On the outrage over who gets comped when

  1. To catch up, Factory and Quiptake decided to open The Art of Building a Bunker before the press night. Kelly Nestruck complained on twitter and some hubbub ensued. Two responses/summaries are here:  Lois Dawson / Holger Syme
  2. Really this is riling us up? (He says posting about it.) The world is almost literally falling apart, theatre is largely banal and boring, but we can have twitter storms about which night 10 people get to see a show for free?
  3. Obviously I speak for no one but myself.

The mainstream media for performance in Toronto is a problem.[1] Arts Sections are now almost entirely (celebrity) clickbate, with the largest daily (and most influential on ticket sales), The Star having 2 staff critics (Richard Ouzounian and Michael Crabb) who do serious damage to the art forms they review when they do get column inches.

For most indie theatre the “all press is good press” cliché doesn’t hold because we don’t respond – there is no counter proposal that calls out the very real biases, blind spots and priorities of the writers and the owners they work for. [2]

There is real fear about future retribution.

Not that audiences won’t come back or the work won’t hold up, but that Artistic Directors won’t program the next show if there is a hostile or negative relationship with the “press.”[3]

The relationship is not about the “truth” or “quality” – it’s about power, and where it’s located. That “art conquers all” is patently false in any material sense and needed to be left behind decades ago.

Down the path that I’m more interested in, the work and company have a more direct relationship with the people who are interested – it’s one of performing more often but in shorter runs (which the papers won’t review anyways but help word of mouth) Ditch the ideas of “openings” and “previews” all together.[4] [5] Find other ways to get in front of people.

Of course questions of scalability and financial return of this can be raised – but the patterns need to change, and in order to change they must – well – change. Things must be tried out, and some things will work, some won’t, some will bruise the critics, some will bruise others[6].

I saw Bunker a couple times in development. Given the material and style, Adam Lazarus’ following in an indie comedy / clown world, Guillermo Verdecchia’s willingness to address media bias [7] and Aislinn Rose’s willingness to experiment, it’s not surprising to me that they would want something different.[8] To try and start discussions through conversations and on social media and to have that already going before the terms could be defined by the established channels.

Will it be successful? Who knows? That’s why we actually have to try things.



  1. The process of production is also damaged, with shows being developed through typing faraway from live audiences and performers spending most of their time unemployed and not getting experience on deck. Short rehearsal periods with no time for reflection or changes in direction and very few previews to test in front of live audience further bind makers into decisions they made months ago in a quiet room.  ↩
  2. I suspect bloggers are collateral damage in a gesture more about the dailies. Few of the blogs post morning after in the same way, nor do they affect the outcome.  ↩
  3. We are talking about, like, 3–6 people here.  ↩
  4. The Wooster Group would run shows in the Performance Garage for 4 weeks of previews and open on the closing weekend. Meaning a) they could work on the show, treating it like the dynamic thing it was and b) they didn’t need to contend with a press they found hostile or irrelevant. Of course, that’s fine for the Wooster Group. But it wasn’t at some point. And they need to try it.  ↩
  5. If the objection is that there’s false advertising and/or over-charging for the shows that “should” be previews – that’s fair, but I think the distinction is a little made up to begin with and I’m not sure the objections are that altruistic.  ↩
  6. Most bruise the emerging artists with no job at all and now fewer project fees as operating companies who “co-produce” without cash. And then the artists have to comp all those people with full-time jobs (AD’s, reviewers)  ↩
  7. see The Noam Chomsky Lectures  ↩
  8. I have no inside knowledge – just surmising. Which is different than smizing.  ↩
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Good things, short notice

