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

Category: Section 98

October 15, 2010, by

New bail conditions placed on activist Alex Hundert mean he is now banned from speaking to the media. This bail condition comes after he was arrested  for speaking on A G20-themed panel at Ryerson University which was deemed by police "attending a demonstration" - also against the law in his case.

New bail conditions placed on activist Alex Hundert mean he is now banned from speaking to the media. This bail condition comes after he was arrested for speaking on a G20-themed panel at Ryerson University which was deemed by police "attending a demonstration" - also against the law in his case.

by Michael Wheeler

Only total disregard  and contempt for democratic rights could lead to a Canadian citizen being informed he or she may not speak on a university panel or to the media or they will be arrested. Especially when that person is talking articulately about the largest series of mass arrests and civil rights violations in Canadian history.

The police and Crown justification to this “unprecedented” infringement of rights is that allowing Alex Hundert to speak may endanger public safety. This excuse is so poor, distasteful, and utterly unconvincing, that it is an unmitigated insult to anyone who just wasted brain power considering it.

Bottom line: we have a constitution that means something (The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms), or we do not. For it to exist in any meaningful way, it must enshrine the right of citizens who wish to speak both for and against the government. If it doesn’t do this very basic job then it totally useless, and Canada is one-step from being a tinpot dictatorship. “Rights” as we understand them in our society are beginning to have anything other little more than a cursory, symbolic meaning. If this ruling stands, it is safe to say we no longer live in a free and democratic society.

Now I am not a lawyer. I have never even taken my LSATs – but a cursory glance at the Charter indicates nine different rights the Crown and police have violated in this case:


Fundamental freedoms

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.

Life, liberty and security of person

7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

Detention or imprisonment

9. Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

Arrest or detention

10. Everyone has the right on arrest or detention
(a) to be informed promptly of the reasons therefor;
(b) to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right; and
(c) to have the validity of the detention determined by way of habeas corpus and to be released if the detention is not lawful.

Proceedings in criminal and penal matters

11. Any person charged with an offence has the right
(a) to be informed without unreasonable delay of the specific offence;
(b) to be tried within a reasonable time;
(c) not to be compelled to be a witness in proceedings against that person in respect of the offence;
(d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal;
(e) not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause;

Treatment or punishment

12. Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

Read more here in The Toronto Star

September 7, 2010, by

Jesus Chrysler Lab Cab

by Michael Wheeler

In the winter of 2009 I attended a theatre history lecture at Toronto Free Gallery by Alex Fallis on The Progressive Arts Club and the theatre created by artists who were opposed to many of the anti-civil rights policies enacted by Prime Minister Bennett in the 1930s. These people proved to be so fascinating that I elected to create with Praxis Theatre a show about them, Tim Buck 2, which played at The Tranzac Club as part of the 2009 Toronto Fringe Festival.

This led to our Harbourfront Centre HATCH workshop Section 98, which expanded the scope of our work to some other instances when civil rights proved to be a contentious issue for Canadians: namely the FLQ crisis, the Air India bombing, Omar Khadr, and the treatment of Afghan detainees captured by Canadian soldiers. Both the Fringe show and our HATCH workshop were extremely useful in terms of exploring who these people were, what they were concerned about, and the complexity of balancing our country’s commitment to civil rights and concerns of national security.

Unfortunately, neither of these initial explorations did an awesome job of storytelling.  So this spring and summer we went back to the drawing board with this project and thought about how to move beyond ‘staged dramaturgy’ and into narrative-based work informed by these themes.

The most consistent positive feedback from our open source creative process revolved around curiosity and fascination with Eugenia “Jim” Watts.

The most consistent positive feedback from our open source creative process revolved around curiosity and fascination with Eugenia “Jim” Watts.

Both presentations involved an online component that allowed the audience to participate with or respond to our work: Tim Buck 2 asked the audience to return to the website to learn the results of a poll conducted at the conclusion of a debate at the end of the show. These posts also generated some interesting conversations in their comments sections.

Section 98 was more intrinsically attached to the internet with Praxis Artistic Producer Aislinn Rose acting as Open Source Project Leader, sharing parts of our process online, actively seeking participation from our community, and developing an infrastructure that encouraged live feedback over the web or through texts during the workshop presentation.

There were also quite a few normal conversations, in person, with live human beings who had seen the show(s).

