Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Quickie

Sorry for the lack of posting this week. We just finished up our 3rd week of rehearsals for Late and Black Medea and move into the theatre on Tuesday. I hope to have a little something tomorrow for a Labour Day present.

To tide you over here are this week's quickies:

Growth and Spaces

Music as a new Revenue?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Quickie

Tear Down This Wall

Green Edinburgh Fringe?

A view of the Shaw guy.   For your ongoing Share the Stage peeps

Horses for Courses.  For the record I wrote an AD statement based on this phrase a few months ago so when you see it remember that ok?  smiling

This edition of Sunday Quickies was brought to you by the stalwarts at Arts Journal.com

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


From The Guardian this wonderful article about the revival of a play by a living playwright.

David Eldridge's "Under the Blue Sky" has currently been remounted and he has some interesting thoughts on what that whole process has been like. This quote is one I wish I had written...really, really wish that I had written as it so perfectly sums up the situation here in Canada as well.

Theatre in this country is currently preoccupied with a cult of virginity, with new plays premiered and discarded in rapid succession; far more than it is in nurturing a contemporary repertoire that will sustain modern playwriting long-term.

The cult of virginity. The perfect descriptive phrase.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Via Arts Journal there are a couple of interesting links today.

The first is about the L.A. based Celebration Theatre and the vision of the new artistic director to broaden the reach/mandate/ audience. It's interesting since as the premiere gay theatre he is looking to non white gays, lesbians and heteros to be part of the new mix. I will try and watch this one with interest as broadening a mandate can be a road fraught with peril. Also of interest is the financial side of the organization. I have to say that it makes me grateful for the support we currently have here.

The second is about the possible amalgamation of the two major theatres in Perth, Australia. I found myself imagining what that would be like if we had an amalgamation issue here in Toronto. The last one I can remember was between Toronto Free Theatre and Centre Stage to create Canadian Stage. Why does that seem like just the other day when in fact it was ummmmmm way too long ago.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Share the Stage Oh My!

There has been a whole mess of talk online and off about the Share the Stage effort. You can find online copy in Facebook or at the Globe and Mail.

Some other discussions have grown up on the message boards in that group and while I was just going to keep a low profile this came up and I came back.

She said: {in part}
Walking around this morning, I thought about a conversation I had with an Upper Middle Class etc..., and mentioned something about Obsidian Theatre as an exciting company and this person reacted strongly to the black only aspect of the company as being racist against whites and all else. I was shocked and very defensive saying "but they've put together a powerful company that allows them to WORK!". Then thinking about it, as fabulous as companies like that are, if we start creating all these group specific splinter companies, then we are adding to the mentality of the public that segregates us. The only way to change that is by integrative casting. And that it not be an issue.

I said: {in part}
Am I right in thinking that your friend was an actor? I find it remarkable that people that don't know shit from shinola have such uninformed opinions.
Actors tend to think that only what is shown on the deck is representative of a theatre. It is a myopic and, quite frankly, offensive view.
A quick run down on what Obsidian does. We hire more non black people in a year than any other company hires black people. In my upcoming production Marjorie Chan directs a play, Richard Lee does Sound Design, Ming Wong is Head of Wardrobe, Rick Banville is PM and Ash Knight is a big volunteer for our Season Launch. One play is by Marcia Johnson and yes she is black and the other is by Wesley Enoch who is an Australian Aboriginal. Have your friend come and check out our office and get the facts instead of half baked opinions before they run their mouth.
As for why splinter groups. Well that is the only way to get money from the councils. Check out the Canada Councils definition of culturally diverse and you will see why things are the way they are.

Some other of my thoughts that came out of that posting thread. 

”I am sure Obsidian gets our fair share of dissing. It's not a problem. We work with a number of theatres who want to create good art regardless of colour. But outside of that community, by that I mean the diverse community, I think that segregation is a valid option. I don't care what Shaw does or what "name your theatre does". I believe in facts and the fact is that no theatrical venue in Canada is run by a culturally diverse theatre company. None. So if you want to get het up and change the world lets change that fact. Lets put our energy towards creating venues for companies that actually do the work. The rest will grow or fail as entropy dictates.

You don't change a company by browning up the stage. You change a company by changing the corporate cultural culture. Until you do that then this is all just about actors getting jobs.”


” It is fine for a white AD to say let them have their theatre and we will have ours. No problem from me at all. The problem comes in about resources aka filthy lucre aka money. I say give us equal funding so that we can have the multiplicity of theatres then that is equal. The argument is not about a black theatre or a gay theatre it is really about many black theatres, many gay or asian or etc etc theatres. None of these communities speak with one voice or language and thus they should all have a shot at defining their art.

I have done my outreach to other theatres and usually what sells is a good production. So first make the art and then worry about the ancillary stuff. If people want to get in touch I am pretty easy to reach.”


"There are a lot of battles to fight. One is not exclusive to the other. So what Obsidian does or does not do will never reflect the needs of everyone. So if you have the big urge to play Hamlet then that is a battle that has to be fought. 

For myself and my vision I would rather spend my time and money on developing new works and artists that create other supremely high standards that black artists can strive for.
Obsidian cannot fix everything. I cannot fix everything. I can work towards fixing issues and art that excites and intrigues my audience, my staff, my board and myself. That's it. That is my art. It is a big vision. It has room for lots of people. But I am not Noah and this isn't an ark.
So if you have a fight worth fighting go forth and do battle. If I can help I will. If not then find others who will.”

