Sunday, 19 August 2012

Me and Snobbish Theatre

In August of last year (being 2011) I was sitting upon the couch at Einstein’s Pub on College Street celebrating the birthday of one of my compatriots who really does not care for his birthday. In this dark College Street student dive with relatively moderate priced beer for such a place, we had a shared idea. It seemed that both of us were at a quarter life crisis (more so him then me) and we felt compelled that we had to undertake some artistic endeavor. The two of us decided in our drunken stupor that we wanted to produce our own show. There was no lofty intentions, no great Marinetti-like manifesto, no Brechtian thesis, we just wanted to mount and perform our own production. A naive almost childlike idea, yet one that to both of us at the time wished to pursue. 

Pursue we did and upon this compatriot’s plant filled jungle-like balcony we founded the elementary shell of a theatre company called ‘Snobbish Theatre.’ The reason for our choice in name comes from our shared enjoyment of the imagined situation that actors would have to exclaim ‘I must go audition for Snobbish Theatre,’ or ‘today I am going to see Snobbish Theatre.’ This was a kind of Be Sharp’s (Simpson’s reference) joke which to me, being a year on, still causes a snicker in the caverns of my head.  Anyway, terrible personal jokes aside, I now found myself in command of my own artistic entity. 

This entity though began to crumble almost at its conception. We had trouble finding an affordable space for our production. We intended to stage a new version of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Why this play? Publicity wise because it is a play that seems more relevant today with the rampant epidemic of bullying and drinking in the young 20-25 generation. (Fanshawe College anyone?) Truthfully, I cannot recall why we chose this play. Perhaps because of the same reasons. I am a self confessed bully who drinks too much and my compatriot is certainly a drinker as well. Perhaps, we saw ourselves as a modern day Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew, I don’t know. Anyway, I digress... Neither one of us really quite grasped how much money it cost just to rent a performance space in this artistically unfriendly city.  This is a real problem in Toronto theatre and one that will be further discussed in later posts. We have a high population of artists in this city but little affordable space to perform or rehearse. Long story short, this caused a rift in our partnership and my drinking buddy jumped ship. I have no ill will to this individual and realized in the time of 2011 Autumn he was in an emotional pit that not even Orpheus could drag him out of. Alas, I was left to go it alone and go it alone I did. 

I pursued the performance even though I had entire casts drop out on me. Some of varied reasons for this exodus were ‘they didn’t like the fact that some of the cast was relatively new to Shakespeare;’ an issue that is far too prevalent amongst the supposedly trained young actors of Toronto, (that being said this arrogant person will never be caught dead in anything I produce again, no matter how talented they were)  or they had been offered some more glittery gig; which in some cases I fully understood and in others I considered the choice to be assholish beyond a Burro. Yet, after months of struggle we compiled a cast that we were and are quite proud of. What I learned from this undertaking is:  you may wish to work with new acquaintances and folks you have never met nor worked with before, but ultimately it is your friends who are the best to work with as they will generally stay around to see the project out. Also they understood if they abandoned me they would feel my wrath and I have one that Sauron would envy. 

The first project; Twelfth Night or Whatever (a modern witticism), in its finished state certainly did not incur my Dark Lord Middle Earthian wrath.  We had a moderate audience and made a little bit of a profit in spite of unforeseen costs and a lack of adequate coverage. The product was one I should have been proud of, but for some reason I wasn’t. It was not anywhere near my original vision. It bore no resemblance to what I saw way back in the drinking pits of College Street on that birthday. I had an empty pit in my stomach where pride should have been. Here was a successful endeavor that had made a little money, and I could not enjoy it. What was this pit, I asked myself? What kind of terrible person would do this much work, have a little success and hate the finished product?

Fast forward to June of this year (2012), two months after the show had closed, and I was  wallowing in self pity of the fact that I had to spend my coming summer in the classroom to finally graduate. At this time, just for extra enjoyment, I lost my day job. My my employer had made some terrible business missteps that anyone with an iota of understanding of the arts world would not do. In turn this spurred on a publicity nightmare and finally destroyed company. (You know the company. It rhymes with Manclap Croductions.) I was in a dire mood that fueled on a booze filled sadness. In the midst of this turmoil I had a realization. The reason I felt so depressed about this achievement was because even though it was a good production it had very little of me in it. I do not mean me physically, but me personally. The production was mired in a world and style I had no understanding of.  I had to grasp with a grain of salt this subculture because I was logistically backed into a corner through all sorts of mishaps. The Director was forced to stretch for straws to save the production from sinking, and I applaud her for this, but this left a show that was definitely not up to either our likings. (Please do not take offense if you are reading this for your efforts are very much appreciated.)  What my next project would have to be is one that is fulfilling to me personally. One that did not give over to limitations, but one that relished in them. I then set about on a journey to create one of my dream ideas. 

It has been my dream, ever since I played Deflores briefly in a series of vignettes to mount a speedy and fast paced version of Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s The Changeling. This play is edgy, driven by a sexy women (my favourite type) and is dark, while being humorously, violent. It is also a play that is rarely performed in Canada as is anything by any of Shakespeare’s contemporaries (again another blog posting). Suddenly I was alive again. I spent every waking hour editing the script to fit my vision and even some of my ‘should have been sleeping’ hours as well. I felt an artist again. 

Will it ever see the light of day though? Will I be able to find the cash and the locale to perform the play? I hope so and am doing everything within my fiber to see its fruition. 

Dear viewer, reader or whatever the fuck you are, you may wonder now ‘what you should I take away from this tiresome story?’ Here’s what I think you should take away from it. Always do art that you feel inspired to complete, not something that you are just doing to do something. Never go out to do work just for the sake of doing work. You will hate yourself for it and ultimately feel empty while being full of fatigue. The bad type of fatigue. We only live for 70 years or so, hopefully, so why waste it doing things to fill time or make contacts. Do it because in your stomach you have too, because if you don’t you’ll be left a quivering pool of nonfulfillment. Do it because you have a feeling that there is much to do, for at Snobbish we certainly have much to do about The Changeling. We will do it with a shimmering Much to Do smile upon our face!

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