Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oct 6: WRECKING BALL, with Lucia Frangione

How exciting to see our Lucia headlined, right next to Judith Thompson! An important event I'd love to have taken part in, but will be teaching that night. (Rumour is they need someone to play Stephen Harper...)

This just in from Katrina Dunn...

Hi Friends,

On the evening of October 6th, in advance of the federal election, the Alliance for Arts and Culture is presenting an all-party forum, and a bunch of Vancouver Artists are producing a political cabaret following the forum called The Wrecking Ball at the Stanley Theatre. The idea is to force the candidates to talk about the arts and the recent cuts, and then to see some provocative performance inspired by the election and its issues. The media will be there and we need to FILL THE STANLEY THEATRE with a throng of Vancouver artists and arts supporters and SHOW THE NATION that we care about what's going on and are willing to stand up for the arts. This election will have a definite impact on all our futures, so it is of the utmost importance that you BE THERE at this event and BRING EVERYONE YOU KNOW. All the details are on the attached press release. Please forward it, with a personal message to all your contacts.



And some more information from another email...

(More information at thenextstage)

Toronto political theatre series The Wrecking Ball has just announced a country-wide series of brand new political theatre to support the efforts of The Department of Culture. Running all on the same day - October 6 - across Canadian cities coast to coast, the series will be comprised of staged readings of new works by several outstanding Canadian playwrights, all written for this series in accord with the mandates of the Wrecking Ball concept: that all work must be based on current world events and written in one week, with time allotted for brief rehearsals.

The Vancouver version will be held at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage at 1250 Granville, Tickets go on sale at 6:00pm and the show starts at 9:00 pm, following an All-Party Forum and Press Conference which begins at 7pm. Hosted by Spirit of the West singer John Mann, and featuring new work by Lucia Frangioni and Judith Thompson, among others.

In Victoria, the box office of the Belfry opens at 7 pm, the show starts at 8, featuring work by Judith Thompson and Dennis Eberts, Neworld Theatre founding member Marcus Youseff has been tapped to come on board as a director.

The Wrecking Ball was founded in Toronto in November 2004 to "address a nagging imbalance: too much theatre in our politics, not enough politics in our theatre". Past WB playwrights include Jason Sherman, Judith Thompson, Karen Hines, Norm Foster, David Young, Michael Healey, Morwyn Brebner, Daniel MacIvor, Hannah Moscovitch, Andrew Moodie, Morris Panych, d'bi.young.

Each performance is Pay-What-You-Can, with proceeds going to The Department of Culture.

Update from Peter Boychuk at the Alliance for Arts and Culture: We're taking questions for the forum. To submit, email me directly at peter@allianceforarts.com. Please keep them simple and be specific.

Prodigal Son Returns… In Print! Touchstone Theatre and Pacific Theatre Host a Celebration

In celebration of the publication of Prodigal Son, the award-winning play by Shawn Macdonald (New Bard Press, 2008), Touchstone Theatre and Pacific Theatre will host a book-launch party at Pacific Theatre (1440 West 12th Avenue) following the Saturday October 18 performance of Mourning Dove.

Prodigal Son recounts the story of a man named Peter. Happily planted on the west coast, Peter has his whole life mapped out for him: a career he can believe in, a marvelous boyfriend who loves him, and a circle of excellent friends. But when he starts seeing visions and experiencing strange physical sensations, his boyfriend assumes he's going crazy. The best help Peter can find is a therapist and single mother working out of her basement suite. Together they unravel the mystery behind Peter's mystical reawakening, a journey that leads him back to his conservative Catholic childhood in Quebec City, a family in denial, and his father's deathbed. Prodigal Son is a story of going in and coming out again.

Prodigal Son may hit a raw nerve in Canadian society by exploring parallel clashes between homosexuality and religion on the one hand, English and French language-cultures on the other, but when it was produced by Touchstone Theatre and Pacific Theatre (2006) to great critical acclaim it received 7 Jessie Richardson Award nominations and two Jessie Richardson Awards, including “Outstanding Original Script.” The play would later also receive an Xtra West Heroes Award for “Live Performance of the Year.” Copies of Prodigal Son will be for sale at the book launch and can also be purchased at www.amazon.ca.

Join Pacific Theatre and Touchstone Theatre in celebrating the publication of this provocative, darkly funny, and cathartic new play on Saturday October 18 at 10pm. Make a night of it! Purchase tickets for Mourning Dove (for tickets call 604.731.5518) and remain after the show for your opportunity to meet the author, buy a signed script, and enjoy fine food and drinks. For more information please call the Pacific Theatre Box Office at 604.731.5518.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Atwood vs Harper

Perhaps it's a mistake to be posting these pieces relating to the value of the arts in a time leading up to an election. I'm not a political partisan, and don't have any intention of campaigning for (or against) anybody - heck, I've got a play to rehearse! But I can't get out of my head the idea that my prime minister actually believes artists are rich people standing around drinking wine at galas and whining about government funding. Damn, that's a revolting caricature! Or that Canadians couldn't care less about the arts. Not the Canadians I know.

