We have our head in the sand artistically. We have, in the past, done excellent work in supporting the development of new Canadian work at home but it is now virtually impossible for a young company to receive funding to mount a brilliant piece of writing from anywhere else (or bring in a brilliant small scale production from somewhere else). It is also, thanks to the new round of vicious cuts by the Harper government, impossible to take Canadian work abroad. Since most things in this world work reciprocally, this effectively means we have slammed the door on the rest of the world. The larger regional and commercial theatres will produce Broadway, West End and Off Broadway hits but who is doing the best work from the cutting edge European companies, let alone plays or productions from Asia, Africa, or South America. And now who will do Canadian work abroad when all the touring subsidies as well as money for international presenters has been cut. Companies work for ten years perfecting a piece of theatre that is 'export-ready' only to find our own government has decided our culture isn't worth exporting. This is a nightmare.
And here is where the arts funding posts and the white paper converge. My initial response is a hearty "Amen". And my next is trying to find a way to the light.
Because it is absolutely true that it is very difficult to get any kind of funding for foreign scripts. From the Toronto Arts Council website:
The Theatre Program is strongly committed to the development and performance of works by Canadian writers.
The Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council say similar things. What this means in practical terms is that Canadian scripts get priority, irregardless of the quality of the script or the artists involved.
And as for exporting Canadian work, well, I've talked about it here. I'll just sum up by saying that it's important to get our work touring, both because it deepens the development of it and because it provides stable income for the companies and individuals involved.
So there are a couple of challenges. With funding as tight as it is, how can we get more international work done here without shortchanging the development work we're doing with our resident artists? And how do we impress upon those who are involved in international trade that our industry is a good investment of their time and money?
Does anyone know of a way to get to Stockwell Day?