Dear Daniel Karasik (Or, Self-Exam #1)

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baby-duck-wallpaperDear Daniel,

How’s it going? I know you hear enough from me already, but I’d like to lob a few public thoughts in your direction. Hope you’ll forgive the indulgence.

I think this open-letter project of yours, where you write missives to your theatremaker peers and offer critical responses to their work, is pretty interesting but not without its problems.

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Dear Richard Rose (Or, A New Moment For Theatre in Toronto?)

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An Enemy of the People,Tarragon TheaterDear Richard,

Did you ever read or hear Obama’s January 2009 inauguration speech? I remember my delight as I read the transcript that the New York Times posted online, how moved I was by its complexity of argument and its elegant, quite high register, with echoes of Emerson and the King James Bible. Here’s a man, I thought, who’s speaking not to the “unwashed masses” but to the enlightened citizens of the country he’d like to exist. And he wasn’t just speaking to them: he was also willing them into existence.

Maybe history doesn’t bear such gestures out; probably a country’s people don’t change their character because of a leader’s good intentions. But that doesn’t make his gesture any less noble, to my mind, or less important.

I felt much the same way towards the end of your production of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People at Tarragon Theatre, or rather your revision of Thomas Ostermeier’s production of Ibsen’s play in Florian Borchmeyer’s adaptation and Maria Milisavljevic’s translation (to put it simply). A contemporary update of Ibsen’s story of a man who speaks out about his town’s contaminated water supply and runs afoul of the local economic elite, it struck me as perhaps the most important production I’ve seen at the Tarragon in years.

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Dear Tanja Jacobs and Philip McKee (Or, Greek Tragedy Is Dead; Long Live Greek Tragedy)

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bloodyfamily_largeDear Tanja and Phil,

I really liked Bloody Family, your re-imagining of Aeschylus’ Oresteia that’s now playing at Toronto’s Theatre Centre. I hope a lot of people attend your final four performances. Among those people, I hope, are some artistic directors and other programmers who see the value in this work and offer you a chance to develop it further and showcase it for a bigger audience, in a longer run. I think that could be a very good thing for theatre in this city and country.

I headed down to the Theatre Centre last night because I had a hunch, fed by your production’s marketing copy and my sense of your and collaborator Rose Plotek’s past work, that Bloody Family would raise the question of why we should still pay attention to Greek drama, would somehow deal with the fact that an hour or two of portentous bloodletting is not, in itself, obviously worth a grown-up audience’s attention.

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