Praxis Theatre is currently on hiatus! Please find co-founders Aislinn Rose and Michael Wheeler at The Theatre Centre and SpiderWebShow, respectively.

Date: 2010 August

August 25, 2010, by

Someone forgot to tell the PM that encouraging Nickeback actually reduces Canadian culture...or did they?

Someone forgot to tell the PM that encouraging Nickelback actually reduces Canadian culture...or did they?

by Michael Wheeler

Shortly after the 2008 Federal election, Peter Donolo, soon-to-be Chief of Staff to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, addressed a select group of executive directors and organizational leaders at an industry seminar organized by The Arts Advocate. In his role as pollster for The Globe and Mail during the election, Donolo had accumulated extensive data on the arts and how it had impacted the race. One piece of information from his presentation produced audible exhalations and dismayed nodding of heads:

The highest polling numbers the Harper campaign ever saw in the province of Ontario were on the day after his Ordinary People Don’t Care About The Arts statement (Sept 24/08).

However much it seems retrospectively the comments were a careless slip that may have cost the government a majority, the reality is there was an emotional resonance to this message that initially gave him momentum in a battleground province. Eventually, these numbers receded in the weeks before voters went to the polls, leaving the merged Canadian Alliance and PC parties short of a majority government with the support of just over one third of the electorate.

Seen in this context, comments made by the PM to the national media that he was “concerned” by Catherine Frid’s play Homegrown at the 2010 Summerworks Festival begin to fit into the government’s larger agenda as a strategic exercise by a government no longer able to communicate through rational discourse.  These comments point to a desire to use emotionally charged signposts to frame discussions and talking points, rather than the merits of programs and policies based on data or logic.

Will we talk about the arts next election in relation to harnessing our imaginations and creativity within a complex and multidimensional culture? Or will we discuss the arts in relation to whether we should use tax dollars to support terrorism? These are the types of paradigms that are being established in the discourse leading up to the next election.

If Harper succeeds in connecting arts funding and supporting terrorism, it will fit in well with a campaign that paints public funding for political parties to replace the influence of massive donations by corporations and unions as supporting separatism, a coalition government as advocating socialism, and an inquiry into the largest series of civil rights violations in Canadian history at G20 as supporting anarchism.

Of course none of these references are true, but it doesn’t matter. Every mainstream reviewer who saw Homegrown went out of their way to specifically address the allegations by the PM and his office that the play “glorified terrorism”. Each one reached the identical explicit conclusion that the play in no way justified or supported terrorism. What matters is that arts funding and taking a “sympathetic” view of terrorism are now a cultural meme that some people will remember. Mission accomplished.

This type of highly emotional and dramatic hyperbole will be backed up by an impressive war chest accumulated by the Conservative Party that has been significantly out-fundraising the opposition since fall 2008. In the lead up to the next election, this will back a multi-million dollar wave of negative ads in every media geared at emotional flashpoints in an effort to define complex policy issues with simple narratives that elicit a kneejerk response from sub-cortical “reptilian” elements of the brain.

By hoping to communicate with voters through fight or flight stimuli, the goal is to avoid any rational or substantive debate. Next year, without any reliable or detailed information available through the census, there will be even less data available to evaluate and discuss policies and programs. The heavily partisan bent of the Harper government has forced it to abdicate a knowledge-based discussion of their policies, save a few economic statistics that neglect to mention the sizeable budget surplus Canada had when they took the reins of government and the huge deficit they have generated five years later.

When Kory Teneycke (l) was Communications Director fo the PM they lunched with Fox News President Rupert Murdoch. Four months later he left his position to lead Quebecor Media's attempt to rewrite CRTC rules to start a "Fox News North".

When Kory Teneycke (l) was Communications Director to the PM they both lunched in NYC with Fox News President Rupert Murdoch. Four months later he left his position to lead Quebecor Media's attempt to rewrite CRTC rules in their favour to start Fox News North, which he is pictured announcing.

