Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God – Maev Beaty and Tony Nappo Part 4

Is Toronto Theatre Dead?

(This conversation originally took place over email on Thursday June 4th 2009.)

Tony:

I don’t think any director or actor would argue when I make the statement that most shows I see in Toronto are not ready to open by opening. Most shows merely survive opening night and settle into whatever it is they are by the end of the first week. The odd shows have a week of previews and this makes a difference but why the fuck do we always have to rush a script to the audience before we are ready to do it justice? Time and money. I would love to see a workshop rate for an extended workshop/rehearsal period. I know that there are other places where you don’t get paid to rehearse at all but there are also places where actors and artists receive compensation when they are out of work- much more civilized. In those places, I can only imagine, people honour their artists where here there is a real indifference or resentment towards what we are paid for what we produce by the government and the public (more film than theatre but it is generally lumped together under the banner of Canadian acting). I remember reading a reader feedback thing online in the Globe when Actra went on strike and the overwhelming public response was Who cares? But I digress-I think workshops would go a long way towards saving Toronto theatre which, as far as I am concerned, is dead right now. I see glimpses of hope here and there but and a few outstanding companies but generally what I see is quite mediocre. I read the Dora nominations yesterday and was, of course, happy to see some names of some people I knew whose work I had enjoyed but I also saw a lot of names of shows that I had seen that were fucking terrible and that baffled me. I have agreed to be on next year’s Dora jury to ensure that I am exposed to as much theatre as possible in hopes of finding work and artists that inspires me and who I might want to work with that I may have been missing even though I do see quite a bit of what is out there.  For the most part, I am not interested in doing theatre at all right now. Care to agree or disagree with my assessment of Toronto theatre being dead? Or maybe we should discuss the play itself a bit.

Maev:

I saw 92 shows last year. For realsies. (Seeing lots at Fringe and SummerWorks helps those numbers a lot, but still). I just checked and discovered that I saw 10 shows in May. I am not on any ‘jury.’ I consider it part of my job to do this. I wanna see what’s turning people on, how actors are approaching the craft, what nifty magical tricks people are discovering and yes, I wanna see what’s ‘dead.’ I would truly say this: about a third of the shows I see aren’t worth the money or time: they are “dead.”  A third of the shows have either a fantastic performance or some innovative exciting direction or delicious writing or are just really entertaining (i.e. silly and funny). The remaining third is made up of either really really really good shows (great detailed and complex performances which all seem to be ‘in the same play’ + sensitive, unobtrusive and meaning-full direction + design that truly transports me ‘somewhere’ even if it’s just two chairs and a coat-rack + script/content that makes me ask questions about myself) OR really cool shows from other countries that just blow my mind with their ‘different-ness’. Those numbers may shift from year to year, but dammit, I am still going to go as often as I can manage. And I know you will too – not just because of the Doras – you see tons of stuff, especially considering your busy life. Awesome. Here’s the other thing: I LIKE PEOPLE. I like being in a room with a bunch of people in the dark – allllll kinds of people.  The more kinds, the better. And that’s something the theatre community needs to work on – more mixing, more cross-pollination with dance and music crowds. (This is something I think Volcano does really well by the way). I like being with people, sitting in a room together, watching other people doing things right in front of us…live. I love it. I’m addicted. I think it’s really really good for me. And even if the show is ‘dead’ – the experience of being out of my house, away from this damn computer, surrounded by strangers, taking a risk en masse, makes me feel alive. Ummmm…oh boy…have we gotten waaaay off topic now? What WAS the topic? oh dear….

Tony:

This must be one of the reasons that I love you. I agree with the communion aspect of theatre. The aliveness of the live event. If we could only get more people whose first experience was a positive one, we could hook more people on theatre which would be a good thing to get hooked on.

Click the hyperlinks below to read the other parts of this ongoing conversation between The Africa Trilogy actors Maev Beaty and Tony Nappo:

Part 1 The Human Problem of “What Do I Do?”

Part 2 Theatre vs Rice and Beans

Part 3 Hail The Workshop

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~ by volcanotheatre on April 29, 2010.

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