Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Abominable Showman, October 30, 2011

Another party in another place: The Bolshoi

To honour and respect
The Theatre du Nouveau Monde’s dumbfounding (emphasis on “dumb”) dismissal of women in this season’s “L’Affaire Cantat” proves the TNM is no Bolshoi Theatre
by Richard Burnett

There is no getting around the fact that “L’Affaire Cantat” continues to tarnish the current 60th anniversary season of the Theatre du Nouveau Monde and, had I been in charge of the TNM, heads would have rolled.

To recap, when the TNM announced its 60th season, it included Des Femmes, a trilogy of tragedies by Sophocles directed by playwright Wajdi Mouawad. That ignited an international firestorm (the production was to be performed at dozens of theatres in Europe as well as at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa) because Des Femmes featured Bertrand Cantat, a loathsome rock star who spent four years in jail for the 2003 “murder with indirect intent” of his girlfriend, the French actress Marie Trintignant.

Moreover, the trilogy of plays by Sophocles is about women and violence.

The Gayety
(photo: wikipedia)
Instead, it appeared Wajdi Mouawad pathetically milked the scandal for as much publicity possible before Cantat was canned.

So inviting Cantat to take part in Des Femmes was like asking one of the innumerable whores JFK screwed during his lifetime to read the eulogy at his funeral without even thinking twice about Jacqueline Kennedy and the rest of the family.

Inviting Cantat to take part in Des Femmes (which runs may 4 to June 6, 2012) was a slap in the face of every woman who has ever been beaten up by her spouse, and a spit on every grave of every woman killed by her partner.

Instead, it appeared Wajdi Mouawad pathetically milked the scandal for as much publicity as possible before Cantat was canned.

But if anybody deserved to be canned it was Mouawad – or his boss, TNM artistic director Lorraine Pintal. After all, doesn’t the buck stop with the boss?

So there was Pintal broadly smiling on the cover page of The Globe and Mail’s arts section last weekend above the understated headline, “60 years of drama.”

“We were not prepared at all for how the media would react,” Pintal  told  G&M theatre critic and Charlebois Post contributor J. Kelly Nestruck. “It snowballed.… There was a lot of sensationalism in the way it was covered.”

That’s rich: “There was a lot of sensationalism in the way it was covered” when it was Pintal who hired a woman-killer – in a trilogy about women and violence, no less – in the first place!

But if I was sitting on the TNM board, I’d advise take the Quebec Drama Federation’s upcoming “Theatre Management Workshop”...

But as Nestruck wrote, “In the end, the ensuing debate over art, rehabilitation and violence against women – which drew in Conservative and Bloc Québécois candidates in the middle of a federal election campaign – was cut short. According to a little-known Canadian law, Cantat was technically not allowed to enter Canada until five years after his full eight-year sentence had elapsed – though he had been in the country for rehearsals just weeks before. He won't appear on stage in Montreal or Ottawa in Des Femmes, after all.”

But if I was sitting on the TNM board, I’d advise Pintal – who, granted, retired the TNM’s deficit, tripled the subscriber base and completed a $13-million renovation of the theatre in the mid-1990s – to take the Quebec Drama Federation’s upcoming “Theatre Management Workshop” with QDF executive director Jane Needles.

Think I’m being cute?

The  QDF Facebook page for this workshop (which runs November 7-9-14-16, from 6-10 pm nightly) says, “This workshop will examine in detail all aspects of arts administration and provide a basic awareness of the business of arts administration and theatre management. Topics to be covered include: interactions with public and private sectors for non-profits, sources of funding and financial support, preparation and execution of registering a company or incorporating, setting up a Board of Directors, preparing budgets, contracting, association with the professional unions and information about current cultural policy.”

Note to the TNM: The cost is $140 per person for QDF, PWM, CAEA, or UDA members, or $180 for non-members.

Meanwhile, half a world away in Moscow, after six years of a painstaking $700-million (!) restoration plagued by financial scandals, the historic Russian State Academic Bolshoi Theatre reopened last Friday (October 28) with an international gala concert presided over by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and broadcast live on Russian television, the Internet and in movie theaters in 36 countries. all its years, I don’t think the Bolshoi ever hired a murderer to grace its stage.

Over the course of its illustrious 235-year history, the Bolshoi has burned down and was bombed. But the renovations have more than doubled the theatre space from 340,000 square feet to almost 780,000 square feet (the building was expanded about 79 feet deep into the ground where the new Beethoven Hall was created for small-scale productions).

But in all its years, I don’t think the Bolshoi ever hired a murderer to grace its stage. Heck, even the TNM in its previous incarnation as the world-famous Gayety Theatre – home base for many years for both Gypsy Rose Lee and burlesque superstar Lili St-Cyr during Montreal’s Sin City heyday – kept known criminals off the stage and in the audience.

So for this season at least what the TNM proves is it is not the Bolshoi but rather the bullshit theatre. 

Happy freakin' anniversary.

Still dead.

Read also:
Publisher Gaëtan L. Charlebois's editorial about the Cantat Affair
Columnist Joel Fishbane's editorial about the Cantat Affair

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