Saturday, March 10, 2012

News: Nation reacts to Vancouver Playhouse closure

Response Quick and Massive
The social networks take over the Vancouver Playhouse story
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
(Updated 1:36 pm ET, March 10)
(Updated 1 pm ET, March 11)

On Facebook, on Twitter, news spread quickly that Vancouver Playhouse, heading towards its 50th Anniversary, had gone under. (See our story here) The Charlebois Post - Canada contacted several theatre people for their reaction to the news.

Rick Miller, Artistic producer of Wyrd Productions
I only played the Playhouse very recently and am not familiar with the details of its demise. But I do know Max Reimer very well, having played Jesus in his Jesus Christ Superstar production at Theatre Aquarius in 2001.  He was both passionate and compassionate as a director and the experience was fantastic for cast, crew and audiences alike. From what I recall, Max was brought in to help fix a deficit problem at Aquarius and he succeeded with a delicate balance of business acumen and artistic integrity.  I assume that he was brought in to the fix a deficit at the Vancouver Playhouse too.  It saddens me to see the outcome, although I'm sure Max gave it his best shot.  Like at Aquarius, he presented a week of MacHomer at the Playhouse in May 2011 to draw in younger audiences.  Everything seemed fine at the time, although Max hinted at deficits.  That didn't stop him from agreeing to come on board a new transmedia project that I am developing, one that uses theatre as a catalyst to create multi-platform content with a variety of producing partners. That kind of open-mindedness and enthusiasm to new ways of generating content, audiences and funding is what I think regional theatres in this country need.  Would it have saved the Playhouse?  No.  Is it the way to go? I think so. Clearly, the old ways aren't working anymore.

Antoni Cimolino, Stratford Festival General Director and newly-appointed Artistic Director 
The demise of the Vancouver Playhouse is a profound loss for Canada. This theatre was a cornerstone to our national cultural edifice. At a time when the world's leading nations are using culture to extend their commerce and brand we have lost a part of our unique heritage. And sadly our artists have lost a home.

Joel Greenberg, Artistic Director of Studio 180 Theatre
News of any theatre shutting down is chilling. A major centre with such history is all the more so. Regardless of the scale of operations - and the Vancouver Playhouse is substantial - we all face a never ending challenge of building support from private, corporate and government sectors. The lack of consistent governmental leadership does nothing to encourage much needed private and corporate partnerships in the performing arts.

Brad Fraser, Playwright
This is very disturbing and very disappointing. Seeing any theatre, let alone one with the history of the playhouse, go under is demoralizing for the theatre community at large. It also suggests there is something amiss with our current "subscription season" model for presenting theatre and may indicate it's time for a rethink by everyone.

Joel Ivany, Artistic Director, Against The Grain Theatre

A sad, sad story. An institute that strived for excellence and creativity. They were the definition of support and encouragement. So unfortunate for everyone who poured their passion and dreams into such a committed company. This is a reminder of how difficult the arts are, and how they should never be taken for granted.  The arts will never crumble, however, they will continue being re-invented in new, creative, crazy ways.  

Roy Surette, Centaur Theatre Artistic Director (from Facebook, reprinted with permission)
Very, very sad about the demise of The Playhouse. Max has worked so hard to keep it afloat. This does not bode well for the profession. So many fantastic memories. So much great work over the years. My first experience? Seeing an amazing Leonce and Lena in the mid 70s. Last? Seeing Greg Armstrong-Morris knock it out of the park in La Cage. Bravo all the extraordinary artists who brought their talents, passion and courage to the Vancouver Playhouse stage. It's a great tragedy that it will no longer play a leading role in Canadian professional theatre.

"Vancouver Playhouse" trended on Twitter, not only in Vancouver but across the nation. This was aided, in part, by an enormously popular hashtag "#ilovetheplayhouse". 

Among notables who tweeted their reaction to the news was CBC star, Jian Ghomeshi who wrote, "Tough news for #yvr [Vancouver] and for culture & theatre in Canada..." Liz Nicholls (Edmonton Journal Critic) offered that it was, "Tragic theatre news..."

A memorial, in front of the theatre (organized through Facebook) was held at 7 pm, Saturday night.

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