Vote how you want. There is a perfectly respectable politic that is convinced that governments shouldn't exist to dispense money, that money should be left in the hands of citizens to make their own decisions about what money should flow to what artists, etc. Some of my best friends - indeed, some of my theatre's most generous benefactors - are fiscal conservatives. It's not my view, but it's not a foolish view.

But this idea that Canadians don't like, want, or need art? This idea that artists receive huge amounts of free money from the federal government, which makes them wealthy and about which they do nothing but whine? THAT is a foolish view. And it's really, really troubling me. It would offend me if I overheard it at a coffee shop. To hear it from the Prime Minister of my country, in a public forum... I wonder if Winston Churchill could be persuaded to run for office in Calgary Southwest?

Oh well. At least it's got the arts into the conversation, this election. At least, at the ritzy wine-drinking galas where I hang out...

Here's Margaret Atwood weighing in, ever weighty. (And do check out the Globe & Mail link for a batch of other very pertinent articles. Like this one, from one of those "ordinary Canadians.")

To be creative is, in fact, Canadian
Mr. Harper is wrong: There's more to the arts than a bunch of rich people at galas whining about their grants
by Margaret Atwood
Globe and Mail, September 24, 2008

What sort of country do we want to live in? What sort of country do we already live in? What do we like? Who are we?

At present, we are a very creative country. For decades, we've been punching above our weight on the world stage - in writing, in popular music and in many other fields. Canada was once a cultural void on the world map, now it's a force. In addition, the arts are a large segment of our economy: The Conference Board estimates Canada's cultural sector generated $46-billion, or 3.8 per cent of Canada's GDP, in 2007. And, according to the Canada Council, in 2003-2004, the sector accounted for an “estimated 600,000 jobs (roughly the same as agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil & gas and utilities combined).”

But we've just been sent a signal by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he gives not a toss for these facts. Tuesday, he told us that some group called “ordinary people” didn't care about something called “the arts.” His idea of “the arts” is a bunch of rich people gathering at galas whining about their grants. Well, I can count the number of moderately rich writers who live in Canada on the fingers of one hand: I'm one of them, and I'm no Warren Buffett. I don't whine about my grants because I don't get any grants. I whine about other grants - grants for young people, that may help them to turn into me, and thus pay to the federal and provincial governments the kinds of taxes I pay, and cover off the salaries of such as Mr. Harper. In fact, less than 10 per cent of writers actually make a living by their writing, however modest that living may be. They have other jobs. But people write, and want to write, and pack into creative writing classes, because they love this activity – not because they think they'll be millionaires.

Every single one of those people is an “ordinary person.” Mr. Harper's idea of an ordinary person is that of an envious hater without a scrap of artistic talent or creativity or curiosity, and no appreciation for anything that's attractive or beautiful. My idea of an ordinary person is quite different. Human beings are creative by nature. For millenniums we have been putting our creativity into our cultures - cultures with unique languages, architecture, religious ceremonies, dances, music, furnishings, textiles, clothing and special cuisines. “Ordinary people” pack into the cheap seats at concerts and fill theatres where operas are brought to them live. The total attendance for “the arts” in Canada in fact exceeds that for sports events. “The arts” are not a “niche interest.” They are part of being human.

Moreover, “ordinary people” are participants. They form book clubs and join classes of all kinds - painting, dancing, drawing, pottery, photography - for the sheer joy of it. They sing in choirs, church and other, and play in marching bands. Kids start garage bands and make their own videos and web art, and put their music on the Net, and draw their own graphic novels. “Ordinary people” have other outlets for their creativity, as well: Knitting and quilting have made comebacks; gardening is taken very seriously; the home woodworking shop is active. Add origami, costume design, egg decorating, flower arranging, and on and on ... Canadians, it seems, like making things, and they like appreciating things that are made.

They show their appreciation by contributing. Canadians of all ages volunteer in vast numbers for local and city museums, for their art galleries and for countless cultural festivals - I think immediately of the Chinese New Year and the Caribana festival in Toronto, but there are so many others. Literary festivals have sprung up all over the country - volunteers set them up and provide the food, and “ordinary people” will drag their lawn chairs into a field - as in Nova Scotia's Read by the Sea - in order to listen to writers both local and national read and discuss their work. Mr. Harper has signalled that as far as he is concerned, those millions of hours of volunteer activity are a waste of time. He holds them in contempt.

I suggest that considering the huge amount of energy we spend on creative activity, to be creative is “ordinary.” It is an age-long and normal human characteristic: All children are born creative. It's the lack of any appreciation of these activities that is not ordinary. Mr. Harper has demonstrated that he has no knowledge of, or respect for, the capacities and interests of “ordinary people.” He's the “niche interest.” Not us.

