On The Future Of Theatre (critics)
I, and most of my colleagues, could keel over tomorrow.
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
Let's face it, I'm getting old. Worse, the body has been battered by five surgeries in the last three years and there's more to come.
The fact is, as MELT seems to be getting younger, the commentators of its work are aging fast or are downright old. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There are a bunch of us who have been around for a long time, seen lots of theatre and have a good eye and a hot computer. We all do one thing fairly well, too: we provoke (which, in my opinion, is what theatre commentary should do). Provocative writing, however, is a tool that we gain with time.
People tried to get me to shut up - ayup - but I had the ego, now, too.
Well, to be a critic is, firstly, to set yourself up as an expert. It is to say: I know. When you start off in the trade, you tend to be careful. When I began my career as a critic, at 15 as an apprentice at The Quebec Chronicle Telegraph, I was very cautious, at first, until people started commenting that I was also dull. I began to devour published plays, get a theatrical vocabulary, and have at it. When I arrived at Mirror, I had two decades of theatre experience. People tried to get me to shut up - ayup - but I had the ego, now, too.
But I, and most of my colleagues, could keel over tomorrow. Each time one of us moves on, a void in the conversation is created. (I think of Myron Galloway who worked to the very end and how he is sorely missed in the weekly press.) Art without comment, again in my opinion, is masturbation. Look around - MELT is quickly headed toward becoming one big, old-fashioned circle jerk.
...they can write in a nice lucid, properly-spelled English and, most importantly, are not likely to keel over.
All this to explain what we are trying to do here, at CharPo. Part of the raison-d'être, for all of this, is to make the conversation vibrant and to fill the holes in it. Estelle Rosen, our Editor-in-Chief, and I cannot do it alone. That is why I have asked David King and Richard Burnett, Joel Fishbane, Amy Barrett and Barbara Ford to join in the project as frequent contributors. We are veterans of MELT (most, needless to say, less time-worn than me).
But I also want to create a new era of theatre commentary, just as we are in a new era of theatre creation. To that end we have invited young, university writers like Sarah Deshaies, Valerie Cardinal, Rachel Zuroff and (soon to join us from her world travels) Émilie Charlebois. The have several traits you want in theatre commentators: they like the art, they are open to new experiences in it, they can write in a nice lucid, properly-spelled English and, most importantly, are not likely to keel over.
Younger artists should rejoice that CharPo has these people on the team because they have, also, young people's experience and cultural vernacular.
I'm certainly rejoicing that they're here.