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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

After Dark, February 1, 2011

BitchWars and Politics
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Today marks the beginning of CharPo's third month and it begins with a mad week of theatre, most of which promises to be very exciting.

But this last week has been an interesting one for theatre news and gossip.

On the opening night of Joe Louis at Infinitheatre, artistic director Guy Sprung took the stage before the play and welcomed the celebrities in the audience. Weird enough. But it became surreal when he mentioned a local theatre critic among their number. Mr. Sprung! What the hell was that about?

Then there was the delicious bitch-war between Brendan Kelly (of the Gazette) and whoever handles the Mirror's Twitter feed. It began with some CBC radio discussions about the daily, the weeklies and their coverage of the arts and Kelly saying the Gazette was doing a good job (wrong-o) and the weeklies less of one (wrong-o again!). (BTW, if you follow me on Twitter—@gcharlebois—along with real info I always retweet the fun bits.)

(Curzi is one of those clichéd artists who has nothing to say, but says it anyway.)

This brings me immediately to our second story of the week, which is the announcement Black Theatre Workshop artistic director, Tyrone Benskin, is running in the next federal election as an NDP candidate. This story was being discussed on Facebook, in the Twittersphere and was reported right here on CharPo. It was a Canadian Press story, reported by CTV but, oddly (when CharPo shared the news) nowhere to be found on the website of Mr. Kelly's paper. 

Now enough of that; shall we move on? To Mr. Benskin, say.

It is not the first time someone in the arts/media has run for or been in office. Arden Ryshpan, now president of Actors Equity, ran for the provincial NDP (there was such a thing once). Peter Kent is now arsing around with Harper et al. Actor Maka Kotto is an MNA. Pierre Curzi, not the brightest star in the intellectual firmament, is a bigwig in the PQ. (Curzi is one of those clichéd artists who has nothing to say, but says it anyway.) And then there are all the grayheads, card-carrying UdesA/ACTRA/AE members, in the senate.

Do they actually help the promotion or survival of the arts?

Artists might make good politicians, but when they get there, they are no longer artists. 

Puh-leeze. Government and party politics forbid it. Look at our medical system, education bureaucracy and advances (or not) in environmental protection (all things citizens have said are of primordial importance). Governments—Liberal, Conservative, PQ, PLQ—simply do not have time for the arts and what they throw at the arts, in terms of money, is peanuts. It has always been that way and will always be that way (wait 'til Curzi is Arts Minister—it will be an hilarious spectacle of Orwellian doublespeak!).

Artists might make good politicians, but when they get there, they are no longer artists. They are party members, politicians and are constrained by everything that means. And what it means, bottom line, is that arts funding and promotion will be on the list of concerns, but in the same place on the list with the pothole in front of my apartment or the neighbour down the street who doesn't pick up after her dog.

The worst thing is that artists are so busy trying to survive and create that they do not have the energy to unite and create effective, angry arts pressure groups who will bite governments in the ass when necessary. And it's not like we don't have models. Politicians get us nowhere, true, but activists do. Were it not for powerful and large groups of activists we would not have the movement we've had in women's, ethnic or Queer rights.

Artists simply have to put aside some of their time to be active in a lobby. I know, it is a lot to ask. But it reminds me of what Larry Kramer, the Gay activist once said. A woman who had been in Black civil rights, feminist and Queer movements asked Kramer, "When do I get to sit down?" He answered, "You don't."

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Something I have to Share: (feel free to do likewise)
Brilliant comic Patton Oswalt on his recording Werewolves and Lollipops (available on iTunes)
"Cirque du Soleil, if you haven't seen it, is what a Gay French dude sees in his head when he's tired and horny. There's a naked guy on a trapeze with his dick flapping around, and then there's a hedgehog with a boner on a tricycle and three clowns are jerking off on a ghost. I don't know what the fuck is going on down there. Everything in Cirque du Soleil is wet and French and Gay and on fire at the same time!"

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