Tuesday, April 24, 2012

After Dark, April 24, 2012

Am I Myron Galloway?
Be careful of what you wish for...
By Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I was working at Centaur Theatre in the PR department when my boss, Pam Turpin, let out a "Tsk!" that could wake the dead. She was reading a review of a Fennario play by Myron Galloway. The review was a rave, as I remember, but Pam was mightily pissed that Galloway has described a character in the play as a "martinet". "Why couldn't he just say 'tyrant' or something. Why 'martinet'!" I thought she was pissed off by the erudition of the word. No, she was pissed off at the archaicness of the word.

there was a certain fuddy-duddyism in their opinions

Myron, it must be said, did tend to express himself that way. Also, he liked plays to be a certain way with a certain structure. Some experimentation was allowed but not too much. There was also another critic here who was far worse; it was clear he didn't have a clue about some plays and instead of admitting it he would just rave. Another critic actually told me that he couldn't be bothered to review Fringe shows - it seemed the venues were the problem. Then, of course, there is the rather famous case - discussed by Fringe star Keir Cutler - of Globe and Mail critic Kate Taylor dismissing the entire Fringe movement. Don't get me wrong - I respected Galloway and respect Ms Taylor but there was a certain fuddy-duddyism in their opinions.

One of the primary reasons I launched and am expanding The Charlebois Post is because I worried there is a bit of me that is Myron Galloway - to some extent I like my plays and venues a certain way, with certain creature comforts. I am lucky, though, to have been born at the tail-end of the Baby Boom and so my artistic sensibilities were formed by TV (even as I was nurtured by school and parents with a steady diet of classic forms). Nevertheless, I also saw that as a group, mainstream, first-line critics (me included) were getting mighty old and as there was clearly a brave, young, new guard among theatre artists, so must there be among critics, journalists and reviewers.
these young people are forcing both of us to reassess the importance and relevancy of artists we respect

Since launching the sites and working with a small army of reviewers across the country, I can say that Estelle Rosen, CharPo's Editor-in-Chief, and I were quite right to enlist writers who were as young as many of the artists they often review. But Estelle and I have also noticed something quite fascinating (a case, perhaps, of "be careful what you wish for"): these young people are forcing both of us to reassess the importance and relevancy of artists we respect. Moreover, it has required us to ask if we respect some artists simply because of their longevity or past accomplishments.

Don't get me wrong: an artist that creates a fine work must be respected but in the creation of a pantheon, so to speak, we must look to the young to see if the Panyches, MacIvors and Lepages of the world aren't simply churning out works that have all the importance of any other chestnut. I know that there are works I thought of as great when I began but which, on rereading, I realize were simply novel (the plays of Paul Zindel come immediately to mind).
I don't much like a lot of Shakespeare, most of Molière and nearly all of the Greeks either

The fact is that theatre - in aesthetic, structure and concerns - evolves with the society it is meant to represent. There will always be a place in theatre for text-loyal productions of Aristophanes, Shakespeare and even Everyman but critics now must also read Twilight, The Hunger Games and listen to podcasts, new music and watch Girls once or twice - if only to understand the aesthetic vocabulary the new generation is using. We don't have to like these things. Lord knows I don't like Twilight or Girls, but - guess what? - I don't much like a lot of Shakespeare, most of Molière and nearly all of the Greeks either. Nor do I enjoy mime, ballet or Berlioz. But I am crazy for World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto, an insane podcast called Analog Hole and Lisa Leblanc who has a huge hit on her first CD, now, called "My Life is Shit".

Critics have nothing to lose by stretching to the places our young colleagues are exploring. Nothing, that is, but our irrelevancy. 

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