The first conclusion was that the core personality we had explored that generated a unique resonance with both audiences and ourselves was Eugenia “Jim” Watts, played in both productions by Margaret Evans. A core political organizer and theatre director in 1930s Toronto, she co-directed the legendary civil rights play banned by Bennett, Eight Men Speak, and later went on to be one of two women serving with the Mackenzie Papineau Brigade in the Spanish Civil War where she was an ambulance driver. She was also involved with a number of other projects; she was very busy, and interesting, and worth being the impetus for a work of art.

Margaret Evans playing Jim Watts in Section 98 as part of HATCH at Harbourfront Centre

Margaret Evans playing Jim Watts in Section 98 as part of HATCH at Harbourfront Centre

The second conclusion was that this piece required a playwright, and a good one. This playwright would preferably be an artist who had experience creating theatre about historical events for a contemporary audience (we talked a lot about avoiding a ‘bio pic’) and a passion for social justice.

So it is with much pleasure and excitement we announce Dora-winning playwright Tara Beagan has joined Praxis Theatre in continuing our work on this latest iteration, . Tara and I worked together for two years on Crate Productions’ The Fort at York, and she also acted as an outside eye for Praxis on our Toronto Fringe 07 co-pro, Dyad, but Jesus Chrysler is her first official work with Praxis Theatre and we are thrilled to welcome her.

Jesus Chrysler will be presented at The Factory Theatre as part of Lab Cab on Saturday September 18 and Sunday September 19 at 5pm. The entire festival is free with all manner of art and experiences presented by over 50 artists throughout every nook and cranny of The Factory from noon to 6pm each day. We invite you to come check out the whole festival and save your 5pm – 5:20pm slot for us. This being a Praxis show, we’ll definitely welcome your feedback online or in person, with a particular emphasis on your thoughts about our transition to a script based work about a single individual.

Hope to see you there!

Where’s Praxis? Can you find Tara, Margaret and Michael in the Lab Cab poster?

Where’s Praxis? Can you find Tara, Margaret and Michael in the Lab Cab poster? Click to enlarge

June 28, 2010, by

Section 98 in Toronto

Approximately 100 people were penned into the intersection of Spadina and Queen from 5:30pm to 9:42pm on June 27th. A number of them were unsuspecting passersby in the wrong place at the wrong time. During most of this saga there were severe thunderstorms. No one was given access to washrooms, many complained their cellphones broke from immersion in such a heavy downpour for such an extended period of time. They were all released unconditionally without charges.

by Michael Wheeler

Well that sucked.

G20 has come and gone and left Canada and Toronto with the bitter taste of militarized rule, decreased civil rights and a communique that asks countries to make massive cuts to social spending to make up for a massive transfer of wealth from the public to private sphere.

Each day had shocking events. Some overplayed by media: How many times can they loop the same image of that police car burning at Bay and King? Some completely under-reported: Squeaky clean Steve Paikin twittered the police brutality at a peaceful protest on The Esplanade was worse than anything he had seen in war zones, yet there has been no other coverage of this event.

As hopefully even a casual observer of this website knows, Praxis Theatre has been spending the past year working on a show called Section 98 (see the icon in the top right corner?). This show began by looking at artists who responded to members of the Communist Party being jailed under Section 98 which allowed authorities to jail and harass anyone they wanted really for “unlawful associations”. In particular, we focused on The Progressive Arts Club, who created a play addressing the erosion of civil rights called Eight Men Speak. The show had a single performance for 1200 people before being shut down by order of Prime Minister Bennett. The performance took place at the Standard Theatre, which was located a few blocks north of the picture above on Spadina Ave.

In both our Fringe Show and  Harbourfront Centre HATCH workshop, we looked also at a number of different challenges to civil rights in Canada, including The FLQ crisis, The Air India bombing, the Afghan detainee situation and yes, Omar Khadr. After this weekend, it seems there is another episode in Canada’s civil rights history to add to our list: G20.

CBC reports that there have now been more arrests this weekend than at the WTO Protests in Seattle or during The FLQ Crisis in Quebec. 900 Canadians found themselves jailed by the largest mobilization of police and equipment in Canadian history.

This video documents police assaulting a journalist and taking his equipment.

Perhaps more significant than the sheer number of arrests was the deliberate and secret maneuvers by the Ontario Provincial cabinet to use an order in council to create a regulation within The Public Works Act, to have the area surrounding the $5.5 million perimeter fence a Charter-free zone. Where as in the rest of Canada you have the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, in the area surrounding the fence this suddenly became not the case. Notice of this law will be published in the Ontario Gazette, the official journal of provincial laws, after the summit is over.

