. . . and one extremely annoying question
By Alison Broverman
When Ian asked me to make a guest post on this smart and lovely blog, I was surprised and flattered. Doesn’t he read my blog? Doesn’t he know that my blogging consists mainly of ridiculous photos (often of a plastic shark), obscure references to David Hasselhoff and Mario Lopez, and shameless self-promotion?
But then he wrote the opening scene of his amazing robot play in my comments, so clearly he is familiar with my nonsense. OK, Praxis Theatre Blog. You can’t say you weren’t warned. You knew what you were getting into when you invited me here to ramble.
This is a theatre blog, so my hosts here would probably like it if I started talking about theatre before everyone goes and starts reading Garfield Minus Garfield (as if you aren’t already – that was so two weeks ago). So. Theatre. Last week was Broadway week on American Idol. Mario Lopez is starring in A Chorus Line on Broadway. I just read a teen novel that makes a casual reference to the 1976 Broadway flop Rockabye Hamlet. None of these things are relevant, but they make me giggle.
Relevence: I promised Ian I’d write a little something about the things I’ve learned in my (not very many) years of interviewing theatre types. Things that didn’t make it into the paper. That sounds like I have all kinds of juicy dirt, which I don’t. But people always seem to want to know “what it was like” to interview so-and-so. And I have the good fortune to be able to have great conversations with a lot of fascinating people.
Like Cameron Mackintosh (I know, right? He called my house and everything!), with whom I discussed why Les Miserables resonates so strongly with children. (Awesome kid characters, obviously.) Then he told me that people who played Young Cosette et. al. back in the 80s are now trying to foist their own kids off on him for current productions. There’s something a bit creepy about that image, isn’t there? That cycle of Cosettes begetting Cosettes?
I initially became an arts journalist because I wanted to see theatre for free, but I’ve since discovered that this career is a really excellent extension of my theatrical education. That I get paid for, instead of paying for. And I don’t have to commute up to freaking York anymore. I probably learned more from one conversation with Daniel MacIvor (I interviewed him in September 2006 for this story) than in an entire semester of Theatre Survey. You can learn just as much by reading his insightful blog – he’s one of the few theatre artists blogging about his own artistic process, the work of others, and just life in general. (And one time he wrote that I was a “fine young writer”. That is the kind of thing you try to remember on days when everything is crap.)
More recently, I chatted with Colleen Murphy about her new play The December Man, and also about how difficult it’s getting to make theatre in this city. She specifically asked me to try and work something into my article about how programs for new play development keep getting gutted in Toronto, but it didn’t flow with the article. So I thought I’d mention that here. I interviewed Colleen right around that weird time at the end of March when all that nonsense was going down at CanStage. She thinks abandoning their new play development was a terrible idea.
She wants playwrights to band together and demand respect. Or money. Or both. [As a personal aside, although on principle I think that CanStage should obviously support new Canadian work, I can’t remember the last good play I saw that had been developed by CanStage. Probably something by Ronnie Burkett. And the work he developed there was not as good as the work he did before his association with CanStage. I don’t know what they were doing wrong, but yikes. If, say, the Tarragon were to pull its Playwrights’ Unit (god forbid), it would be a much greater tragedy, because most of the work coming out of there is cool and interesting.]
Was that insightful at all? Are you still even reading? Or are you all trying to explode this cow? If you’re still here, I have one last thing to say (this is way too long a blog post. I hope Ian breaks it up with snazzy pictures!), something that’s been bugging me for a long time:
Whenever I go to see a play with someone who doesn’t see a lot of theatre, or doesn’t feel they know a lot about theatre, they always ask me this extremely annoying question: “What was your professional opinion?”
Worse, they ask in a way that seems to denigrate their own opinion. It reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons where the teachers went on strike and Professor Frink ends up teaching kindergarten. He explains the physics of a toy and then won’t let any of the kids play with it because they “can’t possibly enjoy it on the same level as him.”
THEATRE IS NOT LIKE THAT AND I AM NOT DR. FRINK. Sheesh. Theatre (like VD) is for everybody.
Alison Broverman is a Toronto-based theatre artist and freelance arts reporter for The National Post.