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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

After Dark, May 24, 2011

Are You Helping?
Theatre is ALWAYS at a turning point...what it needs to turn
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

When I was eight, my parents took me to my first opera: La Bohème (a revival of which is playing at PdesA right now). It was at Quebec City's bijou theatre, at the time, the Palais Montcalm. It was a soirée - exploding with specialness; people dressed up (me in grays, a blazer and clip-on tie) and acted like throw-backs to a previous century. I was mesmerized and simply loved the grandness of it all.

Other operas followed: my uncle brought me to a huge production of Faust at PdesA (part of the Expo 67 party) and then there was a steady diet of Verdi all across Germany. Not all of these productions were hopelessly old-fashioned. The rise of the Régisseur in German theatrical art meant that some of the provincial houses in towns like Hägen and Düsseldorf were fiddling about. I saw, at 12, my first bare-stage production. It was Trovatore, it was gorgeously sung, and the place and time was suggested by elements of period costumes and lighting alone. After the performance, as we always did, we had supper at a place my mother chose from Europe on $5 a Day. That's where the real magic of that Trovatore happened: the singers from the opera - poorly-paid wanderers learning their métier in the small houses - were all eating there too. My mother pushed me to them and I still have the program they all signed.

Performance - live! - had irradiated me - had become part of my DNA.

After my mother died, when I was 13, there was less opera. But my father and step-mother went one better. At 14, I was brought to Quebec City's Summer Stock Theatre to see Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and I began to buy, read and collect plays. Then the three of us took in a full slate of shows at Le Trident (where I saw Jean Duceppe as Willy Loman, Dorothée Berryman as Eliza Doolittle, Michèle Rossignol as the Shrew) and sometimes a show by the graduates of the Conservatoire (including a boy named Rémy Girard in a risqué production of Le Balcon which began with a bishop getting a blow-job).

I had the bug. Truth be told little opera geek that I was, I already had the bug at eight. Performance - live! - had irradiated me - had become part of my DNA.

All this to say that we who love live performance have a job to do.

All this to say that we who love live performance have a job to do. We need to pass on the bug. We have a people-friendly opera in town right now (Bohème) and in two weeks we have that craziest, slap-happiest of festivals: the Fringe. Sure, there is a shitload of inappropriate and awful stuff there, but if you listen to buzz and check out the reviews and articles here, you will find a half-dozen short, up-close-and-personal pieces to select from and to bring a kid to. Or bring a teenager to something outlandish and inappropriate.

Just do it.

Theatre needs people like my parents, my dear uncle and even my brother who brought me to my first Nutcracker (poor him, but my mother could be "persuasive"). Simply, if YOU want live art to grow, this is Job One. If you want theatre to be something other than rehash, nostalgia and touring companies when YOU'RE in your declining years, then YOU must bring someone young to a live performance. 


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