Already this law will be subjected to a Charter challenge and both the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star penned scathing editorials condemning the secretive limiting of civil liberties by the Liberal Government without notice or debate. Just to drum in what kind of pre-hysteria consensus there was on this topic, even reactionary columnists like Marcus Gee agreed that this time the state had overstepped its bounds.

News of their decreased access to Charter rights reached Torontonians on Friday morning, one day before small cells of approximately 70 black clad activists using subterfuge and misdirection hijacked a march by more than 10,000 advocates for global justice. I attended the march on June 26th by myself, arriving late for the speeches but just in time to march with my bike and camera phone in tow. The vast majority of the experience was what I would call upbeat, peaceful and extraordinarily well attended. The hundreds of police outside the US embassy just seemed obscene, free hugs were given out at Dundas and University, somebody was smoking a joint, Tibetan activists marched with labour activists who marched with just plain old citizens with no evident affiliation. The number of police visible between Queen and Front at north-south intersections seemed comic at the time.

These are some of the shots I took with my camera phone during the march

The first signs of trouble began at the corner of Queen and Spadina where activists were asked to turn away from the summit site and begin marching back to the provincial legislature at Queen’s Park at College and Spadina. A group of hooded activists began to set off flares near the south-west corner of the intersection. Immediately you could feel the mood of the crowd change. I heard a number of plans to vacate the area be made quickly by many, but huge amounts of curious onlookers remained: The whole thing was so crazy it was hard to turn away -hundreds of cops marching like stormtroopers (the Star Wars kind), fireworks, people who looked like ninjas – there was a lot to take in. I was jolted out of this display by a number of individuals running east with purpose down the back alleys that run behind the north side of Queen St. There was an energy to their movements that spooked me and reminded me of protests run amok from my youth. I knew I didn’t need to be there anymore. Got on my bike, started riding home.

Didn’t get there before my Mom and brother both called me and asked me the same question: “Where are you?” They were watching the news and vandalism had begun. (No not violence, vandalism.) I rode home faster to turn on the television. In front of me on the television, where I had removed my k-way pants in front of Steve’s Music not 45 minutes earlier, something terrible was happening: The message that so many of us had just marched to give a voice to was superseded by a small number of what the media are calling “anarchists”, but I think are more accurately termed “nihilists”. I write this because true anarchists have a value system that allows them to determine the effectiveness of their tactics. Orwell fought in Spain against the Fascists with anarchists – these folks are disaffected youth that are into extreme sports and clearly they don’t care if they do Stephen Harper a really big favour.

The other favour they did was to give motivation to the most militant aspects of Toronto Police leadership to mobilize their massive security resources to crack down on Canadians in a way the streets of Toronto haven’t seen since Section 98 was still on the books. Journalists were arrested and had their equipment confiscated on Yonge St., peaceful protesters sitting on the lawn of the sanctioned and designated protest site at Queen’s Park were clubbed and pepper sprayed, demonstrators whose provocation was singing the national anthem were charged and beaten on Queen St. W.

This video shows police beating and pepper spraying activists who returned to the provincial legislature, which was the designated protest zone. This area is in the opposite direction from where the summit took place.

All the places we normally hang out, grab a coffee, do some shopping, became violent zones where the state machinery could capture you, process you, and ship you to a cage. These are simply the incidents we have immediate video footage of hours after G20 has concluded. Reports from those released from the makeshift jail at the film studios on Eastern Ave. paint a grim picture of “pens” crammed with activists that had no access to a lawyer for up to twenty-four hours. Female inmates reported being forced to use the toilet in front of male guards and not having access to toilet paper.

There is virtually no silver lining to hosting G20. None of the things that Canadians consistently say matter to them made the agenda at the G20. The environment, foreign aid, our responsibilities to one another as global citizens – these things all took a backseat to the images and incidents that ripped across the city. No one talked about Why the banks were bailed out. No one talked about Why we refuse to fund life-saving drugs for HIV positive patients in Africa. No one talked about What principals underpin maternal health. No one talked about Why if  it costs the U.N. $1.9 Billion to run year-round and Why it will cost almost the same to host three days of meetings that could have happened at the U.N. anyway. No one talked about What effect climate change will have on the world’s poor.

