Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Free and Read

I had never heard of the Free Night of Theatre Promotion before and so was quite intrigued by the possiblities. I wonder if we could get something like that going here. I daresay the bigs would avoid it like the plague but it might be a very cool thing for the independents. Maybe we should start this conversation.

And from the Guardian a bit of a rant about playwrights reading their own work. On one hand I did hear a record of June Jordan reading her poem The Talking Back of Miss Valentine Jones: Poem # one. Now she does not have the best of reading voices but her reading blew me away. That poem became one of my favourites and is still one that resonates. I wanted to do a play using her poetry and it kind of slipped by the way side as politics changed the landscape. Poem about my Rights is a great illustration of that.

Anyway...playwrights reading their own work. I can't think of any. Can you?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Quickie

I think that all theatres are adapting as best they can to the greater use of the web for marketing materials. We all struggle with "how to" or "what equipment" issues.

Factory Theatre has an amusing season announcement video that I quite like. It has a kind of rough steady cam'ish feel so when I found this article about inventors I figured that this was something that might prove to be of value to the rest of the theatre community that is looking to do video without spending mega bucks. Check out his YouTube videos and go here to get the plans for his steady cam.

The ongoing issue of women playwrights and directors.

Theatre Customer Service.  Ok so how would you rate your theatre experience? Best/worst?

Friday, October 24, 2008


So like is it February already?  What the heck. Trying to find a non-working black actor in Toronto has become impossible. Ok some are in Raisin, some still at Stratford, some working for Ken Gass and his Canadian Rep Company, some flying off to Winnipeg to do Medea, one in Wild Dogs and most everyone else I am trying to hire for the International Playwrights Festival. Ok so it's not so bad unless you count the 6 actors I have still to find for a piece by Kwame Kwei-Armah that features 6 males, 2 females. All Caribbeans or Africans with British overlay accents ranging in age from 20 to 50. I am not having any luck and man o man do I ever hate February in October.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Playwrights x 3

I have talked earlier about how playwrights should get more money. And I have also been known to expound on how the greatest growth for playwrights comes through productions. It seems like the Mellon Foundation agrees. Well they agree with a ton of money which in my book carries more weight than just someone nodding their head over a beer in Little Italy.

I have been obsessing over playwrights recently because, {insert totally shameless plug here}, Obsidian has been working on putting together an International Playwrights Forum, seeing some plays, hearing some readings from local playwrights and generally grooving with some international ones all for the low cost of $5 FOB. I find it hard to believe that we have not hit our target of 100 participants. Frankly I am somewhat appalled by that fact.

Black Canadian plays are a scarce commodity. I wish I was sitting here with so many scripts that I could plan for the next three years. Well I can do that but not with Canadian plays. I am at my wits end for one of those breakout plays. A play that has the music inside it and just hums along. A play that transcends the obvious and playwrights who start to eschew the literal narrative form for other means of theatrical expression.

One of the best things about our Forum is the fact that all the international playwrights are mixed race and their work either explores that fact or leaves it behind for other things that interests them. This is a unique opportunity to have one of those real cross pollination experiences instead of staying inside the confines of the funding reserves.

Maybe if we start to commit to the idea of the playwright as a full partner in the centre of our art then other people will as well and maybe, just maybe, there might be a Canadian version of the Mellon Foundation that will fight against the cult of the virgin play and pour some new money into production

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ten Things

Ten Things

ok a Sunday Quickie on Friday night. So sue me it's Thanksgiving weekend for crying out loud.

And I saw Scratch last night and Catherine Fitch and Monica Dottor rock my world. Charlotte is a heck of a playwright but she needs to just write plays. Write one for Obsidian Charlotte

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Ok so this is not so much a theatre post other than the fact that I think that as artists it is important to reach out to as wide a community as possible.
So I was turned on to Kiva a few months ago and since then have bought into the whole idea of micro banking in a big way. The Kiva website explains it way better than I ever will but after loaning a number of times they changed the website to also enable Kiva groups or teams and so I created an Obsidian Theatre Team. 
So if any of this appeals to you and you decide to participate in Kiva please look up the Obsidian Team and come on board.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sunday Quickie

There is so much I could say about the state of theatre school training. There is even more that I could say about how non-white performers are treated. I should probably say what I want to say after a quick review of the law.

So while we wait for that how about a fine essay by The Feminist Spectator.

Standing at the corner

So at the intersection of race and art politics there is a continuing undercurrent of not only who is black but also what makes a work black. Is it about parentage, blood line or appearance?

I met a young aspiring director the other day. He was quick to point out to me that he was of mixed race and I suppose that since I run a black theatre company he wanted to be sure that his light appearance would not be held against him.

First off I think that I have a pretty broad based idea of what constitutes being black. If you have the ancestry and the belief then that pretty much works for me. If you create a play and you fulfilled the qualifications of the previous sentence then to me it is a black play.

I have told people in my playwrights unit that if you want you can write a play about three white frat boys it is still a black play in my mind. Why? Well because I believe that the depth and breadth of black/human experience is more than just meditations on one’s ethnicity. Being black is not going to change in one’s lifetime and your experience of that fact will always be a part of what you create. However that manifests itself is just part of the artistic exploration. Even if you want to deny it fully then even that act is part of the whole deal.

There has been a lot of talk in some places about how do mixed race artists fit in. Frankly rarely have I seen as much hogwash written. In the black communities mixed race mostly means black/white combinations but in fact it is applicable to any combination of races.

The odd thing is that if your heritage comes from the slave diaspora then as a black person you are already mixed race. What passes today for black is mostly a hodgepodge of many different African/Indian/Caucasian tribes so the idea of a mixed race peoples looking down at a more current mixed race person and denying them their place in black art and culture is at best a vapid and uninformed view.

So where to go with all this? I explained some of my vision here.

I believe in inclusion. Inclusion in the fullest and best artistic sense. What new synergies have been lost because of our own self seclusion? How can we, standing at the aforementioned intersection, open up all our visions and let ourselves be open to artistic surprise. 

I think that the answers to all that is the work for the future. 
And yes, I did indeed offer that young director a chance to work with me on a project.