It's been suggested that Mr. Harper's disdain for the arts is not merely a result of ignorance or a tin ear - that it is “ideologically motivated.” Now, I wonder what could be meant by that? Mr. Harper has said quite rightly that people understand we ought to keep within a budget. But his own contribution to that budget has been to heave the Liberal-generated surplus overboard so we have nothing left for a rainy day, and now, in addition, he wants to jeopardize those 600,000 arts jobs and those billions of dollars they generate for Canadians. What's the idea here? That arts jobs should not exist because artists are naughty and might not vote for Mr. Harper? That Canadians ought not to make money from the wicked arts, but only from virtuous oil? That artists don't all live in one constituency, so who cares? Or is it that the majority of those arts jobs are located in Ontario and Quebec, and Mr. Harper is peeved at those provinces, and wants to increase his ongoing gutting of Ontario - $20-billion a year of Ontario taxpayers' money going out, a dribble grudgingly allowed back in - and spank Quebec for being so disobedient as not to appreciate his magnificence? He likes punishing, so maybe the arts-squashing is part of that: Whack the Heartland.

Or is it even worse? Every budding dictatorship begins by muzzling the artists, because they're a mouthy lot and they don't line up and salute very easily. Of course, you can always get some tame artists to design the uniforms and flags and the documentary about you, and so forth - the only kind of art you might need - but individual voices must be silenced, because there shall be only One Voice: Our Master's Voice. Maybe that's why Mr. Harper began by shutting down funding for our artists abroad. He didn't like the competition for media space.

The Conservative caucus has already learned that lesson. Rumour has it that Mr. Harper's idea of what sort of art you should hang on your wall was signalled by his removal of all pictures of previous Conservative prime ministers from their lobby room - including John A. and Dief the Chief - and their replacement by pictures of none other than Mr. Harper himself. History, it seems, is to begin with him. In communist countries, this used to be called the Cult of Personality. Mr. Harper is a guy who - rumour has it, again - tried to disband the student union in high school and then tried the same thing in college. Destiny is calling him, the way it called Qin Shi Huang, the Chinese emperor who burnt all records of the rulers before himself. It's an impulse that's been repeated many times since, the list is very long. Tear it down and level it flat, is the common motto. Then build a big statue of yourself. Now that would be Art!

Adapted from the 2008 Hurtig Lecture, to be delivered in Edmonton on Oct. 1

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Colin Jackson, "Towards A Surplus Of Meaning"

When Winston Churchill was asked to cut funding for the arts to finance the war effort, he asked, “Then what are we fighting for?”

That's the opening line to a provocative article by Calgary film producer Bruce Harvey at thinkalberta.ca. In a time when some of our politicians seem to have declared war on - or at least declared their contempt for - the arts, I can only wish we could find a Winston Churchill for our day, for our country. Blood, sweat, tears - and art.

I found that quote when following up on an extraordinary article that artistic pal Morris Ertman emailed me this morning. It originates at that same site, and is written by Colin Jackson, president and CEO of the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts in Calgary.

The division of the art of daily life from the high arts of Western origin is only about a hundred years old. Picture a night at a European theatre in the 18th century. A cross-section of the population was there, behaving in a way we might consider unconscionably rowdy. The commoners in the pit heckled the performers. The wealthy in their boxes glanced up occasionally from their card games to catch an aria.

There were none of the march-on, march-off stage rituals of today. In the 1840s, when Hungarian composer Franz Liszt performed, he greeted patrons at the door and schmoozed with his audiences. Parisian papers criticized another pianist, Alexander Dreyschock, for playing so loudly, the ladies found it difficult to talk. These environs were doubtlessly hard on the artists, but attending a performance was a community experience – intimate, comfortable and shared.

In the 20th century, across Western cultures, we changed boisterousness into awe. Don’t clap between movements of a symphony. Sit down. Be quiet. Admire. This new code of behaviour identified the insider, the elite. It also amplified the authority of those few citizens who chose to denigrate the arts, artists and humanities.

The truth is Albertans, like all human beings, are artful and expressive. We sing, dance, bead, write, draw and paint. Statistics show we overwhelmingly want our children to be literate in the arts. We understand that fluidity with music, words, images and movement will add immensely to their happiness. Confident adults are those possessed with many means of self-expression.

Today the arts in Alberta are at a crossroads. In one direction lies innovation and influence. In the other, irrelevance and marginalization.

The path of innovation and influence amplifies the arts as a means for sharing ideas, values and emotions. Through them, we explore our empathy for each other. Arts enrich the character of our province. The achievements of Alberta artists burnish our pride.

Irrelevance and marginalization occur when the arts are perceived as elitist activities dividing the upper crust from the rest of the sandwich, a frivolity undeserving of serious attention and, at best, grudgingly supported.

The choice between the two paths lies with the province’s leadership and with us, the artists and the arts workers. We have degraded our ability to communicate with the wider community, a sad irony for people whose business is communication. We lost our confidence and, with it, our influence.

There is an urban myth beloved by the cranky that arts organizations are poorly managed. In fact, the failure rate among arts operations is exceptionally low, which is all the more admirable given that the field is notoriously poorly capitalized and the margins of error razor-thin. Another myth is that the public does not care. Also not true. A recent Ipsos-Reid poll showed that 84% of Calgarians think it would matter if there were no performing arts in Calgary.

