Tuesday, March 5, 2013

After Dark, March 5, 2013

Everyone Has A Say
Cutting though the noise 
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Two weeks ago something I wrote made me the victim of a garden-variety troll. Because I am working on a theatre website and am not writing about gun control, capital punishment or abortion (usually), I actually engaged the troll which is the worst thing you can do with someone who is just spouting insulting and uninformed opinions about you. (If he had spent three minutes on Google searching my bio his ravings might have been a little less pointless.) It was seconds before I answered him again - on the verge of listing my credentials - that I realized this was another public masturbator who had nothing to do with his time besides getting a rise out of me. (And fuck my eyes, he got it.)

Facebook, this week, has also been a lot like that for me. I do not accept Facebook friends unless I know them, unless many of my friends know them and, if possible, I like them as well. For the most part these are people I respect, especially when it comes to opinions on theatre. We don't all agree but, Jesus, it makes for fun back and forth. The discussion we had on feminism, racism and Seth MacFarlane and the Oscars was as charged and exciting as it was, sometimes, infuriating. But, this last week, there has been a lot about politics and people come to these discussions frighteningly half-informed. Articles from our worst media get linked and relinked. 

The more you talk, the more things crystallize and before long you have an aha! moment and everyone wonders why that solution wasn't obvious before.

It happens on Twitter too! Last week I participated in a thrilling discussion which gave rise to a new hashtag: #TTTT (or #ToTTT). It stands for Toronto theatre think tank. It began with a tweet from journalist/theatre practioner Rob Salerno who was describing a venue in NYC which was actually a space shared by several companies. The place is a top of the line venue with great facilities (bar, toilets etc) and comfortable seats. These shared venues exist in many places where the belief is that going to theatre should not be a Calvary. Suddenly a half-dozen people were discussing doing something like that in Toronto (and I mentioned similar discussions had been had in Montreal). But rather than come up with hard solutions, the discussion was a series of presenting issues, setting aside the dreamy and looking at hard facts. That's what think tanks do. The more you talk, the more things crystallize and before long you have an aha! moment and everyone wonders why that solution wasn't obvious before. A think tank does precisely that: think. (The problem is that with discussions undeclared as think tanks, people start fleeing when the discussions head toward action. No one wants to act.)

What was joyful about the Twitter discussion, and some of the post-Oscar debates, is that people were forced to think before talking. What WAS NOT happening is what now happens everywhere as a matter of course: everyone having their say. Good discussion - the kind with the aha! moments so necessary to theatre - is never about everyone having their say. Everyone having their say is long, laborious and ultimately stupid. It's inches away from trolling. I remember a meeting when I was on the national board of ACTRA. It was very much a case of everyone having a say and what was said, for half of the time of the national meeting, was said about the fucking ACTRA awards - who was going to be on the TV gala and who was going to jury and on and on and on as the organization was facing a long list of crises and problems. A good friend, now still a national organizer, leaned towards me and muttered, "They're arranging the fucking deck-chairs on the Titanic." 

Everyone has their say. Sometimes the "say" is germane.

Theatre people are often seen as notoriously scattered in their thinking. The problem is that Facebook, Twitter and even comments on this very site seems to confirm that notion. Everyone has their say. Sometimes the "say" is germane. Theatre people in that world for longer than five years have something crucial to say about theatre.

But here's the thing...

That "say" is forever. You will be remembered for it. You will be labelled for it. Do you want to be a troll? Do you want to be the purveyor of half-baked political ideas culled from a single media source? Do you want to be the propagator of memes that were lame when they were born a year ago? Do you want to be that person who passed a "judgement" without spending the three minutes of Google to make it the least bit informed?

Or do you want to be in a think-tank?


  1. Your language is so colourful ... you make me laugh. Love it.

    1. Your position is thoughtful and well-argued, Mr Charlebois. I have it on good authority that the troll who troubled you regrets his intemperate and ill-mannered language; and that, chastened as much by his own reflections as by yours, he will not offend again.


Comments are moderated. Please read our guidelines for posting comments.