89 thoughts on “Expression

  1. Weird. It’s Claudia Dey, Rosa Laborde, Hannah Moscovitch, Linda Griffiths and Tara Beagan up-talking and saying “like” a lot.

    I guess the joke is that they’re all actually way smarter than those kinds of girls.

    I’m of two minds: On one hand it seems like mindless provocation designed to shock people into talking about SummerWorks. And there’s nothing wrong with a little mindless provocation.

    On the other hand, this particular brand of meta-feminism is hard to pull off. I’m not sure it’s working here. And I wonder how well this commercial is serving the festival and its participants.

    I’d love to hear what other people think.

  2. … or perhaps, its a failed comment on how even the most serious of artists have a sense of humour about themselves.

  3. No, I don’t find it funny. And I’m usually an easy audience. Failure because it was poorly written, poorly performed and poorly executed. I also don’t see how it serves the festival or its participants. Perhaps you could explain that.

  4. i’m embarrassed for you. that you made the video. that you justified it by calling it in the name art. i look up to these women. i enjoy their work. couldn’t you have done it better? surely with a group of talented people like yourselves, you could have raised the bar in the promotion of such a great festival.

  5. I am embarrassed too. For you, for me, for my colleagues in the video. There are many, many provocative and interesting ways of inciting dialogue, without humiliating anyone. Stooping to such juvenile antics is lazy, and I am not sure why this intelligent and sophisticated group of women agreed to engage in it. This is not the kind of discussion we should be spending our energies on.

  6. Hooolleeee, everyone. Lighten up.

    There’s nothing wrong with this video. It achieves exactly what it set out to. We’re now talking about it and the festival. That’s that.

    And there’s something to be said about not taking ourselves too seriously. It’s a fun, nothing video and the festival is using another medium to get the word out there. Not everything has to have deep inner meaning.

  7. Dare to dream? Right. This is the sense of humour that only appeals to young straight guys. I’d check the demographics for the festival if I were you.

    Anything remotely contentious can start a discussion, that doesn’t make it valuable. And this serves to make a cliche and poorly executed joke of Toronto’s female playwrights. Maybe next year we could celebrate Toronto’s gay playwrights, by showing them at a leather party.

    I get the “lighten up” thing. It takes a lot to annoy me. But if you’re going to post shitty amateur video on a dignified theatre festival’s website, under the guise of art, what do you expect? Start a discussion? Give me a break.

    My question is, why did these women agree to do this?

  8. Oh, brother.

    I’ll give you guys that the video is budget, but humiliating? While I was writing my play Essay (in which I deal explicitly with gender politics, ironically enough, and which Michael directed at the SummerWorks Theatre Festival in 2005) I was waitressing at a College Street bar where I was pretty regularly humiliated. Humiliated like some stock broker poured beer on me and tried to lick it off. Humiliated like the CEO of a media corporation got loaded and tried to stuff my tip down my pants. You know: humiliated. I distinguish between being objectified or subjected to unwanted sexual attention, which is humiliating because it leads to feelings of shame, and making a video with friends in which you joke about the fact that there are still artistic directors and critics out there who think that women writing plays is about as cute as girls having a pillow fight.

  9. My, my… I wonder if a blog-posting of an essay on feminism in theatre would have caused as much stir? I wonder if so many people would even have given it the time of day? (That was rhetorical. And ironic. -for those of you who may not have caught that.)

    I think Hannah is hilarious in this video, as are the rest of my beloved colleagues. The whole session took place as an improvised rant, with all of us offering up loads of tongue-in-cheek offerings. If you don’t think it’s funny, and it’s a matter of taste, fair play. Some people think my plays are garbage, and I don’t begrudge them that opinion, either. You’ll understand if I don’t have youse over for tea, though.

    So. Here’s how she went down – (Haha! Oh. No? Not funny? Holy fuck, tough crowd.) We got together after an online discussion about how carefully we had to approach these waters. We set forth without hesitation, once we had a clear understanding of the good intentions we shared. The aim was to poke fun at the whole damn beast, with a mind to how much these very issues have impacted our individual and shared experiences.

    I think it’s absurd that we are being called out as offensive or irresponsible in some way. I would suggest that it has more to do with the unresolved issues of the comment posters than what the video itself is doing. What are you seeing that I’m not? What’s so awful? Is it that we’re admitting, as women, to being both sexual AND intelligent, and that admission is somehow beyond our capacities as a society as yet? Or is it that we’re making fun of how some struggle to pigeonhole a creative female if she is also someone who some people think of as attractive? Is it the fact that we’re pointing it out, though we all have an awareness of it? The proverbial parading of the white elephant, is that what has people squirming? Or can it be that there are people who really think there is nothing fucked up about how our world can’t NOT make an issue of a woman’s looks? Do you think we’ve moved beyond that, and therefore, we have somehow devolved by putting this in the world? If we’re being honest – “pretty” or “plain” – it comes up. And moreso for women than men.

    I know that I don’t fully understand it, but I have most definitely been swayed by a pretty face. So if you’re interested, let’s look at it together, make fun of it, toss it around, serve it up a courtesy spit, and fuck around with it until it makes a little more sense. At the end of the day, hopefully we can come around to sighing a collective “I love you” about the whole thing. ONWARD!

