This week, more than a hundred members of the Canadian Arts Coalition met on Parliament Hill for meetings with more than a hundred MPs and Senators.
A hectic day of meetings for this group was capped off with a reception in the Speaker’s Lounge where the Minister of Heritage, James Moore, addressed an “electric” closing reception. From his speech to the arts advocates around the country:
“The tone of the coalition, and the way you are all coming together, in a very positive leading way, a forward leading way, this is what we aspire to, this is what we hope that we can do in terms of public policy achievements, and reaching out and talking to us. And it’s so important that that be the process, and it not be adversarial.
This is a majority Parliament and it’s not going anywhere for four years. The mix of MPs that you saw in the House, that you saw today, will be the fact of the Federal Parliament for the next four years. So we have to work together, we all will work together to keep that professional effect.”
Intrepid arts advocate and blogger Shannon Litzenberger live-blogged the meetings she went to including meetings with highly placed officials from Finance and the Minister himself. From each of these meetings, the message seemed to be the same: The arts will receive a 5% cut and it would really be in the interest of artists to not speak out against this government.
In fact, Conservative officials and MPs seemed to quite appreciate the efforts of the coalition to normalize relations between artists and the Harper Government, which have never been great, and have been terrible since the PM’s “Ordinary Canadians don’t care about the arts” statement in the 2008 election and the funding cuts to touring grants that preceded it.
Nevertheless, it was hard not to see the stick they were wielding to enforce this normalization of relations, when it was explained that some areas would be deemed “priority areas” with less cuts, which means of course that some areas, deemed not a priority, would be cut more.
Of course this is exactly the sort of thing that drives me nuts, and led me to leave a lengthy comment on Shannon’s blog, which you can read in its entirety here. Below is a portion of that response:
I found the comments from Finance’s Andrew Rankin….shall I say unnecessarily prescriptive? They can be translated as “Stop complaining and start celebrating our initiatives”. The problem is, their initiatives are worth frank discussion. Cutting SummerWorks, shifting Heritage funding to celebrate acts of war, cutting touring programs, funding totally BS festivals like the Walk of Fame Festival (Has ANYONE ever heard of this festival before?). It all adds up to bumbling, ideologically driven, poor public policy.
I also had a question about independent art and artists and the degree to which their needs are on the radar of this government. We have ushered in a new era where funding goes to major institutions who agree to “play ball” and thus can be controlled through access to this funding. Meanwhile the core generators of the cultural ecosystem, independent voices that are more difficult to be silenced, will continue to be starved of access to funding. Then later they will say, “But we increased arts funding!”, when in actuality they have just increased funding to organizations who will agree to be a sympathetic mouthpiece, or at least an uncritical one.
Canada's purchase of new fighter jets is projected to cost $30 Billion, or 192 times the amount distributed annually by The Canada Council.
In the twelve hours since I left that comment, it seems the government has also found a new way to cut money from arts funding and other social programs that improve quality of life for Canadians.
The Minister of Heritage concluded his speech to MPs and arts advocates with the statement:
“I know that there are those of you that support all sort of political parties and that’s fine….It doesn’t matter. I almost think that supporting culture isn’t a left-wing issue or a right-wing issue, it’s the right thing to do.”
If nothing else, let’s agree to reject this statement as duplicitous, dangerous and insulting. This is a right-wing government that has decided to spend billions of dollars on militarization and corporate tax cuts, while shrinking the money available to all sorts of the social programs that have defined what is great about Canada, including a 5% cut to culture.
Lets not kid ourselves, even if we are stuck with a government the majority of Canadians did not vote for over the next four years, practically any other government would do better.
The panel will be moderated by The University of Toronto’s Michelle MacArthur, a PhD Candidate and Instructor for DRM 231H: Theatre Criticism. Michelle will be leading the discussion around questions of how blogging and social media are changing the nature of theatre criticism, and whether the internet has democratized reviewing, altering the traditional relationships between artists, audiences and critics.
