I’m sitting in a state of shock and sadness. Last night, after 49 years, The Vancouver Playhouse had its last curtain call. One of Canada’s longest running regional theatres and a very strong part of Vancouver’s cultural fabric is dark. I still can’t believe it. None of us in the theatre community can.
My sadness is coloured with so many other emotions. The red fire of anger burns against the cold blue of despair and I fight against sinking into the black gumbo muck of hopelessness. I’m tired of fighting. I long to rest, to be appreciated and valued. It feels like I’ve been kicking against the current and treading water for so long and then, just when I think I can see a bit of an eddy, along comes a massive wave that pushes me under and tumbles me about.
It is so hard to be an artist of any kind; to be driven to create, to paint, dance, act, sing, write. To open my heart to the world, show my soft, vulnerable, bleeding underbelly to the masses. To dip into the swampy swill of my wounds and paint a picture with my blood. The empty page and the theatre stage become my battle grounds and I work hard to get out of my way to let the Truth of the story shine through.
I’m driving home from a difficult audition or an emotionally exhausting rehearsal and pull up to the stoplight in front of the Ambleside Starbucks. I turn my head and watch the people coming out, coffee cups in one hand and cell phones in their other hand held against their ear. Civilians. How I sometimes wish I were drawn to do anything but act. I watch the woman in the navy blue peacoat and imagine her life to be free and unencumbered by the need to mine her inner depths until she bleeds. I imagine she’s meeting a friend for coffee, to chat and laugh about how she fell three times snowboarding, or the book she’s reading for book club. She’s not looking forward to an evening connecting with the emotional pain of losing a child, to memorize the words of the playwright, to animate the layered wounds and needs of a character. All with the intent to honour the truth of the play so that, perhaps, one person in the audience will feel a subtle niggle of recognition and maybe, just maybe, nudge open the door to healing just a wee little bit.
Stella Adler says, “The word theatre comes from the Greeks. It means the seeing place. It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation.” When will our society value the Arts? When will our society value creativity? As one mourning sign posted outside the closed doors of the Playhouse theatre says, I want Chekhov AND the Canucks. Why can’t we have both? Why can’t we value and support the Arts as well as sports?
A cup of tea will not make this better, but I wrap my hands around the mug my dad’s hands formed and I feel a bit of his strength flow into me. We cannot give up now, not when the city needs us more than ever. We cannot let The Vancouver Playhouse go gently into the night.
*Read The Vancouver Playhouse press release here.
*Read Max Reimer’s (Playhouse Artistic Director) response to City’s assistance of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company, September 2011 here.
*Sign ipetition to Save the Vancouver Playhouse here.