I just have a question.
It’s SummerWorks in Toronto. I know it is SummerWorks in Toronto because my Facebook account is abuzz with all things SummerWorks emanating from what seems to be the Facebook page of everyone I know in Toronto. SummerWorks features forty-two plays by some of Canada’s finest artists. SummerWorks is at the cusp of the very alive, pulsating, raw, beating heart of the Canadian theatre. This is the SummerWorks mandate:
The SummerWorks Theatre Festival is committed to the following:
To ensure a high standard of quality productions in a Festival that has elements, which intrigue, excite, attract and entertain an audience.
To produce a juried Festival in which the participants feel supported by a strong technical, administrative and artistic team, and feel proud of the other high calibre work being produced alongside their own.
To produce a Festival that provides an environment that cultivates and stimulates artistic growth, with the focus on artistic and professional development for both participants and our audience.
To actively seek and support new and remounts of Canadian plays.
To support the work and participation of the next generation of playwrights, directors and actors.
In its eighteenth year, SummerWorks is not some tiny, quirky, inconsequential festival hidden away in a graffiti-covered bathroom in the basement of Sneaky Dee’s. It is one of a proud theatrical core of artists in Toronto who are dedicated to fostering and creating dynamic, exciting, intriguing, poignant, artistic, professional, new work in this country and to thrust passion and love of the theatre with pride and exuberance into the next generation. It is working in conjunction with artists and technicians to create jobs for some of Canada’s most talented, creative and unique voices. SummerWorks and festivals like it, insure the theatre’s survival—what’s more, they DEMAND the theatre’s survival and its prosperity in these precarious times.
So, why is there no SummerWorks coverage in The Toronto Star?
One of the most recent posts in The Star featured an article about SummerWorks, but even from Halifax I can write a list of SummerWorks productions that seem interesting (and I have). Shouldn’t a theatre critic who gets paid to give you the coverage you deserve regarding the theatre scene in Toronto at least show lukewarm interest and go out and review these forty-two shows by some of Canada’s finest artists? Why does Richard Ouzounian refuse to do that? Why would he prefer to fly to London (England) and review Jude Law’s Hamlet, or Helen Mirren’s Phedre? What does that have to do with the citizens of Toronto? How many readers of The Star are going to London this week? How many could be going to SummerWorks? What is the subtle message he is sending his readers?
I’m sick of it.
I wouldn’t get so frustrated if Richard Ouzounian didn’t use his platform at The Star to bemoan the current state of theatre in Toronto, chastising our local actors for not being “Broadway” enough and giving excessive succulent adulation to anything American or British that comes within a hundred feet of his nose. He may praise individual artists, he may praise individual shows (as he should), but overall, the gist I hear from Ouzounian (over and over) is a strong, clear message that from his perspective, Canadian theatre is just not good enough.
How can he stand on his platform and chastise us, how can he foretell the failure for us all, how can he try to diminish Canadian talent, power and potential so that it will fit into the shadow of America—how can he know about Canadian Theatre— when he dismisses something like SummerWorks as not being worthy of his time?