  10. post-modern art is always dangerous because there are so many ways to read it. you can deconstruct it to pieces, but really straight jockish men might actually watch this ad and be like— “fuck yah! playwrites are fucking hot man. yah let’s get tickets!” but chances are they wont even come to this website…

  11. It’s a cute, funny joke. Better than a lot of youtube stuff… And pillowfights… who can argue with a pillowfight?

  12. This is a great idea gone horribly wrong. Did any of the participants see the completed “product” before it went live to the ‘net? If in Hanna’s view the clip’s main intent is to highlight, “the fact that there are still artistic directors and critics out there who think that women writing plays is about as cute as girls having a pillow fight,” then it totally misses the mark. And for Tara to be questioning what is so awful, and then go on to posit several possibilities that the “satire” fails to actually highlight suggests a confusion about what the piece was trying to say in the first place.

    Why is it awful Tara? Because it is absolutely and totally flawed in its execution. They’re great points you’re making on this blog Hanna and Tara, but because of how the piece was cut and where and when the text was inserted, I actually think it serves to reinforce those negative issues you talked about in your online discussion. It’s simply in poor taste in every aspect (unless you count that it’s sooooo awesomely bad), and as a vehicle for yourselves as artists of stature in the community (not to mention as a vehicle for Summerworks to use as promotion) I question the whole exercise. Allowing the director to post this to Youtube (the 3 minute version, the “Director’s Cut” on Nestruck’s blog at the Globe and Mail is even more horrible than the one above by the way) was a mistake. Hopefully someone in the cast will ask Summerworks to take it offline, as it should be.

    I feel Naomi is correct in her post, and it seems to me a clear and frankly caring reflection of a fellow colleague on something that could have been well done, but, unfortunately, isn’t. And I think it hit a nerve judging from the reaction by two of the participants. Also, if Summerworks media department’s intent was to create a dialogue with this piece, in the future, please have one of the enormously talented writers featured in the piece actually write something that may cause dialogue that may actually draw people to the festival. There actually are times when bad press is not good press. This is one of them.

    “Dare to Dream”? This is a nightmare.

  13. I think it’s an unfortunate piece of poor, not-very-well-thought-out satire. Maybe I just didn’t get it. I mean, I saw Trout Stanley, and I liked it, but I wasn’t aware (until now) that Claudia Dey was considered especially sexually attractive in the theatre community (I can rarely decipher the sexiness of a playwright by their words alone, though I imagine Wajdi Mouawad must be DREAMY!). I didn’t know that there was a hot button issue surrounding attractive female playwrights, or that there was some sort of beauty-to-talent ratio being employed by the critics to rate new Canadian plays (perhaps it was buried underneath the CanStage & Stratford fiascos, that Alec Scott article in Toronto Life declaring Toronto theatre all but dead and the tiny uproar that occurred when the city bought the Passe Murraille building in the middle of their budget crisis), but if there is, clear the presses!

    And to make it clear, I don’t think I’d have anything to say about it if it were used as a piece of promotional material for any one of the usually fine playwrights in the video (far be it from me to get offended by how one chooses to promote and depict oneself). I don’t, however, see what this has to do with promoting the Summerworks Theatre festival. I mean, though I recognize that many or all of these playwrights have been involved in Summerworks in the past, I don’t believe that many of them are even in this years festival!

    It’s just that it makes us Summerworks participants look bad by association, Mr. Rubenfeld (and Ms. Moscovitch, and Ms. Beagan), even if we aren’t attractive female playwrights. If I were a theatre-goer who was planning to attend the festival I would strongly reconsider after viewing that. Because if that’s the best that the organizers (and arbitrators) of the festival could come up with to entice the theatre-going public to attend our plays, well, I would think our plays are probably not worth seeing.

    Maybe I should just lighten up. But I think the self-depreciative tone of the theatre community has gotten a bit much lately (The opening monologue at the Dora’s this year almost killed me.) Seriously, us emerging artists have the rest of the world telling us the work we’re doing isn’t important, we don’t need the artists we’re hypothetically looking up to adding to that chorus.

    Lastly, while it’s always good to start a discussion, this video is only creating a distraction from all the great work that is being and will be done at the Summerworks festival.

  14. well i like this clip because i have met, and to some degree know hannah, and claudia, and tara, and linda, (and their incredible work) and i know that none of them are like that, that it’s a load of bullshit to think that it matters to be hot as a woman to succeed, and that the amount of pressure out there to constantly be attractive as a woman no matter what proffession you’re in is totally and utterlly ridiculous propagando perpetuated bullshit.

    plus they’re obviously making fun of the idea. like a bunch of intelligent chicks sitting around in white dresses saying “like” a lot.

    and twirling their pearls.

    i guess i think about the kind of humour that is widely accepted in culture today…utube, comedy skits, and all those movies…that place where something is so ridiculous it’s hilarious and offensive all at once. I understand to a degree everything that has been posted so far about his video. i guess i just wonder how much of the concern lies in…a knowledge that the issues shown/raised in the video are still partly true. in north american culture at large, and to a degree in the theatre community. as an actress i certainly feel a certain pressure to be attractive all the time. young and attractive. sexually valuable. but how much of that do i create and submit to?

  15. Wow. You people read a lot into 45 seconds of directionless improv that, while maybe not being knee-slapping funny, is all-in-all pretty harmless.

    Maybe taking yourselves less seriously would be the key to resolving your anger towards this video.

    It’s theatre. You’re not exactly saving lives.

  16. Truly confident people seem able to have a sense of humour about themselves and what they do – and don’t feel the need to promote themselves to the public as “take me seriously”, if deep down, they know that what they stand for, what they create, comes from a deep sense of their own inner truth.

