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Author Topic: First press of the season on CAR STORIES
Performance Anxiety
Babbler # 3474

posted 26 March 2004 03:30 PM      Profile for Performance Anxiety        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The first ink to spill on the Car Stories project this season can be found here:

The Blogging Home of J. Kelly Nestruck: Politics, journalism, and theatre. "Who does he think would be remotely interested in his self-indulgent ramblings?" Lurker, Frank Magazine's Remedial Media Section, Online.

He works for the National Post.

From: Outside of the box | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 44

posted 26 March 2004 07:03 PM      Profile for Doug   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Donovan King, artistic facilitator at Optical Theatrical Laboratories, e-mailed me last week with news that is either good or bad depending on who you are. The Canada Council for the Arts has awarded him a $20,000 grant to "create Car Stories, an interactive performance piece to take place in an urban setting." With the cash, King plans to bring his activist theatre piece from Montreal, where it has been running for three summers now concurrent with the Fringe, to Ottawa and Toronto this summer.

They must have had a choice between funding this or some piece that involves the actors peeing on the audience.

From: Toronto, Canada | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Willowdale Wizard
Babbler # 3674

posted 26 March 2004 07:08 PM      Profile for Willowdale Wizard   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
i think, PA, that you should amend the title of this thread. if you call it "press on DONOVAN KING" or "press on OPTATIVE THEATRE", it would allow you to post all the ink on king's projects in one thread. that way, we'd be able to come and read everything in one place.

[ 26 March 2004: Message edited by: Willowdale Wizard ]

From: england (hometown of toronto) | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged
Performance Anxiety
Babbler # 3474

posted 29 March 2004 02:25 PM      Profile for Performance Anxiety        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The point of the thread was to point out the start of corporate media activity on what is essentially an activist show that was kicked out of the Fringe Festival by corporate media.

It's tough: should it go under Arts & Culture, Media, Activism, or News?

In any case, I think it's interesting that the blogger works for the same corporation that kicked the show out (CanWest-Global). I am certain there will be more media to follow.

From: Outside of the box | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Performance Anxiety
Babbler # 3474

posted 31 March 2004 01:08 AM      Profile for Performance Anxiety        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
This is in from the OTL:

I read the article on Car Stories on your blog – thanks for the announcement. I am glad you found our original show exciting; rest assured, it still is. There is something about transforming cars into theatres (and neighbourhoods into surreal performance spaces) that never fails to excite. However, there are some issues I wanted to clarify with you regarding the car stories story, and the present situation. I am going to write a rather lengthy message here; I am investing time in trying to help clarify our position and get you to re-evaulate yours.

Firstly, as an arts journalist I trust that you are interested in clarifying this matter once and for all. Of course, given that you & Donnelly both work for Can-WEST Global, I can see why you might be hesitant to open this file. But regardless of whether or not you want to report the truth, I certainly think, for your own peace of mind if anything, that you should look at the facts. It is one of the most interesting stories in Canadian Theatre History, and it’s meta-text has even been recognized across the theatrical landscape as “among the best in contemporary Canadian writing” (Bill Glassco, on the Siminovitch panel that was considering the nominated “meta-play”). The “script”, comprised of real documents merged with theatricalized ones, in essence proves that Donnelly was responsible for having us ejected. Let’s look at what you wrote:

“King believes that pressure from The Gazette's then-theatre critic Pat Donnelly resulted in him being kicked out. Most everybody else -- including the majority of the original cast -- cites other reasons, usually King's erratic behaviour during that Fest or the numerous noise complaints that Car Stories received during its run.”

You are dead wrong that “most everybody else” – including the original cast – believe otherwise. The original cast did hear from Hechtman himself that we were being kicked out due to Donnelly’s outrage (she halted all reviews and allegedly threatened to withdraw $15,000 in sponsorship). Some members of the original cast (most those who considered themselves “professionals”) went as far as sending Donnelly a fax stating: “I ask you to reconsider your decision to stop reviewing the Fringe festival this year.” This was clearly linked to “recent actions”:

“We would like to state very clearly that we do not support Donovan King's recent actions, which were undertaken solely by him. The Fringe Festival is not responsible for the recent regrettable occurances. Unfortunately Mr. King's behaviour is now affecting all the Fringe participants and we, the former members of 'Car Stories' regret that more could not have been done to stop this beforehand.”

The “recent actions” translate in OTL methodology into “recent performance”. This is another myth that needs to be clarified. In OTL performances all players have a double role: both as themselves and as characters they create. When somebody arrives at the box office they are meeting a character; the player in-role. The entire scandal arising out of Car Stories began very simply as a performance, when Donnelly approached our kiosk at the beer tent. The box office “characters” (I played one on the day Donnelly arrived) didn’t give her the respect she felt she deserved (a free ticket). We did, in all fairness tease her a bit, and insist she play in the show if we gave her a free ride. I don’t think she “got” it. When the ticket was sold to a girl who was eager to pay, Donnelly flew into a rage, crumpled up a paper, threw it at one actress/box office character, then stormed out.

In effect, what occurred in OTL jargon was an inter-performance. When a “real” person (eg: Donnelly, the police, fringe staff, etc.) enters a theatrical space populated by characters, they have an ontological dilemma. In essence the interpellated role comprising the “real” person is called into question because it is theatrically re-framed. In other words, instead of business-as-usual Donnelly marching in, demanding her way, and getting her tickets, we have Donnelly encountering a very erratic bunch of urban creatures who are unimpressed with her credentials, and who loudly insist that “everyone pays – even the producer!” The following day, a letter was sent to the Gazette, and posted in the beer tent with Patrick Goddard’s permission. You will note that it is “in character”, just like the box office characters:

"To: Gazette, Entertainment section

Dear Editors,

Please be aware that there appears to have been a mistake. Lisa Levack, our Choas Organiser, has sent an apology to Pat Donnely on our behalf without consulting us at all! As such I am FWDing this message to all participants, who can apologise if they see fit.

