Why We Work
Inside The Charlebois Post
By Gaëtan L. Charlebois
A non-friend of CharPo ran into a contributor of ours at a recent opening and when it was discovered that he was at the performance to review it for us, the person asked, in a confused ejaculation, "Why do you volunteer to write for him?" Our contributor answered jokingly, "Because we love him and free tickets!"
The name at the top of the page you are reading, mine, was a goof. I was angry at certain people's rather personal attacks on the work of a friend, about how some theatre people and commentators were abusing the privileges of their positions and I decided to cover theatre to the best of the abilities of my ruined body. I thought by using my name I would be clearly announcing - tongue in cheek - "Fuck you! I'm back!" (after four years of absence from the scene). Before I knew it, very good people were cheering me on and, because I needed to, I asked them to help. They did and with gusto. Very soon CharPo had become a recognized brand where real people who were respected and loved toiled. Within a month our traffic doubled, within two trebled and then upwards from there.
...the free tickets are fun too, but we all know we're not there for the post-opening party gnoshes...
But not for a moment did I think - or even for a moment now believe - that people were doing it for love of me. They were doing it for the same reason I ended up doing it: for love of theatre, specifically MELT (Montreal English-language theatre). Indeed, the free tickets are fun too, but we all know we're not there for the post-opening party gnoshes.
Surely, some think, we could advance the cause of theatre here without criticizing it! Yes, but that's why ELAN and QDF already exist and do a good goddam job too. Theatre not only requires promotion, we feel, but also critical discussion. What works? What doesn't? What could work better? That's not what ELAN and QDF are for...it is, however, what print used to be for and TV and radio.
During the Fringe nine out of our ten most popular pages were reviews. The tenth was the aggregator of all our Fringe coverage.
I guessed one thing after two decades in the bitch-biz: people love reviews. Even when they can't go to the play, they like reviews. Now I know this thing. During the Fringe nine out of our ten most popular pages were reviews. The tenth was the aggregator of all our Fringe coverage. We have a few non-critical features, like Ford's Focus, which do phenomenally well and every other piece we post has a good following, but nothing like the reviews (and goofs like the Friday Fives and Real Theatre!).
The volunteers like reviewing and - ignore the anonymous bitchery aimed at them - they all do it well. But all the volunteers also like working for theatre: drawing our attention to someone they admire; pulling them to the site with goofs and keeping them here for the rest; writing in-depth think pieces, interviews and features about Gay theatre, theatre in the round, musicals, opera, Fringe, solos - you name it.
And, happily!, that same spirit is making our recruitment for Char-Po Canada easier than I had ever hoped. Moreover, the new volunteers are helping me to free up time to examine another project: the creation of a regular podcast of interviews with theatre people across the country. This looks very do-able because a) I can conduct these chats from my home and b) I adore talking to theatre people.
Theatre - for the vast majority around it - does not pay very much.
But, please - before the devil's advocate comes to investigate us for sainthood - let me say we would all love to earn something for this work. We love theatre but it can suck you dry too (ask an actor who has been toiling for decades and can't afford car payments let alone a mortgage). Theatre - for the vast majority around it - does not pay very much. But I would be lying if I didn't say that someday I'd like to pay my rent and those of the senior editors here, or to be able to pay an honorarium for articles. But much of the internet is not there yet. It is our valuable tool, for now, which has huge potential (the same way the Fringe can be a valuable tool with potential to a struggling writer).
So, finally, to answer the confused questioner of my dear collaborator: we all do it because we - everyone (reviewer, spectator, artist) - IS theatre. Because we are, we want it to thrive. We want it to go in directions we can't even imagine! Like the new music some people live for, the experimental films which feed the bliss of others, and the sculpture which thrills some because it is something beyond sculpture.
And - hey! - who DOESN'T like free tickets? (And I do love my collaborators...)