    Who can argue with that?

    Who can argue with a group of smart, funny women taking the piss out of themselves?
    Who can argue with people being silly?
    Who can argue with a promo video that’s got so many people talking? (which is what promotion is meant to do!)
    Who can argue with women who agreed to do this, who improvised what they wanted to in the moment? Who look like they’re having a lot of fun doing it?
    Who can argue with a theatre festival being cheeky? Being naughty? Being tongue in cheek? Being provocative? (though, honestly I think they just meant to be a bit funny…and it’s all be blown out of proportion.)

    who can argue?

    Theatre people.

    theatre people who think that plays, festivals, and simple home-made videos carry more weight in the world than the actually do.

    Because – the truth is we are all terrified all the time that what we do isn’t “legitimate”….that the general public, whose money and respect we so desperately want, might not “take us seriously”….and God help anyone that might point out that the emperor has no clothes”….because we also all know that most theatre DOESN’T matter. Not really. Not in the grand scheme of the world. Not when people are starving and wars are being fought.


    Some theatre matters.

    Just like some books do. Some movies do. Some paintings do.

    Some of them.

    but most…don’t mean much to most people….except to the ones who made it.

    If you think this video is funny…
    If you think this video is offensive…
    If you think this video is ironic….
    If you think this video is humiliating to the festival, or the women in it, or to playwrights, or the institution of theatre…
    If you think this video is a bit sexy…
    If you think this video might make you want to buy a ticket…
    If you think this video is art…
    If you think this video is NOT art….

    ….that says more about YOU, and where YOU ARE in your life, in your fears, in your freedom….than anything else.

    look to yourself.

    Isn’t that what good art, good theatre invites us to do?

  17. Shelby, honest to God, if you’re going to comment, could you at least spell Hannah’s name right once? ONCE? I’m waiting.

    Robert L…. “self-depreciative”? Seriously?

  18. Shelby, honest to God, if you’re going to comment, could you at least spell Hannah’s name right once? Just ONCE? I’m waiting.

    Robert L…. “self-depreciative”? Seriously?!

    I don’t know. I didn’t laugh my ass off at the video, but if the collected minds of Linda Griffiths, Rosa Laborde, Hannah Moscovitch, Tara Beagan, Anita Majumdar and Claudia Dey thought it was cool and funny…? I am personally unwilling to declare on their behalf that they have been objectified, humiliated and misrepresented. Maybe it’s just me, but I have more respect for them than that.

    I’m looking forward to your 15 seconds, Healey. Make me proud.

  19. I’m with Pounsett on this one! I’ve seen pieces by all these writers … they’re fantastic. Clever and witty with just the right amount of self-awareness within the text to be more digestable by the audience at large. That appeals to me as an artist. And they’re all hot. That appeals to me as a dude. And I’m a member of Dude Equity Association AND Dude ACTRA, so as a dual union member I should know…(Pounsett is also a member of both these unions)

    …let’s not take life SO seriously to be offended by any of this. Drinkable water comes out of our taps, we will all have food for breakfast tomorrow, can’t we just play with the minutiae of life? I say yea.

  20. So, it is true that most theatre (most anything) doesn’t matter to the largest of publics. Fine . This is true and I wish we’d actually accept this and so be able to think and work for the people for whom it does matter. (Even if they don’t know it yet.)

    And it is _us_ as makers that determine if what we do matters to people to whom it might matter.

    Not the critics not the artistic directors, not the audience that exists now. Find your audience, find or become your artistic director, find or become your own critic.

    But if it doesn’t matter to you, why should I care? If it doesn’t matter to you or your world, find something that does. Performance is a ridiculous and absurd thing that is bound to fail – so unless it mattered a great deal to me, I would be doing something else.

    And there are lots of way to matter – many of them, maybe the ones that matter most right now, involve humour. God knows I need to laugh and that preciousness and earnestness have done serious damage to art in recent times.

    But this doesn’t mean that we should represent ourselves (or anyone) with easy irony that has become a so dominant cover for caring in our times (and this moves way beyond performance.)

    So maybe the strong reaction which I and others have had is about a fatigue of this irony. Yes it’s a joke, that’s obvious. Jokes are good. Let’s tell simple and complicated jokes that move towards something we don’t know, but wonder. It’s harder, but I think might be worth it.

    On the issue itself, which ideally, I think, would be the discussion, not the form of the provocation:

    There are such massive gender problems in Canadian (and we are not alone) performance – problems around power, access, social and professional priviledge and yes – the way that women artists are too often either the sex object (and therefore not smart) or sexless (but maybe smart). Problems that are systemic and perpetuated by even those of us who see them as problems, but slip into ingrained or unconscious habits. Or replicate them when we think we’re criticizing them. These problems are joined and related to ones of ethnicity, class, sexuality, form and our responses to scarcity of resources.

    I don’t know how to solve any of these other than an attempt at mindfulness. A rigour of language and image and action that at least tries to make it better.

    Tara, I want to read your essay. So bad it hurts actually. There are others who would too. And I’m not being ironic or rhetorical. Consider it a commission. With no money of course – the most common of commissions. But we can put it online and so there will be people who read it and think about it.

