People who are open about opinions are knocking down the walls of a ghetto that the anglo community here has always been in danger of making more impervious.
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
Have you any idea how difficult it is to get informed, rational people to express an opinion on Montreal English-language theatre (MELT)?
CharPo has squads of people who are ready to write for us. We are a content factory. We have published articles on a huge variety of subjects, all written by people who knew what they were talking about. All written, to my estimation, very well.
But opinions? And—oh! my Lord!—reviews? Forget it. The veterans on our team all write long and hard for us about everything under the sun but reviews? Nope. They will not. And you know what? I don't fucking blame them.
I often paid for the opinions I expressed: death threats, barred from Espace Go, barred from Centaur, called ugly, faggot - name it.
I know crowds of very smart, educated and highly informed people in MELT. The problem is that whenever they express an opinion out loud about damn near anything related to theatre, they get their head kicked in from arsehole to breakfast time. I point to the commentary following Patrick Goddard's perfectly germane piece, 10 Things I Hate About Theatre.
A digression: When I started writing for the Mirror, two decades ago, I decided I would no longer do theatre for money. I had had a good career in theatre and radio, but I wanted to explore this new path and the Mirror offered me the opportunity and, soon after, a decent living. I was a critic. Period. I often paid for the opinions I expressed: death threats, barred from Espace Go, barred from Centaur, called ugly, faggot - name it. I simply did not give a fuck because I did not have to work directly with these people and sometimes felt sorry for those who did as every opinion given full voice amongst them had to be a fawning one. Everyone became Pollyanna. Nothing nice to say should say? Say nothing.
But theatre isn't like that. Theatre is messy. Theatre is loud. Theatre is controversial. Theatre is bitch-and-take. Theatre is feuds and fights and making up and disagreeing and defending beliefs. Let me insert an analogy. If you were in a play and the director never said anything but, "That's nice" you know your opening night would be a dog's breakfast!
We have a solid, creative and often-brilliant community but it's small and (to put it bluntly) often pretty thin-skinned.
We have a solid, creative and often-brilliant community but it's small and (to put it bluntly) pretty thin-skinned. No one, especially amongst the practitioners, may openly say what might be wrong or made better without being treated like they are betraying a cause. However, I firmly believe people who are open about opinions are NOT betraying anything - they are knocking down the walls of a ghetto that the anglo community here has always been in danger of making more solid - more impervious.
An arts community, without loud, opinionated discussion and without a solid army of critics, is no arts community at all. It might be a lovely hothouse bloom, but it will surely wilt. Worse, it won't travel. If we do not submit our theatre to the most rigorous standards, the most vicious attacks, the most bluntly stated opinions then it goes nowhere.
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In passing: Read this article