Some today, some this week  –

  • Today at 4pm you should be at the Theatre Centre if you can. Nadia Ross and STO Union are in town and showing new ideas as part of the Tracy Wright Global Archive . It’s a treat to visit with the the 3 part work (installation, film and performance) about her travels to India seeking the seeker. The whole archive is a pretty amazing project and hats off to Franco, Ravi and Roxanne and co. for a rare, special and meaningful form of commissioning between an institution and artists. Also, a really lovely way to spend the afternoon. STO is company one should spend time with whenever available.
  • The Animal Project is a film by Toronto filmmaker (and previous STO Union collaborator) Ingrid Veninger . Small Wooden Shoe collaborator Hannah Cheesman is in it. It is very good and this is it’s opening weekend. As much as I love comic book movies and blockbusters – it’s a treat[1] a good indie film in the cinema and so this is your chance to do that:TIFF LightboxToday: 12:15, 2:30, 7:15, 9:30 and then through to Thursday.
  • Luminato is on and amongst celebrity and questions of stability – there’s actually some art happening too.
    • I’m looking forward to seeing Cineastas tonight. I saw a show by Argentine Mariano Pensotti at PuSh a few years back and really enjoyed it. For a theatre culture a little over-focused on Europe and the USA – this something different than that.
    • and we finally get Mammalian Diving Reflex’s All the Sex I’ve Ever Had in Toronto in full glory and that’s good news.
    • There’s a bunch of events and talks happening around the Copycat Academy that I’m curious about too. I’m catching Jennifer Doyle talk about emotion in contemporary art on Tuesday and while I don’t necessarily agree with Mårten Spångberg about much, but he made a big splash in the dance community last time he visited.
  • If talking Canadian dramaturgy is your thing – the LMDA Canada Mini-Conference is back on Monday at Tarragon to fill that need. Here’s the Facebook page. I’ll be there after rehearsals for The Summer Spectacular

Maybe see you in the next couple days.

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  1. And an important thing to do if you want to keep seeing independent films on screens in the future.  ↩
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Screen Shot 2014-05-24 at 4.43.03 PM

We now return to our regular programming.


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Puppets are great, but not enough

We reached our target – thanks so much.

In talking about The Summer Spectacular – often I’m all “Big Puppets! Spectacular! Summer!”

Which is all true
but not everything.

We’re making the mash-up of history, science, politics and fun that I like so much and want more of in our theatre (and our world.)

We’re going to create the show by touring the park and telling each other [1] a mix of stories:

  • The Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus forms the scaffolding of the narrative. Often told as a warning to not get too big for your britches – “Don’t fly too close to the sun!” – I wonder if maybe we should ask “Why were they imprisoned on an island that they needed to invent wax wings to fly away from?”
  • J. Robert Oppenheimer is an iconic figure – physicist, activist, leader of the Manhatten Project to develop the Atom Bomb and accused communist and security threat.
  • Aaron Swartz was an activist and much loved citizen of the internet and democratic reform. While being over prosecuted by the US government and MIT he took his own life at 26.
  • A new barely science fiction story set in 2018 about a Canadian scientist having some trouble with the government about what she wants to say.


“Trying to poison your tutor is no small infraction. Then again, you might decide, as the dons at Cambridge clearly did, that what had happened called for a measure of leniency. They knew that the student had never done anything like this before, and that he wasn’t well.” – Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker

“Two years ago, he was indicted on multiple felony counts for downloading several million articles from the academic database jstor. It is not clear why he did this. He may have wanted to analyze the articles, or he may have intended to upload them onto the Web, so they could be accessed by anyone. It is clear that he did not anticipate the astonishing severity of the legal response.” – Larissa Macfarquhar in The New Yorker

“This story thus encourages others to consider the long-term consequences of their own inventions with great care, lest those inventions do more harm than good” – Somebody on Wikipedia

“I’m pleased to announce the Support Our Strengths Act – ensuring that our leaders in extraction science will be able fast track their work without interference from destructive fringe elements.” Prime Minister Vic Toews, 2018 press statement. Elected to Majority Government with the support 13% of eligible voters.[2]


I made a map of some thinking around the ethics and reasons for telling stories about people who are real. I’m only one degree of separation from people who loved Aaron and so I felt it was important to think through and articulate. Click to see the whole thing.

Ethics mindmap

  1. So that we can tell you
  2. This is fiction. I hope
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