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.



Blogger Fran said...

Welcome Back to the Blog World Kate. I missed you. So sorry to hear about "Rufus". I enjoyed your posts about that funny cat.

So it looks like good ol Harper is at it again uh? And to think we have 4 more years of him, and ugh 4 years of Ford, wonder who will be our next Premier. I pray it's not a Conservative. Above all I hope it's not Dalton.

So you need us to write "nice" letters to that "clown" I mean to the PM. I'm on it.

Arts and Culture are always the one's that get screwed royally. I would like to see money put into that instead of stupid things like Military Jets that don't have engines. Those cost us extra for that. Don't get me started on that issue.

My sister's and I love Local Theater. We really enjoy seeing you in Local Productions. Who needs to see these Grand Productions when we have local smaller one's in our own backyard. Granted I did see the "Secret Garden" and "Billy Elliot". They were awesome shows but I still love seeing the smaller productions.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Brian Schwartz said...

Thank you for writing this! It's shameful that something so important to our society is the first to go to save money when there are so many other things that needlessly use up an outrageous amount of money, but are defended for politicized reasons. Hopefully it is not too late.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I missed reading your blogs, Kate.

Don't take this strangely, but from reading your blogs and tweets, I have determined you are a very funny, and very cool person. I enjoy hearing what you have to say.

Keep it up, for us little people. :)

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Andy said...

Hi Kate,

As a long time fan of yours, it's good to see you back writing on your blog. Please don't wait another year to write another post. :)


11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is coming from someone who lives in the states, so correct me if I'm wrong, but what a shame that arts and education are always the first to go when it comes to these massive budget cuts. I know that money is short right now, but like you said, programs such as the Summerworks Fest are what keeps communities going in such hard times. It also keeps our youth connected to various art forms that may have already been pushed out of their school(s).

I love reading your blogs and I do hope you will find time to write again soon. (No hard feelings if you don't!)


12:43 PM  
Anonymous Nea said...

Hey Kate,

first of all I've gotta say that as a german girl I don't know all too much about the political situation in Canada.

However, what I do know is that what you're describin is indeed not only a canadian, but sadly more of a reoccurin problem wherever you look these days. Not any different down here either: if money's tide, arts and education are the first branches to suffer. Often makes me wonder about our governments priorities - especially when in almost the same breath in which they cut fundin they complain about "lack of knowledge and/or cultivation" in today's youth. If it wasn't so tragic it could be almost be funny..

I like your idea of writing to the responsible party and will glady inform myself properly on the subject and participate. I didn't really believe it at first, but after a year of dedication to animal rights activism I'm aware what "a few letters" from all over can do for a cause.

Oh, and by the way: glad to have you back at bloggin. We missed you. :)

7:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, papers need headlines to sell - irrespective of whatever trash they spit out. Politics is a fickle game of popularity and for the most part most politicians believe that what the papers say is the true barometer to measure the mood of the people.

The irony is the killing of arts funding of any kind, because it's at times of hardship people need to be moved, inspired and given the chance to use their imaginations.
I think back to when I was living in Dubai a few years ago. There they had a saying "Dream it - Build it"... and nothing can be truer!!
I have no idea how people in the arts do the things they do, but it is there where the hotbed of future genius will develop.

Awesome post, for once I won't whinge about lack of pics etc - but kicking a pig, that put a smile on my face strangely lol

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Devon Ellington said...

People cut funding to the arts when they don't want to promote independent thought.

You are correct -- it is unacceptable, and must be fought.

I don't know if an American's opinion means anything to the Canadian government (even though I'm considering emigrating), but I'm willing to help.

I already regularly take my senators and congressmen to task for stupid decisions made here!

So sorry about Rufus. My beloved Elsa died of cancer last fall shortly before I left NY for Cape Cod. I still miss her.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome Back looking forward to reading more - sorry to hear about Rufus

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Oren Satov said...

Sad & horrible as axing funding 2 SummerWorks is, it isn't the worst that the Can. Govt, oh, excuse me, the HARPER Govt, has done. Cons. have gone from Fiscal Conservatism (living w/i our means) 2 Libertarianism (completely eliminating tax/government).

Y is this worse? Bcause @ tax reduced/eliminated cripples the govt's ability 2 fund things like SummerWorks, daycare, health care & pensions. All acceptable in the name of purging the ultimate evils from the Can. landscape: govt & taxes.

I know, it sounds American & it should. Their national origins R predicated on taxation w/o representation (& religious persecution). But Y is Can. leaning in this direction?

Perhaps it's Bcause the Con. Party is the catch-all party. Sure, it has its core support among the sense-of-entitlement, selfish if not greedy rich (& a few who aspire 2 obscene wealth), but they R not numerous enough 2 bring them in2 power.

