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September 5, 2012, by

Factory Theatre appoints “Interim Artistic Team”

by Michael Wheeler

Just four days after the call for applications for the job of Artistic Director closed, the Factory Theatre Board has appointed Nina Lee Aquino and Nigel Shawn Williams as the “Interim Artistic Team” for the 2012-2013 season. No explanation was given as to how long these roles are to be assumed and whether a permanent joint Artistic directorship is in the making.

Nina Lee Aquino and Nigel Shawn Williams

The news met mixed reaction on social media with some commenters noting that a mediation session with Ken Gass had been scheduled later in the week. For these commenters, making this announcement ahead of these talks reinforced the notion that the board was heading into these talks in bad faith.

Other commenters (myself included) applauded the selection of two artists that had a long history of working at Factory Theatre and were capable of carrying Ken’s vision forwards while infusing the institution with new ideas.

The news came later in a day when another Artistic Director, Buddies in Bad Times AD Brendan Healy, posted a popular Facebook note inspired by his first vacation after three years at the helm of the institution.

The note lays out “Four thoughts for my future self” (that are not about Ken Gass or the Factory Theatre but that have certainly been affected by Ken Gass and the Factory Theatre). They are expanded upon in the note, but the four thoughts are:

  1. I am not the theatre company and the theatre company is not me.
  2. The theatre company owes me nothing.
  3. I will lose everything.
  4. My work exists inside the people that I have shared it with.

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  1. maja ardal says:

    Nina Lee Aquino and Nigel Shawn Williams are terrific theatre creators who can be trusted with the task at hand. It will be hard but they have my support in working through this season, and keeping Factory Theatre healthy and relevant to its community. I really mean “support”. Glad to help in any way.
    How the board works things out with Ken is yet to be seen, but I strongly support the process that has been launched.

  2. Lucy White says:

    Great news that Factory is moving forward with a solid group of artists in the theatre. Along with Sara, staff, and board, I hope for a great season ahead. And, good thoughts for a positive outcome for the discussions with Ken.

  3. David Ferry says:

    This is a letter I submitted to the editor of the Globe and Mail in response to Mr. Nestruck’s recent article suggesting it was time for artists of the boycott list withdraw their boycott. I doubt it will be published.

    “Don’t Bogart that Boycott my friend.”

    Re: Factory Theatre: it’s time to end the boycott.

    Oh boychick, please don’t try to bogart that boycott, at least until you get right what it’s all about . 

    “Courageous artists” aside (and that coin has two sides sir….it ain’t easy for a working actor/director to cut himself off from employment opportunities ya know,) the boycott is not in large part about personalities, despite attempts by some of the fourth estate to paint it so. It is about board responsibility to artists in the management of our cultural houses. It is about the abject failure (refusal) of one particular Board of Directors of a vital cultural institution to respond responsibly to an extraordinary group of concerned artists when they take the unprecedented action of boycotting a favorite institution. Some of these artists have internationally acclaimed reputations on the line; some artists  have their very livelihood on the line. I (one of the latter and not the former) am frankly tired of Ron Struys characterization of these experienced, smart, business-acumened, reasonable artists as little more than children who are reacting emotionally. And for a theatre reviewer to accept at face value assertions that in all good will Mr. Struys and his board have graciously agreed to mediation and in the interim, to protect the damaged potential for a good season, have appointed some wonderful, sensitive, community lovin artistes is just so much poppycock. Everyone in the theatre community knows (or ought to) that both these fine artists were either seeking or being wooed for the full time artistic director job weeks before Ron Struys and his board agreed (I hear as a commitment to the Toronto Arts Council arising out of their concerns for the whole Factory boondoggle) to mediation. I think the term “dragged kicking and screaming” is not out of place as a characterization of the Factory board’s commitment to mediation. And then, to put a finer light on the board’s true disinterest in meaningful mediation, less that two days later the board announced “interim” ADs (in any other field this would be characterized as bad faith negotiation.)

    It would seem that Mr. Nestruck was invited in for a nice cuppa tea and an instructive chat at Factory. And it was a very sweet tea indeed. I am surprised his teeth didn’t start to ache.

