Monday, November 19, 2007

History of Theatre

At Theatre Passe Muraille to see the revival of the 1997 hit "The Drawer Boy" by Michael Healey, we learned that TPM is celebrating 40 years and 500 new works since 1967. Five hundred new works.

The TPM building, a rough cubic space with an awkward upper level and no lobby to speak of, still looks jerry-built, still speaks of that 1960s moment when Canadian theatre was like a guerrilla movement, when art in Canada typically took place in scrounged spaces like this half-converted 19th century brick factory. Not a Scotiabank logo anywhere to be seen.

"The Drawer Boy" seems to be about city boys and farm families in the 1970s, about stories and memories and secrets. It's rooted in something that happened when TPM actors went to Huron County to make one of its early triumphs, "The Farm Show." But Michael Healey, in his author's notes in the program (photocopied, b&w, thin) says the play, written in 1995, is really"an argument for government involvement in arts" and an attack on the Mike Harris government of that day.

"The Drawer Boy" starts from untold stories that need telling, and Healey explains that is why the play is political, and also why the TPM building has such a bygone-days feel to it. "The theatre you sit in was nearly a casualty of the cuts of the 1990s. Theatre Passe Muraille, a place that exists solely to create new plays, found itself unable to do much of that for a decade or so... Even this play, celebrating as it does TPM's history, had all but its final workshop funded by another theatre."

It's not that TPM looks old that matters, he means, it's what kept it looking that way. And that it still survives.

Good play. Good place. Some amazing evenings in those 500 new works.
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