn’t slept for 40 hours, was cold, starving, dehydrated, no means to get home, no idea where my girlfriend was and running the whole thing through my mind so I wouldn’t forget. And it was raining (our apartment flooded while we were caged up – amazing end to a wonderful weekend in T.O.). Having made it home, I made phone calls to loved ones, changed my wet socks, made notes on badge numbers, names and times, and I still couldn’t sleep.

I got on the computer very early Monday morning and started typing until I was finished Tuesday morning at 11:07am. And why Facebook? I was never a huge fan of Facebook outside of using it for marketing/promotion theatre-wise, but I just wanted to get this out there as fast as possible and to as many people as possible. I also wanted it to get to people who knew me and would take the time to read it. I was afraid that everyone was just seeing the Yonge street mess and missing the important stories from G20.

9:38 PM

me: Kerouack would like this creative process.

9:40 PM

Tommy: Toronto earthquake to signal the start of G20, a flood to end it. Eat that pathetic fallacy King Lear.

me: So, now you have decided to get your theatre company The Last Norweigan, together with Praxis Theatre to make a play based on your note? Why make a play?

Tommy with wristband and evidence bag wearing a T shirt fraught with irony

Tommy:The Original Norwegian….

Awkward.

kidding

9:41 PM

me: I wonder if i will leave that in or not…

9:42 PM

Tommy: Sounds like a Scandinavian take on the Last of the Mohicans

9:43 PM

me: I would rather it was a Scandinavian take on The Last Starfighter

Tommy: Or a Scandavian take on The Last Unicorn.

9:44 PM

That brings us back to the play I think.

9:58 PM

Tommy and Kate went to get slushies and got home a little later than they anticipated.

Tommy: It’s going to be a funny show. After I got out I was angry. Very angry. I did the classic movie angry-guy-punching-a-wall, I was a wee bit broken coming out of there. Then I began to write, began to react in a way that I know how: creating and using humour – that’s how I work through things. Which sounds like lame artsy talk I know, but too bad because it’s true.

Creating a show about the experience was rattling in my head as well, but I needed to write about it first. At the time I wrote that note my friend and theatre cohort Julian DeZotti was away at 1,000 Islands Playhouse. When he finally read about it he got an email to me stating “We’re going to turn this into show! This is outrageous!” and other words of encouragement. Other people said similar things to me about “you gotta make this a play” and in my mind I was saying “I know! I will!”

Then came activism and educating myself on what made G20 possible. There is such a never-ending stream of important causes and information that I got very swept up. It took me about 6 months to react to this as an artist. Which for me, is nuts. I always have my artist hat on for every experience, it’s all fuel for creation – but this got to me on a whole new level. I want to share the insanity of that weekend, why it’s changed me and all the insanity that’s come afterward. A lot of it still makes me laugh. And cry. Laugh-Cry.

me: And so now there is this CBC doc coming out about G20 that you appear prominently in and is named after the piece of theatre you have chosen to make about it. This is pretty good press for a show that hasn’t been made yet when and where can people check it out?

10:17 PM

Tommy: The CBC doc is Fri. Feb 25th at 9pm. The Facebook note went viral and my story appeared a lot of places (online, print, TV). I wound up speaking at a number of rallies (in fact, I got engaged to my beautiful girlfriend and fellow detainee Kate on the Canada Day Rally the week after G20) and I kind of became popular in the world of G20 Toronto.

Lets get engaged!

(Quick note - the CBC website for the doc already has 23 comments and it hasn’t even aired. Here’s a user comment: “as of now it is well established beyond any doubt that all those so called protesters were ‘Bandits In Disguise’ out to achieve their sole objective of creating mayhem and spreading chaos”)

10:19 PM

me: Oh yeah – you and your fiancee Kate got engaged right after this all went down. So really this both is a comedy and a love story then.

10:21 PM

Tommy: Aren’t all love stories comedies, Michael?

me: Fair. Would you take a pic of yourself with your computer for the top of the post?

This spring we will be holding a 3-day workshop of You Should Have Stayed Home, culminating in a public reading of some sort on the final evening. Stay tuned to this website and here for more details.

We hope to see you there and get feedback on what the heck should and should not be in this piece of theatre. We are going to move fast on this one as a three-year workshop process isn’t going to be useful to anyone.

February 23, 2011, by
Comment

.

Video discovered on the always compelling AWG: Chicago theatre blog. Clearly it was made to garner some big consulting bucks – still, it’s hard to not find the argument compelling. Things do seem to be advancing at more than an incremental rate…

February 22, 2011, by
12 comments

Many theatre artists would like to eat all parts of this hamburger over the course of a given year. Right now its made with mystery meat, but CAEA wants to hear your thoughts on a new recipe.

by Michael Wheeler

If you are a member of CAEA and want to have a say in how you create your own work, the most important email you will ever receive on this topic will arrive in your mailbox starting on Wednesday February 23rd, 2011.

