I feel like my world has been in free fall since last Friday.
You see, last Friday, The Vancouver Playhouse announced that it was closing up shop. Done. Kaput. Just like that–the second largest theatre company in Vancouver, nearly 50 years of production, and now, gone.
No one knows yet what the ripple effects of this closure will be, but my guess is, it will be far-reaching. Already smaller companies are lamenting the loss of the props and costumes that they borrowed or rented at a decent price from the Playhouse. Relephant Theatre was to remount their Fringe hit from last year in the basement of the Playhouse, and now it’s possible the production will have to be cancelled for lack of venue. God of Carnage, with John Cassini just opened in Winnipeg last night, and was to run at the Playhouse next month. Now..??
In addition, it feels like these least few months have seen the arts community take one hit after another. The theatre critic at The Courier got her column space cut in half. The Rio is having problems. The Ridge is being shut down and turned into Condos, and Andrea Warner, who has been a huge source of support to the arts, is moving on from the Westender.
I was at a Playhouse protest on Monday (see my video below), and was chatting with Sabrina Evertt and Lois Dawson. We are all asking the same questions: what are we doing here? Why should we stay here? What’s the point?
We are theatre-makers, and we are deeply passionate about our chosen profession. I have always said that I want to return to producing when my son is old enough, but this past week, I have started to question that. I have started to question even continuing as a theatre publicist. It feels like space for the arts is shrinking at a rapid rate in the traditional media, and coverage for the people that hire me in newspapers, radio and TV is incredibly important. Support is dwindling at every turn.
If it weren’t for my son, who ties me here, I’d be seriously considering a move to Europe.
And there are no answers: we can point fingers at the recession, which causes people to spend less on “luxuries” like theatre, we can point fingers at the government, which doesn’t seem to value the arts, and funds us accordingly, we can point fingers at our beautiful city which seduces people to the seawall and the mountains and the hockey stadium and away from the theatres. We can point fingers at our society, which doesn’t value the arts in the same way that other places in the world do.
But at the end of the day, no amount of finger-pointing is going to save the Playhouse. I don’t mean to sound like Debbie Downer, but this is how I feel right now: without solid ground to stand on, and severely lacking in hope.
If you want to help out with our campaign to save the Playhouse, here’s what you can do:
- Write emails to your MP, as well as the Mayor, Hedy Fry, James Moore, Stephen Harper, Gillian Wood, Vancouver’s Culture Dept, and Ida Chong.
- Join the Save the Playhouse Facebook Group and “Like” the Save the Playhouse Facebook Page to find out about when protests are happening.
I’ll leave the last word to John Malkolvitch, who is the author of this year’s World Theatre Day (March 27) Address:
May your work be compelling and original. May it be profound, touching, contemplative, and unique. May it help us to reflect on the question of what it means to be human, and may that reflection be blessed with heart, sincerity, candor, and grace. May you overcome adversity, censorship, poverty and nihilism, as many of you will most certainly be obliged to do. May you be blessed with the talent and rigor to teach us about the beating of the human heart in all its complexity, and the humility and curiosity to make it your life’s work. And may the best of you – for it will only be the best of you, and even then only in the rarest and briefest moments – succeed in framing that most basic of questions, “how do we live?
RELATED: Where Is Our Future Audience (a post I wrote in 2008 about the Playhouse)