Every newspaper and media outlet spent the weekend throwing together exposes on “The Black Bloc” and their tactics. Less than 1% of the demonstrators hijacked an entire conversation and thousands of voices. Elements of police leadership jumped at this opportunity and used tactics and laws never before deemed acceptable against law-abiding activists.

Canada has a long history of struggling to secure national and public security while attempting to balance the public’s right to the basic freedoms that are assumed in a Western democracy. This weekend is full of bad omens for those who believe that Charter freedoms should be protected for all Canadians and that those in power can be trusted to preserve them. We have seen the state become a weapon against its own citizens – and the only correct response should be outrage that our leaders don’t safeguard our freedoms with the reverence and respect they deserve. We have lost much and gained nothing.

This video shows police attacking peaceful protesters singing the national anthem.

April 6, 2010, by

Melissa HATCH - 2

Melissa Hood looks over her notes during rehearsal.  Photo by Hugh Probyn

by Aislinn Rose

In October 2009, Struts and Frets blogger Kris Joseph posted On theatre in society: porosity in  response to Mike Daisey’s How Theater Failed America, about the current dysfunction of funding models for American theatre, as well as Chris Ashworth’s Toward a New Funding Model for Theater, in which he argues that “the process is the product”, and therein lies a new approach to funding.  Joseph asserts in his post that he is, “now more convinced than ever that theatre can and must distinguish itself from film, TV, and new media by being completely porous to its audience.He goes on to write that theatre artists must share their process by becoming integral parts of the communities where they work, and that the community should feel completely part of that work.

The post inspired an equally interesting conversation in its comments section, with Praxis Co-Artistic Director & Director of Section 98 Michael Wheeler commenting that the work we were doing with Section 98’s Open Source Theatre project was in part an attempt to make our process integral to our relationship with our audience, in preparation for our work-in-progress presentation for Harbourfront Centre’s HATCH season.  We though the issues we were addressing would benefit from discussion and wanted to get our community involved as early in the process as possible.

Another commenter wrote to say that he normally runs screaming from the room when it comes to “art as process” work, with only a few exceptions.  However, he was in complete agreement with a point made by Ashworth (in reference to sharing the development process with the audience) about editing out “the boring bits”.  Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?  Easier said than done I think.

It’s been a few weeks since our HATCH presentation and we’re still sorting through the feedback.  In an effort to open ourselves up to our community, we recorded our process online and encouraged audience members to text us during the show with the texts posted live to our blog throughout the presentation, and we asked our audience members to continue sending us their feedback after they’d gone home and had a chance to reflect.  Some chose to return to our blog with that feedback, and others emailed us or sent messages via Facebook.

Here’s our best attempt to provide an unbiased overview of the synthesis of this feedback under the major categories it addressed.

Open Source/Interactive:

Laura Texting HATCH

Assistant Director Laura Nordin operated the texting software during the performance and transferred the comments to the website. Photo by Hugh Probyn

A text received during the show:

Open Source1

An unsolicited Facebook message after the show:

experience design

Do I want to meet?  Hell yes!  I had to google “experience design” to find out it was an actual thing.

And in response to the texting:


And from a texter with a smart phone with access to our blog throughout the show:

Texting 3

And from a post-show blogger:


The Q&A at the end of the show yielded a number of comments on this topic, with many saying they found the texting to be distracting, or that they prefer to lose themselves in the theatre rather than participating in every day life activities like texting.  Others really liked that they were able to communicate with us throughout the show, but they wanted to see it further integrated into what they actually see onstage.  Lots to think about here!

Multiple Plot Lines:


Greta Papageorgiu presents “Section 98 for Dummies”. Photo by Hugh Probyn

Section 98 was investigating the history of Civil Rights in Canada, with a particular eye on the Communists of the 1930s, the FLQ and the War Measures Act in the 1970s, and Afghan Detainees in the modern era.  Some audience members found the inclusion of so much information to be confusing, or questionable:


The audience at the Q&A seemed to divide neatly into two camps on this issue.  On the one side there were people who felt that the multiple topics were too scattered and they were having trouble tying it all together.  Another perspective suggested this was not the time to condense our story yet… that we should “keep blowing it up and making us make the connections ourselves (which I’m sure we’ll continue to do for several days)” as one participant commented.  Or, as it was put another way, “I kind of like you throwing a bunch of shit up there… you’re giving us homework”.

