by Jini Stolk
I recently wrote about The Theatre Centre’s opening without mentioning the word art. It was deliberate: my piece was about the community impact of arts spaces and I wanted to focus on neighbourhood animation, cultural venues as the primary public meeting spaces of our time, and the craft of fundraising.
But then I saw L’Orchestre d’hommes-orchestre’s Cabaret brise-jour – a stunning fusion of theatre, poetry and music – and I remembered that it’s the art. It’s always the art. How lucky we are to have a new space run by a company whose raison d’etre is to nurture artists, champion new work, and embrace risk.
Actually, I’ve had an amazing run of fabulous cultural experiences since returning from Mexico – perhaps the cosmos’s way of helping me resign myself to continuing weeks of winter. How about this line-up over two weeks in March:
Eunoia, Denise Fujiwara’s perfect expression of dance serving poetry, and poetry serving dance; a workshop of What Makes A Man, Jennifer Tarver’s dynamic staging of the songs of Charles Aznavour; six fascinating installations at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art; the School of Toronto Dance Theatre’s year-end concert with Christopher House’s breathtaking Glass Houses, premieres by James Kudelka, Susan Burpee and Darryl Tracy, and Paul-Andre Fortier’s Tell, which left the audience literally gasping and shrieking with delight. And of course Quebec City’s revelation, L’Orchestre d’hommes-orchestre. (I wish I could cheat a bit and mention two wonderful earlier shows: James Kudelka’s Malcolm and Canadian Rep’s Pacamambo, both at The Citadel. And what the hell: Pleiades’ Manon, Sandra and the Virgin Mary was terrific too.)
I know people are worried about their audiences, but these shows had strong houses and had reached out to me in ways I found compelling. Perhaps my fellow attendees and I had just turned up for a promising evening of entertainment; or were true fans of the companies or artists; or were so committed that the companies mattered deeply to our lives. We were, in each case, engaged in a distinct and important relationship with these arts organizations.
Understanding these relationships seems to me essential to building audiences and connecting people to the art.