From the “Equiflash” message sent to members last week:

Members with an active email address on file with the office will receive notification and instructions, directly from Leger Marketing, beginning on February 23. In order to speed processing and enable the kind of analysis that will be needed on the results, this survey will only be conducted electronically.”

“The results of this survey will have a direct impact on policies that will determine Equity’s level of support for small-scale and independent theatre, and this could have a significant impact on your career. We hope you’ll take the time to share your thoughts with us.”

In recent years there has been a nation-wide groundswell of discontent with CAEA’s policies regarding independent artists and their collaborators seeking to make their own work and take control of their careers.

Some examples of this discontent include the formation of The Indie Caucus (2007) which has held four separate public consultations on the topic at various Toronto theatres, Consecutive 96-1 and 42-4 votes at national AGMs (2008-2009) to address the situation, a special packed-house Regional AGM held specifically to discuss the issue (2010), and finally the creation of the Independent Theatre Review Committee (2010) to study the issue and make recommendations.

Eight months after being formed, this committee has taken a single public step:  To send you the email you will receive on Wednesday. The answers from the poll linked in the email will form the basis for the values the committee determines should inform their recommendations.

Translation: Four years after this movement started, this is your biggest chance to impact how independently created work is encouraged and made. Do you think Canadian Theatre is going awesome? Do you think we may have to reshape and rethink the way work is created and contracted in the 21st Century? Or is the current model working well?

Normally this is the stuff artists philosophize about in the green room or over beers or whatever. This survey is your biggest shot at having your thoughts impact the way Canadian Theatre is made, encouraged and how you will participate in that ecosystem. Keep your eyes on your inbox and participate in determining the future practices of your industry.

Two things to note:

1 Is your email updated with Equity? If they don’t have your latest you won’t receive the survey.

2 Check your junk mail. The email is coming from Leger Marketing, which also did a recent member survey on insurance. Some members found this survey in their junk mail presumably because it came as a mass-mailing from an unknown sender.

* The Indie Caucus takes no responsibility for members who don’t fill out the survey, are unhappy with their options as artists in five years time, complain about this fact, and are smitten instantly by a thunderbolt.

February 21, 2011, by
6 comments

Ladies and gentlemen your Rogers nightmare is over:

  • Login to Facebook and click here to read Al McGale’s note on how he left Rogers now- with no penalties – and how you can too.

If you find this information useful or interesting spread it to your friends on Facebook, Twitter or email using the buttons below. An exodus of customers is likely the only thing that is going to get the genuine attention of telecom companies in Canada. Feel free to use the comments section below to discuss any problems you might have getting the same results as Al.

February 18, 2011, by
6 comments

There is a group of young ladies from Notre Dame High School that would like to have their say about the production Jesus Chrysler, and how it has impacted them.

Christine Horne (r) plays poet Dorothy Livesay in Jesus Chrysler. She is mentoring an all-women teen theatre collective through the Paprika Festival who attended Praxis Theatre rehearsals last week.

That is us, an all-women cast with no one over the age of eighteen. We are participating in the Paprika festival for youth under 21, and it’s fairly safe to say our experience in theatre is limited to the classroom. In fact, the production we submitted came out of an exam six of us wrote and performed about oppression last year. It would be a fair assessment to say our progress has branched off from an oppression themed production, and we are currently collaboratively mounting something more to do with generation gaps and perceptions.

We work strongly together, primarily because we have been classmates for almost four years, and after working together for several months, Paprika decided to give us a mentor. Enter stage right, Christine Horne, our mentor and outside eye. She continues to work with us, and recently gave us the opportunity to watch one of the rehearsals for the show, Jesus Chrysler.

As a group of eight teenage women presenting their first production, we were grateful that the people of Jesus Chrysler let us sit in for one of their rehearsals. We had no idea what to expect as we walked into Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, we thought there would be some fierce director with a megaphone and a prima donna that always needed water. Those hoping Jesus Chrysler would have those two elements would have been severely disappointed.

When we entered, we entered a very calm atmosphere. After we were introduced to the team, they began their rehearsal, starting with notes and then beginning a full dress run through. They told each of us to move to different areas of the audience positions so they would know if they were being heard. If a line was getting lost we let Michael, the director, know. We watched Christine in action, working with Margaret Evans and Keith Barker, and noticed the cooperation between the actors and the director.