General’s Testimony:

General Greta

Photo of the Three Generals from my iPhone during rehearsal.

As part of the presentation, we also included verbatim texts of the testimony given by General Rick Hillier, Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, and Major-General David Fraser after the explosive testimony of Richard Colvin, in which he alleged that Canadian Soldiers knowingly transferred Afghan detainees to torture in Afghan prisons.  Here’s some of what we got during the show:


So we discovered that most people found this material to be deadly boring (including my mom).  There were, however, a few people who found the transcripts to be interesting, while others suggested we could absolutely continue working with them… once we had sculpted it with our point of view.  “There’s no such thing as neutral.”  This is fascinating to me since we had been so concerned about taking the material out of context and were committed to presenting it exactly as we found it.

Omar Khadr:


Image by Darren O’Donnell

Omar Khadr also caused some disagreement.  I am, of course, not referring to the real Omar Khadr, the one who was captured at the age of 15 and lives in Guantanamo Bay.  I’m referring to another of our Open Source Theatre commenters who went by the moniker of “Omar Khadr” in response to Open Source Entry # 4: Checking for a Pulse.  Some of these comments were included in our show.  Here are some of the responses this material generated, in the order in which they were received:

Omar Comments

Some thought the sections to be “extraneous” or “questionable”, while another said, ““Omar” really turned out to be a lynchpin of the show.”

Fake Omar requested that we not take him out of context so we recorded his text using an imagined internet/robot voice.  While people couldn’t agree on whether or not we should have included this material, most could agree that the robot voice should go.

Jim Watts

Margaret HATCH - 2

Margaret Evans as “Jim” Eugenia Watts. Photo by Hugh Probyn

If there’s one thing that most people could agree on, it was Communist/Theatre Artist/Revolutionary Jim Watts… the kind of character I would have liked to encounter in Canadian History classes in public school.  Here’s what people had to say about her:


More post-show feedback continued in this vein, with suggestions that Jim really is the anchor of our show.  To me, this is one of the most successful aspects of this workshop because we were fascinated by Jim while developing Tim Buck 2 when this show started at the Fringe, but she really didn’t emerge as a centrepiece in that iteration of the project.

What Now?

So, what do we do when half of our audience tells us they hate something about our show, while the other half says, “it was our favourite part”?   One commenter may have addressed the challenge of conflicting advice best:

“If I start commenting on Linux, [an open source, collaboratively developed operating system] no one is going to listen, for very good reasons (I don’t know much about code.) So, how, in this world of aesthetic and political difference, can you tell […] who to listen to – who shares any values.”

This question of “who to listen to” is a great one, and will be on our minds as we dig deeper into all of the feedback.  Which of the responses can we add to our “source code” to enhance our work, and which responses will “crash” it?  As we continue in our efforts to be “porous” with our audience, please stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss our own responses to the feedback, and where Section 98 is headed.

March 13, 2010, by

What are you understanding?

What aren’t you understanding?

What are you thinking about?

March 13, 2010, by

Dave Tompa on how he scored the juicy role of an NDP Member of Parliament in Praxis Theatre’s Section 98

Praxis Theatre’s one-night-only workshop presentation of Section 98 is finally here.  Do you have your tickets yet?  Last night we had an invite-only dress rehearsal, and we learned a lot.  In particular, after all these years of audiences being told to turn their cell phones off, we’re finding it a bit of a challenge to encourage you not only to leave them on, but to actually put them to use during the show.  So we’re hoping to see you and your cell phones at the Harbourfront Centre tonight at 8pm.

Check out Praxis Theatre’s Co-Artistic Director Michael Wheeler talking to Harbourfront about our “Open Source” show, and why you need to bring your phones.  See you tonight!

Harbourfront Centre’s Upfront talks “Open Source Theatre” with Praxis Co-Artistic Director, Michael Wheeler

March 12, 2010, by

Tell us what you’re thinking as you’re thinking it!  We want to hear what you think of our show…

March 10, 2010, by

Tech Day in 2 Minutes or Less

Shot at the Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, 2010 by Brittney Filek-Gibson, edited by Mike Last

by Aislinn Rose

We’re here on Day Three of HATCH at the Harbourfront Centre Studio Theatre, preparing for our work-in-progress presentation of Section 98. Some of you are familiar with the nature of “Tech Day”, but part of the purpose of our Open Source Theatre project is to reach a wider, non-theatre going audience… so for those of you who are not familiar with tech days, our Stage Coordinator Brittney Filek-Gibson – also known as BFG, also known as Praxis Theatre’s Social Media Sheriff – has created an amazing little video for you, that I like to call “Tech Day in 2 Minutes or Less”.  In reality, tech days are much longer.  8 hours longer.  Sometimes 12.