Representing Praxis Theatre on the panel, I’ll be talking about our use of the internet and how it directly feeds our work and relationships with audiences and the indie theatre community.
The event is open to the public, and – inspired by Praxis’ twitter friendly performance of You Should Have Stayed Home – our moderator is encouraging live-tweeting throughout the discussion. So if you can’t attend the event in person, feel free to join the discussion online.
Malcolm X presents his closing remarks in a debate at Oxford Union, a special all university organization as part of Oxford University billed as “the world’s most famous debating society” on December 3, 1964.
Margaret Evans (r) Plays Jim Watts, Aviva Armour-Ostroff (l) plays Dorothy Livesay in Jesus Chrysler. Photo by Will O’Hare
On Friday November 4th, Praxis Theatre is throwing a 1930s-themed party on Bay Street in the lead up to our premiere of Jesus Chrysler by Tara Beagan at Theatre Passe Muraille. We may have booked the location long ago, but in the spirit of our play, and the recent emergence of The Occupy Movement we’re going with: Praxis Theatre Occupies Bay Street.
Our last party at the same location was a big hit.
This fundraising soirée, full of gourmet food and drink alongside art, performances, and 1930s inspired music by local artists will take place in a gorgeous reception room located at 761 Bay Street on Friday November 4th from 6:30pm to 10pm.
Tickets are available on a sliding scale of $50-$75 depending on what part of the 99% you are a part of. (Don’t worry, we welcome the 1% as well – and perhaps you’d like to donate to Occupy Toronto.) This is an all-inclusive ticket, and you’ll be provided with a charitable receipt for the price of your ticket minus the value of food and drink ($25). To reserve, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on the fundraiser and other options for making a donation to Jesus Chrysler can be found here on the facebook event, and information on Jesus Chrysler and purchasing tickets can be found here on the Theatre Passe Muraille website.
Click here to go straight to Theatre Passe Muraille’s Canada Helps page.
As the production rehearses, The Company is releasing short documentary films by Michael Schultz about the creative process behind putting the show together. You can view Part 1 of 4 above and click here to view Part 2. The first mini-doc already has over 1000 views, it will be interesting to see if this translates in to actual in-person views.
What do you think? Is this an effective audience engagement strategy? Does getting a an insider’s peek at putting the show together make it more likely you will see it? For theatre creators – would having a camera in the room impact your creative process? Would you like to see more or less of this?
The People's Mic was used to communicate St. James Park as the destination for Saturday's Occupy Toronto march
by Kaitlyn Riordan
At the General Assembly for “Occupy Toronto” Saturday evening in St James Park, there were no loudspeakers, no microphones, no mass produced signage for people to hold or even a coherent message for people to tweet. The General Assembly was communicated by one person standing centre stage and slowly delivering their message.
The speaker would yell: “Mic check” and the crowd would respond in turn, a quick way of announcing their intention to say something. They’d continue: “I’m Kevin, a volunteer facilitator.” And those closest would repeat his words, sending the message about 10 feet away where the message was picked up and re-delivered by the next group that heard it and so on.
It took time, but worked effectively and you could feel the raw power of the crowd, unaided by technology. Guidelines were laid out about how keeping things positive was key and about what kind of talk would not be tolerated, ie nothing racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. The organizers admitted that they were still learning and that the process was still evolving.
The People's Mic works better if everyone who can sit down, sits down.
The people I heard speak asked for volunteers and donations, and by 6pm they announced that a generator had been donated that would allow them to run a live stream 24/7. The crowd gathered was a mixed bag of generations and interest groups.
“Just a bunch of hippies standing around, smoking weed and waiting for something to happen.” Was how it was described to me by a journalist who had been there as they day began on Bay and King at 10am this morning.
Now the hippies are in their tents in St James’ Park, having dined on a donated vegetarian meal and hunkering down for the night. The day began with little planned out, but with a willingness to see what would happen.
