(In lieu of yesterday’s travesty on CBC Radio One’s Ontario Today, I’ve started a petition to induce Rita Celli and her producers to program a counterpoint show, one that will hopefully be a little more informed, and a tad more positive about the state of the theatre. Read below for the full details and SIGN HERE.)
On February 4th, 2014, CBC Radio One’s noon-hour call-in show Ontario Today aired a live episode whose leading-question title (“Why is Live Theatre Dead to You?”) slouched towards the morbid. Host Rita Celli and guest R.H. Thompson dutifully fielded calls from a number of listeners, whose mostly negative comments ranged from the uninformed (“Theatre is ten times more expensive than a movie”), to the ignorant (“Two-and-half-hour movies don’t have intermissions, why do plays?”), to the frankly bizarre (“I got bed bugs [from going to the theatre].”)
The complete show can be listened to here: http://www.cbc.ca/ontariotoday/2014/02/04/tuesday-why-is-live-theatre-dead-to-you/
No doubt the program was well-intentioned. However, as anyone who goes to the theatre regularly knows, the conversation’s a priori negative framing was not just invidious, but plainly inaccurate and bespeaks a fundamental lack of understanding on the part of Ontario Today, not just of the mechanics of theatre as an art form, but the practical realities of Ontario’s theatre scene.
The reductive, binary assumption implicitly made by Rita Celli and her producers (i.e., theatre is either as popular as television, or it’s dead), married with spurious statistical data (fact: movie ticket sales are down, sporting event ticket sales are down, theatre tickets sales are up), produced a show that wholly misrepresented Ontario’s theatre scene.
We’re calling on Ontario Today to produce a counterpoint show, where theatre professionals, critics, and patrons can have a meaningful, informed discussion around the difficulties the theatre faces in this country, it’s possible causes, and potential poultices.
It is undeniably true that theatre in Ontario could always grow its audience base, and it is undeniably true that audiences for the live theatre are, by-and-large, more sparse than those for other art forms; but this is a deeply complex issue that deserves to be explored with generosity, and approached from a position of knowledge.
Moreover, one thing that the theatre community in Ontario does NOT need, is to have public discussion of its future framed in such unambiguously negative terms. Ontario Today owes theatre lovers and artists in Ontario the opportunity to disassemble the preconceived notions and urban myths the February 4th show so eagerly embraced.
If you are one of these lovers and artists, please sign this petition – help give Ontario’s – and Canada’s – theatre scene a stronger, more positive voice on national radio.