    The issues here are long term ones in Canadian theatre board history (and other arts organzation boards.) Yes there are some fine boards and more importantly some fine dedicated arts lovers who sit on boards in order to advance the work of professional artists. But there have been, and unless checked, will continue to be, some appallingly patriarchal and abusive board actions over the years that have gone unaddressed by artists, arts councils, funders and audiences. Mr. Nestruck mentions the Startford debacle of 1980 (surely well before he was writing about theatre.) I was around and felt the pain it caused. Martha Henry staged her own lonely boycott of sorts at the theatre for some years because of it. I also remember the appalling treatment of Guy Sprung at CanStage some years ago…the MTC firing of Keith Turnbull in the early seventies. These actions were political, not because of some sense of fiduciary duty. Speaking of which, instead of focussing on “well intentioned but divisive boycott” issues, and disagreements over renovation plans, why not ask the most crucial question in most human endeavour Mr. Nestruck: “Where’s the money?” There’s a question that hasn’t been looked at closely in an investigative way at all during this whole crises.


    (Factory Theatre Boycott signatory) David Ferry

  4. David Ferry says:

    This is a response by playwright Paul Ledoux to Brendan Healey’s facebook post referenced here. Posted with permission from botjhPaul and Brendan:

    Hi Brendan;
    I just read your post that is “not about Ken Gass”. It is making the rounds and while I can’t argue with the sentiments you’ve expressed, which are a selfless expression of your devotion to our art and the institutions that serve it,  I think you need to carefully consider  how the post will be read.  And used in the hyper-political context of the Factory Crisis.
    The implication is that Ken beliefs and actions are the product of a selfish and egotistical disregard for the institution he created and has served diligently for the better part of the last forty years.  That’s very unfair to Ken and I think if you really consider his contribution you’ll be able to see his dedication shining through . Remember that when he was fired The Board freely admitted the theatre was in great shape. Financially stable, subscriptions up etc.
    I keep on saying to people who ask about this issue that it isn’t just about Ken it’s about something bigger and more important. It about the Board, their role in the governance of the theatre and their willful disregard for the community they are meant to serve. This is not the first time an artistic director has been fired but because of the intimate and very long relationship between this artistic director, our community and the theatre he has served the bigger issues are illuminated more clearly.
    I’m sure like most of us you have started a theatre company or two and , of course are running a very important company at the moment. You have dealt with Boards, and if you are lucky the Boards you have dealt with have been the passionate and  supportive advocates for the work you have undertaken.  But, like the ideal artist you have described in your posting, as individuals they also serve the theatre, not the other way around.  If a Board goes bad they can come to feel a kind of unhealthy ownership of the institution and if their vision is too narrow, their aspirations to timid and their ability to help achieve the dreams of the artists they serve fall short of their duty they must be opposed. 
    Here is what the Board has had to say about the more than 4000 artists who have spoken out against their arrogance and lack of vision in this crisis;
    First, on behalf of the Board, we truly regret that those artists, whom we value and on whom we rely to create such outstanding theatre, are upset. We acknowledge there is always a healthy tension between the creative community and the Boards that are responsible for the organizations. That said, there was a sound basis for the Board’s decision. We look forward to the opportunity in the near future to explain our vision to those artists who believe in Factory
    Theatre and the opportunities it may offer them.
    They are condemned by their own words, so condescending and self-congratulatory. They are sure the artists of Toronto will believe in “their vision” of the theatre. Their vision, not the vision of the artists the theatre was created to serve.
    Their vision.  They are not professional atists. They are members of the larger community who we have counted on because we believed their love of the theatre was like our own.  We do not recruit them to tell us what to do, we ask their help in getting it done.  Their  job isn’t to have a vision – it’s to serve our vision.
    In effect this Board has  staged a palace coup. When I personally tried to see what democratic remedies the community might have to resist their decisions they would not even so much as give me access to the by-laws of the theatre, which lay out a process whereby those who care about the theatre can becomes “Members” with an input of the Board’s actions.  Their press releases are full of inaccuracies and misrepresentations of people’s  positions, even, with the ultimate arrogance, those of Ken Gass who’s statements have been taken out of context in pursuit of their political goals. 
    Thus we see that on the cusp of a mediation forced upon them by community action they appoint interim artistic directors and beneath the news of the appointment also post a listing of  the artists tied to the theatre, for the most part,  by grants received when Ken was still in charge, thus implying a support for the new artistic team and, de facto,  the Boards firing of Ken and their reprehensible behavior there after. I don’t believe all this artists are so strong in their convictions. Ibelieve they are trapped by economics and given a chance would remain neutral. The Board are using these artists as canon fodder in their campaign. Another sleazy move.
    Now, with mediation begun and confidentiality rules in place that do not allow Ken to speak publically  they have begin a  counter-attack trying to get good and honorable artists like yourself to side with their decisions “for the good of the theatre.”  But when Boards assume the power to impose “their vision” on the artist who serve the higher goals of their art, who dream big and give their lives to that art what we are looking at is  a form of tyranny.  And the artist you describe in your posting would fight for his art and his theatre in the face of that tyranny. 
    So I urge you not to condemn Ken Gass and the many of us who support his reinstatement by implying his is a selfish fight or that we who support him with nothing to in some way are less dedicated to the aspirations you wonderfully express in your posting.  Our service to our art is not passive and at times it must be political. That is truly the way of the artist.