Maybe because of embarrassment about emotions, maybe because of a desire to control the wild spirit of creativity, Albertans often talk about the arts in the language of the marketplace. There is an embedded mythology that to understand worth we must attach a cash value. Decisions revert to numbers and measurements. How misleading. The fundamentals of life are love, spirit, generosity, joy, well-being, values, rights. This is the language that takes us on our way to a more meaningful society.

The Lougheed government in the 1980s saw Alberta as an arts and cultural leader in Canada. The community responded, proud of the skill, talent and courage of our creators. Subsequent governments were the opposite, seeing the arts not as a community asset but as a private amusement. Some artists, rather than shrugging off such small thinking, internalized the notion of being marginalized. They acted as marginalized people often do – sounding whiny, clingy and entitled.

Alberta’s political parties have defaulted into service providers, promising to alleviate our traffic woes and fears of recession. Opinion polls drive policy. That narrow approach to politics ensures only one thing: that voters will decide nothing. Big political shifts happen because of influential leaders – good and bad – who win over their populations with the dream of a better society.

Boldness, vision, direction based on a blend of passion and reason should determine an election. Alberta, home to mavericks in business, arts and politics, is one of the jurisdictions where people would rise to a unifying call to action. People are looking for inspiration.

We can learn from American presidential candidate Barack Obama who, in a recent speech, said: “Unity is the great need of the hour – the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it’s the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country. I’m not talking about a budget deficit. I’m not talking about a trade deficit. I’m not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans. I’m talking about a moral deficit. I’m talking about an empathy deficit. I’m talking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another, to understand that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper. That, in the words of Dr. [Martin Luther] King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.”

And, here lies our opportunity. We Alberta artists, citizens and artist-citizens can co-create our culture based on the best of Alberta’s heritage. Together we can write beautifully, speak eloquently and create film and images that move the hardest of hearts.

We can drop the labels of lesser or more worthy, elite or plain folks. And, in place of judgment, see each other as creative beings sharing a journey of wonder and delight. We are a people, most of whom are blessed with material wealth, health and education. We recognize what an unusual opportunity we have. There are very few places in the world with as robust an economy as Alberta. And fewer still of those wealthy places – think Dubai, Shanghai, Singapore – have the personal and political freedoms we enjoy. All that is missing is a shared dream and the self-confidence to execute it.

The British cultural thinker John Holden observes that throughout history great places did two things very well: they made money and they made meaning. Alberta is a world leader in creating wealth of the pocketbook. Now is our opportunity to create wealth of the soul.

Dec 14-16: FIRST CHRISTMAS revisited! (Reserve by Oct 4)

You've probably heard that PT's 2008/2009 season is our twenty-fifth. Who would ever have believed we'd last this long! Well, if you were around for the company's first couple of seasons, we've got a special invitation for you.

Part of our celebration of our anniversary year will be three performances of the company's inaugural production, FIRST CHRISTMAS: AN ENTERTAINMENT, featuring - if you can believe it - all of the original cast of that show! Byron Linsey, Elaine Adamian Myers, Allen des Noyers, Roy Salmond and I will be joined by musical guests Spencer Capier and the Nelson Boschman Trio for a Christmas Presence-style reading of that very first PT show. Frederic Buechner, Madeleine L'Engle, Annie Dillard, William Gibson, Simon & Garfunkel, Stan Rogers, and tons more, including original compositions by Allen des Noyers and Roy Salmond. Heck, the show's original director may even join us, Greg Myers!

The show runs three nights only, at Pacific Theatre. Sunday December 14 through Tuesday December 16. But because our Christmas readings always sell out, and we want to give special seating priority to those of you who were around Pacific Theatre in those very earliest days, we have reserved 60 seats for Opening Night, Sunday December 14, for people who saw shows or were involved with Pacific Theatre during our first two seasons. FIRST CHRISTMAS, BACKSTAGE TOUR, THE ZEAL OF THY HOUSE, FISH TALES, INTO AN EMPTY ROOM, the first couple editions of the Pacific Salt Company. You know who you are.

Those tickets will be held only until October 4: beginning the next day, they will be released for general sale. Tickets range in price from $11 to $22, depending whether you are a student or senior, or whether your ticket purchase is part of a season subscription package. You can order your tickets online (though the computers are being overhauled this week, which may cause complications) or at our box office: 731-5518.

We'll have a reception following that Sunday Opening Night show so everybody can reconnect, and celebrate Pacific Theatre's 25th Season - and a ton of memories.

See you there!

Ron Reed

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sep 24-27: DESDEMONA at Pacific Theatre

This one's directed by Kerri Norris (George MacDonald's wife in A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR, Penny in YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU) and stars current Pacific Theatre apprentice Laura Van Dyke. One week only at Pacific Theatre...

