Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Festering, ReAnimated Corpse of Official Newfoundland Culture

I recently went to see High Steel at the Hall. Given that I know almost nothing about theatre, I just have one question to ask: Is there anyone else out there sick to death of being told how proud we should all feel for being Newfoundlanders? I know I am.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

is that what this play was about?
The only difference between growing up here and anywhere else in the country is that we generally, for the most part, don't bring our weapons to school. Not to be a dick, but i've encountered alot of close mindedness, not the welcoming with open arms that everyone talks about. Why should i be any prouder of being from newfoundland than anywhere else? Always comes across as an identity crisis that i do not share or relate to.

7:19 PM  
Blogger JustinBathurst said...

I remember hearing a Polish writer on CBC overnight talking about a poll in which citizens of Poland were found to feel more pride in being from their home country than other EU citizens. This Polish writer went on to lambast the notion of pride in place of birth, more or less saying that it's ridiculous to be proud of the place where one is accidently dropped into existence. It's like having pride in winning a lottery--it's completely random. More or less, I agree.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i saw that play and i agree. it was like watching a tourism nfld commercial. and the crowd really went wild fot it at the end.

12:22 AM  
Anonymous Maura Hanrahan said...

I agree; it is exceedingly tiresome to hear that we should be proud of being Newfoundanders (or whatever). I think we have caught the Canadian disease of obsessing about identity, made worse here by the collapse of rural Newfoundland. We can have a renewed confidence in this fish-collapse-battered place without being nationalist and repeating myths about friendliness and hospitality, etc.

A related point is that art of any form shouldn't be about our pride in ourselves as a people, although politicians seem to think otherwise.

I thought High Steel lacked character arcs and plot. It also descended into caricature at the end, as does so much of Newfoundland drama. I wish we would get past this; it is just another version of playing the Newf. High Steel had a lot of potential and featured great songs and singing and there was admirable versatility among the cast.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Maura Hanrahan said...

PS: Great site Craig. I'll put a link on my site if you don't mind: maurahanrahan.com

4:48 PM  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

Watch it Maura, I find the N word highly offensive.

As for the link: Giver.

12:21 AM  
Anonymous John Murchie said...

State and cultural patriotism have mostly seemed suspect to me. When they becomes clanish, they can become downright frightening -- at least to someone not part of the clan.
On the other hand, I find it questionable when we say of ourselves "Sackville based" as if we exist not here but elsewhere or nowhere or maybe everywhere. The Polish writer Czeslaw Milosz titled a book of essays "to begin where I am" and isn't that the case?

7:36 AM  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

ah the lovely and talented and not to mention well read Mr. Murchie makes a vistit. welcome.

4:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craig Francis: Didn't see you at the Coupland launch this past Friday at The Rooms...but people are dying to have their say. Perhaps you could put up a blank shet of virtual blog paper...much like The Rooms did in the larger gallery and let the community graffitti their thoughts?

8:58 AM  
Anonymous joey joe joe said...

I for one am sick of being told to feel Irish, how Newfoundland is more Irish than Ireland, blah blah blah blah blah. I'm not frickin' Irish!

And don't get me started on the PWG.

6:58 PM  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

PWG? What does that mean?

Who out there saw this show and what do they think? The program read like a who's who of NL cultural production over the last twenty years yet the show itself was glorified dinner theatre. Shouldn't we demand more from our national treasures? I guess not. Steady as she goes, b'ys.

4:00 AM  
Anonymous joey joe joe said...

Pink White and Green

1:04 PM  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

Ah of course, sorry.

