In the opening minutes of Akram Khan’s solo show DESH (now on Canadian Stage), Khan stands down stage of Tim Yip’s sparsely lit set, dwarfed by the Bluma Appel’s cavernous embrace, picks up a sledgehammer & whacks with extreme prejudice a small metallic mound built into the stage’s floor. At the mound’s apex is some sort of plant which will undergo all kinds of contortions over the show’s 83-minutes of magic, the sledgehammer being the least of its worries. With each strike, a dull, hollow boom blankets the theatre, just ever-so-perfectly too loud for the audience’s comfort. For a show billed as a “dance” piece, it’s a brave opening, since we’ve come (at least some of us) for the feats of kathak-cum-Bauschian physical pyrotechnics Khan’s famous for, & he presents us with a moment that – but for the sonic black hole of the hammer’s thud – is eerily still, utterly quiet.
As if the rancid breath of consumer capitalism hadn’t done enough to debase & degrade the integerity of modern childhood, the chthonic footsoldiers of Toys ‘R Us have turned their gaze to the last bastion of reasonably authentic outdoor/environmental education – the school field trip – by directly pitting the natural world (i.e., boring) against the plastic (fun!). It’s enough to make you lose your appetite:
Though probably I surrender some amount of high ground by doing so, I must begin this post with a bashful mea culpa. In her latest, rather moving & impressive article for SpiderWebShow’s #CdnCult Times, National Arts Centre English Theatre A.D. Sarah Garton Stanley calls me out on a rhetorical snafu by citing my previous post:
[Offord] goes on to say: “The fact of the matter is, we Canadians are deeply insecure about most things, & our theatre scene (I’m being hugely Toronto-centric in this, note; Toronto’s all I know, really), … has an inferiority complex for which “Napoleonic” is putting it mildly.
The use of the word “fact” is incredible here and so too is the use of a “we”, or “our”, all of which leads to paradox of the “us”. How interesting.
Yeah, I deserved that one. I should probably avoid making sweeping, nationality-based generalizations while at the same time attacking the substantive value of both nations & generalization. Garton Stanley’s barbed acumen on this point & others (“intermittently accurate” is such a great phrase I may have to steal it) is matched only by the very touching account she gives of her teenage years, inveigled by Levesque’s particular brand of acid-sharp PQ separatism, & the lasting effect this had on her patriotic father. It’s a lovely passage, & apropos; we can forget all too easily that these questions do not dwell just in the suburbs of academic discussion (I almost used the word “discourse” there – without irony – which perhaps says a lot about me). These issues matter.
The impetus for this post comes from Michael Wheeler (Artistic Director of the politically minded Praxis Theatre Company), whose new project is called SpiderWebShow, described as “A theatrical space where Canada, the Internet and performance minds intersect” (the absent Oxford comma is, I assure you, thoroughly sic). Both Mr. Wheeler & Praxis are rare creatures of at least the Torontonian theatre scene that I know, in that they are interested not just in the creation of performances, but in seriously pursuing the “Why” of theatre in Canada. Practitioners too often leave these questions to academics – Holger Syme, for example – & adopt a sort of “See No Evil” attitude which ultimately manifests in the work. Not to say the work is bad, per se; merely that a lot of times it seems disconnected from a public discourse about theatrical teleology. Even in the way plays are marketed (& reviewed) they adopt the qualities of commercial products, of things which are bought & sold but not necessarily important, vital, or immediate.
“The time has come, my little friends, to talk of many things – of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings; of whether the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings…”
So as it turns out, a daily news post was a tad ambitious. Not to say that nobody read it (but then, what do I know about who reads this thing of mine), but to say that I have to eat and live and sometimes sleep, and working a full-time job whilst doing theatre stuff on my off hours has had a deleterious effect on my ability to regurgitate news media, I’m sorry to say, I know you miss it (no I don’t). I’m going to try to do my best to post a weekly round-up every Saturday or Sunday, which’ll sort of curate the week’s bizness into digestible chunks, for your reading displeasure.