Shadows & Dreams Theatre presents

"Yet she must die, else she'll betray more men. Put out the light, and then put out the light"
Othello : Act 5, Scene 2

A lost handkerchief. A jealous husband. A violent end. But not an innocent victim.

As Iago's plots tear the palace of Cypress apart, take a glimpse into the back room and see the plots, secrets and sins of the women soon to be destroyed by the perfidy of men.
Paula Vogel's provocative retelling of Othello is a darkly comic meditation on class, sex, power, violence, and friendship (or lack thereof) between women in a man's world.

September 24th-26th (8pm) and 27th (2pm & 8pm)
at Pacific Theatre (1440 West 12th Ave, Vancouver)

Tickets $15
Tickets and Info : (604) 515-0704

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wajdi Mouawad, Open Letter to the Prime Minister

This spring, the federal government added 50 million dollars to Canada Council's annual allowance. Which was splendid. And, with the first increase to their coffers in many, many years, the Council stewarded wisely; this summer, many arts groups who previously went unfunded began to receive operating support, including Pacific Theatre, with our first $25,000 operating grant.

Sadly, those announcements were followed by a series of announcements of government funding cuts to Canada Council, including the entire elimination of certain essential programs. Which was appalling. Hard not to feel cynical about the spring's increase; so that's where they got the money for the arts - from the artists! 

I've met a couple people in government in the past few years, and plan to talk with them to try and understand what they could possibly be up to. Every story has two sides.  When I make sense of their side, I'll post it here. But for now, here's the fiery, eloquent response of one other artistic director...

An open letter to Prime Minister Harper:

Monsieur le premier ministre,

We are neighbours. We work across the street from one another. You are Prime Minister of the Parliament of Canada and I, across the way, am a writer, theatre director and Artistic Director of the French Theatre at the National Arts Centre (NAC). So, like you, I am an employee of the state, working for the Federal Government; in other words, we are colleagues.

Let me take advantage of this unique position, as one functionary to another, to chat with you about the elimination of some federal grants in the field of culture, something that your government recently undertook. Indeed, having followed this matter closely, I have arrived at a few conclusions that I would like to publicly share with you since, as I'm sure you will agree, this debate has become one of public interest.

The Symbolism

Firstly, it seems that you might benefit by surrounding yourself with counsellors who will be attentive to the symbolic aspects of your Government's actions. I am sure you know this but there is no harm in reminding ourselves that every public action denotes not only what it is but what it symbolises.
For example, a Prime Minister who chooses not attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, claiming his schedule does not permit it, in no way reduces the symbolism which says that his absence might signify something else. This might signify that he wishes to denote that Canada supports the claims of Tibet. Or it might serve as a sign of protest over the way in which Beijing deals with human rights. If the Prime Minister insists that his absence is really just a matter of timing, whether he likes it or not, this will take on symbolic meaning that commits the entire country. The symbolism of a public gesture will always outweigh the technical explanations.

Declaration of war

Last week, your government reaffirmed its manner of governing unilaterally, this time on a domestic issue, in bringing about reductions in granting programs destined for the cultural sector. A mere matter of budgeting, you say, but one which sends shock waves throughout the cultural milieu –rightly or wrongly, as we shall see- for being seen as an expression of your contempt for that sector. The confusion with which your Ministers tried to justify those reductions and their refusal to make public the reports on the eliminated programs, only served to confirm the symbolic significance of that contempt. You have just declared war on the artists.
Now, as one functionary to another, this is the second thing that I wanted to tell you: no government, in showing contempt for artists, has ever been able to survive. Not one. One can, of course, ignore them, corrupt them, seduce them, buy them, censor them, kill them, send them to camps, spy on them, but hold them in contempt, no. That is akin to rupturing the strange pact, made millennia ago, between art and politics.


Art and politics both hate and envy one another; since time immemorial, they detest each other and they are mutually attracted, and it's through this dynamic that many a political idea has been born; it is in this dynamic that sometimes, great works of art see the light of day. Your cultural politics, it must be said, provoke only a profound consternation. Neither hate nor detestation, not envy nor attraction, nothing but numbness before the oppressive vacuum that drives your policies.

This vacuum which lies between you and the artists of Canada, from a symbolic point of view, signifies that your government, for however long it lasts, will not witness either the birth of a political idea or a masterwork, so firm is your apparent belief in the unworthiness of that for which you show contempt. Contempt is a subterranean sentiment, being a mix of unassimilated jealousy and fear towards that which we despise. Such governments have existed, but not lasted because even the most detestable of governments cannot endure if it hasn't the courage to affirm what it actually is.

Why is this?

What are the reasons behind these reductions, which are cut from the same cloth as those made last year on the majority of Canadian embassies, who saw their cultural programming reduced, if not eliminated? The economies that you have made are ridiculously small and the votes you might win with them have already been won. For what reason, then, are you so bent on hurting the artists by denying them some of their tools? What are you seeking to extinguish and to gain?