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alright,
I've never left a comment here before, I guess I don't necessarily feel qualified to leave comments about visual art although I really enjoy reading what everyone else has to say...but I can put my two cents in about this alright.
As a fellow theatre artist I have to say I was heartily embarrassed by High Steel. I had never seen the original play and went to it (paying my $20!!!!!) pleased to see that the place was packed to the rafters with new faces that I hadn't seen at a Hall show before - in retrospect I think it's because they've all been hiding at St. John's Lane and enjoying our city's finest dinner theatre because the maudlin tunes, the unfunny stereotypical 'drinkin' and fightin' Newfoundlander humor and the total lack of storyline seemed to go over really big with them. In fact, as the play crawled on I began to feel more and more as though I was an alien life-form from another planet who had nothing in common with these laughing, satiated beings who made up the rest of the audience and who, of course, leapt to their feet the minute it was over to applaud wildly and assure everyone involved of their brilliance and importance.
Gave me terrible flashbacks from working in Trinity, actually - pander, pander, pander, take out anything too smart, get them clapping, don't get them thinking, whatever you do. Tourist theatre but not for tourists...talk about terrifying.
It's a shame as there was a lot of wasted talent in this show...but that being said, there was a lot of lazy acting too - I mean the women at least attempted to create distinct characters each time they came on as someone else - Who is Joel Hynes in another colored jacket but Joel Hynes? Not exactly chameleons of the stage, these men. (Steve Cochrane, I give you points for trying!) Maybe not the best choice for a show where everyone's playing multiple roles and the storyline is already so sketchy we need SOMETHING to hold onto.
The set design, while large and functional, was matte orange. Do you want to look at matte orange for three hours?
Also I am just fed up with the 'inner circle' of casting that seems to go on in the TV/film/theatre community here. Out of everyone in the show I think only Amy House and Alison Woolridge HADN'T been on Hatching, Matching and Dispatching(although if it goes again, I'm sure your time is coming!) - they even through in a few coy references to the TV show in the play, if it all wasn't insulting enough. Sometimes I get the feeling that even though our performance community is so small the star players have a hankering to make it even smaller...how many different combinations can Mary Walsh, Jonny Harris and Joel Hynes really come in?
I wish RCA would take the money they made from this sold-out production and invest it in not having to do another popular remount of a no-longer-relevant 'classic' for at least a decade. As a company dedicated to fostering the growth of Newfoundland's theatre artists I see a certain point to revisitation but a much greateer mission in bringing forward new and more challenging work. Where is the new work? Where are the new artists? That's what I really want to see. I'm willing to bet there are other dissatisfied cringers who ran quickly from the Hall after High Steel, desperately hoping for the same.

11:24 AM  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

whoa. but what do you really think, anonymous?

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i haven't seen the play but definately enjoyed reading the ciritcizm of the last long anon comment. Those points are felt exactly by me but more so in the field of visual arts and not theater,,only because i don't do theater that much and not exactly sure who all the players are. I'm willing to bet if i started paying attention to it i would feel the exact same way. I'm glad to hear what you say and hope people continue to be honest here....refreshing for a change.

8:34 PM  
Anonymous What is the point of being anonymous in St.John's? Ha ha ha said...

I know this is late, I was just reading through the blog, been away for a while...

But I am sooooo glad to hear these comments! I worked on the show and I didn't even go see it...first time in my life I have done that, because it hurt my little heart on so very many levels.

BUT! A little glimmer of hope, just to shed some light

This show was done to raise money for the theatre company...and it did just that. It had to raise money for the smaller, developing, new works that are in desperate need of financial support.

Pleeeease, don't think that this is the fate of Newfoundland Theatre! There is so much good stuff going on! See anything that Erin Whitney does, Neil Butler...lots more....

There are good set designers out there, but such was the fate of this show to have hired a TV guy! Thank you whoever you are for mentioning how bad that set design was!

And, let the Hall know, kindly, how you feel about the inner casting circle because this year it was so blatantly biased towards the "rising stars" BLARK! and the TV folks, some of which are very fine stage actors by the by. But holy dine! I have been at meetings where folks were ripped to shreds because they happened to direct two shows in two seperate years! And this year, well, right or wrong, it was questionable that most of the guys from the TV were cast...

But boy o boy it got the city out to the shows and that is exactly the kind of stuff that they want to see. Sad but true. I am not saying that the Hall should cater to that, there are other companies who do that just fine, but it was a tool to sell out the house and actually get a good box office...also helps when applying for grants if you can show that more than 40% of your seating was filled...

Anyway, after much thinking, I feel that the show was a necessary evil. A poorly written, unethically run, self congratulatory, necessary evil. It raised money. It did it. I hope to jesus that it helps the theatre company do more of the wonderfull developing work that is has been trying to do for ages now.

I think it is a good idea to remount old favorites, revisit shows, check out their relevance, if any...but please, don't insult your audience with poorly written pap.

I enjoy reading this blog cause visual art spills over to theatre sometimes and I hear lots of the same frustrations.

Anyhoo, go see "Aquarium", and "Neil Butler Quits Smoking" (Both for Free at the Hall during Magnetic North) and Berni Stapleton's "Mary Magdalene and Adventures in Sobriety", not for free, but worth it at Mag North. All of these shows have received support from the Theatre Company at the Hall for developement and initial productions, which is necessary and beneficial. I hope this helps!

Also, go see "The Origin of the Sound" at the Ship during Sound Symposium for their Night Music cause they are integrating lots of mediums into their music...I bet lots of you will like it, seems to be the kind of thing that people are looking for.

EEP!

12:48 PM  
Blogger adriana maggs said...

aren't blogs great? Now frightened back biters can sound like big brave intellectuals cause they don't have to sign their names to their carefully written comments. How is this any better than writing SLUT about your friend on the highschool bathroom wall?

Oh, and the best comment is from the person who hadn't seen the play but figured she'd feel just like anonymous #1 if she had seen it. Yeah. Way to share your opinion.

9:08 PM  

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