    Are there other solutions? Buddies 09/10 season followed by a commitment to gender parity seems like one. Why does it happen that most of the AD’s of the venue companies are white men? In what ways does that effect the work? (and I think it does) How can I help change that? (says the white man)

    Of course this is a lot about a short clip… these things have symbolic or metaphoric value (this is what we hope yes?) and this brought up a fairly complicated web of problems and questions.

    We can and should argue about everything – other fields (visual art, politics, physics, database design) do – they argue hard and passionately about what matters to them. This is how the forms stay active and alive.

    Maybe part of the problem is that we’ve let the arguments slip. We’re unaccustomed. And this has nothing to do with spelling.

    Sorry – this turned out long.
    But I really would love if there were public discussions about the questions at the heart of this.

    Jacob Zimmer

  21. Hey folks. Man you people are smart. It’s like an embarrassment of smartness around here. Seriously.

    One thing I’d like to add, though it’s not really a response to any one point that’s been made:

    Just because you’re a woman talking about women’s issues doesn’t mean you’re going to get it right.

    I’m a gay man who used to write for Toronto’s Gay and Lesbian bi-weekly, Xtra, about lots of gay stuff. And I was often wrong, or missed the point, or simply approached whatever topic it was in a stupid or shortsighted way. And people were happy to point that out. When they did, I couldn’t just pull out the Gay card, put my fingers in my ears, and start humming Madonna songs.

    Not sure that’s relevant. But there it is.

  22. As if we needed any more evidence that Toronto is one of the most uptight, humourless communities in the entire world, we now have this comment board.

    These women are great. The video is amusing. Chill.

  23. As a female artist, I think it would be great if, after the constant pressure to be seen as equals, we didn’t confine ourselves to the straight male-perpetuated stereotypes of what women are. It’s obvious by your posts that this is not what you think you’re doing. Watch the video. It’s what you’re doing.

    “Oh my god!! We’re soooo hot!” Please. Tongue in cheek? I see what you’re trying to do, but it doesn’t read that way, however you argue about it. How about you use your writing skills to think of something that’s actually clever?

    Way to go, girls. Way to represent.

  24. I’m all for people not taking themselves too seriously and the video was cute enough but it fell short of being laugh out loud funny. Even as improv goes, there must have been a better 45 second cut that could have been used.

    With so many smart and funny women in a 10 foot radius, I think like it or not, the bar is raised higher – but not impossibly high.

    What I’d like to see is a video response from the men of the indie theatre world. Anyone have a video camera and half an hour to spare?

  25. Wow – it must be difficult to have an audience with a sense of self importance so inflated that it completely destroys all remnants of any sense of humour it may have once possessed. No wonder theatre in the City is suffering.

  26. Could this whole thing be a show?


    This is a promotional tool, promotion is made to provoke and boy oh boy did it ever. I haven’t seen frank discussion like this in forever and that is the best thing to come out of this.

    I don’t think it reflects badly on the festival or the participants, all the upset people can go make their statements with their art or theatre or music. I take my work pretty seriously but I also think it’s all open to a laugh, a comment or a rejection as well.

    I think this is a beautiful sign of the young Toronto theatre scene growing up; the teenager is rebelling.

  27. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think this clip is supposed to be a commercial? Right? No?

    If these womyn had auditioned for, booked and shot a beer commercial, none of us would have been criticizing them for abandoning the goals of the sisterhood. In fact we would have told them how great it was that they can embrace their powerful feminine eros, and steal money form the man to create progressive art.

    And yet, when they use the same unfortunate fact of their supposed hotness to sell their own work, it’s evil and bad. Weird. I smell a double standard…With a side of hypocrisy…with a whole lot of, it’s either this or stand out front of the Panasonic Theatre after We Will Rock You, Toronto’s biggest hit show, and hand out fliers for SW…

  28. Pounsett…you point out a typo (Hannah. Happy now? Whups…or is it whoops? Oh gee, silly me….) and then you have to post twice so that you can firmly sit on the fence? Good eye. Nice attention to detail. Great computer skills. And what a fascinating degree of independent thought you bring to the discussion. Wow.

    Pifko, I wholeheartedly agree with you that they’re all great writers, but as Linda points out above, there is so much talent on the screen (not to mention on the other side of the camera) that with even a thimble-ful of focused creativity from each of these people, this thing could have been witty, irreverent, biting, hilarious etc, etc, AND it could have gone a long way to bring more people to the Summerworks Festival. I simply was surprised to see those combined creative forces came up with that. (Oh, and just because dudes are members of Equity and ACTRA does not automatically make them the arbiters of taste of what female artists are talented and hot. And if it does, doesn’t that line of reasoning speak directly to what Hannah-with-an-H is talking about at the end of her post? And doesn’t that then support WHY the collective missed the mark so badly as Linda points out? But THAT is definitely not sitting on the fence on your part so way to go. Pounsett-with-two-Ts take note!)

    Ian makes a good point about getting it right and taking it on the chin when you don’t.

  29. I have to say, I’m kind of indifferent to the content on this one, I can see why people are upset, and I can see why others want folks to chill (how’s that for sitting on the fence!?!), but for me, the problem with the piece is, well, WTF does it have to do with Summerworks.

    If I were you’re average person on the street, and I saw this video, not only would I not recognize who these women were, I would have no idea what Summerworks was. Nor would I be enticed to go to the website to find out. I would probably just look at it, go ‘hmmm, that was weird/dumb’ and go on with my life. I wouldn’t be offended. It wouldn’t create a dialogue for me, it just would be a total non-issue that I would forget about 15 seconds later.