Your silence and your actions make one fear the worst for, in the end, we are quite struck by the belief that this contempt, made eloquent by your budget cuts, is very real and that you feel nothing but disgust for these people, these artists, who spend their time by wasting it and in spending the good taxpayers money, he who, rather than doing uplifting work, can only toil.

And yet, I still cannot fathom your reasoning. Plenty of politicians, for the past fifty years, have done all they could to depoliticise art, to strip it of its symbolic import. They try the impossible, to untie that knot which binds art to politics. And they almost succeed! Whereas you, in the space of one week, have undone this work of chloroforming, by awakening the cultural milieu, Francophone and Anglophone, and from coast to coast. Even if politically speaking they are marginal and negligible, one must never underestimate intellectuals, never underestimate artists; don't underestimate their ability to do you harm.

A grain of sand is all-powerful

I believe, my dear colleague, that you yourself have just planted the grain of sand that could derail the entire machine of your electoral campaign. Culture is, in fact, nothing but a grain of sand, but therein lays its power, in its silent front. It operates in the dark. That is its legitimate strength.

It is full of people who are incomprehensible but very adept with words. They have voices. They know how to write, to paint, to dance, to sculpt, to sing, and they won't let up on you. Democratically speaking, they seek to annihilate your policies. They will not give up. How could they?

You must understand them: they have not had a clear and common purpose for a very long time, for such a long time that they have no common cause to defend. In one week, by not controlling the symbolic importance of your actions, you have just given them passion, anger, rage.

In the dark

The resistance that will begin today, and to which my letter is added, is but a first manifestation of a movement that you yourself have set in motion: an incalculable number of texts, speeches, acts, assemblies, marches, will now be making themselves heard. They will not be exhausted.

Some of these will, perhaps, following my letter, be weakened but within each word, there will be a spark of rage, relit, and it is precisely the addition of these tiny instances of fire that will shape the grain of sand that you will never be able to shake. This will not settle down, the pressure will not be diminished.

Monsieur le premier ministre, we are neighbours. We work across the street from one another. There is nothing but the Cenotaph between our offices, and this is as it should be because politics and art have always mirrored one another, each on its own shore, each seeing itself in the other, separated by that river where life and death are weighed at every moment.

We have many things in common, but an artist, contrary to a politician, has nothing to lose, because he or she does not make laws; and if it is prime ministers who change the world, it's the artist who will show this to the world. So do not attempt, through your policies, to blind us, Monsieur le premier ministre; do not ignore that reflection on the opposite shore, do not plunge us further into the dark. Do not diminish us.

Wajdi Mouawad

Original text here

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sep 11 - Oct 12: DOUBT, Arts Club

Dang we tried hard to get the rights to this one, back when it ran on Broadway and won the Pulitzer and all that. Pure Pacific Theatre stuff, truly. But the rights weren't available, and now we know why. Well, I'm glad it's getting done, and can't wait to see it.

September 11 - October 12, 2008
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
by John Patrick Shanley
Starring Gabrielle Rose, Jonathon Young, Sasa Brown, Michèle Lonsdale Smith
Director Rachel Ditor
Tickets: Arts Club

A clash of wills and generations have unexpected, life-changing outcomes in this riveting play about the blurred line between gossip and truth. Winner! Best Play: 2005 Tony Award & Pulitzer Prize.

"Provocative. A gripping story of suspicion" - Variety

"So full of high drama that the audience with which I saw it gasped out loud a half-dozen times at its startling twists and turns" - The Wall Street Journal

"A breathtaking work... positively brilliant" - Entertainment Weekly

"Eloquent and provocative. A gripping mystery" - Time Out New York
Here's a telling NY Times article about the original Broadway production. The reviewer compares the play to PILLOWMAN which, according to this writer, set out to do nothing more than tell a diverting story. Nothing wrong with that, but the critic celebrates playwright Shanley for aiming to do more...
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; Stories That Tell Vs. Storytelling
By Charles Isherwood 
May 6, 2005

But is this a healthy ideal? Entertainment can, after all, aspire to do more than merely serve up narratives diverting enough to keep us hooked for a couple of hours. (Or in the case of the egregiously overwritten ''Pillowman,'' three.)

Mr. Shanley's ''Doubt'' presents a potent counterargument. It, too, has a gripping narrative, about accusations of sexual abuse leveled against a priest in a Bronx Roman Catholic school in 1964. But here storytelling is in service to a wider, more mature vision: ''Doubt'' is as deeply, if subtly, imbued with ideas of larger resonance as any play to be seen on Broadway in the last decade.

Mr. Shanley has an abiding belief that theater, despite its marginal status in popular culture (or, paradoxically, because of it), can illuminate ethical and spiritual questions that are of both immediate and eternal relevance.

This may strike a discordant note in today's self-conscious, irony-saturated cultural landscape, in which sincerity is automatically suspect. The idea that theater should say something, and not necessarily with a smirk, may seem quaintly old-fashioned. It harks back to the ethos of this country's great theatrical moralist, Arthur Miller, whose dramas grappled, sometimes bluntly, with moral questions of immediate currency.

