Atom Egoyan, Gordon Pinsent and Michael Ondaatje
In the ongoing saga of the Factory Theatre, 11 of the biggest names in Canadian entertainment have written an open letter to the Factory's Board of Directors to encourage them to enter into negotiations with Ken Gass. The board fired Gass from his position as the theatre's artistic director on June 20.
In their letter dated Friday, Atom Egoyan, Martha Henry, Annie Kidder, Seana McKenna, Michael Ondaatje, Eric Peterson, Gordon Pinsent, Fiona Reid, Richard Rose, R.H. Thompson and David Young say they're prompted by the Board's response to the latest defection from the Factory season.
Last week, Michel-Marc Bouchard withdrew his play Tom And The Coyote from the Factory (joining George F. Walker, who withdrew his play, Dead Metaphor, a month ago.). Bouchard's play was to have opened the theatre's season this November.
The Board, in their response, attributed the withdrawal to "the boycott environment," and it is this phrase that the letter writers take issue with.
The boycott refers to the more than 250 artists and culture workers who have agreed to avoid the theatre until the board engages in meaningful negotiations to resolve the situation with Gass. In addition, more than 4200 people have signed a petition to get Gass reinstated.
The letter writers call the board's blaming Bouchard's exit on the "boycott environment" "more than a little disingenuous" and say the current situation is "entirely of the board's making."
Here's their main point:
Factory Theatre, like most of Canada's theatres, is a public trust. The vast majority of the money that built and sustains it comes from the citizenry. Furthermore, in our current funding system, that public money is granted to artists by artists or, occasionally, to artists by public officials.
In addition to public subsidy, theatres are supported by an enormous amount of ‘sweat equity' from the artists and staff whose salaries and intermittent fees are very small in comparison with private sector standards.
Members of the board are trustees. We don't want to denigrate their important contribution. They give of their time to provide support, guidance and fiscal oversight. In the best cases they help raise money as well, often from their own pocketbooks.
But legalities aside, they do not constitute the theatre itself. The theatre belongs first and foremost to the public that sustains it.
The 11 writers say that they don't speak on behalf of anyone else - including every boycott or petition signer. And they regret that the situation has already affected the artists and workers involved in the Factory season.
"We deeply regret... that the season is already so seriously endangered by the stand these artists have taken, and more than that, we feel for the sacrifice they are making," they write. "As fellow artists, no one understands better what it costs to walk away from a production of one's work or how painful it is for the other artists involved whose next job has suddenly vanished."
Next move: Factory Board...