Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Series: Vancouver Playhouse - What Went Wrong?

What Just Happened?!?!

by Sabrina Evertt, Artistic Producer, Twenty Something Theatre, Vancouver
(Reprinted by permission)
Yesterday I was reeling. I had a very hard time believing that it was actually real. That it was really happening. That the Vancouver Playhouse is going to be shutting its doors as of tonight.

The Vancouver Playhouse was the first professional theatre company in BC. It is a company that was put in place as part of the Canada Council’s regional theatre movement to establish professional theatre in major urban centres across the country. Canadian theatre as we know it today was built upon this foundation.

And yet, despite its clear significance and importance, it appears as though we are just going to allow one of the founding theatrical institutions of our country just close its doors. That’s it. End of story.

I’m sorry but did we just all collectively lose our minds?!?!

Because the implications of this closure will have far more reaching effects than we can even begin to imagine right now.

The immediate consequence of this closure is that many staff and employees will lose their jobs. This is deeply saddening and my thoughts go out to each and every one of them. And, in the short term, this is going to impact on many other companies who look to the Playhouse production centre to help costume their actors or furnish their sets. This will hurt many other organizations beyond just the Playhouse. And, in the long run, this is going to massively affect job opportunities and future development of our industry from here on out. All of this – and much, much more – is a tragic loss.

But, what has me more frightened than any of the above, is what the closure of the Playhouse says about us and our values and priorities as a whole. What does it say about the place and importance of arts and culture in our city and in our communities across the Province and country? And, what does this demonstrate to a world that already devalues the importance of the arts and culture in our society? For years and years this conversation has been happening. It was happening far before I joined the conversation and I honestly hope that the conversation will continue to happen long after I’m gone.

But today if this closure happens - and this is what really scares me - we are basically telling all the naysayers and skeptics, all the people we’ve been trying to convince that theatre is important to the life of a community, that they were actually right all along. By allowing the closure of The Vancouver Playhouse to happen we are unintentionally confirming all their suspicions about arts and culture and giving them all the more reason to believe that theatre really is expendable after all. That what we do – creating theatre – isn’t important enough to save. That maybe it really doesn’t have any value and that, despite all our protests, it actually isn’t all that important after all.

Because if it was important - truly important - as a core value and a priority in our society, and if we truly believed in the importance of arts and culture to the health and vitality of our lives, this closure would not be happening.

And, we can blame the government for lack of funding. Or, we can blame the economy and the recession. And, we can point the finger at the 2010 Olympics. Or, whatever excuse you want to use. And, whomever else you want to take the blame.

But the truth of the matter is that nothing – not one single thing - is going to change the fact that the closure of the Playhouse is just a symptom of a much, much larger problem. It’s not just about the current politics of our province and country or about the current state of our economy. These things are only factors or components of the larger zeitgeist of our times and whatever it is that is happening in the collective consciousness of our society right now.

And, what the closure of the Vancouver Playhouse - a major cultural institution of our city, province and country - says about the collective consciousness of our current society scares the fucking shit [apologies] out of me. It says that something absolutely fundamental is changing in the core values and priorities of our society. In the attitudes and psychological landscape of the people that make up our communities, cities and country.

If this is real. If this is really happening. (And, I still have a hard time believing it is). If, after tonight’s final performance of Hunchback, the Playhouse really does close it doors forever well then, my friends, these really and truly are frightening times we are living in.

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