Tuesday, September 3, 2013

After Dark, September 3, 2013

We Are All Nerds
How it all started with vinyl
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Two years ago The Charlebois Post - Canada made its official launch with a feature article by Brad Fraser. We followed in the next days with articles by Arden Ryshpan, Jacoba Knaapen and Rick Miller. The numbers we got were solid from the start.

In January of this year we made another big decision: we closed down the  websites CharPo-Toronto, CharPo-Montreal, CharPo-Atlantic, CharPo-Alberta and brought everything into the Canada tent and that's when things started to click because we were returning to the central idea of theatre being a national conversation, where local stories and concerns became all of our stories...all our concerns.

But what also was guiding our work, more and more, was the "nerd-factor". Look at those people who wrote in our first week - a playwright, a national labour rep, a local organizer and a renowned solo performer - an eclectic mix. And this eclecticism has become symbolic of this site and, now, of our culture.

Let me explain how I think we got here from there; a little bit of home-brewed history.

a lot of it had to do with discovering the ephemeral nature of art itself and - like kids in summer with fire-flies - trying to capture it in a bottle

Sometime in the 70s collecting became a cultural thing. But unlike the old days of having a collection of theatre programs or original cast albums, culture mavens began to look for the new and/or unusual and collect that. I would suggest it began in New York and London where going to a church basement to hear the next new band and buying their tapes (or, better, making bootlegs) created an odd kind of status that both the Nick Hornby novel and movie High Fidelity describe wonderfully (the book set in London, the movie in New York). (In passing, the new fetish for vinyl is more of the same.) Part of it was the shivery sensation of discovering something novel that was going to go far (like the great art collectors of yore) but a lot of it had to do with discovering the ephemeral nature of art itself and - like kids in summer with fire-flies - trying to capture it in a bottle.

This nerdism spilled everywhere. Look at TV now and two decades ago. I almost have to be on Facebook so someone can warn me: watch this new thing, Banshee (or Six Feet Under or Walking Dead or Game of Thrones). I kick myself because I missed Sopranos, Breaking Bad and The Wire and talking about those now is just so...passé.

People didn't want another fucking Aïda, they wanted the (until then) under-performed Janáček opera and then the new Adès weirdness and then something that was such a fusion of forms it would have been unrecognizable as music, let alone opera, less than a generation ago. 

In theatre, this search for the new is probably responsible for the humongous popularity of Fringe Festivals in Canada where a huge part of the audience does not want to see a one-act play from the 50s (as good as some of them are) but wants to be there when something spiffy explodes. (I have my own list of bragging-rights shows: early TJ Dawe, a dancer from Japan named Mari Osani that I saw with three others in a basement and subsequently championed etc. etc. etc...)

Is this good? 

Of course it fucking is! It has forced the hands of the companies who get the grants and the cash and suddenly ADs across the country have to be nerds too! Slowly losing their hold in houses are the latest Pulitzer winners or Broadway and West End hits. ADs who don't have a spirit of serious exploration are spotted fast and, except by the old-hat critics, dealt with accordingly. 

Also, it forces people like me to pay attention or get run over like print roadkill. 

But hell, this is no hardship. When I walk into a house with no preconceptions and am a shivering basket-case at the end...that's nerdgasm.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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