Don't go to the theatre regularly?  Tell us why in the comments section and we'll give you a free ticket to our show!

Don't go to the theatre regularly? Tell us why in the comments section and we'll give you a free ticket to our show!

So, to all you non-theatre goers… did you have any idea that theatre artists and technicians go through all of this just to make things pretty for your arrival?  If you don’t normally go to the theatre, or if you used to go to the theatre but don’t anymore… we want to hear from you.  What’s keeping you away?  What can we do to get you here?  Tell us why you don’t go to the theatre in the comments section below, and we’ll give you a free ticket to our show this Saturday night!

My mum has had a really hard time getting my dad to the theatre ever since she took him to a production of Man of La Mancha over 25 years ago, and a man “pranced around the stage on a broom pretending he was riding a horse”.  To make matters worse for my dad, it was Good Friday and all the bars were closed.

March 9, 2010, by


by Aislinn Rose

I asked for it…

On February 24th, I woke up to find an email from Section 98’s director Michael Wheeler, saying “have you been following my conversation with Omar Khadr?”.  I’m sorry, what?  Now, I think it says a lot about Mike that my first thought was, “if anyone’s going to find a way to have a conversation with Omar Khadr, it’s Mike”.  Or maybe it says a lot about me.  Then it dawned on me that a week earlier I had mentioned Omar Khadr in my Open Source entry “Checking for a Pulse“.  I had dared to suggest that if one is going to support human rights and civil liberties, then one must do so in all cases, and, instead of quoting Margaret Chase this time, I’m going to quote Oscar winning actress Mo’nique: “sometimes you have to forego what’s popular in order to do what’s right”.  I also said, based on this idea, that I’d like to know when we would be bringing Omar Khadr home.  If I was going to find Mike’s conversation with “Omar Khadr” anywhere, I was betting it would be at the end of this post.

I headed to the comments section of the post, and there it was: ‘Everyone calm down! It’s me, Omar Khadr!‘… and it looked like Mike and Omar had stayed up “conversing” until the wee hours of the morning as well.

Don’t feed the trolls

If you spend a lot of time (angrily) reading reader comments on news sites like I do, you’ll often find the line, “don’t feed the trolls”.  Can I go so far as to call this person a troll?  Wikipedia defines an Internet Troll as “someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”  Well, the posts were reasonably on-topic, but cue the inflammatory on his end, and the emotional on my end.  Ultimately, I don’t want to call this person a troll as I think he truly believes in his point of view (and isn’t just engaging in order to be a nuisance), but at the same time, he isn’t posting to debate or discuss.  He’s posting to say “how it is”.

I was surprised at first that Mike had taken on a somewhat similarly comedic tone with his responses.  Good on him for not taking the bait I guess, but I was also frustrated at the amount of misinformation sitting there that was going undisputed (in the beginning).  It’s so very easy to spout inflammatory statements like, ‘“The Young Offenders Act?!” Even I know that was replaced in 2003!‘ as thought that actually means something.  In this case, it means nothing.  While the YOA was replaced in 2003 with the Youth Criminal Justice Act, Omar was captured in 2002, and therefore still covered by the YOA.  Regardless, the new Act still considers youth to be between the ages of 12 and 18, and Omar was 15 when captured.  So what was his point, other than to say something in an authoritative manner, thereby casting doubt on Mike’s earlier assertions?

Same goes for such lines as ‘here’s the only law that DOES apply to me and my “situation”‘ (when in fact there ARE other international laws relating to child soldiers that apply to him and his situation), and ‘(unlike a lot of these bastards at Gitmo) I was actually charged WITH A CRIME‘… as were other Guantanamo Bay detainees who, regardless of their charges and/or convictions, were still released to the custody of their respective countries.  I’ve always enjoyed people saying that Canada is unique, or special, but not when we’re unique because the only Western citizen remaining in Guantanamo Bay is Canadian.


Omar Khadr: Then & Now

… can we send it back?

