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

Category: #winning

June 14, 2011, by

IN THE WINGS: Episode One – David Ferry – The first in a series on the Dora Mavor Moore Awards with special correspondent A. Jelly Konstruct

At the Dora nominee press conference David Ferry was announced at the winner of the 2011 Barbara Hamilton Memorial Award given to a Canadian artist who demonstrates excellence in the performing arts, and is dedicated to advocating to being and ambassador for the arts. It is awarded each year by The City of Toronto. Below is his acceptance speech.

I am so honoured to be this year’s recipient of the Barbara Hamilton Award for Excellence in the Performing Arts/ I am humbled to be among the superb company of previous recipients: all artists I so fortunately know or have known and worked with. Each of them have been in their ways trailblazers and mentors, and I don’t know if I can actually carry their laundry, but I have been fortunate to have walked under their lights.

RH Thompson spoke last year so eloquently about the lack of funding and proper physical housing for our truly groundbreaking theatre companies here, and he sounded a chord for me about those things I often feel we don’t get right in Toronto. More and more I believe that as an artist I have to take increased responsibility for those things which are not happening in our Theatre community, instead of placing responsibility solely at the feet of others. Daunting , I know, but there are some simple things that I believe I can take more responsibility for:

Firstly, mentoring …look at the fine work Martha Burns has done getting younger people into theatre;

Secondly, political activism…RH Thomson and Eric Peterson both have been strong engagers in political dialogues of many shapes and types…and thirdly by reaching out to the larger public in increasingly creative ways…Albert has been engaged in using this space to do just that, just as Douglas Cambell did before him with The Canadian Players and George Luscombe did with TWP.

And thirdly we must find new ways to speak about our art-form in an intelligent way to the world at large.

I despair to see the decreased coverage of the Theatre in the traditional media (and the critics are not the enemy here, they despair too I am certain); a Media that is morphing as we speak, and which is, world-wide, giving up the ground of serious arts coverage to banal consumerism and unformulated pop reporting. I find myself wondering what I can do to affect change in how our art-form is covered and disseminated via alternative models? Perhaps ways not entertained by our unions and producers when the templates for our current artist/producer agreements were first conceived.

I despaired to see, during our recent federal election, such rampant cynicism on display. Many of us vented via social networking in an unprecedented way. But my despair came from my personal realization that I will accomplish nothing in trying to convince the public at large that what I do, what we do is essential to a healthy, pluralistic society by simply harping to people of a similar mindset via Facebook; but only by becoming active amongst my neighbours in the larger actually volunteering for a political party, or lobbying group or community engaging in a true dialogue with the community beyond mine perhaps I can make a real impression about what should be important to us as a culture.

And I despair when I see reduced opportunities for younger artists in the theatre due to economic restrictions and reduced work opportunities that can actually pay a living wage. I know that offering mentorship to those artists is essential, we are after all part of a long line of people who, going before us, pass out their hands to those that follow, and this we must do too…if we do, while engaging in the outward looking, activist dialogue I mentioned just now, those young artists will pass back to those that follow them the ethics of engagement, and they will create new forms, not just Konstantin’s new forms of theatre, but new forms of communication that penetrate and influence the larger more distant circles of community within which we are just a small (but essential) wheel within a wheel a turning.