Thursday, April 09, 2015

Luminato AND Large Canadian Presenters, PLEASE consider Canadian Cabaret Artists…and this is why...



Someone sent me this picture this morning...if you cannot see exactly what it is, it is a picture of a new Cabaret Festival line up for the Luminato Festival 2015.
All three of the cabaret artists, Taylor Mac, Bridget Everett and Joey Arias, are from New York City... Kid Koala, who is a DJ, Graphic Novelist and performance artist included in this cabaret festival, is from Montreal.
But the three artists who are being presented, who would claim their genre as ‘Cabaret’ (and all three of these artists are amazing, intriguing and diverse in their cabaret style) are from away, as it were.
Now, before anyone grumbles or rolls their eyes, I am not writing this because I think that simply because I am a cabaret artist that I should be included in every cabaret festival that there is.
Let us be honest...that would be nice, of course, but I do not think that.
But not one cabaret artist in this festival is from Canada.
I was at first frustrated...then talked myself down...then fussed up again...and then concerned...
So, I looked up Luminato’s mission statement...and found that there was a lot about being involved in the community...and then there was this...


Collaboration
Luminato Festival reflects artistic collaboration, bringing together local, national and international artists from different genres, disciplines and cultures to originate new and unprecedented creative expressions.

Yes, I get that. THAT is a wonderful mission.
And then I wondered...did Luminato endevour to look at any Canadian examples of cabaret performers to add to this initiative. 
In the spirit of collaboration. 
And I am not trying to be pithyI mean it.
We have many creative, thrilling, world class cabaret artists to choose from: Patricia O’Callaghan, Bryce Kulak, Patricia Zentilli, Jean Stilwell, Shawn Hitchins, Micheal Hughes, Judith Lander, and Brent Carver... to pick a few from off the top of my head...all perform cabaret with their own singular style and tops in the field here in Canada.
This moment...this text-with-the-picture-featured-above moment...is a watershed moment for me.
There have been two other moments in the last year when large theatre companies have presented and featured cabaret on larger stages. One was a one-off show for a huge arts event, and the other for decent long run with the backing of a major marketing machine. These artists were totally unknown to the market and audience here...these artists had to be built in the media and community with flags, banners, radio interviews and articles.
I looked at all of this press and marketing and money being spent on this campaign and wondered what it would have been like to have that artist or one of these artists, the artist that these theatre companies were introducing to the theatre going audiences of Ontario and Canada, commercial and otherwise...the artist they lifted up and featured....be a world class, acclaimed, internationally reviewed Canadian cabaret artist...an artist who, because of the way our country works and it’s knowledge of the genre, is unknown to the masses...AND you can pick anyone on that above list, by the way, who encompasses all of the above descriptors.
THAT also would have been a watershed moment...

Watershed Moment:
A critical point that marks a division or a change of course; a turning point 


I am truly excited that cabaret is being featured on bigger stages and in larger festivals in Canada, BUT there is no future for this art form in Canada, or for Canadian cabaret artist, if we cannot (and I certainly cannot) encourage young people to make cabaret...an amazing, endlessly creative, entrepreneurial form of artistic expression...THEIR artistic expression of choice if we do not lift up, feature or encourage our own performers. We cannot be considered by the festivals of the world as appropriate choices for their line ups if our own country and our own arts organizations do not feature or acknowledge our artists...who are, again, world class. 
I was dearly hoping that at this point, ten years after I dedicated my career to cabaret, that there would be a wider understanding and appreciation of the genre and a greater knowledge of the wonderful cabaret artists that populate our country, by the people who run the theatre companies and the general arts communities, of the cabaret artists that populate our country. 
Amazingly, in the last two years, after years of lobbying and grant writing, I have gratefully received funding support from the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts in the name of cabaret. 
I have been greatly heartened by this. 
THANKFULLY, there ARE many people and companies that DO sponsor and support cabaret in Toronto and across Canada.
BMO has been sponsoring me almost every year since I started touring in 2010. And, I thank BMO for that honour, I am very grateful for their belief. 
I am very thankful from the bottom of my heart that Buddies in Bad Times has been featuring my work for 15 years...and making me the first Cabaret Artist in Residence in Canada. 
I also want to acknowledge the hard work of Soulpepper on their seven year odyssey that was the “Global Cabaret Festival”, featuring ALL Canadian artists...and though this festival has completed it’s funding, Soulpepper continues to feature cabaret prominently in their studio series.
The Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Burnaby, BC has been bringing me to their wonderful venue for four seasons in the name of cabaret.
Richmond Hill Centre for the Arts has been presenting myself and many other artists under the banner of cabaret.
There are rooms like the Flying Beaver Pubaret and Statlers in Toronto...rooms that feature cabaret artists young and old, new to the genre and/or established artists trying to work out or feature new shows and material.
This is all wonderful and also heartening.
There is support, there is belief...but, the Canadian cabaret artist still struggles for international recognition and, indeed, Canadian recognitionand I believe that we need to push to the next level. 
While I toured, I met and worked with other cabaret artists and because of those connections and the word of mouth they inspired, my work has been presented around the world, AND these connections are priceless. Watching other cabaret artists from around the world work and express themselves has helped my work evolve and the boundaries for what I believe I can try and accomplish have literally disappeared.
I found these relationships ENDLESSLY inspiring.
I believe that international collaboration is so important for cabaret to evolve in Canada...and that evolution will not happen if we don’t recognize the talent and hard work of our own artists and introduce them to other international artists. I remember talking to a cabaret artist in Edinburgh who said she didn’t think that there was a cabaret scene in Canada...let alone artists of note.
Shocking...and a bit cheeky, to say the least.
Now, I know there are many art forms in Canada...that need funding...that need support...but cabaret is a place where you can raise yourself high...you don’t need someone to produce you, you can produce yourself...you can produce your own vision...your own art. The cabaret artist is almost totally in charge for good or ill and learns to trust their own instincts and visions...and become a creator with no bounds.
Imagine what these artists could accomplish if they began when they were very young.
I believe cabaret can be the place where Canada’s next great artists can be fostered and found. 
When I meet and talk with cabaret artists from different countries, they began their work in their teens and early twenties...because they found a community to work in and a future in their art form and business. Their communities in the UK, Australia or the United States,  were created and flourished because many young artists saw what they could achieve as cabaret artists if they worked hard and long. 
That their work would be recognized on it's merits in their own country.
I know that not everyone loves or even likes cabaret as I do...but, I ask the Canadian presenters and the movers and shakers that are adding cabaret to their festivals and line ups...if you are featuring cabaret...consider featuring some Canadian artists as well.
I wish this for Canada...I know there are many other things in our country that need to be taken care of...but I, myself, am going to continue to focus on that. 
I am not saying that Luminato should NOT have Taylor Mac, Bridget Everett or Joey Ariasthey absolutely should!! Our artists should run out and see them if they can. It is amazing that cabaret is being featured at all....but Luminato, would you please consider picking a couple people from the list above to round out the groupif not this year, then next...so they can connect with, work with and/or be featured along side the New York City or international  cabaret artists and breed collaboration and innovation.
It would be one giant step forward.
Peace out.

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