This embrace by Conservative strategists of US Tea Party-style political tactics is set to be joined by the biggest weapon in regressive populist media: Our very own Fox News. Upset that the current CRTC head won’t fast track a special Category 1 licence for a national TV station to be run by Harper’s previous spokesperson, Harper is set to replace him with someone who is willing to break CRTC rules to allow him a national TV station dedicated to supporting and propagating his ideology.

Who owns the station “applying” for this licence? You guessed it: SUN Media. The very same SUN Media that created the Homegrown controversy in their Toronto newspaper and scandalously asked Harper about the play with one of only two English language questions available to the media in Harper’s first comments to the country in over a month. It has since been revealed that virtually every other journalist in attendance had already agreed to ask him about the census. (What the entire national media didn’t think Canadians from coast-to-coast were dying to hear the PMs thoughts on a summer indie theatre festival?)

There is an unfortunate logic to politics that right-wing parties are succeeding when they are talking about the military and the economy, and failing when they talk about things like education, healthcare and culture. By framing culture as a “spending” and  “national security” issue they are effectively taking a topic that is a loser for them and turning it into a winner. Combine that with the strong numbers in Ontario after Harper’s anti-arts statements in 2008 and the fact the Conservatives have given up completely in Quebec, and we may be looking at another election where arts and culture is again under attack.

This is not necessarily a great strategy for Harper – where last election arts and culture supporters were caught off guard being attacked by their own government, this election they will be organized, have lists of active supporters in every major city, and have identified leaders and organizing strategies that target swing ridings. They are also way better than them at gaining earned media and using the internet. At the end of the day, it will be up to the opposition, the non-Quebecor owned press, and civil society to shift the debate out of the highly emotional, into factual analysis of the policies and parties that will best serve the country.

Lately, it has been the subject of some media as to whether an emotional, ideologically-based discussion of policies and programs can become a substitute for rational debate that includes data and information.

It can not.

August 24, 2010, by

Mayoral Arts Debate

August 23, 2010, by

This is a trailer for a play! (sort of)

by Michael Wheeler

During the film shoot last February the stage of The Stanley Theatre was used to get a almost a hundred extras into period hair and make up. This September the show premieres on the same stage.

During the film shoot last winter the stage of The Stanley Theatre was used to get a almost a hundred extras into period hair and make up. This fall the show premieres on the same stage.

Last winter I wrote about my trip to British Columbia to learn more about the work director Kim Collier and The Electric Company are doing combining live and recorded performance as part of my investigation into the relationship between direction and design as Director in Training at The Tarragon Theatre. On my first trip to Vancouver in February 2010 during The Cultural Olympiad, I spent two weeks on the set of the film shoot for the production Tear The Curtain!

As of today I’m back for round two of this project, attending rehearsals and learning as much as I can in the lead-up to opening night of this hybrid film and theatre piece production that will have its world premiere presented by The Arts Club Theatre Company at The Stanley Theatre on September 15. Stay tuned for more about this project as opening night approaches!


August 15, 2010, by

SummerWorks Awards 2010

This year's SummerWorks Awards designed by OCAD student Chao Gao.

SummerWorks Prize for Production:

Winner: Ride the Cyclone

Contra Guys Award for New Work:

Winner: Post Eden

National Theatre School Award for Set or Costume Design:

Winner: Theory

Honourable Mention: Iphigenia at Aulis

Buddies in Bad Times Vanguard Award for Risk and Innovation:

Winner: Avatar

Canadian Stage Award for Direction:

Winner: Steven McCarthy, Bliss

The Spotlight Award:


Edwige Jean-Pierre, Even Darkness is Made of Light

Adam Lazarus, Wonderland

Honourable Mention: Rosemary Dunsmore, Kayak

The Steam Whistle Emerging Artist Award:

Winner: Johnnie Walker, Redheaded Stepchild

Honourable Mention: The entire crew of Countries Shaped Like Stars

RBC Arts Professional Award:

Winner: Foster Child Play

The NOW Magazine Audience Choice Award:

Winner: Ride the Cyclone

August 14, 2010, by

Beautiful City August 16

On Monday, August 16th, City Council’s Executive Committee will be meeting to decide on a long-term plan to increase funding to the arts, with new money made available from the recently implemented billboard tax.  Join in Committee Room 1 at 10am to show your support.

