Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reality Check

This is a hard post to write because things have just hit me.

I read this the other day in the G&M. The last name was familiar but I didn't think much more about it.

Well tonight I found out that this young man was the son of a guy I grew up with. I truly don't know what to say. I am hoping to get to the funeral this week.

But it left me wondering. Where is the arts response to this war? I have at least 10 Theatre Creator's Reserve applications for people to deal with their inner angst and personal struggles. Frankly they bore me. When are we, as artists, going to get our heads out of our collective navels and look around the world and have an opinion?
I don't even care if it is an opinion I loathe at least it will be better than seeing how much lint can collect in one place of the human body and then writing endlessly about it.

I yearn for art that has some balls.

R.I.P. Pte Michael Freeman

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Sunday Quickie

I don't know if it is just the season or what but Oedipus with vegetables somehow seemed appropriate

What will the new Europe look like through their on-line cultural database? Who knows? I haven't had a chance to delve into it but you might.

The Half: Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage
Simon Annand

Theatrebooks is out of it right now I believe but it does look like an interesting project

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday Quickie

Writing Thoughts

What have multicultural arts policies done for us?


What do you say when a play's a turkey?

I tell people that the only thing to say to me after a performance is "Darling! You were marvellous. Let me buy you a drink"

The more they hated the show the better the drink.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


and again sigh. It is so hard to try and put together a season. Even if that season is only a couple of shows. In fact the smaller the season the harder it is since more weight is placed on the shows you have.
My staff made me take a couple of days off this week to work on next years season so off I trundled to Theatrebooks where the guy at the counter asked me "Is there anything that I can help you with?"
Where upon I replied :"You could help me plan next years season". And so it turned out to be quite a lovely excursion with fellow shoppers chiming in to make suggestions.
I looked at a lot of plays and then I found one that I thought would be a great match, a quirky match, a match that no one would ever think of when thinking of Obsidian. I bought the script and devoured it. I talked to a director for whom I thought this play would be perfect. I finagled the budget in my head. I called Samuel French the next day to get the rights and .....sigh...someone else had called a couple of days earlier and and had dibs on it.
I am crushed. Not only crushed but ......well maybe I should leave it there.

All I can say is that if you are the person who has dibs on a Sarah Ruhl play or you know who that person is please give me a call and lets see if we can work something out.

I am so, as they say in Facebook, sigh.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


So I was sitting at the Starbucks on Bay just north of the Bloor subway waiting for my playwrights unit to show up and this is what I saw out the window.

I found myself wondering what it would take to get that many people so excited about theatre that they would don some glad rags and go running about the streets in a state of undress. I must confess that I could not think of a single thing.

And yet when my unit arrived we went on a fabulous excursion touring art galleries looking for art to inspire their pieces for the Mussorgsky Project. We saw a huge range of work, talked to artists and gallery owners and generally had a wonderful time exploring likes and dislikes.

We don't do that enough. None of us. Just take time to see and think and listen.

I propose that we should have an annual "Down Time" week where all artists just take off, kick back and spend a week delving into what we do.

If it could work for Alice then it could work for us.

Friday, December 12, 2008

in the pen case #2

So in the pencase starting tomorrow are as follows:
From left to right: A lovely sterling silver Wahl Eversharp Pencil with a cut floral pattern, the Cleo Sribent Chiffre 2000 filled with Private Reserve Fiesta Red, Waterman Coral Patrician {Modern}filled with Private Reserve Plum, Waterman Charleston filled with Aurora Black and finally a very nice Parker Burgundy/Black Duofold Junior filled with the Aurora Black as well. This Duofold has the original owners name inscribed in script on it which means that a copy of his signature had been sent along with the pen to the Parker Factory so that his actual signature could be inscribed. It's not pristine but it is rich with history.

Bad Dream Material

There are so many things that could be said about this.

I don't think I'll say much but really...I usually only get squicked by needles. This hit me in a place that I just don't want to think about.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Indie Caucus

I was at a meeting tonight of the Toronto Indie Caucus and I have to say that I was impressed by so many people there. Basically what they are working towards is a new agreement with C.A.E.A. that would bridge the gap between the Fringe Agreement and the Indie Agreement.
Forgive me if I get things a little wrong but I have to say that the whole deal for Indie producers is such a freaking mess that it takes a multi-tasking brain full concentration to try and find it's way through that whole Gordian Knot.

In a nutshell they are working to produce an agreement so that artist driven projects can get off the ground in both a fiscal and artistic way. They started working from a Toronto perspective but as things have evolved it looks like a national push will be next.

I don't have a list of all the people involved so I won't name names except to say that Jacoba Knappen and TAPA* have been fully there from the beginning and even though this is not an agreement that Obsidian would ever have an opportunity to work under I was pleased to support their initiative.

Making art can be so hard. And it is way hard when you are scratching pennies together. We have a system right now that encourages prevarication and that is just wrong. Wrong on so many levels but to me most wrong on the level that as artists we deal in truth. Without truth we have nothing more than facsimile. Without truth the work rings hollow and is easily dismissed. So to have to try and create truth from a place of lies is a soul destroying untenable place.

