By Gaëtan L. Charlebois (Editor-in-Chief)
I could not think of a better time to return to reviewing theatre than right now, as the second half of the season explodes into being. I have been away from my first love of theatre for an awfully long time. I was TV and pop culture critic at the Gazette for seven years or so, then illness hit and now here I am...slowly going back in.
Going to the theatre, for me (a hardened, though not jaded, observer and critic) is like going into battle. Ostensibly I am in the theatre to take notes, form an opinion and leave as quickly as possible to meet a deadline. But let me confess: those three minutes or so before the lights go down and the play began were (and I suspect, will be) hell for me. It is not that I anticipate there will be a couple of awful hours ahead, it is that I can feel the hysterical energy that is backstage on an opening night. I can feel it. I...am...there. (A friend once joked that it was a damn good thing I was Gay because I could never survive watching my wife having a baby; I'd be on my back in the delivery room shrieking louder than her with the empathy pains.)
Though I am pleased as hell to be going back into a theatre (where they are not doing operations, for a change), I also fear that sensation of out-of-control terror that comes with those three minutes. The people who come to plays with me most frequently know not to talk to me or—God forbid!—touch me as I might explode in one big splat! of tension. (And that just isn't right for a "serious critic," now, is it?) Once the play starts, however, I am surrounded by it. I am at peace. I can see the work, understand (or not) the ebb and flow of the evening and get on with the business of criticism.
And, frankly, that's what I can't wait for. That moment, in a play (good or bed) where I feel, "Goddammit, this is the best thing ever! I love fucking theatre!"
I am very lucky to be coming back with WildSide. The plays are short (not too much shock for the scarred carcass I have become) and the energy is very, very high. I am also lucky to be approaching this first month of 2011 surrounded by a crack team of people who love theatre but who are, nevertheless, wise enough to step back from it and see how a particular production might be better if... I am looking forward to reading and posting reviews for some dozen shows, in the next two weeks, from a wide variety of voices including those of seasoned veterans (I would never be so ungallant as to name those...though I number myself among them) and younger writers who, nevertheless, know a good deal about how theatre works.
CharPo will not only be looking at the entire WildSide lineup in the next days, we will also be reviewing shows opening at the Segal Centre and at some of the smaller venues in the city. CharPo will also be receiving and posting first-person pieces by the city's creators and craftspeople and photos and videos which will assure that the site remains the place to go for Montreal English-language theatre information in all its forms.
We are growing fast. You have responded. Screw the snow and the slush. Let's go to the theatre!