Background information on the 10-year battle of public space advocates to create a Billboard Tax for Art in Toronto can be found here, here and here on the Praxis website, and here on

See you there!

August 5, 2010, by

The Next Stage Festival is a juried uber-fringe held each January at The Factory Theatre. It offers audiences and industry programmers the chance to see both new and reworked productions by successful Fringe artists as they take the leap into the Next Stage of their careers.

Next Stage in the Factory Theatre Mainspace:

At The Sans Hotel
Created & performed by Nicola Gunn Designed by Nicola Gunn with Rebecca Etchell, Gwendolyna Holmberg-Gilchrist and Luke Paulding

In a deserted Hotel strewn with familiar remnants, a woman is marooned in a bathtub. She suggests something terrible has happened or is about to happen…

Duel of Ages
by True Edge Productions (with a cast of 21)

This anthology of duelling scenes begins in the 16th century and goes, all the way to its impact on the modern psyche in the age of cinema.

Fairy Tale Ending: The Big Bad Family Musical
Presented by Role Your Own Theatre from Toronto
Music and Lyrics by Kieren MacMillan & Jeremy Hutton

Fairy Tale Ending is a topsy-turvy yet touching tale of a young girl coming to grips with loss and the reality of growing up. NSTF’s first family show for kids and grown-ups – matinees and kids pricing TBD.

The Grace Project **World Premiere**
by Judith Thompson & the ensemble

The Grace Project features courageous young adults sharing their true, life-shaping experiences living with chronic illness.

Next Stage in the Factory Studio Theatre:

The Apology
by Darrah Teitel
Directed by Audrey Dwyer, Performed by: Brendan McMurtry-Howlett, Natasha Greenblatt, Sascha Cole and Daniel Chapman-Smith.

Teenage sexuality coupled with inspired political ideology fan the flames of this anachronistic work set in early 19th century British high society that discusses the tensions between maternity and feminism, ideology and love in an original story of sexual revelation.

Eating with Lola
Presented by Sulong Theatre
Written and performed by Catherine Hernandez, Directed by Ann Powell

Part confession, part revelation, Lola’s epic tale unravels the entire modern history of Manila from the time of the Thomasites to the second wave of Filipino migration to the United States – one spoonful at a time. A one woman (and one puppet) tour-de-force.

Swan Song of Maria (A Tragic Fairy Tale)
By Carol Cece Anderson
Directed by Mark Cassidy, Music Performed by Hilario Duran, Featuring Lili Francks, John Blackwood and Bridgett Zehr

Inspired by Swan Lake, the piece combines Afro-Cuban-Latin-Jazz, various dance styles and story to navigate a the forty year relationship.

Tom’s a-cold
By David Egan
Directed by Daryl Cloran, Featuring Shane Carty & Brendan Gall

In 1845, HMS Terror and Erebus set sail from England seeking the Northwest Passage through the Arctic. Neither ship was ever seen again. Three years later, two men sit in a lifeboat.

August 4, 2010, by
1 comment


“It’s the cliches that cause the trouble. A precise emotion seeks a precise expression. If what I feel is not precise then should I call it love? It’s so terrifying, love, that all I can do is shove it under a dump bin of pink cuddly toys and send myself a greeting card saying, ‘Congratulations on your Engagement’. But I am not engaged I am deeply distracted. I am desperately looking the other way so that love won’t see me.”




(don’t watch…just listen!)



Laurel Green is an Associate Producer with the 2010 SummerWorks Festival. She is spending her summer vacation helping to organize their first-ever Performance Bar: a collision of theatre, music, and performance hosted by improv heroes The National Theatre of the World.

Fiasco Playhouse runs August 5 – 14th at 9PM on the Ground Floor of the Lower Ossington Theatre (100A Ossington Avenue). PWYC. Full Bar. Air Conditioning