by Michael Wheeler
At every stop along the #G20Romp tour we have provided the same context to our participant detainees – the almost 300 Canadians from across the country who have participated in telling the story of what happened to people at G2o Toronto in 2010. We said, “Hopefully, if enough people do it and we gain enough momentum, when we conclude the tour in Ottawa Members of Parliament will also do what you are doing, and stand up for civil rights by playing detainees in the detention centre.”
Meanwhile, everyone we were talking to in Ottawa was telling us the same thing: This is possible, but there’s no way to know until the day of the performance. MPs have crazy, ever-changing schedules, and when Parliament is in session there’s no way to know when there will be a snap vote or debate to attend.
So there had been a big red circle around Wednesday November 20th in our calendar for a long time: the day we would find out whether or not we were nuts, lucky, or both.
The day went down like this:
Tommy Taylor goes on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning. Makes a pitch for MPs to join us onstage. Listen to his interview here.
News breaks that the RCMP believe Prime Minister Harper’s Chief of Staff Nigel wright committed bribery and fraud in connection with the ongoing Senate Scandal. Total radio silence from #cdnpoli journalists we had been connecting with as the biggest Parliamentary story of the year is breaking. Uh oh.
The whole #G20Romp team meets up at a coffee shop before heading off to a reception for the production on Parliament Hill organized by The Honourable Andrew Cash, Member of Parliament for Davenport.
Every MP, from every party, received 2 email invitations and 1 colour paper invitation to the reception. Still not clear if anyone will attend.
The reception for You Should Have Stayed Home takes place on Parliament Hill in Room 601, Centre Block. A number of Members of Parliament, media and Parliamentary staffers attend:
The reception goes great. Many MPs tell us they wish they could join us in the cage, but have prior commitments, not the least of which is a debate occurring at 9:30pm that night on sending aid to The Philippines. D’oh, that’s about the same time You Should Have Stayed Home will be ending onstage…. Nobody panics, Peggy Nash and Andrew Cash tell us they’ll see us at the theatre tonight. We say great and ask no questions about how that will work with their Parliamentary schedules.
On our way out, the whole #G20Romp team meets MP Pat Martin. I deeply regret not telling him that he is missed on Twitter.
The team regroups for some sub-par french fries at a sub-standard pub. We discuss the surreal quality of the day so far, and review options that will allow MPs to be in the show and make it back to Parliament for 9:30pm.
Rehearsal. 17 detainees arrive to learn the scene, including our 2 MPs. Andrew Cash live-tweets some of the rehearsal:
— Andrew Cash (@Cash4TO) November 21, 2013
When the rehearsal ends, we realize no one has any pictures of this momentous occasion! Quickly, those of us still in the room pose for a hastily arranged photo.
— Peggy Nash (@PeggyNashNDP) November 21, 2013
At this point, the issue of timing and schedules needs to be addressed. We devise a plan where after the scene is performed, MPs will exit the stage to the dressing rooms where they will have preset their belongings. This will allow them to see most of the show, perform in it, and still make it out of the theatre in time to return to Parliament for the debate.
An amazing performance by Tommy Taylor to a packed Arts Court theatre on opening night. Here’s what the thing we always wanted to do looks like from the booth. MPs on stage in the cage:
Several people have already asked me, “So was this just an NDP thing or what?” No. Not strictly speaking, although certainly the party most associated with social justice was the one that hosted us on the hill and performed in the show, and they deserve mad props for that.
A quantitative analysis of MP tweets and RTs to the #G20Romp hashtag would also reveal Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett as another huge supporter of our endeavours. Unfortunately, she let us know she was on a flight the night of our show. We also heard back from Green Party MP Elizabeth May, who sent her regrets from a climate change conference in Warsaw. So definitely the NDP came through for Praxis big-time – but on another day, in different circumstances, a multi-partisan cage might have been possible. We did not receive any expressions of interest from any of the Conservative MPs, all of whom were invited.
The entire #G20Romp team is pretty inspired by the participation of the Honourable Members of Parliament and we all went to bed very late, not really believing we actually pulled it off.