A Letter to Canada’s Theatre Community From Michael Healey

Michael Healey

Acclaimed and Beloved Toronto based playwright and actor Michael Healey is calling on all theatre companies across the nation to stand in solidarity for the SummerWorks Festival, the largest juried theatre festival in Canada, that has been producing approximately 40 plays, 10 nights of music, performance and more from Toronto and across the country for the first two weeks in August since 1991. The SummerWorks Festival has launched the careers of dozens of critically acclaimed Canadian playwrights whose works have reached national and international exposure since debuting at the Festival. SummerWorks did not receive government funding this year, an action that is seen by many as an attack on the artists of this country and an attempt to punish the SummerWorks Festival for producing a play that Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not see or read, but objected to anyway, last summer. Read more about the Homegrown Controversy here and read more about how important it is for the future of Canada and Canadians to have a government that respects and invests in its artists and its culture here.

Here is a letter to the Canadian Theatre Community from Michael Healey.

As you are no doubt aware, the Summerworks Festival in Toronto, having raised the ire of the PMO by staging a play last summer it found objectionable, has suddenly seen its federal funding withdrawn. This act of naked contempt, described by the Finance Minister essentially as a coincidence, should send a chill through any arts organization currently receiving money from the federal government. In my opinion, the government needs to be shown that this kind of baseless, petty and unconscionable intervention will not get a free pass from the nation’s cultural institutions. After all, if it happens to Summerworks, it could happen to any other company.

Western Edge Theatre, in Nanaimo, BC, is staging a public reading of the play in question, Catherine Frid’s Homegrown, on July 15th. Proceeds are being donated to Summerworks. I’m writing to ask every artistic director of every theatre across the country to stage a reading of the play on that date.

Companies in a given city could band together to produce the event. The fundraising aspect is optional. The point is that we all announce, loudly and with one voice, that this kind of cabinet censorship is not acceptable. To that end, a press release announcing your company’s solidarity with Summerworks is vital. The more theatres that stand up and speak, the stronger our message.

The more news hits we can generate with this event, the further from the government’s goal of isolating and punishing one small theatre festival.

Catherine Frid has authorized me to distribute her script to participating companies. Email me to obtain a reading copy. And be sure to let me know when you decide to take part — the sooner we can create a list of participating theatres, the more momentum for the event we create. If the PMO continues to describe these events as coincidental, we can describe the public airing of this play, in dozens of theatres across the country on the same night, as another kind of coincidence.

And if you find yourself anxious about the potential ramifications for your own company’s federal funding as a consequence of taking part in this demonstration, I can think of no better reason for participating in it.

All best wishes,
Michael Healey

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