Edmonton Responds to a National Arts Debate

 Public Reading of Controversial Play Provides Canadians Opportunity to Make up their Own Minds

(Edmonton: July 11, 2011) – Leading theatre artists from across Canada are banding together to respond to a national controversy by staging simultaneous public readings of Catherine Frid’s Homegrown, a story of a Toronto lawyer/writer who meets and befriends a prisoner accused of homegrown terrorism – one of the so-called “Toronto 18.”

During its first production at the 2010 Summerworks Theatre Festival, Homegrown was the centre of political attention; Andrew MacDougal, spokesperson for the Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Office, was reported saying “we are extremely disappointed public money is going towards funding plays that glorify terrorism.” While critics strongly disagreed, citing the play an intelligent examination which neither supports nor romanticizes terrorism, but rather raises important questions about the government’s involvement, Summerworks Theatre Festival lost its federal funding for the 2011 season. Negative sentiments for both the festival and the play on behalf of the government were further compounded by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s recent remarks, saying “we actually don’t believe in festivals and cultural institutions assuming that year after year after year, they’ll receive government funding from the Government of Canada.”

In the vein of The Wrecking Ball – a grassroots political arts awareness campaign simultaneously held across the country during the 2008 and 2011 elections – theatre companies from more than five provinces will stage simultaneous public readings of Homegrown in an effort to provide audiences an opportunity to become informed and answer the question “What’s all the controversy about?”

Edmonton’s theatre community will respond with the expected passion and commitment. The reading, being held at the Stollery Gallery at The Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts on Friday, July 15 at 8pm, will see local actors Michele Brown, Michael Peng, Jamie Cavanagh and Jason Chinn as directed by Garett Spelliscy take on the controversial script.

“The professional community in Edmonton has been very supportive of this project,” says director Garett Spelliscy, “I’m an indie guy and I have no real resources of my own, but senior industry professionals like Michael Clark, Keltie Brown, Eva Cairns, Elizabeth Ludwig, Kim McCaw and Caroline Howarth have all come forward with personal endorsements, support and advice. They encouraged me to approach this with curiosity, rather than judgment and accusations. I think the result is an evening that reflects Alberta’s independent spirit; a discussion rather than a rally, an artistic inquiry, not a protest.”

A demonstration to show support for fellow Canadian artists, and foster informed dialogue about the issues surrounding this controversy, the reading will initiate discussion with Edmonton theatre-goers.

“We want to start a conversation among artists and audiences about issues this controversy has raised,” continues Spelliscy. “These issues seem to concern the stability of funding for the arts, attitudes towards public funding, freedom of expression, and the role of the arts in Canadian society. This is a national debate, and one we hope Edmontonians are eager to participate in.”

A public reading of Homegrown by Catherine Frid
Stollery Gallery, Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts (11731 93 Street) Friday, July 15, 2011 at 8pm
Michele Brown, Michael Peng, Jamie Cavanaugh & Jason Chinn
Directed by Garett Spelliscy
FREE admission*

*Audiences are encouraged to donate to The Summerworks Theatre Festival, or two shows at Summerworks involving Albertan artists

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About mlhart

A professional writer and communications advisor by trade, M.L. H'art is a striving creative writer, a well-practiced day dreamer, an ambitious procrastinator, a creative star-gazer, a music afficiando, a devourer of books, an art appreciator, a people watcher, a relentless perfectionist...
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