So, funny story: last year at the SUMMERWORKS festival in Toronto, like a Fringe Festival only juried, there was this play, HOMEGROWN by Catherine Frid. I didn’t catch it myself, but even before it had been put up some folks at the Toronto Sun got themselves in a kerfuffle of a tizzy over it, saying it ‘glorified terrorism’, and using public funds no less! Summerworks gets part of its annual funding from a gov’t grant, dont’cha know. And they tried to explain that, no, no, the play didn’t glorify terrorism at all, here’s the script, why don’t you just…
…but, well, the Toronto Sun is a PROFESSIONAL GODDAMNED NEWSPAPER, son, they don’t need to read a play to know what it’s about! And by God, neither does Stephen Harper, who ALSO vented about the terrorism-lovin’ going on in HOMEGROWN. The whole thing seemed rather silly, the show went on, and Summerworks had a fine old time last year.
Then came the election, a Harper majority, and the funny part of the story, where the very same Summerworks festival THIS year finds itself being cut off from its gov’t funding at the eleventh hour, with no particular reason given (okay, not funny ha-ha, depending on which side of the ideological divide you hang your hat, but STILL…). The PC’s swear it had nothing to do with HOMEGROWN, and say that anyone who believes so is a tin-foil-hat-wearin’ loon. So fine, it’s not about HOMEGROWN (except that it absolutely, totally is, and everyone know it). But it sure as hell is about showing them uppity arts hippies who’s in charge now, when 50 grand and change is yanked after five years of growth with nary so much as a ‘sorry ’bout that, chaps‘.
To counter this state of affairs, said dirty-artsy-terrorist-loving hippies sprang into action. Aside from a flood of private donations, an event was organized across the nation by one Michael Healey…staged readings of the supposedly inflammatory HOMEGROWN, by whichever companies chose to participate, with proceeds going to the Festival.. It was a grand idea, and to my delight Ottawa took up the baton (with local heroes GRUPPO RUBATO and MI CASA THEATRE leading the charge). The GCTC donated some space, McAuslan donated some beer (hooray!) and were off to the readings!
It was a simple affair, as you might expect of a reading, which is what it sounds like…actors on stage reading the scripted words right to you off the page, with someone calling out the scene changes and what not. Directed my the luvly Miss Emily Pearlman, the night’s event starred Kris Joesph, Nick DiGaetano, Mary Ellis, Todd Duckworth, Greg Kramer and Sarah Waisvisz. Being killers, they obviously performed grandly under the conditions..this WAS thrown together rather quickly, after all. The play itself, by the already mentioned Catherine Frid..? A work in progress, quite literally. Tho I missed seeing it at SUMMERWORKS last year, there were bits in the version we saw that couldn’t possibly have been included at last year’s event. The show is based on the authour’s interviews with a suspected member of the ‘Toronto 18’ terror plot and his plight being detained without trial for years on end. It’s a good, engaging story, with more work to be done to make it a better play…but that isn’t really the point of this, is it?
No, the point, as we all cheered and filtered out into the lobby to drink beer/support the arts, was getting back what had been taken away. It was coming together as a community. And it was about showing our Prime Minister that, even though he’s got his beloved majority, even though he thinks he’s got the power to do what he wants (and what he wants seems to be to hurt arts festivals like this one, just for the sake of it), Stephen Harper can think again. He tried to bully them dirty hippies, getting all Godfather on their asses and trying to his them where it hurts. But in the end, Summerworks will survive, and be stronger for the troubles. They had recouped some 34 thousand of the shortfall already through donations (click on the link to their webpage, above in this post or on the left side of this page, if you still feel the generous urge), and I have a feeling this evening’s festivities will nearly close the gap. And Harper proved to everyone that, when faced with a real fight, he’s no Vito Corleone.
Peace, love and soul, Summerworkers,
The Visitor (and Winston)