But it derives from an essential truth about the artistic endeavor. Great writers are driven to write to give enduring form to their perceptions about human life and thought, not just because they have a particular knack for prose or dialogue, style or structure. (Although you wouldn't necessarily know this from reading lavishly praised, extravagantly self-conscious novels that get so much ink -- and use so much -- today.)

Good art does not, of course, deliver messages like moral telegrams. The scandal over charges of sexual abuse that has recently plagued the Catholic Church may appear to be Mr. Shanley's inspiration for ''Doubt,'' but the play, which is partly based on his experience at a similar school, is no hand-wringing tract about the abuse of power and religious hypocrisy.

Just before it opened off Broadway last fall, Mr. Shanley decided to append a parenthetical phrase to the play's pleasingly trenchant title: it is officially called ''Doubt, a Parable.'' Mr. Shanley wanted to prod audiences to look beyond the play's surfaces, to experience it not merely as a he-said-she-said drama with narrow topical currency, but also as a broader commentary on the state of the cultural and political discourse in America, and indeed on the dangerous human tendency to take refuge in certainty when the truth may be more complicated and elusive.

After the play won the Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Shanley told The Times, ''People who have great certainty can be a force of good, but can also be incredibly destructive.'' And in an essay he wrote for The Los Angeles Times, which now serves as the introduction to the play's published text, he describes the poisonous cultural environment he was reacting against. ''We are living in a culture of extreme advocacy, of confrontation, of judgment and of verdict,'' he wrote.

Sister Aloysius (Cherry Jones), the nun who relentlessly pursues her suspicions about a priest's sexual misconduct, is the embodiment of the certainty that Mr. Shanley finds disquieting. With unshakable faith in her cause, she ignores all suggestions that the incident in question might involve a more nuanced or different truth. When another nun, who has come to question her role in the process, points to a paucity of actual evidence against the priest, Sister Aloysius replies fiercely, ''But I have my certainty.''

That certainty will have potentially devastating consequences: Sister Aloysius comes close to destroying a handful of lives, including, just possibly, her own. The play is a quiet indictment of the reverence for righteousness that has become an unhealthy hallmark of American culture in recent years.

And yet Mr. Shanley isn't just writing an op-ed piece in theatrical form. The play gets at a deeper, more universal truth. To be in doubt is not comfortable, as anyone can attest who has ever awaited lab results, fretted over a test score or stood vigil over a silent telephone, awaiting a call. It's a psychological itch, and you want to scratch your way to certainty. But it is often the first step on a path to greater spiritual or moral wisdom, a deeper compassion, a breaking free from constricting dogma.

The crisis that Sister Aloysius faces in the play's shattering final moment is one that everyone faces at one time or another: the discomfiting discovery that the world is not ordered as you thought it was.

To Sep 27: OSCAR & FELIX, Metro

SO slow getting this posted. Apologies. But Mark Edward Lewis (who you've seen around PT) and Anita Reimer (who just moved here after getting her MFA with Gillette Elvgren at Regent University) are both in OSCAR AND FELIX at the Metro. It's an updated ODD COUPLE - lotsa laffs, one would think!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sep 6-27: Anthony Ingram in PINTER'S BRIEFS

Blackbird Theatre
Closes Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 11:00pm
Presentation House, North Vancouver
604 990-3474

Blackbird Theatre launches its 2008-2009 season with Pinter’s Briefs, a collection of quirky, superbly entertaining short plays by Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter, directed by John Wright and starring Simon Webb and Anthony F. Ingram. These rarely-performed comic gems – six short pieces and the iconic one-act play The Dumb Waiter – have been collected from the master’s oeuvre and polished to perfection by Vancouver’s award-winning Blackbird Theatre.

Pacific Theatre's 25th Season

Okay, my favourite part of the new PT brochure? Hands down, no question, the brag page...

Quotes from Colin Thomas, Christopher Newton, Joy Coghill, Bernard Cuffling, Peter Birnie, Rudi Krause, , Jo Ledingham, Karl Petersen, Todd Thomson...

You gotta know, that's encouragement! I've got it taped up on the wall beside my bathroom mirror. A reminder of why it's worth leaving summer behind and digging in on another great season.

Listen, it's our 25th Season. A big deal! So why not celebrate by giving PT a spectacular birthday present - one where you get most of the benefit! Check out season subscriptions at our snazzy website, or call the box office to book your tix: 604 731-5483.

See you at the theatre!

Ron Reed,
Artistic Director

Sep 10 - Oct 29, Wednesdays: Nelson Boschman Trio, Yaletown

Good news! NeBo has moved into town, and he's gigging already! A whole bunch of Wednesdays in September and October, down in Yaletown. And even gooder news! Unless I read it wrong... There's no cover!
Dear music fan friends,

If you have received this email, you have either:

a.) Heard my trio's music and don't mind it so much
b.) Been exposed to my trio's recordings against your will
c.) Met my wife and think she's amazing, so you might come out to one of my gigs because of her
d.) Asked me to let you know when I'm playing shows that are NOT private functions

...or maybe there are some other categories that would suit you more aptly.