- Latest revelations from Glenn Greenwald (using documents leaked by Edward Snowden) show that the NSA spends millions of taxpayer cash to fund programs designed to hack into the encryption software of “the big Four” – Hotmail, Google, Facebook, & Yahoo.
- In response, legislation is being proposed by Rep. Rush D. Holt Jr.
- New documents show the NSA’s targeting of Mexican & Brazilian presidents.
- Hours ago, the Egyptian military government attacked what they described as “Islamic militants” in the Sinai.
- In an eerie echo of Morsi’s government, the military regime has decided to “dissolve” the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.
- Egyptian Minister of the Interior survives assassination attempt.
- Tony Burman on why bomibng Syria is a bad idea (& what can be done instead).
- EU urges the US to reconsider its position on Syria; Catherine Ashton correctly observes that an attack would be a “violation of international law.”
- Stephen Harper, ever the US’s obedient dog, makes the case for military attacks in Syria.
- A powerful new documentary, “Life After Gitmo” remains unavailable to viewers in the United States:
5. Quebec values Charter
- Good piece on the PQ’s proto-facistic new legislation.
- Apparently, according to Frau Marois, people “in England…throw bombs at each other because of multiculturalism.”
6. Keystone XL Pipeline
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper sends Obama a personal letter offering joint action to reduce greenhouse emissions, in an effort to “win” the pipeline.
Well, my latest project, Aim for the Tangent‘s Mature Young Adults (which I directed & had no small hand in dramaturging) is now just over halfway through it’s run at the Atlantic Fringe Festival. From all reports, it’s doing very well. We’ve had some nice reviews:
& some not-so-nice ones, the burden of linking to which is no longer mine, since the URL no longer seems to be working. I put this down to a karma, or something like it; perhaps the CSEC.
Wesley Colford, who wrote & is acting in the thing, tells me that houses are small but that audiences are enthusiastic. I guess this is the nature of Atlantic Fringe. No disrespect to my compatriots in the Maritimes, but a beacon of theatre culture Nova Scotia is not. Thanks be to Indiegogo! My actors’ plane fare has been crowdsourced. The only one losing out is me – my scotch fund depends on Fringe dividends.
In other news, my partner, Nicole Wilson, & I have begun serious work on our next project, a show about the slaughter/meat-processing industry. Big, big stuff. I’ll report more when I have more.
Stick it in the fridge, kids.
- Obama wins support of the House Foreign Relations Committee for a strike on Syria.
- UN warns that a US military strike without UN approval would be illegal under international law.
- John Kerry misrepresents the number of dead in chemical weapons attack.
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper is, apparently, a “reluctant convert” of military intervention.
- From DemocracyNow, as superb interview with Rep. Alan Grayson:
2. Chelsea Manning
- Pvt. Chelsea, formerly Bradley, Manning has officially sought a presidential pardon.
3. Domestic surveillance
- A primer in what Canadians need to know about CSEC spying.
- Despite protest, the government is still strying to keep its spying program in the dark.
- Fantastic overview from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
- The international community condemns Barrick Gold’s attempt to prevent rape victims from seeking justice
1. David Miranda
- The partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald (who is the primary reporter on Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks) will go forward with an injunction against the UK government in response to his 9-hour interrogation at Heathrow airport.
2. Legal aid
- The Canadian Bar Association releases a report criticizing the current legal aid system as being “too costly,” “too inaccessible for most Canadians,” “and too reliant on pro bono work.” (N.B.: these are not direct quotes.)
- The BBC has a horrific report on an incendiary bomb whichh was dropped on a school playground.
- In the wake of a “No” vote on military intervention in British Parliament, other countries scramble to form coherent strategies.
- French President Francoise Hollande is determined to intervene in Syria, with or without British/US support.
- In the lead up to a possible military strike, the US Secretary of State John Kerry tried to actually call off the UN probe into the putative use of sarin gas in Syria.
4. Chelsea Manning
- The New Yorker has a great piece on what prison would mean for the transgender whistleblower.
5. Toronto Police
- The head of the Toronto Police Department’s SIU harshly criticized chief Bill Blair for ignoring reports that officers were obstructing investigations.