    So, if it was built to create discussion about Summerworks among the people who are likely already talking about Summerworks, then yes, it did it’s job. But if it was created with the hope of maybe creating ‘buzz’ and discussion amongst people not already in the theatre industry, then I think it missed it’s mark.

  30. Just saw the “Director’s Cut” and it comes off a lot better. Best part: Claudia railing against metaphors and similes. And a shout out to Mike McPhaden for his cameo. Kudos to all.

  31. Pingback: Highlights from today’s Canadian theatrosphere « The Next Stage

  32. I just saw the video and I have to say that as a woman and a feminist, I’m pretty offended. I’m really shocked that these talented playwrights agreed to appear in such a manner. It seems poorly thought out and a disservice to the otherwise fine work of these playwrights and this festival.
    I’m sure I’ll be accused of not having a sense of humour, but I really find it quite misogynistic. And I do wonder what those same playwrights would have thought of the exact commercial, using Playboy bunnies or Hooter girls in their place.

  33. Web forums bring out the worst in people.
    I’ve seen these same polemic discussions all over the web, about xbox and playstation, and liberal and conservative, and abortion and not-abortion. It’s just two sides, immobile in their certainty firing an endless arsenal of shit back and forth. Every so often, someone says “Hey calm down guys!”
    It’s fun to read because some of it’s written by quasi celebrities like moscovitch and pouncett and beagan. Cool! I’ve heard of them!

    Can you imagine if we had all watched this video on some big screen together in the same room? There would have been general chuckles and applause from most of the audience (because most people don’t think), and silent indignation from the rest (because some people think too much). No one would have discussed anything, or shared their points of view in such careful ranting. Just hushed comments in the lobby, about who’s a douchebag and who’s a genius.
    It’s possible to be both.

  34. I can understand how someone acting in the video would think that the product could be satirical, but the way that it is cut with the pillow fight followed by the text “dare to dream,” makes the clip a pretty far stretch from something resembling feminism. Who exactly is that line addressed to? Who is the intended audience for this?

    I think that lack of consideration for one’s audience is why I was bothered by the video and by some of the responses to people’s criticisms. It seems really cliquey. It feels like a bunch of people taking their position for granted, and then expecting everyone else who isn’t in the club to appreciate it because of who you are. I think people are finding it insulting not only because the content is questionable, but because it is insular and isn’t actually about the festival.

    People take submitting to the jury for SummerWorks seriously and believe that the people judging our work are objectively looking for something with integrity and thoughtfulness. People are holding you accountable for the video, because it is the job of the festival to hold so many accountable for their work. Comments defending the video that essentially amount to “but don’t you know who we are?” don’t cut it. We do know who you are. We respect who you are. That’s the problem.

  35. Pingback: Mooney on Theatre » Blog Archive » Theatre folks - We’re nothing if not passionate

  36. On one hand, you’ve got cliquish smugness. On the other, humourless jealousy. Wow. I’ll just keep avoiding Toronto Theatre, thanks anyway.

  37. Thank you all for this. Really.

    Every now and again I will have a conversation with people (in and outside of the industry) about why it’s always difficult to get audiences for live theatre and the conversation always eventually comes around to the pretentiousness perceived in the live theatre community by the vast majority of the potential viewing public.

    I’ve always been on the fence about the actuality of this pretentiousness, but after reading this thread, I now no longer have any doubt. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a load of self-important, intellectually elitist drivel in my life!

    Really, if people would just please get over themselves as a collective then perhaps in 20 years we can finally get some people other than ourselves in to shows other than Mama Mia.

    I’m not holding my breath though.

  38. The best part of this is that as I was writing my comment, and completely unknown to me, Aristophanes left a comment that completely and utterly proved my point. I love it when that happens.

  39. And in the middle, a misanthropic anonymous commentor who thinks it’s OK to dismiss outright a wonderful discussion involving nearly 40 of their industry peers.

    Oh, snap!

  40. @Ian – I think to be fair, there were a number of responses dismissing the discussion (and therefore becoming part of it). I’d say beginning, middle and end. :P

  41. And if you were talking about me, I was only dismissing the pompous ones. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which ones those were.

  42. That’s it exactly, Ian. I do think it’s OK to dismiss outright a discussion involving nearly 40 of my industry peers.

    This entire thread is absurd! Pompous, embarrassing. Look at yourselves.

    See you at Summerworks … NOT.

  43. As a woman and a feminist…

    This is a wonderful wake up call as to where we are in the time line of feminism. Women have achieved certain rights and freedoms in our society, but come on girls…perk up your tits and pay attention!!! We’re still playing in a straight man’s world and most straight males are juvenile and what do they want…girls sitting around in sexy cloths, talking about nothing important…and cut to the pillow-fight fantasy. I don’t think this commercial serves the Summerworks festival as a whole, but I doubt that was the ‘point’.

    Yes, the video is cliquey, but isn’t that another reality in our self-indulgent society? Are we not trying to get into one club or another only to sit around and talk about how great we are and how important our work is? I think the video pokes fun at ‘success’….ohh wait, like ‘hot-chick’ success.

    Hold on, I’m not finished…this is also a good example of classical conditioning. Most males have been conditioned to like this ‘pillow-fight fantasy’ and most women have been conditioned to react with hostility towards it…I see a dividing line. Division will not allow for equality. Take a moment (while you dare to dream) and ask yourself what fantasies are yours and what fantasies have you been conditioned to desire or dislike?

