We could talk about the vagaries of play publication and other theatre production publication in Canada until the cows come home...even Joe Fafard's cows....The problem begins with production. If you have fifty theatres and forty of them do new Canadian plays regularly, audiences see them, the culture wants them, other theatres want them, and plays get published. There exists a genuine world of Canadian theatre.
If you have fifty theatres and ten do new Canadian plays, sometimes ... none of those things happen. The problem reveals deeply, deeply rooted colonial-mindedness which begins with a culture alienated from itself and its own. In that situation publishing activity becomes cut-throat, in- bred, nasty, severely limited and capricious. With few theatres doing few Canadian plays - because audiences [?] don't want them, the Canadian theatrical imaginative world is left half- empty.
We cannot overcome - this week or this year - the deep colonial-mindedness of theatre managers, dramaturges, theatre critics, owners of Canada's press and media, academics - yes, and directors, playwrights, actors, stage- hands, ticket-takers, audiences.... But we can help overcome that colonial-mindedness.
OBSERVATION ONE: If playwrights don't write; works don't happen. Take me, for instance. In 1967 (for the first time in its history) the Dominion Drama Festival asked for only Canadian plays. One of mine (my first stage production) was chosen. I developed consciousness and confidence. I later wrote eight or nine plays for The Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa. We can advocate a truly national, adjudicated, Canadian theatre festival (every two years?), drawing on every city, town, and village, using only Canadian creations, with some credit for new work.
OBSERVATION TWO: When working with GCTC, I was saddened and then angered
to see fine, new productions that no one wanted to re-mount and no one
wanted record of. There should have been someone at the elbow of GCTC saying,
"we must have a copy of the script and director's remarks...please." We
can insist on a gathering and repository function for new Canadian materials.
Some on- going theatre organization (university department of Theatre History?)
should be in contact with every theatre producing group in Canada, ASKING
to record and store a script of every new Canadian production.
In this short piece I am saying we need to care about Canadian theatrical production enough to track it, demand script record of it, and urge publication of works. That brings me to OBSERVATION THREE. Some centre, some organization should "library" in hard print every new Canadian theatrical production. That centre should also website that material, making it available to theatre companies and groups everywhere in the world, to see, and then (with standard payment) to use.
From long experience in Canada I know a little encouragement can do wonders for talent. I know that in Canada, moreover, a little encouragement is so rare it seems like a lot. If creators of theatrical productions in Canada lived in a world possessing the structures I suggest, we would have more Canadian theatre, better Canadian theatre, happier and more productive creators, and eager audiences looking for Canadian production.
When we began the Great Canadian Theatre Company in 1975 to do only Canadian theatre and, when possible, new and socially concerned theatre, the reaction of "tastemakers" was negative, almost completely negative, tiresomely negative. We were accused of parochialism and narrow nationalism - though the five or six other theatre companies in Ottawa only did Canadian plays by accident and very occasionally. Over its continuing life, GCTC, however, has significantly influenced other companies in the area to do Canadian theatre and has contributed new plays and new people to theatre (as well as providing 25 years of entertainment). Against all odds it has done what it set out to do, and more. That's a way of making clear to naysayers who read this piece that the three things I suggest can be done and the result (when they are done) will be positive, wonderful - a small, beautiful miracle.
Bulletin ARTC/ACTR Newsletter 24.2