Monday, 30 April 2012

Why I’m NOT going to miss Aubrey Dan!

            Recently Richard Ouzounian took time out from NOT reviewing plays written by Canadian writers, directed by Canadian directors, and starring all-Canadian casts, in order to write two articles in praise of Aubrey Dan.
One of the articles -- “Why I’m going to miss Aubrey Dan” showered him with glowing hyperbole. For instance, Ouzounian wrote tearfully of Aubrey Dan’s struggle and his ideals  --
“If I love him for one thing, it was that he had the courage to bring Next to Normal to town, even if the theatre was too big, the run was too short and everyone knew it was going to lose money.”
And speaking of one of the openings of Jersey Boys, Ouzounian effectively deifies him:
“I like to think of that night as the high point of Dan’s five years as a producer, a time of communal joy and possibility.”
            So who is this Aubrey Dan?
            Frankly, I don’t care much for Aubrey Dan and his so-called ‘achievements.’ I’m sorry if Aubrey Dan is – to his closest friends and family -- a kind little man who wears funny hats. I have nothing, personally, against the man. But what he certainly represents to me is the sad decline of Canadian theatre.
            Dancap presented 19 productions between September 2007 and January 2012.
 Impressive, eh?
            Not when you understand a few other important details.
             I will not miss Aubrey Dan because he represents to me a celebration of death of Canadian theatre; he represents a dance on our theatrical graves.
            NONE of the nineteen Dancap productions were Canadian productions. What is a Canadian production – for those for whom it has been so long that they have forgotten? It is a play written by, directed by, and produced by Canadians, starring Canadian actors.
             I will not miss Aubrey Dan for reminding us that we are nothing but a bunch of dumb Canadian yokels, who can’t appreciate, understand, or create art.
            Most of the Dancap productions were remounts of productions that were hits on Broadway. When I first started doing theatre in the early 70s, Canadians had very little possibility of seeing their own stories written and directed and performed by Canadian actors, writers and directors. The theatre scene was dominated by American second-rate musical touring productions at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. The 1970s saw the rise of alternative theatres in Toronto – Tarragon Theatre, Factory Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille, all of which celebrated Canadian work and talent. When Aubrey Dancap produced Next to Normal – much vaunted by Richard Ouzounian, it was, for me, the ultimate slap in the face to our Canadian theatre scene. Once again, in a kind of tragic return to 1970, we were being asked to run (not walk) -- not only to see a remount of a Broadway hit -- but one which starred second-rate (in this case not even Equity professional) actors in a touring production aimed at dull local provincials who don’t know better.
         I will not miss Aubrey Dan for his dedication to squashing radical thought and squelching originality.
            Most of the Dancap productions were either remounts of old or somewhat old chestnuts (South Pacific, My Fair Lady, Miss Saigon, Avenue Q, the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) or remounts of lousy or somewhat lousy recent Broadway shows (The Addams Family, Come Fly Away, Happy Days, Memphis, Next to Normal, 3 Mo Divas, The Toxic Avenger) juke box Broadway musicals (Green Day’s American Idiot, Jersey Boys), nostalgic sing-alongs (Colm Wilkinson, Donny and Marie Live) or Canadian musicals that slavishly imitate Broadway models (Anne of Green Gables, The Drowsy Chaperone).
             I will not Miss Aubrey Dan for focusing a generation of young creators on producing silly, irrelevant work.
             When I think of The Drowsy Chaperone – that’s when my eyes really well up with tears. I certainly enjoyed the show for what it was (charming fluff, which ain’t easy to put together let me tell you). But to have all that Canadian talent focused on NOT offending people, and on ‘making it to Broadway,’ well, I’m sorry to say it, but the success of that show has gone a long way towards nurturing a generation of Canadian young actors and writers whose only goal in life is to be a success SOMEWHERE ELSE in plays THAT HAVE NOTHING TO SAY.
           Do you think I am being unfair to the cute little ‘chapeauphilic’ Aubrey?
            In case you haven’t had a chance to look around you lately (been watching too many musicals and listening to your ipod?) the world is kinda falling apart. We need writers and artists who think and create and challenge themselves and others. Aubrey Dan represents, for me, all those who would rather fiddle and let Rome burn.
            And Canadian culture, our culture, indeed all contemporary, indigenous, thoughtful, challenging art was not built in a day.
            But in no time at all it will be gone.