Is Ernie chicken?
as an amateur semiotician and observer of popular culture, I've long enjoyed your cutting-edge facility with images. And you sure didn't let me down with the arresting half-page photograph by John Scully on page 7 of the Labour Day parade (NOW, September 4-10). Without wanting to be politically judgmental, let me see if I have this right.
The parader, wearing the kind of generic smock often seen on employees in the food service sector, is wearing a jester's cap and riding on the back of someone in a chicken suit.
There is a bit in the chicken's beak, which the jester is controlling with a bridle, while small children whiz around him in little Shriner-like cars.
Is there a political message here? Something about the state of trade unionism in Tory Ontario on the cusp of a provincial election?
Michael Whealen, Toronto
Making art is hard to do
note to john harkness: it is a lot harder to make art for a living in Canada than to have a full-time job like you at a great magazine like NOW. Criticism is interesting, exciting and even sometimes useful from the artist's perspective. However, I do not see the point in listing one of our young Canadian directors in your "pics to avoid no matter what" list (NOW, September 4-10).
Gary Burns did a really good job with Waydowntown and is probably on his way to becoming a great filmmaker. Perhaps his consistency as a director is not quite in place yet. (I haven't seen A Problem With Fear.)
Let's inspire our Canadian culture with support and insightful criticism and try to keep it off your silly lists.
Tim Posgate, Toronto
Woody not going far enough
re woody harrelson, by michael Hollett (NOW, August 28-September 3). I must agree with Hollett. "Go Further is a funny, hopeful film that manages to challenge just about every part of the Western lifestyle without self-righteously finger-pointing, serving up a checklist of choices for better living."
Mann's film does an excellent job of illustrating how the "personal is political." But one person has about as much chance of changing the world on his or her own as a butterfly has of changing world weather patterns.
We need to do things together, and the best way is through both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary politics. Get active in the upcoming municipal, provincial and federal elections and/or get involved in environmental non-governmental organizations.
As for long-term objectives, you can't go wrong with the "system conditions" for sustainability developed by Sweden's Natural Step Movement. We must be fair and efficient in meeting basic human needs. We must concern ourselves with the whole earth community.
Only with signposts like these can we be sure that going further is indeed travelling in the right direction.
Don Young, Toronto
The nerve to conserve
when 84 per cent of the public says it wants to conserve electricity, the right thing to say is "Great, here's how." Wayne Roberts makes some excellent suggestions about how to save energy, but he did us no favours by slagging conservation with a straw man argument (NOW, August 28-September 3).
With respect to energy (and other resources including farmland, fisheries and timber), the goal of conservation is simply "use less," not "less energy from less use." Efficiency is one way to conserve energy, but let's not rule out voluntary simplicity either.
Our four-point Energy Conservation Action Plan for Ontario promotes a surcharge on over-consumption linked to financial incentives and renewables, community-based education and support programs, and improved efficiency in appliances, cars, homes, workplaces and urban design.
If we can't unite behind conservation, then our future is coal and nuclear.
Chris Winter, Conservation Council of Ontario
the pretentious artsy remark of the year must surely go to Guillaume Bernardi (NOW, September 4-10). He says, "Dance artists... have freed themselves from a lot of things that theatre's still encumbered with: psychology, narrative, characters."
Yes, by all means, let's get rid of interesting stories with something to say. Playwrights from Aeschylus through Marlowe to Shepard clearly had it all wrong and should have written, no, suggested, pieces for dancers, uh, sorry, movement artists, um, perhaps kinetic practitioners, who randomly move about the stage as rabbits or volcanic eruptions, as the whimsy strikes them.
I wish Bernardi luck in attracting big audiences for his non-character-driven non-stories, and hope he'll forgive me for writing this letter using traditional words and sentence structure.
Bill Kitcher, Toronto
Minority booster a hypocrite
re stage white (now, august 28- September 3). Congrats on the article. However, it's interesting to me that you cite Bobby Del Rio, who talks about "equitable casting" but doesn't exactly walk the talk. Del Rio has written, produced and directed a number of shows, including (some) at SummerWorks, Harbourfront and the Fringe sketch comedy show at Tim Sims.
In the five theatrical productions Del Rio has written and produced, the total number of minority actors other than himself or his brother he has hired is three out of 24 total roles. What a hypocrite.
John Ng, Toronto
Stratford's true colours
as someone who has been in theatre for 15 years and has been both an assistant director and director at the Stratford Festival - and as a person of Metis heritage - I believe my experience to be somewhat more immediate than the writers of your recent articles on minority casting and their sources. (Stratford's) Andrey Tarasiuk is beyond reproach. He has personally done more to encourage ethnically diverse theatre artists on a consistent and ongoing basis than any other single member of this community that I know of.
Anyone who doubts it has not attended half the plays mounted this season. It takes time and the efforts of many on all levels to create the community you write of. Did anyone on Broadway complain or cry foul because of the casting of Victor Talmadge in the lead of The King And I?
Who could seriously argue that it's because Brent Carver and Paul Gross are Caucasian that they're being cast in lead roles?
My advice, if you wish to play Hamlet or Richard III, is to do what everyone else does - find the space, cast, director, raise the funds and do it yourself. In the end, it is far more satisfying than being given a role at Stratford.
And shame on NOW's editors for publishing the head shots of actors whose only issue in this debate is that of being employed. Shame.
Dean Gabourie, Toronto
Looking beyond black faces
thank you for the articles on casting minorities in Toronto theatre. As an avid theatregoer in the U.S., I have seen many changes in casting. In the late 1980s, area theatres south of the border had this same debate, and the general decision was that minorities can be cast for any roles.
Since then, I have seen blacks and Asians cast in Shakespeare, Restoration comedy and musicals, among others.
Sure, at first it was a bit of a shock to see a black man playing the role of a Renaissance courtier, but you begin to see the actors as professionals.
The intelligent theatergoer looks past the faces. As far as we are concerned down here in the U.S., the issue of minority casting is long dead, and our theatre and patronage has never been better.
Randy Reade, Washington, DC
Lobby not for lowbrows
i am alarmed by your scathing re view of Lobby (NOW, September 4-10). When dining at an upscale restaurant, is it not standard for the waiter to suggest "water for the table"? I realize it may be a bit disconcerting for the waiter at, say, the 360 on Queen West to come out and offer mineral water for you and your hung-over friends, but we're not exactly talking about the same type of establishment here.
Perhaps it was because I didn't order the mac 'n' cheese or the fish 'n' chips that I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner at Lobby last weekend.
I suppose it comes down to the fact that I don't actually see the point of going to an expensive restaurant and ordering the least expensive items on the menu. Kind of defeats the purpose and sullies the experience.
I also don't see the point of cutting up a new restaurant so completely when it appears you had a capable server and the option to order a delectable meal.
And while I am not a restaurant critic, I have always hoped I was not in fact a classless and posturing slob.
I will admit it is lamentable that you heard "someone in charge" instructing the "joint's" servers to "sell up." But how naive are you?
Carolyn Bignell, Toronto
A compassionate voice
i want to thank you for giving Barry Kent MacKay space in your magazine. I enjoyed his column weekly in the Toronto Star and was dismayed when it was cancelled. He is a compassionate, very knowledgeable man and generously gives up his time to answer questions from animal and bird lovers, myself included.
I have also had the pleasure of seeing his artistic abilities. He is truly talented.
Anita Vinolo , Oakville