VIEWPOINT: Glenn Alteen Responds To Chris Tyrell's View On Playhouse Company Closing

I love Chris but he never gets it right. (See Chris Tyrell's Viewpoint) As usual he conflates quantity with quality as if there were no difference between them.

There are a lot of analogies that could be made between the Arts Club and the Playhouse that are completely useful but saying one was pampered and the other neglected is ridiculous and completely misses the point.

The part I like best is "What kind of parent builds a facility for its children and gives it to one child?" Well Chris lots of parents actually. The Queen's first child becomes King, the rest don't. Lots of firstborn's receive preferential treatments, get the business, get the house, get the grandmothers pearls. It’s pretty standard in lots of cultures including ours. But there are also responsibilities that child has the others do not. And a freedom comes with NOT being the firstborn! Though the idea that governments are the parents of arts groups isn’t really on cue. 

Do you really see the arts community as children?

There are analogies about renting and ownership and also about being the first to do something and being the second that do shed light. Because the Playhouse's wardrobe, props and sets were made available to anyone in the community who wanted to rent them the Arts Clubs never were. And never had to be. 

The Playhouse, as the first, existed the only way that was possible at the time it started. And because the Playhouse was there doing the serious theatre the Arts Club could run fluff like Jacques Brel and Sherman Snukal's Talking Dirty forever and never have to tackle tougher theatre that has a harder time attracting audiences. 

They were free to pursue more populist work and they did. And used it to buy real estate. (Don’t get me wrong I think Bill is brilliant! God bless him for it!!!) But the Playhouse never had that luxury.

But what most distressing is Chris' ability to push all arts in the same category good or bad as if a commercial gallery or a public gallery or an artist run centre were the exact same thing because they all show art misses the point entirely of what the differences are. Chris is shilling for a system where the marketplace decides what flies and what doesn't and the government stays out of it completely. Unfortunately his system won’t give you great art just saleable art. Somehow I doubt if Van Gogh had taken Chris' advice in his lifetime he would have made the work we have of his today. The market in that case was wrong! 

And in this case so is Chris!

But what is dangerous and really naïve here about Chris’s attitude is his misguided belief the funding the Playhouse got from government will be redistributed here to give us better theatre experiences in the future. Perhaps the provincial funding will, but there are better chances of the federal money getting redistributed nationally to places that have the infrastructure to support theatre. Like Edmonton, Toronto or Montreal.

The destruction of our city's infrastructure that the demise of the Playhouse embodies will not make us richer down the road Chris, and to say it will completely misses the boat.


Opinions expressed in Viewpoint blog items are those of the contributor and do 
not necessarily reflect those of the Alliance, its staff, board, or membership.



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