The strength is there...if we can get past the laziness
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
It's easy - if you're willing to go beyond signing petitions and saying you'll boycott and bewailing - after the fact - the injustice of it all. It is the use of the power of groups to change things. It's why ACTRA, CAEA, PACT and other groups representing an active mass, work, and groups representing non-joiners - the lazy mass - do not work.
There are two issues in the news, lately, that require theatre artists to do more than shriek an (ever-tedious) outrage on Facebook. They require people going beyond saying they are in a boycott (or not).
I am heartbroken by what has happened at Factory Theatre. But since time immemorial Boards have been doing what Boards do - firing ADs and hiring new ones. It does not make either the Boards a gang of assholes, nor the new ADs traitors. Those my age will remember the famous Gang of Four incident at Stratford. The company got beyond it. In Quebec we have the case of Hudson Village Theatre. In all these cases ink has been spilled, pixels have filled bandwidth. The bottom line - the problem - is twofold: there is no nice way to fire someone and Boards have a right to do it. Every ten years or so an AD gets fired, his friends and coworkers lose their shit, and bad things happen: like artists boycotting other artists (which, if you think of it, is not a humongous sacrifice). But there are things which can be done. They, of course, involve motion.
There are rules about Boards and these are impenetrable. Or are they? A group of artists - some with heads on their shoulders (as opposed to in the clouds of creation) - could first examine the legal whys and wherefores of changing regulations regarding Boards of arts organizations. With legal resources, probably available through CAEA, PACT, TAPA, QDF, they could be advised on who they should approach to change how things work. Politicians already get invited to opening nights and parties - they should be talked to when their mouths are full of free eats and booze.
I am sad that a theatre as relatively new as the Princess of Wales is going to meet the wrecking ball, but Mr. Mirvish is allowed to do what he wants with his property and - who knows? - the Gehry building, once up, may silence all critics (it's the difference, often, between seeing a sketch and a final work of great art).
However, what is revealed by the Mirvish kerfuffle - and what is so brilliantly stated in this article - is the lack of medium spaces (250-400 seats) for companies both small and large. Indie companies across the country are short on affordable venues. (Affordable being the key word.)
I'd like to propose joining. The coming together of companies and individuals is already creating viable venues across the country. Two examples jump immediately to mind.
The first is La Nouvelle Scène, in Ottawa, which houses the seasons of four different theatre companies. They're Francophone companies with - mostly short - seasons in a city that doesn't have a French-speaking audience base big enough to support many spaces or long seasons. These are great companies (like many, many homeless companies across the country are great). They simply got together.
A more interesting case is the Freestanding Room in Montreal. A bunch o' artists just rented a space and share expenses. FSR became famous, this last summer, because one of the shows which was born in the tiny place - Big Plans - became a sensation at SummerWorks and one of the "proprietors" of the space, Johanna Nutter, also made some noise at SummerWorks with My Pregnant Brother. The space has also served during the Montreal Fringe. These artists saw a problem and didn't just solve it; they turned it on its head: the space - to a large extent - is now defining the works created there. (In the same way, once upon a time, an established company would commission playwrights to write a work specifically for a house, artist or mandate.)
What the Board issue and the space issue require is action. Something beyond bluster.
Anything less, in this day and age, is not only unimpressive but should be called out: "Do something or just STFU."