Day Seven – Economics you Don’t Know

audience auditorium bleachers chairs

Photo by Tuur Tisseghem on

Many have a sort of bi-polar view of the life of an artist. On the one hand, they think they are starting in foreign garrets, serving tables, doing menial jobs, yet, on the other hand, they believe they live a jet-set glamourous life. People also have a bi-polar view of the arts as a sector. On the one side, we shouldn’t pay for it form tax dollars and on the other that it’s nice to have around. There is then the bi-polar view of those that attend the arts. On the one hand, they’re rich, snobby one-percenters on the other weird druggies dancing to thumping music at 4 in the morning. None of these descriptions is accurate. None of them tells a story of being an artist, being an arts supporter, or the benefits we get as a country when we invest in it.

To be a professional artist, you have had to study with the intensity of an engineering student while allowing yourself and your work to be criticized in class and in public daily. When you’ve finished studying, formally or informally, then you have to be an entrepreneur and sell a commission or land a gig. Landing the gig will often mean surveying a series of predatory, humiliating, and distracting people who know what’s best for your career but will lead you down a path of pain and woe.

In order to make a professional arts organization work, you have to be continually applying for funding, engaging the public, trying not to offend the politicians, competing against the other acts orgs in your own, and keeping the lights with an overhead cost of less than 6%. Not something a so-called “real business”. could do. And then you will always be facing the kinds of questions from funders that many other non-profits don’t have to face. So you’re expected to have answered to a faceless bureaucracy to a level of detail most non-profits never have to.

Then there is the funding itself and the views of the politicians and their woefully uninformed opinions. Using there limited understand they then engage in decisions that have life-changing consequences on individuals and an industry they have not even the remotest understanding of. As opposed to what many politicians say, that the arts are a luxury, The Ontario Arts Council shares that “Ontario’s arts and culture sector represents $26.7 billion or 3.5% of the province’s GDP and almost 300,378 jobs. This “industry perspective” measures all of the culture sector’s output – including both culture and non-culture products (e.g. a theatre company may generate GDP from both ticket sales – a culture activity – and food and beverage services – a non-culture activity).” 

Further, they do us the favour of comparing this to other major industries and, in what will be a surprise to many, the Arts outperforms numerous Ontario economic sectors. For example “Ontario’s culture GDP is larger than that of the accommodation and food services industry ($16.2 billion), the utilities industry ($14.6 billion), the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industries combined ($7.4 billion) and mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction ($6.9 billion).”. In my home town, our local Arts Council created a report and shared that culture generates “$540 million per annum”. So lets put to rest the ridiculous notion that the arts are a luxury but is, in fact, an economic engine in Ontario.

Yet during this pandemic where is the support for the Arts and its vital economic and community contribution to Ontario. Our government gave some money to the most significant arts org in our town, one by the way that has its own foundation, but there was not a penny for the small and medium orgs. Not a penny from a Federal Government for the ongoing support of artists who will not qualify for unemployment benefits. Nor supports for all those professional Arts teachers at the post-secondary and community level who do not qualify for EI. No support from any level of government anywhere I can see that steps into the breach and supports the cultural industry during this time of pandemic in the same way other economic sectors are. 

No, there is a double standard for to the arts; be it from politicians or arts funders or you the public. Artists add more than so many other parts of our economy in terms of real dollar for dollar impact, but that doesn’t matter does it?


After all the Arts is a nice to have not a need to have. 

Isn’t it? 


Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right.” Book of Judges, Chapter 12


I have been considering first principles for sometime now. More specifically my own first principles and what they mean to me and what I do with them. In my beginning there was art and it informed what I did and how I went about my life. It began with music and moved on to theatre. Art and its creation was a first principle.  And then came to a stop.

Over the last 10 or so years i have tried a number of times to restart the process of creating but it was always abortive in the doing. Always came to a point of confusion and non-completion. The largest part of the blame for this resides within myself by holding on to past wrongs and failures. Some part of this is because of where I live. It has not been as fertile a place to create as other places I have lived. But again and again, for sometime now, I keep thinking about these first principles of where I started. The first principle of creating art.

Let me say that Art is a completely illogical thing. Where the impulse for its creation comes from for me is almost undefinable. In trying to II sputter and flail about. But still it is there; a very deep and strong impulse despite my abuse of it. So I chose to go back to first principles. The drive to create art.

This will mean i will need to set aside some other plans and processes I have currently started or am doing. To those of you who will see me leave that work I am sorry for not finishing it with you. I hope you will understand. I must do this other thing.

I will begin by understanding and writing and talking about the parts of this first principle of creating art. About sharing my thoughts on what it means here in my community and most importantly creating it. For those that create art there is a kind of shibboleth that we recognize amongst one another; a way of identifying those who understand these impulses and need to create. I will be seeking you out and will know you, and you me, by how we frame our thoughts. How we say Shibboleth to one another.

This will not be easy but i sense already it will be a worth while. I am filled with a mad excitement and a real terror at the thought of starting .or is it restarting and of abandoning the safer path I am currently on. So let this be a declaration of a beginning.

Wish me Gods speed and turbulent waters. Everything else is merde .


Pinocchio – A Review for Theatre in London

This family production of a the classic children’s tale of Pinocchio is a welcome addition to the fringe and, if you have some little friends and want to introduce them to the fun of the festival , this is a good show to do it. Phil Arnold launches the show with a clever premise and continues to play out the tale with a sense of fun and a veterans hand.

The show uses puppetry and mask as a way for the actor to play all the parts and even brings in a little shadow puppetry for the big scenes with the whale. Arnold has a history of doing children’s theatre and it is obviously a part of the craft he loves. This shows again and again with his sense of play and the way he engages the audience.

This being the opening performance there were a couple of rough spots. The staging made things awkward at times with the audience having to wait for transitions. But to be fair to Arnold the time you have to work out the technical part of a show at any fringe is a couple of hours . Im sure as the show continues it’s run it will improve.

So if you want to take in a show for young families then you can’t go wrong with seeing Phil Arnold perform Pinocchio

Open Mic Relationship – A Review for Theatre In London

So before the show even starts someone in the audience, obviously a good friend of the performers, drops an expletive about a previous review of this show – so i had better tread lightly here. Jimmer Lowe and Stephanie Neale , the creators and performers, of Open Mic Relationship, set us up with two friends who both want to be standup comedians. Oh … they’re best friends.

The two are funny together, have a great rhythm , and with an audience obviously made up of family and friends, get some great laughs. But even without the stacked house they are genuinely funny. Jim has an awkward , uncomfortable in his own skin vibe, that he uses to good effect and Stephanie is a pixie like blond that plays against type and hits some zingers at the audience that they eat up. All well and fine except ……

Here’s the thing. The beginning of the show is awkward at best with no clear way to know when it’s started, despite the actors using this as a bit. Also they completely cop-out on the ending. As a matter of fact there is no ending really. At the end the characters get a chance to play a big club and the majority of the play is the lead up to that moment. But once they do their five minutes at the club we get “thank you everyone for coming out”. There was such a great opportunity here for them to wrap it up with their awkward try at romance ( seen previously) or to give us a “Jim went on to…and Stephanie is now ….” . But we get no ending and not really a beginning.

Don’t get me wrong . They are funny. The references they drop are for the crowd still in, or just out of, school and most of which I got and are funny. The mental health rap was clever and Stephanie’s failed romance bit was great but in the end were left with a standup routine and not a play. And maybe that’s ok. So if you want to have some laughs and not see a play ( though they could make one with some help) then go see Open Mic Relationship

Map of a Foreign Country – A Review for Theatre in London

In the Fringe program this piece is described as Spoken Word and that’s right. Words are spoken. But its done with such a richness of language and such thoughtfulness that, like after reading a really important book in your life your left challenged but satisfied.. Jayson McDonald, former local director -actor – writer whom we lost to Vancouver last year, has come back to the London Fringe with lush words that sketch the search for a daughter he never had.

Jayson uses a palate of text and speech that is deep, funny, and meaningful. He effortlessly throws around text like he channeling the spirit of Jack Kerouac, the gonzo journalism of Hunter S Thompson, and the irreverence for the talent of his words that only Jayson has. He also makes clever use of his show last year, the fantastic Magic Unicorn Island, as a part of stitching this story together.

Parts of the play are rough, sadly the tech at this venue has been having some difficulty with a number of shows, and need to be smoothed out as the run continues.Sometime we get a bit lost in the ideas and sometimes we’re not sure where we are but this is the opening night of a new play at the fringe- it’s par for the course. Jason is a talented actor who easily inhabits the roles of the broken father, a ghostly hitchhiker, and a kid who controls a giant invisible robot. Jason feels right at home improvising when things go off the rails a bit but brings us easily back in. This is a new work well worth seeing. If you love words and language then please go see Map of a Foreign Country.

The Untitled Sam Mullins Project – A Review for Theatre in London

I hate having to review a show like the Untitled Sam Mullins Project because it, as the title suggests, is unfinished. It’s unfinished because Sam, like the rest of us are unfinished. Yet it is the kind of serious effort a theatre artist goes through to create something not only meaningful for the themselves, but meaningful for the audience. This is a very important impulse and one which the theatre in London could use more of.

The Untitled Sam Mullins project is framed around some ideas Sam is asked to write, that describe what he knows to be true, for a stand up comedy class that he is using to overcome his panic attacks. Only Sam is told he’d done it wrong and this launches us into what are a series of themed monologues all based on the wrong things he wrote down in his class – things that are deeply personal to Sam .

There are moments that are truly lovely and rich and important in this show. There are moments of awkwardness and confusion and really smart laughs in this show. There is a lot in this show that is worthy of our attention but it needs some more work and that work can only continue if you go see the show. I know, I know. Your thinking to yourselves “ well shouldn’t he do this in rehearsal?” . That is sometimes right but not always. Sometimes a show needs find itself in front of an audience and this show will do that if you go see it. So as Sam does his part and writes and play’s with heart and honesty to build on the truth of his show so you must you do your part and see it..

Couple of things that absolutely must be fixed though. Transitions, the great black hole of every new theatre work, have to be fixed. Also the creator needs to take the time to play moments out on the stage and not just wander. I’m confident that this will happen as Sam is serious, in his wonderfully awkward way, about his craft.

This is a show worth seeing for a number of reasons. Some really smart writing, some really funny moments, some very powerful moments , but most of all because we get to see a first crack at a new work that has some real potential and a possible great future,

Sean Quigley
Reviewing for Theatre in London

Zach Zultana: Space Gigolo – A Review for Theatre in London

Zach Zultana: Space Gigolo is like every great action movie. An everyman, in this case set in space at a mining colony, finds himself in a series of increasingly not everyday situations, until he is faced with taking on a giant corporations, defeating the evil billionaire, and winning the girl. Even though this is live theatre and not a move this play, done with some serious skill, a great sense of fun, and great acting and writing , becomes a hugely fun romp and a must see for this fringe.

The actor, Jeff Leard, pulls off a one man, full on, blockbuster movie in under an hour and we can’t help but cheer him in as he does. When the play requires that we see a series of epic , yet somehow standard, movie shots jeff jumps out of character and describes them and we, the delighted audience , easily see them.

The pace is frenetic, the writing is clever, and the actor is completely in his element in this full tilt boogie of a play. See this play! and you’ll laugh and cheer as Zach Sultana: Space Gigolo, wins it all.

Sean Quigley
Reviewing for Theatre in London

Hitlers Li’l Abomination – A Review for Theatre in London

Annette Roman, playwright and performer of Hitlers Li’l Abomination, brings to the fringe this new play based upon her life and experiences on her fathers survival of the Holocaust and his marriage to her mother, a former Nazi youth. Annette tries to share with us, through snippets of her life life with her family, the story of her relationships with, and understanding of her family.

Annette shows skill in the characterizations and manages a few laughs for the audience but in the end this is a play in search of a clear plot. The ideas are there but they fail to come to the surface and in the end we leave not really understanding what we just saw which is too bad because I left wanting to understand her story better.