Any notes the director gave were listened to, but if the actors had any notes, they were heard as well. Someone that also really impressed us was Rebecca Powell, their stage manager, who seemed always focused. The way they worked with one another was a prelude to the actual show itself, it was clear they all had a common goal: tell the story.

Stage Manager Becky Powell, pictured here in tech,

We came in not really sure about what the play was about, or the story. None of us knew who Eugenia ‘Jim’ Watts was until they showed us, on stage. We were greeted with an intriguing personality, and had no idea this was a character born from someone with a strong history in Toronto until that time. After we left, we all checked in with each other to find out what we were all feeling.

There was this resonance towards the show, even if most of us didn’t know the story, simply because we could see that they all wanted to tell her story, and tell it well. This is something we weren’t doing for our own production, because we didn’t have a clear idea as to what story we were telling. They’re presenting a show about a woman that you want to know about. We got to an all girls Catholic school, focused on women’s empowerment, and we have never heard of the name Eugenia ‘Jim’ Watts. This is a woman we should know about, especially if we’re even remotely focused on the topic of empowerment.

There’s more to this play than the woman, but what we took away from the rehearsal was realizing the power of wanting to tell a story and realizing the importance of a story.

We hope the last two nights went well, and we are excited to come see it on Saturday. Thank you Jesus Chrysler.

Images by Will O’Hare Photography
______________________________________________________________________

Jesus Chrysler runs for two more nights at the Buddies in Bad Times Rhubarb Festival. Rumour has it that Saturday night is selling out, so if you want to avoid disappointment tonight could be your best bet. Click here for tickets and more information.

February 17, 2011, by
3 comments

By Simon Rice

The issues explored in David Mamet’s controversial play on political correctness, education, and power politics, Oleanna, stand up to the test of time.

They have as much resonance today as they did when it opened to audiences in 1992.

The only problem is, while showcasing some of Mamet’s best writing, the play is ultimately mired by his inability to transcend his own personal prejudices.

Diego Matamoros & Sarah Wilson in Soulpepper's remount of Oleanna

Almost twelve years after directing the show myself, I went to see Soulpepper’s remount currently playing at The Young Centre. This isn’t a review, so I won’t be commenting on the production.

What stood out to me this time around, was just how flawed a play Oleanna is.

This comes partially from a great disappointment at how well the play begins, and how badly it finishes.

The first act has the promise of brilliance. Carol, a confused and somewhat neurotic college student, appears in the office of John, her professor, looking desperately for answers.

She is failing, and she can’t understand why. John has little time for her at first, more interested in answering a phone that rings incessantly and preoccupied with the impending purchase of his dream house.

John is the archetypal verbose intellectual, who challenges all excepted norms in his academic life, while happily accepting the spoils, both power and money, the profession rains upon him.

John is a wholly actualized character. Carol is not.

John’s great strengths and weaknesses are laid bare.

He is arrogant and snobby, and yet he makes the important decision to try and reach Carol in a less than orthodox way

If we’re going to take off the Artificial Stricture, of “Teacher,” and “Student,” why should my own problems be any more a mystery than your own?

He then goes on to talk about his predictable, upper-middle class dilemmas in a typically arrogant and paternal way.

Nice house, close to the private school… (He continues making his note.) … We were talking of economic betterment (CAROL writes in her notebook.) … I was thinking of the School Tax. (He continues writing.) (To himself:) … where is it written that I have to send my child to public school. … Is it a law that I have to improve the City Schools at the expense of my own interest? And, is this not simply The White Man’s Burden? Good. And (Looks up to CAROL) … does this interest you?

But despite his great flaws, he opens up a compelling discussion on the value of post-secondary education.

We shove this book at you, we say read it. Now, you say you’ve read it? I think that you’re lying. I’ll grill you, and when I find you’ve lied, you’ll be disgraced, and your life will be ruined. It’s a sick game. Why do we do it? Does it educate? In no sense. Well, then, what is higher education? It is something-other-than-useful.

When Carol challenges John on how he can disparage education, to those who have in many cases, “over-come great obstacles to get here,” he replies that it is his job to challenge and provoke thought in his students. Carol seems unable to grasp this idea.

So whether you like him or his ideas, John is a real character, at least somewhat worthy of our empathy.

Carol is less a character than a straw woman. Mamet uses her, simply as a vehicle, to drive Oleanna towards a conclusion that confirms his suspicions: that political correctness is used by feminists, in a witch hunt, that has as its ultimate purpose the removal of humanity from human interaction.

Whether you believe this or not doesn’t matter, because Mamet makes his case so poorly.

In the first act Carol is written, rather one-dimensionally, as seemingly inarticulate, desperate, angry, and completely lacking self-esteem.