The day ended with various committees formed, a commitment to continue the protest, to learn how to do it better and to maintain solidarity; with the Occupy Wall Street Protesters, with Air Canada flight attendants denied the hard-won right to collectively bargain, and with the rest of the 99%.
Watch the video below of the The People’s Mic in effect at Occupy Wall St. when thousands of New Yorkers flooded Zuccotti Park on October 14th to turn back the movement’s potential eviction:
It’s been a while since I had the pleasure of sitting down to tea with some Toronto theatre folks to specifically NOT talk about theatre. I’m happy to report that I got to do just that with some folks from The Original Norwegian to talk about everything BUT their latest show, Guns & Roses. Remarkably, we also did not address the topics guns, roses or the 80’s super rock group (and legends) Guns AND Roses. I can’t tell if that means I’m doing a good job, or a bad job at this, but regardless, welcome back to Tea with D’Agostino!
Guests: Julian DeZotti (Artistic Director and Writer/Director of Guns & Roses), Rebecca Applebaum (Actor), Brendan McMurtry-Howlett (Actor), Peyson Rock (Actor)
On the menu: Earl Grey Tea, Croissants, Brie baked with sundried tomatoes and garlic, crackers, carrots and some chocolate-covered almonds (cause…why not?)
Thumbs and Apps
Melissa: How do you think High School is different now than when we were in school?
Julian: Well, now kids have phones, and apps and video cameras with them. I didn’t have that.
Melissa: And how has that made school life different, do you think? Or has it?
Brendan: I did recently hear that kids are developing their thumb as the dominant finger.
Rebecca: What was our dominant finger before?
Brendan: The index finger. So, instead of pressing an elevator button with the index finger, the younger generation is pressing it with their thumb.
Peyson: Because of video games and cell phones.
Rebecca: And then they’re going to start mutating and get longer?
Melissa: I wonder how they measure that, though. There must be some test.
Rebecca: I’ve done enough paid tests to know they have tests.
Melissa: You have?
Brendan: Have you ever done one of those sleep tests?
Rebecca: I’ve done that one.
Rebecca: Well, I didn’t do that one for money, I did that for myself.
Julian: Where you have to sleep in a controlled environment?
Brendan: Yeah. I could not do that.
Peyson: Well now they have that iPhone app that registers what’s happening when you sleep and if you’re waking up.
Rebecca: What? Really?
Melissa: Yeah, I just read about that in Toronto Life. It’s connected to these sleep clinics – you can determine your sleep pattern.
Rebecca: How does it sense it? I mean – where do you put it on your body, or…
Peyson: No, I think you just set it on your bedside so it can register it. I think it’s the camera, or maybe it’s the gyroscope.
Rebecca: What’s that? The gyroscope?
Peyson: A gyroscope can sense where you are, like, spatially. Like, in a driving game, video game—
Rebecca: Oh. Then it would have to be on you.
Peyson: Yeah, and I don’t think it is. So…I think it’s just beside you.
Melissa: We’d have to do some research.
Julian: Is there an app you wish existed that doesn’t?
Peyson: I have an idea for an app. It might actually exist – I never looked into it. I remember when I was a kid I’d hear a song on the radio and think ‘Oh man, what’s that song?’. And then they came out with—
Melissa: Shazam, right?
PEYSON: Yeah, Shazam. But what about the times that you don’t hear a song, but you have one in your head? And you know a couple of notes and you’re like (hums a tune)…
Peyson: And you’re like, ‘But I don’t know’ –
Melissa: So you want a mind reader app?
Peyson: Ha. No, no. I mean you can put in the genre of it to narrow it down. Do you know any lyrics to it? You can narrow it down. Then you sing whatever notes you know and it just keeps narrowing it down. And you keep making selections and eventually it offers you a song and you’re like, ‘Yeah! That’s the song I keep singing!’
I don’t know how that would work, but…
Melissa: That would be an AMAZING app. I guess you can’t just sing into your Shazam, right?
