Saturday, June 28, 2008

An Island Daze


I wrote this on Centre Island. I was right at the edge, the waves crashing against the rocks and some very old sandbags. The city stared back at me with its imposing towers and the Dome and the CN Tower providing some visual contrast.

This is really a lovely way to get away from it all without going very far, especially on a beautiful day like today. It's a lot less humid on this side as well.

Whenever I've been around theatre people lately, the conversation has turned to the impending departure of CanStage's Artistic Producer, Marty Bragg. I feel this is long overdue. I'm not the only one who feels this way - one person even suggested that Marty has become cynical about theatre. CanStage's recent seasons have been incredibly safe and uninspired. Whether that was Marty's decision or forced onto him by the board, the reality is that the company needs an extreme makeover.

The big problem I had identified was that Marty's title was Artistic Producer, which meant that any Artistic Director had to report to him. In most companies, the AD is counterbalanced by the General Manager and they both report to the Board of Directors. This provides a balance between the vision of the AD and the admistrative practicality of the GM. With the current CanStage structure, decisions are made first and foremost on a financial basis. Hense the boring, safe seasons. Having more creative tension at the planning level hopefully will create bolder programming decisions.

It all becomes based on who the next AD is. The community hope is that there will be a stronger commitment to developing new work and programming existing Canadian work in the larger, more commercially based stream. Next season is a step in the right direction, with CanStage partnering with independent companies but this is seen as more of a cost-saving move than a commitment to developing more Canadian work.

CanStage (and Soulpepper) are so far removed from the rest of the not-for-profit community that it would be nice to see a change in attitude at CanStage. Hopefully that is in the works.

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