So, they pander 2 "special interest groups" 2 boost the ballots. Hunters. Fishermen. Outdoors-men. R-2-Lifers. Prison-Pushers. I'm sure there R 12s if not 100s of sm. voter blocks that vote Con. they R the only 1 that support their pet cause. I call them 1-Plank voters Bcause they don't care about the rest of the political platform, even if it’s diametrically opposed 2 their Bliefs & sensibilities, but usually Rn't educated enough 2 know what "other stuff" they R buying in2.

In a good yr, this is enough 2 get them a minority govt. So how do they get to a majority?
Media manipulation, subtle/vague lies, F promises, misdirection, marketing, attack ads, slander, wolves-in-sheep's-clothing, bait+switch, branding, labelling, dirty tricks, illegal fundraising/bribes, running candidates in other parties that will switch sides of the floor B4 parliament ever has a chance 2B in session, abstract rhetoric, secrecy (contempt & contradiction of the Freedom of Information Act), RU-bored-of-this-list-yet-cause-it-goes-on-&-on. & when they're not doing those things they keep busy by Proroguing Parliament when things get rough, Bing in contempt of parliament just 4 shits & giggles, & foisting Bn-dollar boondoggles on an unsuspecting T.O. manned by under-prepared & under-trained police/RCMP all while damaging business in T.O. (non-supporters) & building infrastructure in Muskoka (supporters).

The fact that we R so politically unsophisticated really doesn't gibe w. our self-image, but there it is.

It doesn't help that we Rn't very conscientious about learning the issues or fact checking the statements made by politicians & promptly forget about the moral/ethical transgressions since the last election. Further, it doesn't help that we R all 2 susceptible 2 offers of free $ & spend no effort @ all trying 2 underst& what the costs assoc. w. that $ R. E.g. Here in my h& is a $200 family benefit that we're adding 2 help real Can. families manage in these tough economic times (while here in my other h& I have a list of service cuts & service fee increases that will cost the avg Can. family $1750 a yr). It takes a bit of time listening & reading 2 learn the detail in parentheses, so most voters go 2 the polls chanting "$200! $200!"

& thus, magically, w. 0 but a flawed underst&ing of psych. & social-psych., do they turn a minority in2 a majority. & here we R, stunned & angered that SummerWorks' funding was cancelled. We should have known: it's in Toronto, Harper's politically favourite city.

Incidentally, yrs of R-wing policy is what keeps the economy from bouncing back.

Finally, I've never heard of U, Kate. Nor R any of those actors familiar 2 me. I'm pretty much a non-consumer: no cable/satellite, no TV, no paper, no mags, no iPhone, no iPad, no iPod, no CD/DVD -- I've got lots of books -- & seldom go 2 the cinema/thea8re. But after reading UR blog, I know that I like U a bunch. :)

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is HORRIBLE!!! I am sooooo sorry that your PM is a moron. Here in America we have the same problem with Politician's. They are told things from people that have no clue what they are talking about and act on their advice with out doing any research them self's. It is a messed up world when the government cuts funding for the arts. I plan on donating some money for you guys. I hope it will help. Good Luck.
Damien Butler Olympia Washington. USA

3:02 PM  
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11:50 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Wow a bit late in catching this post (where are the email notices?) but I agree...in theory.

I know I won't be popular on here for saying this, but how much money is being saved from this arts festival? Are other festivals being shut down? What about art grants to individual artists? Are they being reduced/eliminated as well?

Cuts to the arts are never easy to take. Without the arts our world would be boring and a bit to homogeneous for my liking. But, sometimes there is too much funding to the arts.

I do know "artists" whose work is only seen by a few fellow artists or close friends/hangers on, but yet my tax dollars fund them. Is that right?

I know, different situation, but the core is what the government is probably focusing on. Artists with a sense of entitlement could very well be making it easier for them to shut down festivals like yours that does benefit a much larger audience and provides a bang for its grant dollars.

Another question, where is this "saved" money going? Debt reduction? Fighter jets for the military? Infrastructure? I'd like to know so I can judge whether this cut is actually "required" or a PMO attack on the arts.

I'd like more information, but I do empathize. I'm sure there are other areas that could afford to lose some funding and still function, as opposed to undermining an entire festival.

The real problem is that our system is broken. Tax dollars are levied for employment insurance, healthcare and other programs, but all the money goes into one pot and doled out how someone arbitrarily decides how it would best be spent. I would like to see a portion of our current taxes assigned to the arts to support galleries, museums, festivals, artists, etc.

Now, this wouldn't address the issue of money being assigned to whatever artists grabs the distributor's attention, but at least you know that for 2012 the arts would have $X dollars that can't be reassigned somewhere else to shore up someone else's shortfall.

OK, I blather. Ultimately, great post Kate! I hope to read some new ones soon!

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Dick Blooper said...

If only the arts had some sort of super rich core of people who could afford to freely support the arts...

Instead, lets hope that the government without consent or desire from the populace removes grandmums laundry money from her ever decreasing change purse and 'gives' it to artists so they can 'express' themselves...albeit w/other peoples stolen laundry money.

6:28 PM  
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