March 27, 2021 - Greetings to my fellow Equity members on this most unusual World Theatre Day.
How do we recognize and celebrate this day after a year of almost no live performing arts?
Perhaps I'll share a dream I sometimes have. It's a version of the "Actor's Nightmare" that many of us are apt to experience a few times in our creative lives - you know, the one where you're on stage, or in the booth, and you don't know what show you're in, you don't know how you got here, but it's HAPPENING NOW, and you have no idea what your lines are or where your cue book is, or what you are supposed to do.
My personal version of this dream is somewhat opposite. I'm backstage, ready to go on, the piece is rehearsed, the tech has gone brilliantly, the director is expectant and joyful, everyone looks amazing, the lights go up, I'm onstage, about to speak, and -- the theatre is empty. There is no audience. Raising a hand to shield my eyes from the toplight, I peer out into the house to find only motes of dust swirling in a sea of vacant seats. After hearing the pre-show hum of the crowd while standing in the wings, they have now all mysteriously vanished. I am confused, angry and a little panicked. All that preparation, all that sweat and effort, all that collaboration, and most of all, the momentum and potential, just -- frozen. "What is happening?", I say, but my voice is distant and muted as it hollowly escapes up into the echoing rafters.
We've been living this dream for over a year now. What a marathon of utter paralysis. The cancellation of so many projects and artistic endeavours last year was disorienting and paralyzing many of us - not just financially, but creatively. And not just for us, but for the audiences who are invested in the continuation of our work, and who share in the celebrative and rejuvenating power of live performance.
But our community remains resilient, and even hopeful. Theatre people are unceasingly flexible and adaptable. I have seen so many friends and colleagues brilliantly pivot this year into educational opportunities, building other types of work skills, and development of online performance projects. It's been incredible to witness. Here at Equity, the national Council has continued to work with our staff on ensuring that when our collective workspaces open up again, they will be spaces built on foundations of safety, fairness, and respect, and that the Association will continue to be there to provide services when members need them. It has been challenging work under turbulent conditions, and I have been inspired this year by the efforts of my fellow Councillors and our dedicated staff.
This past year has also provided an opportunity for deep reflection on the state of our communities, their histories, their inequities, and their possibilities. It has been a time for recognizing that there are different ways for us to be together and work together. It has been a time for many types of dreams.
One day soon, soon, soon, theatres will open, we will come together, and a new landscape will be presented to us. What will it look like?
As we dream forward, I hope to see you all there.
World Theatre Day was started by the International Theatre Institute. This year, their celebratory message is from Helen Mirren, celebrated British stage, screen and television actor.
Our colleagues at the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) in partnership with l'Association des théâtres francophones du Canada (ATFC) and the Playwrights Guild of Canada (PWC) share this World Theatre Day 2021 message.