Hi! This site used to be a more or less unified project that went by the name Thoughts From A Glass House, where I published critical essays mostly about theatre in Canada. Almost all of that writing is archived here, but now this site is just my little ol’ blog, where I publish whatever miscellany seems worthwhile.
Thanks for reading. The old preamble to Thoughts From A Glass House (2014-16) lives below.
Welcome to the Internet home of my critical scribblings on theatre and the other literary and dramatic arts.
An artist who writes critically about the art of his community lives in a glass house; the potential social cost, should he be a total asshole, is high.
But Milton is wise, and Milton says: “Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making.”
Thanks for stopping by. For the short essay that spawned this site, read on.
*The following piece of belligerence first appeared on Facebook, in a slightly different form, on April 5, 2014.*
I was being a jerk and complaining to friends about the lack of a meaningful, sophisticated critical culture in Canadian theatre when, pretty much overnight, one appeared and smacked me in the face. Excited to see Conte d’Amour at World Stage tonight and maybe post my own social media blurb about why it fucked me up or rocked my world or made me mad.
But here’s my question: why does it take an import from Europe to get the Toronto theatre community talking like this about what our work means, to make us demand that our art respond to our time in forceful ways?
Why can’t we call bullshit more often, not only at the bar but also in public, when our theatre doesn’t ask smart enough, urgent enough questions or do so in complex enough terms?
I’ll eat a sock if I see one more review that talks about how “moving” a show is, how “strong” its artists are, and says nothing specific about why it matters – here, now – to be “moved” about a particular subject or what’s the high value of artisanal “strength” if it’s in the service of nothing but escapism.
I’ll smoke my shoe if I see one more show that uses race or class or gender as a prop and doesn’t interrogate any of them in a way that – here, now – might be naked or risky or revealing.
The explosion of interesting conversation around Conte D’Amour, both in the media and among artists, proves that it’s not for lack of capable minds that public critical discourse in our theatre hovers, on average, around the Grade 11 level. So what do we blame? Fear? Inertia? A culture of scarcity in which people would rather keep their heads down and compete for dwindling established rewards than have the conversations that might make them pariahs? I.e., again: fear?
The cultural nationalism that gave Canadian literary arts their engine is a dead end, but at least it once lent some dignity and scope to the conversation around why we make art in this country. And it produced several artists of the highest calibre, celebrated at home and admired abroad.
I’m the first to admit that my own work doesn’t always live up to the standard I’d want a critical dialogue to encourage, doesn’t always advance the cultural conversation in ways that are provocative and necessary and of our moment. Good art is fucking hard to make.
But I’m happy to withstand some BOOOOOs, from our paid critics and my peers, if it means I get to participate in a culture that compels my full investment in the work, that demands I put my convictions on the line.