  5. Thanks for these David. Always nice to have multiple points of view in the comments.

    I’m not sure that either of these letters address what they are theoretically responding to.

    Factory firing Ken Gass isn’t an issue that I find myself compelled to be passionate about compared to the multiple battles Aislinn Rose cited in her response to your original letter:

    The only major new provincial funding given to businessmen to build a tourism festival, Equity actively suppressing indie artists, The City adopting a neoliberal culture plan that places the amount of revenue it can generate as the core value of art. These are the sorts of issues artists I talk to are worked up about.

    The number one thing people talk to me about when the Factory situation comes up is that it is making them want to quit the internet, or at least Facebook. As long and passionate as these letters are, I think they serve to reinforce the notion that this issue is becoming a divisive distraction from fixing the more important issues facing our industry.

    I don’t see how Paul’s Facebook letter addresses the points that Brendan Healy (no “e) makes in his note. It repeats the same critique many of us have heard or read multiple times (which may or may not resonate with us), and then because the writer identifies with it, thinks Brendan shouldn’t have communicated his own different thoughts (not) on the matter. But it doesn’t really it address the SUBSTANCE of what he wrote.

    This is why I think the whole Factory thing is making people hate the internet – we are talking past each other. Whoever talks the most the loudest gets to be right. When that happens, everyone turns off and tunes out.

  6. David Ferry says:

    OK boss. I think I hear in your refrain a paraphrased old Rolling Stones tune:
    “hey, you, get offa my blog”

    So I will…..just one last point, to quote Thomas Jefferson:

    “It is more honorable to repair a wrong than to persist in it.”

  7. Hey David,

    Please don’t interpret my comment as wanting you (or anyone who is willing to debate reasonably) to stop using this space for conversation. Two long comments in a row, deserve a response though no?

    “You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.”

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Ezra Stiles Ely, June 25, 1819

  8. Philip Akin says:

    Since we are getting all Jeffersonian I thought this might helps us illuminate the man a bit more.

    “A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.
    Thomas Jefferson

  9. What? Jefferson was against football?!? Why does he hate liberty so much?

  10. Philip Akin says:

    Yeah that Tommy J. High minded words and phrases that speak to injustice and the like and in the meantime he not only keeps slaves but keeps one of them, Sally Hemings, as a concubine and fathers 6 children on her. While I suppose he deserves some credit for actually freeing the children at some point he never freed her and she was only set free after his death. So I am not so much down with Tommy J. The fact that he didn’t like football? Well ’nuff said.

