Do we instinctively live in a bubble, a self-defined and limited world that looks inward and not outward? Are we willing to look around, get around, and accept new ideas? Are we willing to be inspired by experiences that are different from our normal patterns of behavior?
It may seem odd for The Green Room to bring this subject up, but it is relevant to our live theatre world in Simcoe and Huronia. The question we should all ask ourselves is: Can we allow ourselves (or even be willing to force ourselves) to look at new ideas, or to look at old ideas differently?
The Globe & Mail Report on Business Magazine recently published an interview with Mike Klaas, founder of the software app called ‘Zite’ Zite is one of those software app’s that aggregates content we view on Google, Netflix and the internet generally, and serves it back to us as ‘recommended sites’ to visit or ‘suggested’ products to buy. The concern, of course, is that aside from privacy issues this type of software filters our world, denying us opportunities to gain fresh perspectives and higher levels of understanding by spoon-feeding us only that which is similar to what we have previously seen or experienced and what has pleased or satisfied us in the past. And interesting thought, and one worthy of self-examination.
Simple question: Did you get out over these past three months to see a live theatre performance in a town or a theatre that was new to you? A work that was not the type of thing you might normally see? Given the incredible number of performances that were on offer (I can count ten different regional live theatre presentations in November and December alone), no one could say there wasn’t choice and variety. Hopefully you were one of many who made the fall season a box office success for all the theatre groups by taking that Theatrical Road Trip I suggested in my editorial this past September. Without the perspective of seeing shows outside one’s own natural perimeter, it is very difficult to participate in helpful discussions regarding the state of live theatre in our region.
It’s a very easy habit to fall into. We instinctively prefer to hear news that pleases us, see things that don’t challenge our comfort zones, interact with people with whom we know we will agree.
Yet, constructive dialogue often finds root in contrary views, new approaches, and new perspectives. While it may be natural for us to surround ourselves with words we want to hear, it is vitally important that we try new things in order to grow and improve.
I have had the pleasure of inter-acting with almost all the theatre organisations in this region at some level over the past few years, and many of the dozens upon dozens of talented, motivated individuals within each group. Happily, I have seen an increased ‘cross-pollenisation’ of ideas, resources and talent amongst these groups and witnessed an interest to learn and develop through this sharing experience. It’s a wonderful thing and I believe the trend is growing. For this to occur, we all must resist the instinct to focus on one’s own efforts, not realising how much can be improved at home by seeing the world beyond.
While it is simple enough to recognise and control our behavior as individuals, the same issue applies at the committee level. It’s a matter of discipline. The question committees or boards always need to ask themselves is: Are we receiving the best information possible in order to make group decisions? Have we talked to the right people, even at the risk of hearing views contrary to our current position?
And of course, there are the municipal politicians and civic bureaucrats. Don’t get me started! OK, I’ve started! It is remarkable, shocking, frustrating and disappointing to me when both politicians and municipal bureaucrats who, like it or not, have a large impact on our cultural communities, repeatedly put on blinders and forge ahead into the unfamiliar world (to them) of art and culture. Worse yet, is the lip service paid to bonafide committees set up specifically to advise municipalities on such matters as culture, or recreation facilities, or any number of citizen advisory committees. Claims of openness and a desire for community feedback is soon revealed to be nothing more than insincere window-dressing.
To be specific, previous readers will know that The Green Room has given considerable coverage to the recent gutting of Orillia’s Culture & Heritage Department and to that City’s other tax-funded cultural follies. I make no apology for this, and I will continue to report on the subject in the future. When those at the City level fail or refuse to seek input from those with knowledge and experience; when they make horrendous and damaging decisions affecting the artistic and cultural community; stay determined to maintain some ‘status quo’ of their own creation; turn the circle of consultation inwards, even in the face of financial black holes and ‘accounting irregularities’; remain steadfastly unresponsive and unrepentant; this is a matter of concern for all of us in Simcoe and Huronia. The actions of one municipality not only impacts the City in question but can cause ripple effects in another. These actions therefore cannot pass without reporting or without those responsible being held accountable. Arts and Culture is too often an easy, soft target for City bureaucrats and their minions. There…got that off my chest!
My New Year’s wish is that we all continue to make a concerted effort to know more about each other; our actors and creative talent, our performances and our organisations.
In other words; let’s work and ‘play’ together more, recognising that we are not in competition with each other; we support each other in fact, even more so when we work together. The calendar for February is chock-full of great show openings, musicals, comedies, dramas, and it’s only a few months away. Fill up the tank, and let’s hit the road again!.
And as for the politicians and bureaucrats who suck up tax dollars and are spendthrift and foolish as they turn their backs on those who pay the bills not to mention their their salaries, my hope is that we, as a theatre community, can apply pressure on them to open their eyes and ears to the real world, either through conversation, meetings, letters or even by forwarding them the link to The Green Room. Maybe we need to act a bit more like hocky parents when our interests are in jeopardy.
10,000 is no small number!
And a big ‘thank you’ to all of you! The move from a monthly electronic newsletter to a web site and blog has been an incredible success! In the few short months of its new life The Green Room has had over 10,000 page hits and thousands of new and unique visitors. Not bad for a site focussed on a defined subject in a very specific geographic location, and confirmation that this site has both a place in our theatre community, and a role to play! I encourage everyone to use The Green Room as a basis for discussion for the continued growth and improvement of theatre in Simcoe and Huronia, and as a place where well-considered views can be exchanged.
Happy New Year to us all!