Monday, January 22, 2007

Death of A Salesman

Last week I mentioned that I was working with Guelph Little Theatre on a production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. It has been a great experience. I haven't worked in formal theatre in a number of years (25 actually) so it's been a bit of a flashback getting involved again. I was a little surprised to find out how quickly I fell back into "the mode". I love working behind the scenes to make a thing come together. However, I don't want to spend a lot of time talking about my feelings on this however. I know a lot of blogs are about what's going on inside a person's head, but that's not me.

I'm writing today to make a shameless and enthusiastic plug for the play itself. I'm a firm believer in supporting local artists of all kinds, painters, sculptures, musicians and, of course, actors. There's an incredible amount of talent out there that will never be seen on the silver screen, or on Broadway, or hung in the National Museum of Art. That doesn't mean it isn't worthy of your attention. No matter the genre, it has been produced by talented and dedicated individuals who love what they do and do it for no other reason than it brings them joy.

It's kind of like small town hockey - sure, there's the dream of playing in the NHL, but most know they'll never be there. They play anyway - just for the love of the game. At it's heart, community theatre is the same way. Local volunteers, people like you and me with a regular 9-5, 40 hour-a-week day job, who spend their free time making something they care about happen. The group working on Death of a Salesman includes factory workers, construction workers and contractors, IT managers, warehouse workers, and I don't know what else.

And frankly, I think we're putting together a great production. 'Death of a Salesman', for those of you who may not be familiar with it , is an North American Theatre classic. An emotional look at the last days of Willy Loman, a hard working family man, who's pursuit of the American Dream hasn't panned out the way he had always hoped. Is it his fault? Or is the dream itself flawed? Questions we will all face one way or another in life, and over the years many people have found some insight for their own journey in the lines of this Pulitzer Prize winning play.

So I'm am appealing to you, gentle reader, to support this production. Opening night is Thursday, February 8th, 2007. There are 10 showings running Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for the following three weeks, with a matinée in Sunday the 18th. Tickets are $17.00 and can be ordered online or by phone at 519-821-0270. Full details are available at the theatre's website.

So if you live near Guelph, or know someone who does, or will be visiting the area during the run of the play, please do yourself (and me) a favour and come out to enjoy a great evening of local theatre.

Thank you.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Call to Remember

I'm currently involved in a production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (I'm one of the 'techie' guys) and I have to tell you it's been a great experience. Today was the high point of the process so far. There's a step in the process called "polishing" in which an person who has not been a part of the production is invited to make observations, comments, offer advice, and in a word, help to "polish" the performance. Today I was thrilled to watch as R.H. Thomson, a great Canadian actor, held our polishing workshop at Guelph Little Theatre. It was one of the best learning experiences I've ever had, watching as Thomson worked and reworked scenes with the members of our cast.

As great as it was to sit in on this experience, it's not the workshop I want to tell you about. it's what he had to say after the workshop I want to share with you.

April 2007 marks the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The monument to this event will be rededicated this year in France as part of the ceremonies marking the anniversary. To acknowledge the event here in Canada R.H.Thomson has initiated "The Words from Vimy Project." Full details are available at the projects web site, but in a nutshell what they are seeking to do is hold a virtual role call of the Canadians that fought in that battle, many of whom lie buried on that very site.

To do this the project is seeking to contact the families of all the men who fought at Vimy Ridge. With the family's permission, pictures, letters, personal thoughts and reflections, and comments by the surviving relatives will be collected and digitized to create a narrative of the Battle of Vimy Ridge using the words of young men who were there. This archive will allow Canadians to not just remember that so many young men gave their lives in April 1917, but to connect individually with many of the 97,000 Canadians who took part.

So if you are the relative of someone who fought at Vimy Ridge, or know someone who is, I ask you on behalf of the project (with R.H.Thomson's permission) to contact the project and discuss with them having your relative's memories added to the archive. You can link to either this blog or the project itself.

Help create a lasting and very personal memorial to these brave young men.

It should be noted that this is not RH Thomson's first foray into the virtual world. Click on this link to read an article on his involvement with Canada's Virtual War Memorial.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Please, Don't remind me...

I have always been confused by Canadians’ apparent dislike for their own history, but I never fully appreciated until today just how deep this aversion runs.

In an article entitled “A lesson in respect” published in today’s Toronto Sun, Sheila Copps points out a major difference between Canada and the U.S. in regard to respect for our leaders. As you are likely aware, U.S. presidents establish a library at the end of their terms that contains memoirs, papers, correspondence etc. that define their term in office. In Canada however, no such libraries exist; in fact, we don’t even have a single library for all their papers. Not only that but we have even squashed every attempt to create one. I’ll quote Ms. Copps....

Two attempts to establish the Canadian equivalent of a presidential library have failed. The first, at the newly minted Canadian Museum of Civilization, was quashed more than two decades ago when cost overruns terminated the project in the planning stages. Prime Minister Paul Martin recently killed the second, a proposed Canadian history museum, because the project was too closely associated to his former boss. Neither decision was surprising. Canadians are averse to hero worship and even more leery about positive political histories.

Why is this? Can anyone out there explain to me why it is that we are so indifferent to our own history in this country? Especially when so much time and effort is spent agonizing over just what it is to be a Canadian? National identity is born out of a nation’s history. Canada is the country it is today because of what has happened in our past, especially in the political arena. We are who we are because of the actions of people like Douglas, Deifenbaker, Trudeau and Pearson, and yes, even the likes of Mulroney, Turner, Clark and Campbell.

Every Prime Minister, regardless of political affiliation, has contributed in some way to making Canada the country so many people around the world want to call home. These contributions deserve to be chronicled and remembered. The inside story as to how and why decisions were made, both good and bad, are important if we are to learn the lessons the past has to teach us. And yet, because we seem to consider politicians unworthy of remembering, for any reason, we will instead condemn future generations to fighting the same battles over and over again.

So great is our disregard for the people who have led this great country, it took an act of parliament under the authority of Parks Canada to ensure that weeds do not over grow the graves of former Prime Ministers. Apparently we aren’t even willing to mow the grass to afford them some small measure of dignity.

Once again, I have to ask the question, Why? Earlier I referred to our attitude toward history as indifference; that might not be quite right. We recoil from our history so intensely I wonder if we aren’t in some measure ashamed of it. Like an embarrassed twenty-something we would rather people didn’t mention the things we did when we were teenagers. Our current attitudes and preferences are so different from what they once were we can’t believe, and don’t want to admit, we ever held to any other philosophy.

And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe when it comes to the community of nations we are still just a twenty-something. After all, while other nations have been around for hundreds, even thousands of years, Canada is a mere 140 years old. As nations go, we’re still a teenager, maybe even adolescent. Maybe, like most teenagers, we can’t think beyond the next big date, what parties will we be invited to, or which nation is paying attention to us this week. Maybe, like most teenagers, we won’t care about what really matters in life until we’ve grown up a little bit.

So, let me play the role of parent and say -- Pay attention to your history Canada. Like older relatives, one day you’ll appreciate the wisdom of those who once led this country. I know it doesn’t make sense to you right now, but trust me, you’ll understand when you get older!