Elsewhere in the theatrosphere
by Michael Wheeler
It’s been a while since our last round-up of interesting ideas and discussions going on elsewhere.
Theater and the War Against Youth
American dramaturg, playwright and director (and fellow ART/MXAT grad) Marshall Botvinick investigates the way the supposedly ‘progressive’ theatre industry emulates many of the generational biases promoted by The Tea Party. He looks at a recent article in Esquire that explores generational conflict in the US and compares it to what is going on in the theatre industry for his post on Howlround. The post levels 3 accusations against the industry:
- Hoarding of Resources and Deprivation of Government Funding: For the 2012 fiscal year, the NEA awarded $3,216,000 in grants to 119 theater companies. Only 7 (5.88%) have been in existence for less than ten years. Government funding is essentially not available to the under-35 set.
- Exploitation of Young Labor through Un/Underpaid Internships: Out of the sixty LORT companies that advertise professional internships/apprenticeships/fellowships, only thirty–four of these companies (56.66%) claim to pay interns a weekly stipend. The average weekly stipend offered by these companies is $149.50.
- Profiting from the Peddling of Impractical Degrees: Similar to Mike Daisey’s American MFAs as Ponzi Scheme critique. Botvinik wonders if many US MFA programs would meet the standards of The Gainful Employment Act which is applied to new programs and asks them to prove that their students will be able to find work in their field after graduating in order to be eligible for financial aid.
Toronto Theatre: 5 Points of contention
U of T prof Holger Syme and director and artistic director Jacob Zimmer have had an in-depth discussion that has bounced back and forth between Syme’s dispositio and Zimmer’s Small Wooden Shoe site. The 5 Points of contentions with ‘approved’ summaries are:
- Our theatre needs classics: There are not enough plays from before the 20th century done in Toronto. This is in part due to false notions of relevance and nationalism.
- Our theatre is predictable: There is not enough diversity of practice and approaches to work – new or old. Every play should be treated as new. Timidity is bad and a healthy competition for innovation would help.
- There is never enough time: You can’t be innovative, or radical, or especially deep, or especially thoughtful in a three-week rehearsal process. It’s just not enough time.
- Our theatre is a deeply immoral institution: It is immoral and unsustainable for theatre to be in a continual semi-pro status. It leads to under-realized projects, one person self directed shows and jack-of-all-trades master-of-none “theatre artists.”
- Money isn’t doing what money should be doing: The funding distribution is broken and supports an unsustainably large number of companies with unsustainably small amounts of money. There are options other than direct Council funding to projects.
This conversation seems significant to me not because Syme and Zimmer agree about all these ideas, but because I’m hoping it could denote a turning point in the Canadian theatrosphere: Maybe long-form intelligent discussion and exchange of ideas is possible online after all?
Factory Theatre Battle for Hearts and Minds Continues
- Board chair Ron Struys confirmed: “We recently met with Ken with the help of an outside facilitator and agreed to get the wheels in motion for mediation in order to find common ground.” No information was given as to whether the search for a new artistic director, which is still on the Factory Theatre homepage, has ben halted.
- Michel Marc Bouchard has withdrawn his play Tom and the Coyote from the opening slot in their upcoming season. Bouchard cited the artist boycott of the theatre as his major motivation for the decision: “I cannot ask my production team to face the unheard of situation in which artists will be boycotting other artists.”
- The Factory Board responded to this withdrawal with a news release that lays the blame on what it calls, “boycott environment”.
- A whole bunch of famous Canadian artists wrote an open letter to the Factory Board regarding their use of the term “boycott environment”.
- The Actors Fund of Canada is accepting donations for the artists who just lost their jobs weeks before opening, with little hope of finding a replacement gig this late in the game. Social media commentators estimate lost wages to artists from the show’s cancelation to be approximately $80,000.