March 26, 2012… The following is a message from General Director Antoni Cimolino and Artistic Director Des McAnuff commemorating World Theatre Day, tomorrow, Tuesday, March 27, 2012:
“No man is an island entire of itself,” wrote John Donne in the seventeenth century; “every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. . . . Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Those words are as true of institutions as they are of individuals, a fact of which we have been reminded recently by the demise of one of Canada’s oldest and most admired theatre companies, the Vancouver Playhouse. As a significant piece of our cultural continent, that company touched countless lives over the course of nearly fifty years and helped inspire a whole generation of theatre artists. Its loss diminishes us all, regardless of geography.
Canada’s theatrical institutions play a significant role in our country’s economy, providing livelihoods not only for artists but for countless others in related fields. They generate revenue for governments, often rewarding public investment many times over. They are a source of national pride; they are part of the face we present to the rest of the world. And they are dangerously vulnerable to economic circumstances entirely beyond their control.
When an economy is strong, having to depend for survival primarily on the box office may represent an acceptable risk; in times like these, when people’s sense of financial security is beset by a host of factors both local and global, it can be fatal. When people tighten their belts, ticket purchases are often the first thing they relinquish – and the effects of that are felt far beyond the empty seats in our theatres.
Our celebration of World Theatre Day is necessarily tinged with sorrow at the tragic loss of a part of our main. But let us not be intimidated by that loss, or moved to self-doubt. Let us be clear in our minds – and let us actively make clear to others – that it is turbulence in the economy, not some failing in ourselves, that has caused this bell to toll. Let us keep faith with the proposition that theatre exists to affect human lives in ways that cannot be measured merely in terms of sales.
So let us mark this day by celebrating theatre’s power not only to give us pleasure but also to give us pause: to make us examine our own natures, our motives and our assumptions, both as individuals and as a society. Let us celebrate its role as the imaginative causeway that unites each individual consciousness with the mainland of human experience and with the hard-won wisdom of ages past. Let us celebrate its ultimate purpose, so easily neglected in this age of electronic self-absorption: its affirmation of our deep and inextricable involvement in all of humankind.