  44. I think it’s very funny, particularly knowing the different artists. It’s very good. I praise the production values and the performances. There’s nothing humiliating about it for anybody. Humiliation is in the eye of the beholder. This video glorifies the theatre commiunity. And it made me think. I’m proud of all the participants. And you look great too, the colours and background, the harmony among you. That’s why it’s funny. These women don’t hate each other. Get it. I feel the love and respect.

    We are blessed in Canada.

  45. The video may be provoking a dialogue, but it’s not the kind of dialogue satirists hope for. People are upset about how badly this has been executed more than anything, The festival may claim they’ve successfully started a discussion about gender politics, but the real reason for all the outrage is Summerworks’s amateurishness in this attempt to market itself, one that fails by any standard (satire, comedy, advertising) and managed to drag down a host of respected theatre folk in the process. Gender comes into it, but only as a result of the failure of the comedy.

    Comedy takes balls (figuratively). Comic actors willfully behave in embarrassing ways to make a very specific observation. Sharpen the political objective and you’re into satire, but the formula is the same. When it works, we laugh, we’re enlightened, a deserving target is skewered, and the comedian/satirist’s stock actually goes up, even though, on the surface, they behaved like a fool. When it doesn’t work, the target of the satire doesn’t take the hit, the performers do. And in this case, the performers are a group that we all agree does not deserve to be taken down a notch: women in the arts.

    Say what you want of the video itself, but I think it’s unfair to blame these women for being involved. It looks to me like they were just helping out, doing the festival a favour. They were being good sports. When an athlete or a politician appears in a lame-o SNL sketch, we don’t blame them for the failure, because the real blame belongs to the full-timers who didn’t give them good enough material or support.

    Sorry Summerworks, but making two minutes of sharp, funny video in the age of You Tube is a lot harder than most people think.

  46. Okay, but seriously, who do you think is the hottest?
    I mean i used to go Claudia hands down right? But then Hannah bursts on to the scene and i’m like holy shit she’s hot, like hotter than the surface of Mars hot AND she’s Jewish. But then Tara goes and gets that awesome haircut and Lynda Griffith in a sling, come on! So vulnerable, like the mad hot aunt I dreamed would come look after me while my parents spent the week in Boca. I guess I’ll have to go …
    wait, are ties allowed in the fast-paced break neck world of Canadian playwrighting?
    Because I LOVE all of these women. Their words. Their very big brains. Their hearts and their yuks. (but don’t tell Trish)

  47. Okay, so the blog entry…it’s all been said on both sides.

    I’m here as a testament to this all working, regardless what I think of the content. I came here from Nestruck’s blog and also saw that two other blogs are credited in this post and have linked this thread.

    From what I know of the blog world, links are a good thing, as my wife, Danielle Younge-Ullman, is this week releasing her first book, “Falling Under” and is very involved in the blog world right now. So word is out there about this issue and about Summerworks, which is good, contentious and polarizing as some of this has become.

    To me though, the more important thing is I also took time to read three of the Q & A sessions about the plays that are contained here in the Summerworks blog and although I am an easy sell, it’s more likely that I will check out these shows.

    So… check out the Q and A sessions that (as of now) NO ONE has commented on. Yes, this thread is interesting, as we all get to see who in the theatre community comes to weigh in, but check out the reason I believe these these ads were created for this blog in the first place: to drive us towards the REAL advance content of the Summerworks Festival.

    Maybe I’m an easy mark, but I fell for it. It’s easy to stay here for the shit-slinging, but the content on the other posts is excellent.

    Oh, and by the way, Danielle’s book is in stores now. “Falling Under”. Sexy, literary late summer fiction. Go buy it. It’s on the same Toronto Writes table at Eaton Centre Indigo as Claudia’s novel! (Pardon the shameless plug, but I’m her husband after all…)

  48. hey, who here thinks anita majumdar it like, so super hot in the misfit ad? SUPER HOT. i’ll be there for sure. hope she’s in another super-hot outfit. i was surprised, though, about hannah moscovitch’s face being on the ad for the russian play, cause, like, y’know, she wasn’t in it, and it was, like, weird that they put her face on the ad, cause i was like, “omg, she’s so hot, i’ll totally go to that play”. oh, and like, as soon as i saw claudia dey on the cover of eye in that super hot dress, and then being so super-hot on the inside, i totally went and her play “minnow stanley”. was that what it was called? i donnow. claudia dey is hot. her sex column made me super hot.

  49. I’m noticing a few notable hot talented lady scribes were not present at this shindig. Was this a “Heathers”-like cruel exclusion, or can we expect a sequel, with MORE sweet honeys, MORE giggling, and MORE pillow action?

  50. @55 Michael Wacholtz

    Ouch. Not cool. It’s bad web etiquette to try to sell stuff in a comments thread, not to mention opportunistic and self-serving.

  51. This video made me laugh a couple of times, particularly the Director’s Cut. What is more hilarious is that anybody was actually offended, or whatever – embarrassed by it. But what is truly interesting to me is this little internet brouhaha that seems to sprung up around it since it was posted.

    I take Daniel’s point on what would have happened if this video was screened in a room with everyone sitting together: “general chuckles and applause from most of the audience and silent indignation from the rest. No one would have discussed anything, or shared their points of view in such careful ranting. Just hushed comments in the lobby, about who’s a douchebag and who’s a genius.”. Almost a note perfect description of the general atmosphere following just about every original Toronto play I happen to attend when I can actually afford one on PWYC Sundays or when somebody is kind enough to comp me.