  11. Factory Boycott signatories says:

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012

    “It is with sadness that we, the undersigned participants of the Factory Boycott of 2012, witness Ken Gass’s honourable exit from the whole debacle. We respect Ken’s decision to do so and understand his desire to move on. However:

    While we do not want to impinge on fellow artists who need or desire to make their art on the stages of that venerable old dame, Factory Theatre, we believe that theatre artists are, and must be, responsible for the actions they take when dealing with unacceptable theatre governance.

    Therefore we cannot move on without reiterating that the board of Factory theatre has behaved in an appallingly disrespectful and off-handed manner, not only towards Ken Gass but to the 4000 plus people who signed a petition protesting the board actions, the significant group of artists and other citizens who participated in the Factory boycott and, indeed, all of The Factory’s stakeholders within the community.

    We believe the nine directors on the board showed and continue to show contempt for the artists and arts supporters who asked simply for meaningful dialogue, respectful action and serious mediation in this sorry affair. As long as the current board still reigns, there will be a black asterisk next to the name of Factory theatre.

    It is our belief that Mr. Struys and his cohorts entered into the process cynically and in bad faith. Both prior to and during the month of August they ignored mediation opportunities that might have saved the season from collapse. Only 36 hours before the start of mediation the Board appointed an interim artistic director team charged with finding replacement shows. This pre-empted any meaningful possibility of Gass’s involvement in the season should mediation be successful. Given the board’s steadfast refusal to respond to any community demands over the past three months, is it surprising that mediation failed?

    Is this what the artists, Factory supporters and audiences deserve?

    Our answer is a resounding; “No!”

    Mr. Struys and the Factory board may feel today that they have simply “played a hand” well, that their policies of stonewalling and intransigence have paid off. However, there is no justice here, only shame. We believe there can be no true peace in this community unless and until the current Factory board resigns. Furthermore we wish for an engaged, renewed Factory board and membership that will be committed to putting in place a code of conduct that respects artists’ moral right to determine how our theatres are run.

    We urge the various arts councils (OAC, TAC, CC), foundations and artist organizations engaged in collective bargaining to proactively engage our theatres in a dialogue about Board conduct. In the end the broader issue of who owns our theatres and artist participation in the governance of the institutions we have built must be addressed.

    We fervently believe that only then we will be able to truly move forward. Only then can we go about healing the wounds within the community. Only then can this black mark be expunged from the Factory’s inspiring history. ”

    Maja Ardal
    Liza Balkan
    Nancy Beatty
    Steven Bush
    Jack Blum
    David Boechler
    Mark Brownell
    Richard Alan Campbell
    Shari Caldwell
    Cheryl Cashman
    Alex Castillo-Smith
    John Cleland
    Sharon Corder
    Laura de Carteret
    David Christo
    Jason Dietrich
    Bruce Dow
    Shawn Doyle
    Atom Egoyan
    David Ferry
    Peter Feldman
    Barry Flatman
    Kelli Fox
    Verne Good
    Kyra Harper
    Martha Henry
    Kate Hewlett
    Maggie Huculak
    Stuart Hughes
    C. David Johnson
    Arsinée Khanjian
    Jeanette Lambermont-Morey
    Michelle Latimer
    Diana LeBlanc
    Paul Ledoux
    Patricia Ludwick
    Sallie Lyons
    Kate Lynch
    Joe Madziak
    Sarah Manninen
    Jefferson Mappin
    Meridith McGeachie
    Seana Mckenna
    Elana McMurty
    Andrew Moodie
    Lisa Norton
    Rahnuma Panthaky
    Vickie Papavs
    Soheil Parsa
    Ronald Pederson
    Gordon Pinsent
    Irene Poole
    Miles Potter
    Geoffrey Pounsett
    Susan Purdy
    Fiona Reid
    Kim Renders
    Maria Ricossa
    John Roby
    Dani Romain
    Jonathan Rooke
    Lora Senechal Carney
    Mike Sereny
    Julie Stewart
    Sally Szuster
    Bill Talbot
    Dylan Trowbridge
    Joanne Vanicola
    Patricia Vanstone
    Sugith Varughese
    George F. Walker
    Brendan Wall
    David S. Young
    Margaret Zeidler

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