VANCOUVER GREENROOM 11: We need to talk

Theatre is community

Colin Thomas writes about Vancouver theatre.

I’m getting into some new things that you should probably know about.

WE NEED TO TALK 

I love you, I really do. All of you who read Vancouver Greenroom are important to me. But…our relationship has to change. And I want us to grow together, not apart.

Starting in November, this blog feature, Vancouver Greenroom, will disappear, and I’ll start pouring all of its content—which is oriented towards theatre makers as well as theatregoers—into my newsletter.

You can subscribe to that newsletter right here. (Just keep saying yes: it’s what has made us so good together so far.)

Like us, the newsletter is free. It’s fun. And—I’m not going to say whether this is like us or not—but it only comes once a week.

My newsletter contains the best of my theatre writing, including: curated local, national, and international news; links to all of my reviews; weekly ticket-buying recommendations; and practice-oriented items for theatre pros and cognoscenti such as yourself.

A taste: this week’s newsletter will include an item about director Peter Brook, who rocked the theatre world in 1968 with his book The Empty Space, and who has just published a new volume, Tip of the Tongue, at 92.

So sign up. Let’s secure our future together—and ensure the survival of informed, independent theatre criticism in Vancouver while we’re at it.

 

Liberal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly's Creative Canada plan has met resistance in Quebec about content regulation.

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly (right—really) is facing serious resistance to her new vision for Canadian culture.

ADVICE FROM A WALRUS

I hate discussions of policy and funding. My eyes glaze over. I can’t follow the logic. But, in the Walrus, Ira Wells argues compellingly that we should all pay attention to Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly’s Creative Canada policy, which she released on September 28.

Wells’s argument is philosophical: in embracing the economic and analytics-based terms of Silicon Valley, he say, Joly profoundly misunderstands the value of culture. Wells compares Culture Canada to the Massey Report, which spawned the Canada Council and the National Film Board: “Where the authors of that report spoke of ‘art and letters,’ Creative Canada speaks of ‘content creators.’ Where the earlier document explicitly posits culture as bulwark against the ‘materialistic society’ Canada could one day become, Creative Canada is just as explicit that culture is an ‘engine of economic growth and a competitive advantage’ in the materialist society we already are…Creative Canada won’t protect the distinctiveness of Canadian art but will shackle it to the homogenizing logic of corporate analytics. The result will be a more calculated, data-driven, snackable Canadian culture, one chasing web hits abroad in order to justify its funding at home. Politicians will sell the concept as an opportunity to “bring Canada to the world,” but Canadian news consumers will increasingly rely on American technology firms, and we will become less informed and more manipulable.”

In The Globe and Mail, Kate Taylor worries that a deal with Netflix, which is the centrepiece of Creative Canada will be the end of Canadian content regulations, and Robert Everett-Green what he regards as Joly’s strategic missteps and conceptual errors.

In contrast, Irene Berkowitz, who is a policy fellow in Ryerson’s Faculty of Communications and Design, offers five reasons to love Joly’s new deal, all of which emphasize the benefits of market-driven content production.

 

At the National Theatre in London, Stephen Sondheim told writers to beware directors.

Stephen Sondheim’s advice to composers and librettists: Watch out for the directors. (Photo by Dave Benett)

PRO TIPS

Want to know how to succeed as a choreographer or as a musician working on new musicals? These lists of tips from pros might help you out. Both lists tell you to be nice.

This piece about how to write a review takes a different tack: “Be honest”, The Stage’s Lyn Gardner says. “Don’t worry about going out on a limb. A timid theatre review is often a dull read.” Too true.

Stephen Sondheim’s advice to composers and lyricists is blunt: Watch out for the directors. This summer, Sondheim told a gathering at England’s National Theatre: “Many, many directors, particularly in musicals, are more interested in serving themselves rather than serving the text, because musicals invite a lot of invention… Even if that director is inventive, he or she should be serving the piece, and you don’t always get that. That’s the thing I look for.”

 

Michael Rubenfeld created CanadaHub for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Michael Rubenfeld, formerly of Toronto’s Summerworks Festival, has created a new international showcase for Canadian theatre.

SCOTCH. NEAT!

The Globe and Mail’s Kelly Nestruck is calling 2017 “Canadian theatre’s global summer of love.” That’s because Canadian theatre artists have been rocking it internationally—in New York, where Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre took up a month-long residency, and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where producer Michael Rubenfeld curated an initiative called Canada Hub.

CanadaHub was astonishingly successful. Foreign Radical, by Vancouver’s Theatre Conspiracy, and Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, from Halifax’s 2b Theatre Company, both won Fringe First Awards.

Playwright Hannah Moscovitch, who created Old Stock with Ben Caplan and Christian Barry, based her script on the experience of her great-grandparents, who escaped a Russian pogrom to emigrate to Canada in 1908. Driven by the story, by klezmer music, and by Caplan’s charismatic performance, Old Stock was such a huge hit with audiences—and producers—in Edinburgh that 2b theatre has booked a tour of Old Stock that will run begin with a seven-week off-Broadway run this March and then travel the world until the summer of 2019. (The dates haven’t been announced yet, but Vancouver will be part of that tour.)

If you’re a Canadian theatre artist, here’s where you come in. Rubenfeld wants to turn CanadaHub into an annual event. So start scheming.

 

Falling Awake, by Ragmop Theatre, is

Matthew McCorkle and Naya Fielkov surprise and charm in Falling Awake

THAT WAS ME MOANING

If you want my top recommendations of what to see this weekend, here you go.

Of the shows I’ve seen so far, my two faves are Hyperlink, TJ Dawe and Itai Erdal’s brand new piece about social media—it’s playing at the Firehall until this Saturday, October 14—and Falling Awake, Ragmop Theatre’s surrealist physical comedy, which is at Studio 1398 this Friday to Sunday (October 13 to 15).

I hate it when critics quote themselves but in this case I’m going to make an exception because I really want you to consider this show. After enjoying Falling Awake at the Vancouver Fringe in 2016, I wrote that it was “so beautiful that I groaned with pleasure.” It’s true: I moaned right out loud, which was less embarrassing than the time I found a plot turn in a different evening so annoying that I said, “Oh for Christ’s sake!”—using my outside voice.

This week, I’ll be seeing Thanks for Giving, GG Award winner Kevin Loring’s new piece about a tempestuous holiday meal, and VIVA, Scott Button’s new play about strangers who meet in Las Vegas.

I always post day-after reviews here on my blog. And, if you want to make sure you don’t miss a thing, there’s something else you can do. What was it? Oh yeah: sign up for my newsletter.

About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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