Julian: Nope. Will not compute.
Melissa: That’s right. Cannot identify.
Tea: The Gateway Drug
Julian: So I was wondering…it seems that a tea party…I mean…would that have been a pre-drink for something? I mean, historically, instead of getting together to drink alcohol, they were like, ‘Okay we’ll get together and have tea, and then smoke opium.’?
Melissa: Were you hoping that there would be opium?
Julian: No, I just feel like this tea with ceremony feels like it’s a gateway to something else.
Melissa: Really? That’s an interesting theory.
Julian: I mean, not like a gateway GATEWAY.
Brendan: It was just an excuse for old ladies to socialize.
Rebecca: Back in the day when they didn’t have phones.
Peyson: It was a gateway to gossip.
Drunk History, Tom Green & Pauly Shore
Rebecca: Have you guys seen the Drunk History web series?
Rebecca: I feel like I learn more factual things from those videos.
Rebecca: That one about Oney Judge? I almost peed my pants.
Julian: Has anyone actually ever peed their pants laughing?
Melissa: Oh yeah.
Julian: I don’t think I have.
Melissa: You’ve never peed your pants laughing?
Julian: I’ve almost had a heart attack, like, I literally couldn’t breathe from laughing, but—
Rebecca: And your bladder didn’t give out?
Melissa: I’ve peed.
Rebecca: Me too.
Peyson: Like, a full-out pee?
Melissa/Rebecca: No./Not full out.
Melissa: Just a moment when everything releases and you’re like, “Oh! Shit!”
Julian: Oh, I see, so a little bit.
Rebecca: I remember it happened once in my parents’ basement when I was watching Tom Green.
Julian: (guffaws) Tom Green!
Rebecca: The original Tom Green. On Rogers.
Brendan: Oh yeah.
Julian: Cable 10 on Friday?
Rebecca: Yeah. I lost it. I couldn’t stop laughing.
Brendan: You should write Tom Green a letter like that.
Rebecca: Are you friends with him?
Melissa: Do you have a direct line to Tom Green?
Peyson: Well, he probably has time to read fan mail.
Julian: Well he went back to writing a cable access show, but in the States. But he’s doing the same thing that he was 10 years ago.
Melissa: That’s kinda sad. Or maybe not.
Rebecca: Yeah, maybe it’s good.
Julian: Maybe it’s what he’s best at. I don’t know. Our DJ Fraser was saying that he was playing at the Thompson Hotel on Saturday and Pauly Shore came in with his girls.
Rebecca: His girls?
Julian: I mean, I haven’t heard from Pauly Shore for a long time. But apparently, his mother ran the Comedy Store in LA, right? And then he went to take it over and he bankrupted it.
Melissa: (feigning shock)You mean Pauly Shore’s not an ace businessman?
Julian: No, apparently not.
Melissa: I can’t believe it!
Julian: I thought after Son in Law, I mean –
Peyson: Son in Law’s probably the best one.
Brendan: Uh – Encino Man!
Peyson: Oh yeah! You’re right.
Melissa: (suddenly remembering something I was happy to forget) Encino Man? Wow. I have totally blocked out Pauly Shore’s entire career.
A play written & directed by Julian DeZotti, starring Rebecca Applebaum, Zarrin Darnell-Martin, Alex Fiddes, Brendan McMurtry-Howlett, Peyson Rock, and DJ Fase
PREVIEW: Monday, October 17th @ 7:30pm – $10
GALA NIGHT: Monday, October 24th @ 7:30pm – $30
Proceeds from evening performance go directly to sending students from under-serviced high schools to see the show for free. You can also make a charitable tax-receipted donation by visiting their partner organization, Breakaway Addiction Services on the Canada Helps site here.
Melissa D’Agostino is an award-winning actor, writer, singer and producer. She also likes tea. Check her out at www.melissadagostino.net
Readings in the Rough Play reading Series presented by Fairly Lucid Productions invites the audience to play a part in the dramaturgical process of writing a script. In an open discussion the audience helps to form what the play can become in this important stage of first public readings.