    Is the ‘Toronto theatre scene’ such as it is finally embracing the digital age? And what are the implications of this? What is the potential of this? If any? Without this posted on Nestruck’s new blog there is every possibility that I would never have checked out the Summerworks website because I am as much a jaded, too cool, broke, constantly bored, superior and cynical Torontonian as the rest of you. But I would not have discovered – much to my delight and surprise in about an hour or so of surfing around – many fascinating interviews with different artists I have never heard of, a fascinating little essay from some guy lamenting the death of the Seattle ‘garage theatre scene’ (I’m paraphrasing) and the fact that Summerworks this year has made the brilliant decision to include Music component stacked with many great musicians that I wouldn’t actually mind seeing.

    At least it was something new, something different. At least its not the same old, (which seems to me to be the primary collective complaint) and for this Michael Rubenfeld should be applauded. And encouraged. Hell, it might even be exciting. Imagine that? Who cares if this video ’embarrassed’ anyone? Me thinks they’ll get over it. At least I should hope so.

    But even more interesting to me is this larger question of what are the possibilities for viral-digital-internet video with regards to traditional live theatre? Beyond just a marketing tool.

    Now I understand that the sublimeness of theatre is said to lie in its ephemeral ‘liveness’. That some great alchemy of skills and dedication, performer and audience comes together in a moment of time and space that exists once and then is gone forever, except for the sweetness of the memory and the ‘you had to be there’ and all that. I have experienced this many times myself, particularly on the stages of the small Toronto theatres where one can sit so close to the actors. But I can’t help but wonder what would happen if for one of these small shows where everyone is working so desperately hard for no money and next to no audience beyond their friends and family – somebody actually took the time to properly mic all the actors, shoot the thing with a few digital cameras from different angles, (while zooming in for close-ups of course, none of that static camera bullshit so typical of theatre on video), then edited it all together on FinalCutPro before posting the whole thing on the Internet?

    I understand it may seem counterintuitive. And to many people this probably sounds fucking sacrilegious. Would it kill the play or save the play? Might it actually cause more people to actually want to see it live? Maybe it would do nothing. I honestly don’t know. But I do know that for too many of these shows not that many people go to see them anyways – which in that case what difference does it make? Look what happened with this video.

    I understand that there’s rules against this sort of thing. But maybe these rules are just archaic now. So called ‘amateurs’ do it all the time. And I understand that everybody works really hard, and everybody wants to get paid.

    The digital age has completed changed the music industry, and is well on its way to completely changing film and television. What’s it going to do to theatre? Maybe nothing. Mores the pity.

  52. Sorry chnelson, I had no idea. Apologies to all those offended. I’m not a regular blogger. Just excited I guess. Perhaps the moderator could delete the final paragraph of my previous post?

  53. Hey guys. Sorry I’m late to the conversation. I was looking all over Indigo for Danielle Younge-Ullman’s new book. Turns out it was on the table just next to Claudia’s. Sheesh. Thanks for the posting though Michael – it’s an important public service announcement that will help folks like me in the near future. Adam, in answer to your question – it’s pretty tough to top Linda’s Isabella Rossellini circa Friends (The One With Frank Jr.) aesthetic. Hot hot hot. I was talking to a friend the other day and she agrees. Blogs are dumb. Step away from the computer and go see a play. Better yet – take a non-theatre person to a play. The insular nature of this dialogue is indicative of a central problem with Summerworks. It hasn’t really reached out to audiences outside the theatre community. It’s a wonderful festival that has helped develop a lot of new works but it’s a little suffocating. I think the vivid rebranding – including a website that people actually visit and the inclusion of a music series – is a step in the right direction. I notice btw that there is a far less well executed video posted that noone seems to be commenting on. I guess that deconstructing the achetypes of masculinity and the American identity is fine. Just don’t explore society’s perception of woman in any sort of provocative way. That makes you a slave to the entrenched, straight-man dictates of our cruel cruel world.

    Go Leafs!

  54. @61 Michael Wacholz

    If you do twenty pushups, twenty situps, and recite your monologues 10 times each, you will be absolved.

  55. You’ve nailed the zeitgeist, Summerworks, but it’s already blown over. I look forward to the the next, more extreme, installment of “Stupid Playwright Tricks”.

  56. Um….how come I wasn’t asked to be in this video? I’m an attractive girl. I’ve written a few plays. I like pillows. Is it because I’m Jewish?

    It’s because I’m Jewish.


  57. Lol lol!

    If only more theatre festivals had this clever an ad campaign – and if only this video (and the others? I can’t wait to see ’em all now!) could be seen by a wider audience.

    As an ad, I’d call it an unqualified success. It’s very very funny, and it’s certainly provoking a strong response. Theatre is a difficult beast to market, and a comedic bit featuring a bevy of very attractive (and brainy, which you’ll know if you recognize them) ladies in a pillow fight is as clever a method as any.

    And I think that Julie’s above comment, given Mr. Artistic Director Rubenfeld’s penchant for referencing his own Judaism in jest, takes the cake in this thread for tongue-in-cheek comment.

  58. Pingback: Loving the hate: seeing the benefit in backlash « The Next Stage

  59. Summerworks: A festival for really cool people and their friends———ONLY their friends, though. It’s really ‘inside, cutting-edge friend-stuff’. You’ll love it. Check out the PLAYS, too…. or not.

