As an American and an asshole, I spend very little time thinking about Canada. I spend even less time thinking about Canadian theater. But two news stories this week have caught my attention, and I believe my puerile American brain is the better for it.
The first was a widely circulated pair of editorials about whether or not we should clap for celebrity entrances. Leaving aside the easy jokes about how I didn't realize Canada had non-Degrassi, non-hockey celebrities, I have to say that it's easy to agree with Kate Taylor's complaint that clapping for the arrival of a famous face "s'uggests that audiences, long accustomed to the virtual versions of stars they know from television and the movies, can be billed simply for the privilege of seeing them live and in person, like animals in a zoo." More importantly, I was impressed by the grotesque picture of Mickey Rooney chosen to accompany the post.
Today, an article about three prominent independent theaters in Toronto, and their fight to survive. I see so many stories along these lines about New York theaters, so it was interesting to hear the encounter the same tropes on the other side of Buffalo.
We have Factory, which "all but collapsed under the threat of an artists’ boycott after its board fired artistic director Ken Gass in a dispute over renovations," and three playwrights pulled their work from the 2012 season. (Do they need replacement plays? I've got a pile of 'em, and only some suck.) We have the Tarragon Theatre, "the cradle of English Canadian drama," which is talking about changing its business model without actually doing so. And then there is Passe Muraille, which has departed from the suffocating structure of chasing subscribers by presenting season after season made up of a handful of name playwrights.
How nice it must be for Canadian theater journalists, to never wonder whether a company styles themselves as a theater or theatre. Something to be said for standard spelling. Myself, I think that in these United States, anyone who claims to be producing theatre is either a redcoat spy or a world-class chump. But that's just one American's personal opinion.
Of the three groups mentioned in the article, I'm most charmed by Passe Muraille. They pair audience members with dancers, and send them to parks for a private/public show. They have collaborated with the city's taxi commission to produce a show about transit. And in December, they're inviting children into the studio to play around with toy construction.
"Visiting Passe Muraille’s ever changing website these days," the Globe & Mail reports, "it can sometimes be difficult to ascertain whether this is a theatre or some kind of community outreach project."
Last night I started another of the Ed McBain 87th Precinct novels, which take place in a thinly-veiled version of New York that is, nevertheless, complete unto itself. For Manhattan we have Isola, a rough-and-tumble island that's divided from the mainland by the Harb River to the north and the Dix to the south. On the far side of the Calm's Point Bridge is, surprisingly, Calm's Point—a working class borough whose dimensions feel strikingly similar to the one I currently call home. Reading about the struggles of Toronto theaters, I feel the same way, as though the Globe & Mail reporter took the stories of three dozen New York theaters and boiled them down into a handful of archetypes. If I want to know how the allegory plays out, I guess I'll have to keep my eye on the Toronto news.