(Originally posted: Friday, March 27, 2009)
I’ve been thinking all week about what I could contribute to World Theatre Day and, the truth is, I haven’t come up with much. At least, not on a large scale. I have my little blog here with which to share my theatrical thoughts and artistic ideas with all of you, but I haven’t much of a theatre home out in the real world at this point. So other than going to play rehearsal tonight, which I would have to do regardless, what am I to do?
I’ve been on Twitter all week reading the tweets about everything being planned in Ottawa and Vancouver and Chicago (which I can’t even link to because I can hardly keep track), but there’s been no real response here in Toronto (at least, not that I’ve heard about). The exception to that is The Canadian Stage Company. They’re offering 2-for-1 admission to their current production of Shirley Valentine if you bring in a receipt or ticket from any other cultural or arts organization you’ve visited recently. But that’s it. And I have to say, I’m disappointed.
Now, I can’t really complain too much because I’m here and I haven’t organized anything either. But my real disappointment is more about the general lack of enthusiasm. Do we just feel like we’re too cool for WTD? What’s our beef?
J. Kelly Nestruck, theatre critic for The Globe and Mail, had this to say on The Guardian’s Theatre Blog today: “Try as I might, I can’t get excited about this depressing little event. Its existence implies that theatre is in crisis.” To paraphrase the rest, he goes on to discuss how the whole event is sort of vague and silly and how, ultimately, the theatre is not dying. This being the case, World Theatre Day is kind of ridiculous and unnecessary because, after all, “we only organise capital-D Days for things that we fear are in peril. (See also: Earth Day.)” He’s right, in many respects, and his arguments are definitely worth considering. But he’s also wrong.
I disagree with the idea that assigning something a capital “D” is equivalent to announcing its terminal diagnosis. Yes, we have Days for causes and for the things we feel are threatened. But we also have Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc., etc., etc. And, for the record, the first Earth Day was April 22, 1970, which was long before we really realized the threat to our planet and certainly before being green was in style. Certainly some of these days are silly and celebrate things we should do every day (you know, be good to our mothers, celebrate love, drink green beer), but they exist and they are meant to be celebrations. I think World Theatre Day should be embraced in the same spirit. It is a bit vague, that’s true, but I don’t think that’s a negative. Rather it is an opportunity for creativity. Which is a fundamental element of theatre. WTD is just an excuse for creative celebration.
Of course, Nestruck points out that we celebrate theatre every time we put on a play. Furthermore, “We don’t need to celebrate theatre; theatre is celebration.” And this is true, but what each piece of theatre or each theatre artist celebrates is different from moment to moment. While one show celebrates the complexities of human relationships, another highlights the importance of ritual and tradition; while one artist embraces the darker depths of the human psyche, another simply shares a love of laughter. So here is where World Theatre Day is specific, even if it hasn’t meant to be so. It’s World Theatre Day. Today is an opportunity to celebrate our global theatrical community. It is a chance to connect all across this planet and to recognize that, while theatre may mean different things in different places, it exists everywhere, whether we see it or not. It is both on stages and on sidewalks, in living rooms and in coffee shops, it’s everywhere. Today is about connecting everyone who is a part of this wonderful art and remembering that we do all share a common goal, which is that very celebration of which Mr. Nestruck speaks. Today is a celebration of the celebration.