Regardless, I am pleased to announce that my trio will be playing six shows in September and October at Blenz Coffee, in the heart of Yaletown. 
dates, times and other info 
Hope to see you there!


Sep 5: Sara Ciantar double-header

At CHRISTMAS PRESENCE last year, Sara Ciantar played accordion one night, pipe organ the next. I could guess which she'll be using this weekend, but it would only be a guess...

"The sun'll come out tomorrow..."
At least I hope so.
And then when the sun goes down i do hope that you'll join me for a double header of an evening.

First I'm playing at trees coffee house. You've all probably heard that trees has the best cheesecake of Vancouver.
It could be true. But don't trust me on that one. I'm lactose intolerant. You'll just have to try yourself.
So! Friday the 5th. things heat up at 8.
I'm on the bill with Erin Graves and the Creaking Planks
450 Granville St is right at the bottom where all that construction is-near the water.
It's a pass the hat scenario in case you're planning on coming to both (I wish!) and can't afford both.

Then I'm racing off to the Media Club to play with James Lamb and Aaron Joyce as we warm up the stage for NatJay's CD release
we're on at 10:30
The Media club is at 695 Cambie-Downtown

I hope to see you at either event.
Have a great sunny day! :)


Nov 8: Kurtis Lamkin on Bowen

Bowen Island poet Richard Osler has become a regular at PT's CHRISTMAS PRESENCE. This just in from Richard...

Over the past few years I have heard Kurtis Lamkin from South Carolina at the Skagit River Poetry Festival down in La Conner, Wa. He is an outstanding singer, poet , performer, troubadour! Last May in La Conner I asked if he would come to Vancouver and Bowen and he said yes! He will performing on Friday November 7th at a private fund raiser for Souls in Stride, an African Charity , focussed on improving the health and safety of woman in Africa, co-founded by former Bowen islander Deb Woodley. Then on the 8th he is coming to the Rock!!!!

I am most excited about this opportunity to showcase Kurtis on Bowen! Hope you can join us on Saturday, November 8th at 7:30 at Cates Hill Chapel.

Richard Osler

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sep 24 - Oct 25: SUSAN AND GOD at Taproot

Here's a rare chance to see a play that was huge in its day, but rarely performed in ours. Just a few miles south...

“a rare gem” – The New York Times

Susan and God
By Rachel Crothers
Directed by Scott Nolte
at Taproot Theatre, Seattle
September 24-October 25
A witty 1930s social satire

Treat yourself to “a rare gem” this fall with Taproot Theatre’s production of Susan and God. She’s bright, charming, intelligent and at the center of the gossipy, fun social set lazing their summers away in the Hamptons. And now, darling, she’s found God. Or at least her version of him. Susan’s newest fad becomes everyone else’s newest headache until Susan receives a startling revelation of her own. This witty social comedy wowed New York with a 2006 off-Broadway revival of the 1930s play.

Producing Artistic Director Scott Nolte directs a talented cast of Alicia Anderson, Don Brady, Kevin Brady, Austen Case, Ryan Childers, Heather Hawkins, Nolan Palmer, Lisa Peretti and Nikki Visel.

For tickets call 206.781.9707 or visit the Taproot website

Monday, September 01, 2008

Vancouver Fringe Festival: Tina Teeninga recommends...

Tina's lovely one-woman-show THE SADDEST GIRL IN THE WORLD took her to a couple of other Canadian fringe festivals, and she got a good look as some of the shows that will be onstage here in September's fest. Here are her recommendations...

Hello my Theatre-going and loving friends,

I really encourage you to go out and see at least one Fringe show. There is some remarkable talent at The Fringe this year. Here are shows I reccommend, and a little about why:

-Crude Love: A suspenseful, romantic comedy with ethics. Highly recommended. Funny, sexy, structurally and wonderfully entertaining script, great acting.

-The Sputniks: A drama, with comedy, about a family who escapes from the USSR. Beautiful script, lovely acting. Often compared to my show, The Saddest Girl in the World.

-The Spy: A farce of spy shows and of mime. Very funny!!

-Mr. Fox: Engaging performance about the man behind the mascot. Very high energy and quite funny.

-Boom: Highly idiosyncratic, eccentric and funny show about a man who makes bombs. I really enjoyed it.

-Die Roten Punkte: This is the show everyone goes to. It’s good, especially if you like funny, quirky performances that spoof Nick Cave, The White Stripes or Emo.

-Totem Figures: This isn’t a play, but a stand-up-monologue. I found it fascinating and inspiring. A really good one for artists, as it more than validates what we do for a living.

Of course, there are so many shows that I haven’t seen at this year’s Fringe Festival. A lot of them are sure to be excellent. (Confessions, La Mexicaine de Perforation & Old Growth are ones that caught my eye.)
Take a risk – try out a show you know nothing about!

All the best,


Tina Teeninga | Otherwise Productions
The Saddest Girl in the World