Monday, August 11, 2008

Beyond the Pale

Dear friends,

This is the first official entry in a continuing series of essays called Beyond the Pale (a title I freely admit I stole from Yvette Nolan’s excellent drama anthology – pick up a copy, if you don’t have one). I suppose technically, it’s the third entry since the impetus for these essays was an unfortunate incident which I’ve commented on twice previously.

And yet, I’ve chosen to start afresh because I’ve said just about all I’ve wanted to say about the aforementioned incident. I may occasionally refer to it in future posts for the purpose of illustration but I also intend to refer to other correspondences as well as to past productions, arguments, controversies – basically, a variety of things that have enraged and enlightened, discouraged and inspired me in my sixteen years as a professional theatre artist.

Let me start by explaining what I’d like to explore and discuss in Beyond the Pale. First, the underlying belief that informs every single essay is:

Canadian Theatre systemically discriminates against many worthy artists from diverse backgrounds and it is the duty of all artists to correct this historical imbalance. Theatre is bigger than any one of us and no one has the right to stifle its fundamentally inclusive nature. Making our Theatre more inclusive is not only morally correct, it is vital to the survival of the art form we love.

That’s my version of the Prime Directive. I’ll be coming back to it time and time again.

I imagine that the vast majority of you reading this agree with the Prime Directive (my version not Starfleet’s). If that’s the case, I’m delighted because it means that we’ve already discovered some common ground. And one of the central themes of Beyond the Pale will be that we can make lasting change if we start by finding common ground. Conversely, I will passionately argue that the petty invective and personal attacks that sadly seem endemic to most discussions of diversity work in direct opposition to the Prime Directive.

Now, of course, the Prime Directive calls for us to correct a historical imbalance and here’s where many of us will diverge in opinion. What are the best ways of achieving this? Why has change come so slowly? What are constructive and destructive ways to discuss discrimination? Why is it so damn hard to get people to agree on what discrimination is?

Beyond the Pale will be my attempt to answer some of these thorny questions. I don’t claim to have all the answers. Change will come collectively which means we need to share our thoughts and state our grievances in order to move forward. I encourage you to join the discussion through the comments link at the end of each blog. (Please keep it civil!)

In this series, I’ll try to refer back to art and theatre as much as possible because it’s far too easy to get bogged down in politics and forget why we’re doing this in the first place: because we all love telling stories on stage.

I’ll also do my best to fight my more pedantic impulses and keep the tone light and quasi-entertaining. Hey, it’s gonna be a long journey so we might as well have some fun along the way. Onward!

No comments: