State of Theatre: Adam Paolozza

Adam Paolozza is a graduate of Ryerson Theatre School and Ecole Jacques Lecoq. While in Paris he also studied Decroux's Corporeal Mime technique. He is the co-founder and artistic director of the international ensemble TheatreRUN, and creating original work groups such as Theatre Smith-Gilmour, Theatre Gargantua , Theatre SKAM, Tiny Bird, Bang! Productions, The Children's Peace Theatre and Crate Productions.

What is your opinion on the current state of theatre in Toronto?

"Generally speaking I think the majority of theatre in Toronto is very safe and often boring. I don't think there is a lack of talent or enthusiasm in the city, so why does our work not live up to our potential? Why is it so rare to see work that challenges the audience to see things in new ways? In the simplest terms (and to beat that ole' dead horse some more) we don't have enough funding! It has almost become cliche for artists in Canada to talk about lack of funding but it is a reality that we face every day and it's going to get even worse if this current federal conservative budget is passed.

There is so little money supporting the arts in Canada that the 'big established' theatres in the city have to produce shows in a relatively short time and have to choose material based on whether or not it will generate ticket revenue. This model of production is based on capital and as a result the work that is created is a commodity, something to be consumed. Once art becomes a commodity I think it is very difficult for truly inspiring work to flourish.

It is also very difficult for actors and directors to take risks in these 4-6 week rehearsal schedules because they do not have the time to develop trust within the company. Great theatre often shows humanity at its most vulnerable and for actors and directors to be courageous enough to delve into this vulnerability they need to have trust and support from the company (and in an ideal world from the community as well).

I'm not saying that all companies have to get along like best friends and that you can only work with a limited number of people, but even the companies that do manage to produce inspiring work in the city despite lack of time and money (companies like Soulpepper, Theatre Smith-Gilmour, Theatre Columbus and Volcano Theatre). These companies are able to take risks in their work because their members have been able to develop their relationships over years. There is a sense of continuity and community in this creative model that is difficult to nurture on a tight 4-6 week schedule.

Just being an independent artist in Toronto is risky enough! Real risk taking means accepting the successes as well as the failures. It is very important for our development as younger independent artists to be able to experience failure and still be financially secure enough to grow from it and continue to develop and hone our craft.

Until both established and independent artists have the time and support they need we'll continue to see work that is rushed and that has to be safe because artists are more worried about survival than artistic daring."

What needs to be improved upon?

"In the long term we need more financial support from the government to improve the situation. It is absurd that the federal government is talking about trimming the fat off an artistic community that is already half-starved. But in order for the government to realize how integral the arts are to our identity as a culture we, as theatre artists, need the support of the community as well.

From theatre artists I often hear about how difficult it is to build an audience and how Canadians don't support the theatre. From the public (and I've asked this question to young and old alike) I often hear that the reason they don't go to the theatre is because they think it's boring, that it doesn't relate to them or that they don't feel invited and don't know what is happening.

There is truth to both sides but without opening up a dialogue between artists and the community you will always have this cycle of one side always blaming the other while both remain unsatisfied. And the situation remains as it is, stagnant.

So, in the short term I think that we need to put our funding problems aside and focus on developing new ways to include and relate to the public. I think that there are many artists who are starting to think like this. Buddies In Bad Times current season reflects this with programming like Audience Relocation and Diplomatic Immunities, Darren O'Donnell's Social Acupuncture work is always challenging the way artists interact with the public and companies like Bluemouth Inc. and Theatre SKAM in Victoria are experimenting with Site-Specific work in order to get performers and audiences to re-evaluate their relationship in the context of shared public spaces, taking the theatre out of the theatre.

There are also other artists and smaller companies in the city who are taking a 'Do It Yourself' attitude and creating work on little to no budget that continues to engage the public in new ways. If we have a strong relationship between artists and the community then I think we can raise our voices collectively and convince the government that the arts are not only integral to our cultural identity but to the quality of life in Canada."

Where do you see yourself in all this?

"I see my place in this as an independent artist who has this 'Do It Yourself' attitude, who is dissatisfied with the current state of things and who doesn't want to wait for someone else to fix the problem. Though the picture I've been painting of the Toronto theatre scene may appear bleak I still have hope for the future. I still believe that in spite of all the problems facing us exciting work can be made in Toronto."

Is your current show representative of that? And how?

My upcoming show is reflective of this attitude. The inspiration for the show came from asking the question, 'If there is something terrible happening, like the budget cuts, that affects artists and the community alike, how can we create something daring and risky with little time and no money to speak out against it? And how can we include the public in this experience?' With this in mind we (my co-producer Melissa D'Agostino and I) conceived Harper's Bazaar, an evening of comedy and cabaret, protesting the conservative's $1.1 Billion in proposed budget cuts. The show is staged as a mock pro-conservative rally on the fictional eve of the vote on the budget.

We're hoping that this dialogue between the artists and the community will result in further political action to protest these cuts. All proceeds from the show will fund this action. We're thinking of some kind of poster campaign to raise awareness of the cuts but we also want feedback from the performers and the audience on what to do. To facilitate this we are going to set up information booths at the show where people can read about the budget cuts and make comments and suggestions on further action.

Harper's Bazaar, a Cabaret protesting the $1.1 Billion in budget cuts that the Conservatives are proposing, is hosted by Adam Paolozza and Melissa D'Agostino on Monday December 11, 2006 @ 8pm in the Back Room at Clinton's Tavern and featuring Sandra Battaglini, Michael Challenor, Laura Nanni, Terrance Balazo, Michael Balazo, Kathleen Philips, Bruce Hunter, Adam Lazarus, Press Release, Micheline Marchildon and Lindy Zucker with music @10pm by Shake A Tail Harper's Bazaar: Nothin's Gonna Stop Us Now!

The State of Theatre in Toronto is a weekly series where theatre artists and affiliates, professional and emerging, will be interviewed on their thoughts on the subject.

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