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Monica Prendergast

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  1. Here is my next question for the performing arts companies leaders on this Forum: What are you learning about leadership in the wake of this crisis? What might you bring forward into your approach to leading your organization as a result?
  2. What can you tell me about your experiences of resiliency in the arts world that may help readers with their own experiences these days?
  3. I never imagined I would ever live through a time like this, a time when it is no longer possible to go to the theatre, or to an opera, dance or musical performance. The social nature of performance, it greatest strength, has now become a threat. Knowing this has happened before in the history of theatre (including during Shakespeare’s time in the early 17th century) provides little comfort. I am someone who has dedicated my life to serving the theatre as an actor, educator, researcher and reviewer. To have that gift of performance snatched away by this deadly disease is painful. I find i
  4. Good political theatre can unsettle audiences towards making a better world. WHEN I BEGAN WRITING THIS FOCUS COLUMN in January 2014, I quoted American playwright Tony Kushner’s Angels in America definition of theatre as a blend of “poetry, politics and popcorn.” I believe that all theatre is political, as it either works to reinforce or undermine the societal status quo. Plays and productions that support the status quo are comforting to audiences, requiring little or no critical thinking. These are popcorn experiences, perhaps with a dash of poetry if you are lucky. Performa
  5. The Belfry’s Ministry of Grace brings a survivor and grandmother’s story to the stage. INDIGENOUS PLAYWRIGHT, ACTOR AND DIRECTOR Tara Beagan, from the Nlaka’pamux First Nation, would like to tell you a story. It’s a story that happened to her maternal grandmother in the 1950s. Let’s call her Mary. Although Beagan’s grandmother was reluctant to talk about it, this story remained one of the playwright’s favourites. In 1950, Mary went down to California to work as a cotton picker. She felt the need to get away from her home community, as her children had been forced into a reside
  6. Theatre by, for, and about immigrants, based in Victoria and touring the world. PUENTE (Spanish for “bridge”) Theatre is Victoria’s only theatre company with a mandate to perform plays by immigrants, with immigrants, and about the immigrant experience. The company is marking its remarkable 30 years of history in Victoria this fall. Founded by Chilean immigrant Lina de Guevara in 1989, the company began with de Guevara’s search toward finding her place in the Victoria theatre community. She had moved here from Toronto with her family when her husband was hired at Camosun College in
  7. How well do Victoria theatre companies incorporate gender equity and diversity? HERE IT IS, SEPTEMBER AGAIN, and therefore a good time to look ahead at what the new theatre season is offering Victoria theatre-goers. It is always equal parts illuminating and frustrating to see where theatre companies are succeeding or failing in their attempts to program more plays by women and minorities, more women and minority directors, and more visible diversity on stage. This last one is a challenge in a city that is still pretty white in its cultural complexion, but as time goes by, the city
  8. Hapax Theatre has ambitions for a long life in Victoria. SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO, in the spring of 2002, one of my Belfry 101 audience education program students asked me where he could go and do more theatre after he graduated from Vic High. I sent him to Langham Court Theatre, where he has since volunteered on stage and off in over 40 productions. This former student of mine is now the youngest recipient of the Langham Honorary Lifetime Membership Award, and his youthful portrait can be seen hanging alongside elders in the theatre’s lounge. Chad Laidlaw is the student’s name, and he
  9. Generosity and kindness on stage in selfish times. I have been thinking quite a lot recently about how making theatre and theatregoing can perhaps be a hopeful thing to do in a challenging age. We all seem to be swirling around the toilet bowl these days in terms of selfishness and lack of decency toward one another. Viral videos show acts of simple human kindness as remarkable, rather than what should be expected, in a society that is ever more fractured and distempered. Politically speaking, we are more polarized than ever, even in supposedly polite and civil-minded Canada. But i
  10. Bears at the Belfry is a great example of the resurgence of Indigenous theatre in Canada. THE BELFRY THEATRE opens its fourth show of the 2018-2019 season with a production from Edmonton, Bears by Matthew Mackenzie (Focus is the media sponsor). The play promises to be a blend of both Indigenous and environmental issues in its portrayal of an Indigenous man who works for an Alberta oil company. This man, Floyd, is on the run after being accused in a workplace accident. His journey takes him along the path of an oil pipeline, pursued by both Kinder Morgan and the RCMP. As Floyd tries
  11. Echos of past performances reverberate through the years in our theatre spaces. THIS FALL TOOK ME TO GREECE for the first time. There, at the Acropolis in Athens, I found myself standing in the ruins of the Theatre of Dionysus. This amphitheatre—perched downhill from the Parthenon and other temples that sit on a plateau overlooking Athens—is where Western theatre began. It was there that the great plays of Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles and Aristophanes competed in the theatre festivals of the 4th and 5th century BC. The plaque mounted at the entrance to the open ruin told me that
  12. A gender equity and diversity report card for local theatre companies’ 2018-19 productions. IT HAS BEEN THREE YEARS since I last took a look at what was on offer for the Victoria theatre season with an eye to how well local theatre companies are fostering gender equity and diversity in their programming. Studies show that less than a third of Canadian professionally-produced plays are by women, or are directed by female directors, or appear in companies led by women artistic directors (the latter determine seasons of plays). The stats are worse in the US; less than 20 percent of pl
  13. Theatre SKAM and a cast of young people present the award-winning Concord Floral. JORDAN TANNAHILL is one of Canada’s most exciting and inventive young theatre artists. Winner of the Governor General’s Award for playwriting in 2014, at the age of 26, Tannahill has already built an impressive track record. His plays have been performed across Canada and his video projects have toured internationally including to the 2017 Venice Biennale. Tannahill has also published a book, Theatre of the Unimpressed, that castigates mainstream Canadian theatre and calls for new performance forms. M
  14. Intrepid Theatre’s May and June theatre festivals liven up the local landscape. MAY AND JUNE are typically quiet months for theatre companies that produce a season from fall through early spring, but for Intrepid Theatre, the spring months are filled with activity. Intrepid presents their UNO Fest (solo performances) May 9-19, followed by their OUTstages Festival (“a decidedly queer theatre festival”) June 19-24. Theatre-goers can catch over twenty performances from local and national companies, plus an international show from Ireland. I am always happy to see what these curated fest
  15. Harassment, bullying and theatre culture. THIS COLUMN WILL BE A DIFFICULT ONE TO WRITE. Wading into the muddy waters churned up by disclosures of sexual harassment and rape in the entertainment industry feels challenging. The online debates have been at times strident and divisive. People have been judged and sentenced without ever appearing in court. But in the wake of the appalling lack of justice in the sexual assault trials of Bill Cosby and Jian Ghomeshi, it is understandable that some women are taking a more direct course. Publicizing experiences of sexual harassment and
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