Friday, December 17, 2010

In Brief, Take 2

An interesting phone call the other day from the Vancouver Playhouse. A volunteer was following up on our attendance at Brief Encounter, no doubt wanting us to spread the word about its manifold charms to other potential audience members. When I told her we left at intermission there was a pause, a curt thank you, and then a click. Guess we won't be hearing back from them again soon--although I am going to be giving the company one more chance this season with Melissa Gibson's This in January. I read the New York Times rave when it played Off-Broadway; and this production will star Megan Follows, who bowled me over in an otherwise hit-and-miss revival of Cloud Nine in Toronto last February.

Speaking of phone calls from performing arts organizations, kudos to Ballet BC for their alacritous and gracious stewardship etiquette in response to a recent donation I made. I had phoned up their box office to place an order for two mini-pack subscriptions to the remainder of the season after receiving an email in my inbox about this short term offer. This deal is a very smart marketing move on the part of Artistic Director Emily Molnar and Executive Director Jay Rankin, as it allows them to capitalize on the success of their season-opening November program (which I had to miss) as well as the added Christmas cross-marketing of their Nutcracker offering. Equally smart is having box office staff (I was served by the most capable Ashley) ask you at the time of purchase whether you would also like to make a tax-deductible donation to the company. As I'm learning more and more at PuSh, nine times out of ten all you have to do to get people to give to something they believe in is ask. Such was the case with me, and I appreciated the follow-up phone call the next day from Development Manager Roger Kayo thanking me for my donation.

On the subject of arts funding, I note that George Abbott is alone among the declared candidates to replace Gordon Campbell as Liberal Party leader and Premier of the province in vowing to restore gaming and other monies to 2008-9 levels. Chump change should, as most expect, that harridan from talk radio, Christy Clark, win the contest. Even more depressing are the latest poll numbers, which indicate the Liberals, with Campbell on the way out, have now overtaken the Carole James-less NDP in voter popularity. Et tu, Jenny Kwan?

Other things of mildly vexatious interest: Mayor Gregor Robertson can't get through to 911 to report gang shootings in his neighbourhood, but he and his Vision-dominated Council can steamroll through, against overwhelming citizen opposition, a travesty of a plan to "re-green" Hastings Park. How expanding the PNE and Playland fits into such a mandate is beyond me.

Meanwhile VAG chief Kathleen Bartels and the City continue to be miles apart on a potential deal to find a new downtown site for the gallery. Heather Deal is quoted in the Georgia Straight as saying that the main post office depot at Georgia and Hamilton is likely to close soon, suggesting that as a possible alternate site to Larwell Park, which Bartels and the VAG Board covet. Hell, yes!! It's a wonderful, vast modernist building, perfectly situated across from the Queen E and the Playhouse, with no doubt heaps of underground storage space, and square footage up the whazoo for the right architect to go crazy with. But Ms. Bartels doesn't seem interested, confirming that she wants a new signature building to cement her legacy as Director rather than finding the right solution to showcase the collection.

Finally, I was amused by the recent report from Canada's Officer of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, criticizing the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics for their inadequate use of French. Well, duh! Anyone watching on TV could have figured that out. Did we really need a months-long, and no doubt expensive, report to tell us what we already know? I mean the ceremonies themselves were overseen by an Australian; and VANOC CEO John Furlong is a unilingual Irishman. Furlong, by the way, dismissed the report, noting that 40 odd complaints from peeved Francophones couldn't compare with the thousands upon thousands of congratulations VANOC received on the ceremonies. What nobody seems to realize in all of this is how outdated is the notion of linguistic nationalism. It's been a tenuous reason for holding the country together at the best of times, and in our polyglot 21st-century, transnational world, it just not signify at all.


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