As the outreach to other theatrical communities around the country begins I will keep you up to date on this initiative because I believe it is one of the most vital things going on right now.

* Transparency Note: Edited to add that I am in my final year on the TAPA Board

Genealogical Reviewer Issues

Ok I am so not ready to understand the point of this post on the Arts Journal blog. I mean I have had suspicions about certain reviewers but this is perhaps a small toke over the line.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Voodoo Days

There are times when you start a new project that it feels like the only thing to do is to find a live chicken, a park and an altar and that is all that will make things right.
The phone call from the artistic director.
Ok, fine, dealt with.
The actor that doesn't show up.
Ok, fine, dealt with.
The playwright with helpful, albeit very, very late suggestions, comments and thoughts.
Ok, fine, dealt with.

Tomorrow is Sunday. Roast bird on the menu for sure. Chicken with Damballa Sauce.


From the Noises Off Blog some interesting thoughts about blogging rehearsals and even streaming rehearsals. I have often joked how I would love to have a web cam in certain rehearsal halls and now Ontological-Hysteria Theatre is doing it.

I wonder how that might play out here. I suppose it could only be done by an indie theatre not using C.A.E.A members but even so it might make for an intriguing event in and of itself.
The possibilities of perhaps comparing rehearsal to finished scenes might even prove to be a play on it’s own.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Content de Jour

Ok….a follow up to the previous post regarding directors and plays. It makes me crazy that there is a linkage to who can direct what. I know that it gets most sensitive when you have a white director directing a non white play and almost never do you have a non-white director directing a white play. But really the idiocy of that is beyond belief.
It somehow makes all black communities into one and that if you have some melanin in your skin then somehow you are entitled and cognoscente enough to direct any black play. And that is hogwash. There are many black communities just like asian communities or native communities and as such sooner or later you have to actually transcend the mundane and figure out that it is about the most perceptive director working with a cast that has the opportunity to create excellent work.

A bit of a case in point. Weyni Mengesha did a fine job in directing Raisin in the Sun at Soulpepper. The only thing lacking, in my estimation, was the visceral understanding of what life in the 50’s and 60’s for a black person in the States was really like. They had a good approximation of it but it was apparent that approximation was all it was. The only reason that stuck out for me was because I was around during that time and kind of lived through it. But so what eh? I mean there are very few people kicking around from pre Stalinist times so who really knows what Russian society was like in those Chehkov plays. And yet they are done and no one blinks an eye.
My contention is that if Weyni can have the insight and talent to direct Raisin then she has those same capabilities to direct pretty much anything and I wonder where she is in the next years season. I mean there are 11 plays 10 of which are directed by cough white guys cough. Are they bad directors? Hell no. But what message does it send when the new big kids on the block can’t see their way past to actually walk the walk.
Well the message is simply the same ole same ole. Touch base with a black play, get a black director and look like you are doing some culturally diverse programming. Anything else well…hmmm step back.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dancing with August

Isaac Butler writes this amazing article for the Tony Blog. It is about Bartlett Sher directing an August Wilson play and then goes on to include some fascinating links. I would urge you to have a read and to follow those links all the way to the end.

The issues of who {ie what race} gets to direct a play about another race is one that is pretty fraught with land mines. I remember when The Colored Museum was produced by the Tarragon and Martha Henry directed. Martha was great. Ok she knew nothing about black women and their hair issues but she was able to direct us with craft and insight. Nowadays I don't think you would see that happening. We have managed come as far down the road as to only be able to have a non-white direct a non-white play.

Wilson talks about the need for a black theatre and his opposition to colour blind casting. It all leads to some fine contemplation of issues that never seem to get behind us.


R.I.P -----> C.A.S.H.

The long running, very hip and cool podcast comes to an end.

Suitably handsome

Dance Magazine has this article on Reviews entitled Knocked Sideways

It’s about receiving bad reviews and how they hit us. All of a sudden I was floating down memory lane. It’s funny how some bad reviews are just kind of fuzzy in my brain. And trust me I don’t really want anyone to dig up the reviews of my Othello from the Arts Club Theatre. I already have my excuses in place for that.

The one bad review I really remember was from a production of Absurd Person Singular that I was in at the Globe Theatre. Ah those halcyon days when my hair was still black. This was unlike the production that I had previously been in at the Globe where I played the spunky runaway slave to the sage Richard Greenblatt’s Thoreau. Of course in this production I did indeed create my theory of “Natural Savagery Acting”. But perhaps that excursion should be left to a late night revel with much scotch.

Ok avoidance over. In the review of my work of Geoffrey the Architect that has that wonderful 2 page monologue as his wife tries to commit suicide in front of his oblivious self the local paper said “ And Philip Akin was suitably handsome”. Suitably Handsome? Like taupe, dry concrete, spam or bad adolescent rhyming couplet poetry?
I was crushed.

But in a wonderful kind of way it became an insulation for whatever reviews followed. No matter what critics thought of my work, in my heart I could always know that to that one critic years ago I had been.....suitably handsome.