But in the end we are left with an unsatisfying tale, told in an unclear way, by someone who obviously has the ability to take the audience along with her , and with a better script and direction, to a more satisfying show. But this is the fringe after all and that is the point. Artists come from all over the planet to our city and try their work out. Sometime it works and sometimes, as in the case of Hitlers Li’l Abomination, it doesn’t.

Sean Quigley
Reviewing for Theatre in London

The Downs – A Review for Theatre in London


I had no idea what The Downs was about so I sat back as we meet Millie Johnson, hard working farm wife and mother to five daughters, who lives in rural New Brunswick of the 1940s. Millie comes in and begins to fold her laundry and tell us one funny story after another and I thought oh, this is going to be like the hugely popular Wingfield Farms series of plays that are filled with folksy stories and some good old fashioned laughs. That’s not a bad thing. The stories and humour are eaten up by the audience and the theatre is filled with genuine laughs. But then Millie takes our hearts in her hands and leads us in another direction.

See Mille’s in her 40s and her husband, through his irresistible charm and a little dash of Aqua Velva, talks her into having another baby because after five girls he wants  a boy. Well a boy he gets and we in the audience are taken completely in with this truly heartwarming tale of acceptance and generosity of heart.

Sheryl Scott’s work, both as a playwright and actor, is absolutely wonderful. Sheryl writes and acts with a confident and deft hand as she plays all the characters in the play from an old Italian neighbour, to the doctor, to the five daughters, to her husband, and finally her little boy, with skill and charm.  A play like this can be too saccharine, too folksy, and could be written with a heavy hand but this actor and playwright respects her work and the audience too much and we are left at the end warmed and feeling like the world’s not such a cruel place.

We are lucky in London, though we don’t often note it, to have some really outstanding theatre artists and Sheryl Scott is one of our strongest. I hope she’ll keep doing this kind of thoughtful and generous work in our city because our city needs artists like Sheryl. In the end if you want to see a play where you’ll have some great laughs and some heartfelt tears then please, please, please go see The Downs.

Sean Quigley

Reviewing for Theatre in London

Little Misunderstood – A Review for Theatre in London

Little Misunderstood

If you’re a mother with a teenage daughter or a teenager with a mother then you will find your self nodding in recognition at the play Little Misunderstood. This play, created and performed by mother and daughter Stephanie Fowler and Beatrice Fowler Campbell, is about the turmoil, joy, and misunderstanding between teenagers and parents.

The play was developed after Stephanie, the mom, convinced her then 14 year old daughter, Beatrice, to join with her in creating a piece for an event called Her Story in their home town of Owen Sound. Now as the parent of a teenager I find this in and of itself remarkable but they then set the bar higher by creating a play and taking it on the road beginning with the largest Fringe Festival in North America, The Edmonton Fringe. No small thing.

The writing rings of authenticity and has some real strength with the creators taking the opportunity to play with the ideas of seeing each other as completely alien to each other. In one scene we hear, via a nature documentary voice over, of the environment of the North American Teenager and in another a sports announcer doing a play by play of a fight between siblings. Good fun.

The strength of the play however lies in the dialogue between mother and daughter and then the follow-up monologues where we hear how they feel and why. There is no traumatic event in this play, no confessions of abuse, no suicide attempts, just the straight forward, day to day relationship between a mom and her teenage daughter and it is all the stronger for this.

The production however needs some tightening. The transitions between scenes in Little Misunderstood are awkward and often get in the way of the tempo of piece with the characters leaving the stage and leaving us waiting for the next scene to begin. Also, while the music, remakes of classic 80s tunes underlining the fact that everything old is new again, is very clever it also gets in the way of the tempo of the play. I would strongly advise these players, who I hope will keep creating together, to eliminate everything that gets in the way of the story and lose as many of the scene transitions as possible.

Also the ending, often the toughest part in the writing of a play, doesn’t quite pay off and the audience was left a little confused about whether the play was finished or not.

All in all a good show that I am confident will get better and better as the run at the London Fringe continues and I hope this mother and daughter company will keep working on it. And again, if you have a teenage daughter, or not, go see this show and support this unique team.

Sean Quigley

Reviewing for Theatre in London