The playwright will present a few questions to you prior to the reading. Once you watch, you can then provide feedback for the playwright that will assist in their next stage of redrafting. The series will feature a new play every two months from around the world.
Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God - Tony Nappo, Kristen Thomson, Tom Barnett and Maev Beaty. Photo by John Lauener
by Michael Wheeler
I realize it is a little strange as the Co-Artistic Director of Praxis Theatre and Editor of praxistheatre.com to publish a blog post about the best play I’ve worked on so far and for it not to be a Praxis Theatre show – but there’s PR and then there’s an attempt at truth. Hopefully people read this thing because we appreciate the latter over the former in this space.
Shine Your Eye - Dienye Waboso. Photo by John Lauener
This participation has taken number of forms; first as Artistic Producer Trainee with artistic and producing duties on all three productions, which I blogged about extensively on praxistheatre.com in a seven part series, and then as the creator and curator of The Africa Trilogy Blog.
Both of these experiences were immensely rewarding. In terms of gaining an intimate detailed understanding of how an ambitious international collaboration goes from idea to reality (praxis) they were invaluable.
There could be no better education in creating original plays than the opportunity to experience directors Ross Manson and Josette Bushell-Mingo, cast, dramaturge, choroegraph and stage new works by new voices in theatre.
In particular, seeing Shine Your Eye, the first dramatic work by Binyavanga Wainana, (just pronounced this week by Forbes magazine as one the 40 most powerful celebrities in Africa) come to life as a thoroughly contemporary African perspective on Africa, expanded my understanding of theatrical potential.
The majority of my work over three years and seven (yes seven!) rehearsal processes was as Assistant Director working alongside director Liesl Tommy and choreographer Heidi Strauss on Roland Schimmelpfennig’s Peggy Pickit Sees The Face of God.
Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God - Maev Beaty, Kristen Thomson. Photo by John Lauener
Developing a World Premiere of a Schimmelpfennig text over 2008-2011 has inspired two extremely vibrant emotions in me:
1 – Pure inspiration: I remember walking home from a read-through of the play sometime in the second workshop in 2009 with a deep suspicion that, assuming we are still here on earth, this text will be performed in fifty years by Norweigan high schoolers, community players in Austin Texas, and subject to a number of revivals.
There’s nothing quite like being sure what you are doing is important and may possibly outlast you.
2 – Absolute dread: As an artist literally in training to have responsibilities connected to the success of this a once-in-a-lifetime text was intimdating to say the least. When I found myself rehearsal director of a workshop to review blocking and camerawork from Luminato with new Canadian Stage cast members Tom Barnett and Kristen Thomson in April, it was frankly the most pressure I have put on myself.
I watch enough sports to know sometimes guys make The Stanley Cup in their rookie year and that’s the only shot they ever get.
Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God - Maev Beaty, Tony Nappo, Kristen Thomson, Tom Barnett. Photo by John Lauener
If you can’t tell, I am immensely proud of this play and there is a week-and-a-half left to catch it. You can get some seriously cheap tickets: Under 30: $12.50, PWYC Mondays, and $22 Arts Worker opportunities are all in play.
If you enjoy new performance that pushes the potential and form of live storytelling I hope you will come. Don’t make it one of those shows you meant to see but things were crazy in the fall, yadda, yadda, yadda. If you come this Friday October 14, Volcano Theatre General Manager Meredith Potter will be talking in more detail about creating the production in the second floor lobby at 7:15pm before the 8pm curtain.
That’s it. That’s my pitch. Thanks to Volcano Theatre for the unprecedented trust and opportunity and to director Liesl Tommy for giving her assistant director real things to do. Hope you can make it.
“After the years and years of weaker and waterier imitations, we now find ourselves rejecting the very notion of a holy stage. It is not the fault of the holy that it has become a middle-class weapon to keep the children good.”