The “debate” went on for a few days, with Mike and another valiant participant going head to head with this person… and I just sat back watching, wondering what to do, feeling a little bit useless, and a little bit overwhelmed.  Oh, not by the level of debate, don’t get me wrong.  In fact, when I first started reading his comments, I actually thought it might be satire.  I thought, here is an ignorant, arrogant Colbert-like character playing up the ridiculousness of “the other side”… you know, that side that suggests the only reason anyone is interested in Omar’s rights in this case is ‘because they hate America, they hate what it stands for‘.   It would almost be funny if he weren’t actually being utterly serious… in a quasi-funny, (mis)appropriated, and conveniently anonymous voice.  So the level of debate wasn’t what was overwhelming me.

No, it was more about the fact that I knew engaging him further was useless. Consider, for a moment, his insistence that Omar is guilty (though he has yet to be tried), and his complete dismissal of the evidence to the contrary provided by Mike.  In fact, any good point in the real Omar’s favour was simply met with something like ‘just which side are you on? Because it sounds like you’re on mine! This is fantastic, I need another “useful idiot”‘.  So t. schwellnus gets called an idiot… not by the writer of course, but by “Omar”… so he gets away with it.

And then there’s the issue of my being a woman.  Fake Omar’s first comment said (in reference to me), ‘what’s with the lady that hates “Borat” and why is she even allowed to view such Western filth?’.  After that, I (wrongly or rightly) assumed that any comment I made would be met with a similar ‘joke’ about my place as a woman.  He would be ‘in character’ of course, and I would be expected to be able to take a joke of course… otherwise I’m just another one of those humourless shrews we see portrayed on the television every day.  I didn’t say any of this to anyone, yet I was asked by a female friend if this was one of the reasons I wasn’t responding to the discussion.  And let me tell you now, I’m not proud of the fact that I stayed away.

Finally, it is overwhelming to know that there are so many people out there like this person.  As Mike said in one of his responses, ‘it is valuable for the production to acknowledge that the reason Omar Khadr is in Guantanamo Bay is because there are many, many people, just like you out there.’.  I don’t mind that people have differing opinions than my own, not at all.  I just want to be able to have discussions with those people where we can share what we think and what we know, and actually drive the discussion forward.  I love to learn, and I therefore love it when someone proves me wrong… but that can only happen if I actually listen to what the other person is saying.

t. schwellnus may have said it to fake Omar best: ‘I don’t know what your intentions are, ultimately, but this shit just kinda makes me crazy‘.

We don’t use Griffons – and that’s what separates us from them.

What the heck do we do now?

So, as the keeper of Section 98‘s Open Source Theatre project, here’s what I want to know: what the hell do you do in this scenario?  Do you take the bait and engage in the name of accuracy and/or principle?  Do you ignore the “troll”?  Do you delete his posts (as he accused us of doing)?  Or, like Mike, do you try to find a way to incorporate this “voice” into the show, without taking the voice “out of context” (which is what concerns fake Omar).  Though, I don’t see how we can take a voice that doesn’t actually belong to this person out of context, but we’ll certainly do our best.

Now I want to leave you with a question… and feel free to tell answer in the comments section below: what were you doing when you were 15? What was I doing when I was 15?  I was going to Catholic school, and campaigning for Perrin Beatty?  Why?  Well, I was raised by my parents as both a Catholic and a Conservative.  And, while I hate to admit it, I was pretty much one of those kids that did as their parents told them.  It wasn’t until a little later in life that I realised I wasn’t a believer, and I certainly wasn’t a Conservative (of the big or small c variety).  Luckily, when I was 15, I didn’t have parents that sent me to Afghanistan to fight in a war, as I probably would have gone.  You?

Come see Praxis Theatre’s Section 98 interactive work-in-progress presentation on Saturday, March 13th at the Harbourfront Centre Studio Theatre.  Click here for more information.

March 3, 2010, by

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Pretty tense going into the 3rd Period.                   Yanks sure are pouring it on.

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Less than 2 minutes to go in regulation.              Less than 1 minute to go in regulation.

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Less than 10 seconds to go in regulation.              Crosby scores in OT.

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Stand and drink beer for your anthem.               This isn’t Margaret, but it did happen next.

This is what it was like in Vancouver.

You can see Margaret as Eugenia (Jim) Watts in the workshop presentation of Section 98 on March 13th @ 8pm as part of HATCH in The Studio Theatre at Harbourfront.

Click here to buy tickets.