Nobody tells me anything. And I sit there … in the corner. In the back. And everybody’s talking about “this” all the time. And “concepts,” and “precepts” and, and, and, and, and, WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? And I read your book. And they said, “Fine, go in that class.” Because you talked about responsibility to the young. I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT MEANS AND I’M FAILING…

Simon Rice and Sara Wood also staged their own Oleanna in the pre-Praxis days with Bloody Theatre in 1998

Mamet reveals nothing of where she is coming from or what her background is. If she has a life outside of being a failing student, we’re not privy to it.

Remarkably when Carol returns in the second and third act, this time on decidedly less friendly terms, she has developed great self-confidence and a sophisticated vocabulary.

… It is a sexist remark, and to overlook it is to countenance continuation of that method of thought. It’s a remark…

… What gives you the right. Yes. To speak to a woman in your private… Yes. Yes. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. You feel yourself empowered … you say so yourself. To strut. To posture. To “perform.” To “Call me in here…” Eh? You say that higher education is a joke. And treat it as such, you treat it as such. And confess to a taste to play the Patriarch in your class. To grant this. To deny that. To embrace your students.

Of course we still have no idea why Carol is doing this, or where she is coming from, only that she is single mindedly bent on John’s destruction.

I don’t care what you feel. Do you see? DO YOU SEE? You can’t do that anymore. You. Do. Not. Have. The. Power. Did you misuse it? Someone did. Are you part of that group? Yes. Yes. You Are. You’ve done these things. And to say, and to say, “Oh. Let me help you with your problem…

This is the problem with Oleanna. The questions it asks and tries to address are fascinating, and without easy answers. But Mamet tries to give us easy answers in his conclusion.

He wants us to feel that John is righteous and that Carol is a monster, and he succeeds.

But are we any wiser for it?

February 16, 2011, by
Comment

Margaret Evans as Jim Watts in Jesus Chrysler by Tara Beagan

Jesus Chrysler

Wednesday February 16 – Saturday February 19 @ 9pm in the Cabaret at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Click here to read a preview of the The Rhubarb Festival and Jesus Chrysler in The Toronto Star.

Image  by Will O’Hare Photography

February 15, 2011, by
Comment

A photo of Tehran Bazaar from ON THE BOARDS IN IRAN

Ross Manson, Artistic Director of Toronto’s Volcano Theatre, is currently in Tehran, Iran as part of a five-person jury adjudicating an international competition within the 29th Fadjr Theatre Festival.

It seems Ross has been quite busy: seeing everything from Faust to Bouffon – while getting caught up in a major demonstration, worrying about three Estonian theatre artists who got taken in by the secret police for issues relating to camera use, and finding time to blog about it all.

Click here to go to ON THE BOARDS IN IRAN.

February 14, 2011, by
Comment

Mother Russia and the Socialist Fatherland: Women and the Communist Party of Canada, 1932-1941. By Nancy Butler

With specific reference to the activism of Dorothy Livesay and Jim Watts.

by Michael Wheeler

Because Praxis Theatre has been researching 1930s Toronto artist/activists off and on for the past year-and-a-half, I assumed I was already aware of the content of a link sent to the creative team by Jesus Chrysler performer Christine Horne in an email she sent titled: “giant essay on jim and dee”.

As Mammalian’s Darren O’Donnell noted in the comments of a recent post here: “Assume makes an Ass out of U and Me.”

The link to the Next Year Country blog led to the document above: a 467-page Queens University PhD History thesis Nancy Butler posted for all to read via embed-able free online publishing software. (As the director of an earlier iteration of this project that included significant access to our content and process, I appreciate the availability of this work online.) The focus of Butler’s thesis are the two protagonists of the Rhubarb stage of our show Jesus Chrysler going on this week at The Rhubarb Festival: Director Jim Watts and poet Dorothy Livesay.

So if you would like a little light reading on an academic perspective of what we have been working on lately, here’s a summary of what the thesis investigates:

Through a close examination of the cultural work of two prominent middle-class female members, Dorothy Livesay, poet, journalist and sometime organizer, and Eugenia (‘Jean’ or ‘Jim’) Watts, reporter, founder of the Theatre of Action, and patron of the Popular Front magazine New Frontier, this thesis utilizes the insights of queer theory, notably those of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Judith Butler, not only to reconstruct both the background and consequences of the CPC’s construction of ‘woman’ in the 1930s, but also to explore the significance of the CPC’s strategic deployment of heteronormative ideas and ideals for these two prominent members of the Party.

Get a load of this: A July 2010 post on praxistheatre.com is cited as one of the hundreds of sources used in this thesis that was just published three months ago. We have just received word that Butler will be driving into Toronto on Saturday evening to see our final performance at the Rhubarb Festival.