Apologies for the length of this. I really need to learn how to do a cut line on this blog. So that is my project for this weekend.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Abilene Paradox

Whoa....Butts in Seats led me to a great management concept. Ok that sounds all kind of non-art related but it's not. 

It's about the Abilene Paradox

{The Abilene paradox is a paradox in which a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of any of the individuals in the group. It involves a common breakdown of group communication in which each member mistakenly believes that their own preferences are counter to the group's and do not raise objections.} Now does any of that sound familiar? 

I am sure that there must be another name for a situation where someone does indeed speak up and is ignored. Suggestions?

Sunday Quickie

Splurge: From the Met /Arts Journal

Just a few ideas for getting the word out on your show

updated...... Isaac Hayes died today

My favourite song was "Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic" but it isn't on Youtube so I leave you with this.

Friday, August 8, 2008


I am probably going to have some things to say about this but for now all I can say is

"What he said"  

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Images, art & religion

I had a couple of thoughts collide this morning. Early this morning alas. The first was that art begins at the first point of information contact with a potential audience. By that I mean that for most indie companies it is the advertising/marketing materials which should be one of the strongest artistic points of a production. A provocative, seminal, arresting, deep image will set the tone and expectations in a profound way. Or conversely something quirky and attention getting. If, like that terrible old saw, you only have one chance to make a first impression, then this material is your first impression.

I love these two images as the first {Sex and the Saudi} stamps the story immediately and the second {Arm's Length} intrigues one in. {Both shows at Summerworks www.summerworks.ca  I seem to have used up all my space for this post so some links won't stick}

I was told by a producer that I really respect that one of our posters looked like it should be in an art gallery. He didn’t mean it as a compliment. He felt that it did not do enough to sell the show. I felt caught between God and Mammon. Ok a bit of hyperbole but you get my drift. Was it about the art of first contact or to sell the show or to strive to find a perfect balance?

The second early morning idea was that without the knowledge of Judeo-Christian religion it is much harder to understand a great deal of Western Art/Theatre/Culture. Ok you can throw in Greek and Roman mythology as a bit of seasoning.

Here is the image {http://www.canstage.com/2008-2009/play.php?ID=17} for Studio 180’s production of Blackbird. A simple shot of an apple and yet:

Apple = Garden of Eden = Original Sin = Forbidden Fruit = a play about pedophilia.

I love the idea that it’s a Golden Delicious Apple as well. All of that works as long as you know your history and Christianity.

And if you don’t? Well then how much time would you have to spend to explain it? No time at all if you are writing as one of the main stream culture but it struck me that playwrights who are coming from other cultures where an audience here might not know all of the cultural modifiers now have a bit of a dilemma. Do they spend time doing exposition to explain, do they leave it up to program notes or do they just forget about it and let people catch as catch can. 

I was coaching an actor the other day and one of the lines referenced “Cupids strongest bow”. I asked her what was her image of Cupid and then did a Google search for images. Well the Valentine’s Day chubby came up alongside of paintings of Cupid making love to Pysche. You could use either image for your poster or for your imaging of the text. They would each tell a hugely different story and would skew the perception of your play. And that is the point isn’t it? To shape that first reception perception and to use cultural context to enhance the work.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Morality and Art

Wendy Rosenfield of The Mirror up to Nature has a great post up about morality and theatre. 

While she takes particular issue of man vs crustacean the article also talks about right/wrong vis a vis pedophilia. That particular post is here.

It feels a bit like in Toronto we are in the midst of talking about pedophilia what with productions of Absit Omen’s My Fellow Creatures, CanStage’s Doubt and Studio 180’s Blackbird. A veritable inundation of the discussion in fact.

However one of the morality issues that has long been part of my internal discussion has been about Eric Fischl’s Tumbling Woman. This piece was created after 9/11, installed and then the controversy had it removed. 

Public art vs morality or taste. It is always a continuing debate but for me Fischl’s work is one of the most compelling, disturbing and powerful images I have ever viscerally felt. The thought of it not having a place in our public spaces is a profoundly depressing one.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Neutral Masks

Ok I know that everyone who went to theatre school had to do mask work. It’s just one of those things that theatre school is all about and no one ever seemed to make an issue when all the masks came from a European background. I mean it's not like Africa or Asia or anywhere else in the world had a tradition of theatre/religion and masks. Even the famous neutral masks were neutral in the sense of bandaids being skin coloured…..heh… what skin, what colour, you may well ask.

So a few years back I bought a couple of these neutral masks because they were ummmmm Afro Neutral. They are hanging in the Obsidian office and I loan them out when asked because it just seems like such a great idea to have neutrality defined per particular race as opposed to just one race. They come in female and male and are really lovely to have hanging about looking back at you.

Now if theatre schools would only broaden their curriculum to include plays outside of the European canon we might actually be getting closer to 2008.

The Roan Group

I first met Neill Archer Roan at a CAPACOA conference a few years back. I was truly impressed by his two-day presentation and took away a ton of insights that have served me well. We , as theatre artists, tend to look down somewhat on the marketing folks. I think that deep inside we think that they only care about selling a product which, just so happens this time, to be us. Neill loves performers and their work and that shows in his wide range of topics and ideas.

I have read a number of his articles and this one is one of my favourites because it shattered my own ideas about supporters/donors.

"People who love you most will leave you quickest."

I am still working that one out.

When Numbers Lie

He hasn’t been posting much lately but I would encourage you to go to his site and cruise about.