  60. Judging by the web comments, this is truly the “Piss Christ” of web promo’s…
    If I had of known playwrights hitting each other with pillows could shatter the universe, set back women by thousands of hundred of years, and destroy the art of theatre simultaneously, I would have spent less time taking photos of a man sticking his finger down the head of another mans cock… and just got like Wendy Wasserstein to naked Jello wrestle Lillian Helman, while Getrude Stein rubbed her labia to the point of squirting….

  61. Ummm…like…wow…like…ouch…like…why???..like….ridiculous…like…they are just really bad actresses….like…maybe they should re-shoot it with better actresses and it will make sense and be funny…like…maybe…like…actually..why bother…like…shit

  62. I know the discussion is over, but I thought I could add just one more comment (I am not part of the in-crowd, and I caught up on the chat a bit late). While I found the video kind of funny, I mostly felt like I was watching an ad that ultimately confirmed that a woman’s success is predicated on prettiness. The confidence displayed by the women, in participating, seemed to exist not only because of their talent, but because they all fit the convention of what our society considers beautiful. I certainly do not blame them for that, but where were the intelligent women in this video who are sexy, but not skinny and young and flashing their underwear? It may not have been possible to include such women, because then the playwrights who did participate (and the director) would have seen how their behavior excludes all of their talented sisters who could not have fit into those nice dresses. If they had only taken the satire a bit further and not looked as typically pretty, than they could have taken the piss out of the whole thing. Perhaps they don’t feel comfortable in a video ad without the pearls, or perhaps the purpose of the ad was to entice people to come to the festival for a chance to glimpse of one of the pretty ladies in person…

  63. I first saw the piece when Michael sent it to me a few weeks ago and I laughed my ass off. I’ve been a bit surprised at the response it’s generated, the vitriol spewed back and forth on message boards, and the coverage it’s received–not just on the Canadian theatre blog scene but internationally. I thought the piece was funny, yes, but deserving of all this dialogue? Hardly.

    Read the rest of my response at:


  64. Wow. I leave town for 10 minutes, and someone steals all my pillows.

    Keep up the good fight, o brave ironic babes of canadian theatre.

  65. I love canadian art. I love Canada, I love the country I was raised in. I love Hannah Moskovitch, because she marked some silly thing I wrote in first year university and she wrote plays that I wasn’t dissapointed by.

    A toast, to not being dissapointed by canadian theatre!

    And, To shaw, stratford, and soulpepper, the horrible HORRIBLE companies we call “canadian” because they reside in canada, yet produce nothing canadian.

    MAYBE that’s the debate we should be having.

    i thought the commercial was cute, btw.

  66. Oh and to Chris Dupuis, who used this thread as an excuse to read his blog. Brilliant. I would tell you all to read mine, but I don’t have one. I talk to people in real life.

  67. Hilarious! The discussion, I mean. I haven’t been home to T.O. for eight years, look at on the Guardian for Edinburgh Fringe reports, and this is staring at me. Linda Griffiths and some young’uns doing a pretty funny piss-take of ‘Canada’s Next Top Playwright’. And then the inevitable drunken post-show argument about it at the bar. Where are we for this one? The Epicure? C’est What? I dunno, where does Factory drink? Ah, sweet nostalgia! Summerworks has come a long way I guess to qualify for heavy-hitter shit storms!

    The Guardian!


    P.S. Shout out to my homies Pounsett and Coleman! You on Facebook yet, Layne?

  68. Wow, much ado.

    “self-indulgent society”
    “Stooping to such juvenile antics”

    “what do you expect? Start a discussion? Give me a break”

    Hey girls, it was cute.

    If your plays get anything close to this reaction.,
    I’m in.

    But I must say.
    Nobody is really hot until they have to take all there clothes off and fanning pillows is an inefficient way to keep cool.

    As for those hot heads, that remind me of the petty selfish backstabbing shits that rub there art on you like a pervert in a crowded bus until they find someone to succumb to there grotesque vision, then tell you, “its our secret so don’t tell Dad.”

    Chill out.

  69. i’m coming in soooo late in this convo, but i thought it was a hilarious, obviously satirical vid that had a perfect ending when it cut to the Dare To Dream. the pillowfight just dissolved the power of the “thank you Tara, thank you” clear satire, which was awesome.

    as a woman & a feminist i’m not offended by this at all – but i didn’t get any info about what Summerworks is from it, so it failed as an ad.

    are some of these comments plants? this much vitriol from that puffy piece? maybe it’s cuz i’m not from TO & don’t know these writers. hope the rest of the fest discussions are about actual writing & acting instead of about a 40-second riff.

  70. I’m not from Toronto but i plan on attending the festival. This ad, however thought-provoking and “controversial” it might be, is a bit limited because of who its target audience is. I don’t know who these women are or, really, what Summerworks is and the ad does not help. It seems it’s meant for the Toronto theatre community (ie: people who know these playwrights, people who will already go to the plays) so it’s kinda preaching to the converted.

    For me, it’s not funny or informative. I have no problem with the content. But on first viewing I just don’t know what the content is.

    But as a potential theatre-goer from outside TO, i guess i’m not the target audience.

  71. Pingback: The passion of the theatre blogs « The Next Stage

  72. I think (or rather sure) that your point of view is similar to mine, but I’ve need you to clear one thing up, so i @ You. Thank you in adcance! Oh, I bbokmarked your Expression SummerWorks Theatre Festival in Digg also :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s