CharPo is adding a new column to our op-ed Tuesdays. With the publisher's After Dark column, every week you will also be able to read writer/actor/director Joel Fishbane's opinions on Montreal English-language theater (MELT): Theatre For Thought. Feel free to join the conversations in the comments section below each piece.
by Joel Fishbane
There were three significant openings in the MELT scene this week. Tableau D’Hote's Internet-based fundraising campaign peeked our interest for Humans; indie wunderkind Andrew Shaver has gone mainstream with Stones in His Pockets; and Geordie Theatre has helped Clowns Gone Bad resurrect MöcShplat, their giddy adaptation of a certain cursed Shakespearian play. All three are worthy additions to the theatre season. Yet, once again, the Montreal Gazette has shown their usual display of bias and assigned Pat Donnelly to the adult theatre (Stones and Humans) while giving Geordie to Kathryn Greenaway.
...if I was Dean Flemming I’d be asking the Gazette why their editors don’t deem his productions important enough to warrant the attention of their first-string critic...
For those of you not paying attention, Donnelly is the paper’s first-string theatre critic and for years the division of labor between her and Greenaway has been entirely genre-based: Donnelly reviews the shows that resonate with sturm und drang while Greenaway is assigned to anything that smacks of TYA. Its completely possible the two women like it this way but the result of this great divide is the implication that the adult-orientated theatre is of more worth.
No one at Geordie Theatre needs to be told how to do their job – Möcshplat is proof that they know exactly what they’re doing – but if I was Geordie Artistic Director Dean Flemming I’d be asking the Gazette why their editors don’t deem his productions important enough to warrant the attention of their first-string critic. Youth-orientated theatre is as valid a theatrical form as anything else. It deserves the same type of serious notice. To consistently pass it off to the second-string critic, as the Gazette has repeatedly done, is to implicitly favour one genre over the other.
The editors at the Gazette aren't the only people suffering from genre-bias. Any comedian can tell you it’s a continuing problem in the arts: our clowns are never taken seriously, whether they’ve gone bad or not. Years ago, the National Theatre School’s playwriting program refused to accept musicals from applicants while both the Tony Awards and the Golden Globes continue to divide their Best of the Year award according to genre (“Best Musical”, “Best Play” etc.)
It is shameful that artists who strive to create youth-orientated material are either ignored or segregated by the media.
|MöcShplat (photo: Julian Haber)|
At this year’s Academy Awards, however, Toy Story 3 has been nominated for Best Picture, proving that an animated film can warrant the notice of our culture’s highest critics. By implication, this means the film can hold its own against more dramatic works like The King’s Speech. This is a step in the right direction. No genre is of greater value then the next. The only consideration for both critics and audiences alike is their own personal enjoyment and how well the art succeeds in being what its creators wanted it to be.
It is shameful that artists who strive to create youth-orientated material are either ignored or segregated by the media. They are usually relegated to their own corner of the room where they collect their own awards and stay out of the spotlight reserved for their adult-themed counterparts. This is ironic as it is the youth-orientated material which often stands the test of time – we all remember Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but does anyone remember which book won the Pulitzer Prize the same year? (For the record, it was Stephen Millhauser’s Martin Dressler, but I needed the Internet to check).
The editors of the Gazette should take note that the artists behind Möcshplat (and all of Geordie Theatre) work just as hard as those behind Humans or Stones in His Pockets. No one would expect Pat Donnelly to be in several theatres at once. But Stones in His Pockets runs until the end of the month, while MöcShplat ends on the 13th. If we wish to truly celebrate the culture our city produces, the Gazette should get their priorities straight.