Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stephen Harper has cured my blog-o-phobia /

I've been away for a long time. But I'm back. At least for today.

No, I am not shamelessly promoting any theatre or TV projects. I am not writing about my cats. (Rufus went and died on me, so that part of the blog is done until the day that his obese, fuzzy cat ghost starts haunting me at night. Fingers crossed.)

I'm writing because I'm terrified.

1984 didn't happen in 1984 and it didn't happen in Oceania; it's happening in Toronto in 2011. Let's first be clear about something: I am politically challenged. I have voted Green, Liberal, NDP, Reform (I wish I was kidding) and Conservative. I tend to vote for the person, and not for the party. (Occasionally, I vote for the hair of the person, and not for the party.) I have no beef with Stephen Harper, other than the fact that his morals and my morals do not line up. So what? It just means we'll never hang out or start a book club together.

But when the Federal government cuts ALL FUNDING to the SummerWorks Festival (Canada's largest juried theatre festival) out of the blue, without reason, I worry. I worry so much that I start using capitals and italics with reckless abandon. I worry that my recurring nightmare - about a dystopian state where freedom of speech and creative expression are a thing of the past - is coming true. (Aside: In my dreams, the Earth is overrun with giant abused cats. Thank god the Harper government can't make that happen... right?)

The SummerWorks Festival is the pride and joy of Toronto's arts community. It breeds new Canadian plays, it launches careers, it takes risks, it gives the voiceless a voice. I attend the festival every year (unless I'm actively avoiding an ex), I have acted in three SummerWorks shows and co-written one. I met my best friend doing a SummerWorks show. I have seen some of the best plays of my life (The Russian Play, Greenland, If We Were Birds) at SummerWorks. I don't use the word "lifeblood" very often, but SummerWorks is the lifeblood of Toronto theatre. Lifeblood. Lifeblood lifeblood.

I am so mad I could kick a pig. And I really, really like pigs.

The Toronto Sun (I like to read it for the articles about boobs) IRRESPONSIBLY printed an article about a "terrorist" play and put my friend Lwam on the cover under the headline "Sympathy for the Devil: Your tax dollars help stage play that portrays terrorist in a positive light". So, first of all, my friend Lwam is an actor. HE'S AN ACTOR, TORONTO SUN. And now he's been branded as a terrorist. So that's cool. More importantly, the article was complete and utter bullshit. (That's right, I'm swearing. Sorry, Dad.)

But who the heck reads the Sun, right? Stephen Harper, evidently. I can only assume that the "article" and the uninformed, Sunshine-girl-lovin' buzz it generated contributed in some way to the funding cuts.

If this is not the case, fine. Let's call it a coincidence. Even if the Sun article had nothing to do with Harper's decision, the funding cuts are completely, utterly unacceptable. What kind of Prime Minister, what kind of government, eliminates 100% of the funding to a festival for which Canada is famous? I don't care if you play the piano, Mr. Harper, you don't know the first thing about art, creativity, joy, or passion. You don't know what it's like to work for free just because you love something, to live pay cheque to pay cheque so that you can tell a story you believe in. You don't know what it's like to work twelve, fourteen, sixteen hours a day without pay, just to offer a complete stranger fifty transportive minutes. You don't understand.

Real life is about breakups, cancer, laundry, loss. Real life is about clogged sinks, stubbed toes, money, rules. Theatre is about getting away from it all. It's about education, entertainment and escapism. The SummerWorks Festival is responsible for creating thirty five new Canadian works every year -- and thirty five new ways to see the world.

Harper: I challenge you to attend this year's festival August 4-14. See what you think. And then make better decisions. Also, please fix the Health Care System. It's broken. Admit it. (That was for my dad.)

For everyone else, please please please show SummerWorks your support by making a donation to make up for the $50 000 that they lost. Give five dollars, fifty dollars, your first-born child and your convertible. Anything. Or write a letter... and send it after the postal strike is over and before the garbage strike begins. (It's Toronto, right? There has to be a garbage strike in the summer.)

If you've never heard of the festival, maybe you've heard of Rick Roberts, Nicolas Campbell, Kristen Thomson, Brendan Gall, Julian Richings, Mike McPhaden, Hannah Moscovitch, Yanna McIntosh? No? Well, maybe you should go to SummerWorks. Oh... wait... they just lost their funding.

Here is a link to an article with more info:

Here is a link to the SummerWorks Festival itself, where you can donate if you so choose:

And here is a link to a barking cat, because we all need a little joy in our lives:

Thanks for reading.