Personally I see no need to apologise at all - in fact I believe Ms. Donnely should be apologizing to the innocent box office volunteer girl, the victim of your "critic." Ms. Donnely flew into a rage when she realised that the ticket was not for free for her, and hurled a paper note at the girl before retreating to the beer tent! This resulted in a severe paper cut to the face, scarring a once-pretty girl. She could have lost an eye, and now everyone is teasing her by calling her "scarface"!

Ms. Donnely then returned and demanded to be let in for Free. I informed her that all spectators had to pay, myself included. It was the best $7.00 I'd ever spent on seeing a show! When Pat still refused, I offered to pay myself out of my own pocket if Pat agreed to play IN the show the following day. Unfortunately as negotiations were going on, the ticket was sold to a very excited girl, who'd been waiting days to see CAR STORIES.

CAR STORIES has sold out every single show to date. It's been widely covered by all papers & other media (except The Gazette), and has the most and the best BUZZ of the beer tent. With over 30 artists on the payroll and merely 3 spectators per performance, it makes good sense to charge everyone. Our lazy artists got very little in the form of sponsorship, and I stand to lose lots of $$$$$$ if we don't charge admission to everyone.

As such, please open your petty cash box and give Pat the $9 to see it, or I, a starving debt-ridden artist will payout of my own pocket, but only if she will play in the show. She can make up the role, or even play herself: why doesn't Pat play a role in the show, and write a critique from that perspective? It would be more original than the other "critics" - that's (or sure!! And please give her a little extra to buy her victim a beer and make amends. We just want to play (except Lisa).

Sincerely and Humbly,

Donovan King, Artistic Facilitator/Corrupt Accountant"

Read it as a monologue, because that is how it was written, and is meant to be interpreted. Our players and their characters are free to operate in any medium – they are not restricted to the stage.

In any case, this talk of “erratic behaviour” is misleading to say the least. Given our duality in practice (the actor/character), it is

As for “noise complaints”, from what I understand there were about two noise complaints due to overzealous actors in the cars. I wasn’t there when any occurred, but one time when I was playing in the mask show the police did arrive, and nodded approvingly: we had asked the players to refrain from honking excessively of after-hours. It is noteworthy that Goddard stated:

“Car Stories was kicked out because the police were called twice by the surrounding neighbours. The police told us the second time that if they had to be called a third, they would shut the Fringe down. End of story."

When asked to provide a police source to verify this claim, Goddard refused. You can call him right now and ask for his police source – it won’t add up like the Canada Council call did. The whole police/noise complaints angle is bunk, and falls within a category of “rumour-mill to distract others from the facts”. Add to that mix: “erratic”, “drunk”, “violent” (Hectman told reporters “I had punched out a volunteer”), “one-man protest”, “crazy”, etc. The final result is a bunch of gullible idiots who subscribe to rumour-mills in the first place cheerleading the festival while trying to marginalize the real fringe artists. Their eyes open when they realize that their efforts are indirectly supporting exploitation of artists, and the corporate co-opting of our festival.

For the record: Car Stories does frequently encounter police during its performances; indeed they are welcome into the performance. They’re great because they come with their own costumes and characterizations that are slightly grotesque. In any case, because OTL is pure process, any inter-performance with the police is most welcome – it may affect the nature of the show, but there’s nothing wrong with that. One recent example saw an irate police officer approach our 12 x 8 foot rug of grass on St. Laurent boulevard, which we had set up in a parking space for the Journees de la Culture as part of our performance. The cop joined the scene as several spect-actors were preparing to depart. A huge inter-performance erupted when the officer realized that we were in fact paying the meter! We almost had to get the Minister of Culture on the phone before the officer exited the mis-en-scene. Great video!

As for Fringe staff, they enter the inter-performance mode sometimes too. For example when we deployed three undead characters (the “Spirits of the Fringe”) to the beer tent with a media scrum, the poor Fringe volunteer had to explain to the cameras why the spirits of the fringe were not allowed to cross the fringe perimeter. Inter-performance at its best, causing the dummy volunteer to reflect on what they are doing, for whom, and why.

So, for the record, let’s re-contextualise some of these words:

Erratic behaviour = performance

Clashes = inter-performance

Also, on another note, the majority of people I know in the Montreal theatre scene believe that Donnelly was responsible – many of them heard it from Hechtman’s own mouth. Certainly on the national and international level, the facts are straight. Many organizations involving everything from theatre & radical performance (eg: THAW, ATHE) to culture-jamming (eg: adbusters, UberCulture) to copyright activists (eg: DeConism Theater in Toronto) to media reclaimers (eg: memesfest) are following the story closely. And if you think Car Stories is a “one-man protest” you are wrong again. Car Stories requires a minimum of 10 players, and usually there are a lot more than that.

As I said before, if you do want to get to the facts, we have documented evidence. Yes, some of it is “characterized” (eg: the letter/monologue to Donnelly’s editor), but a whole bunch of it is real. We are talking about documented sponsorship scandal – also doubling as experimental performance text on the dramaturgical and literary circuit. In essence, real fringe theatre on all levels! One comment you made was this:

“Others believe that the whole brouhaha was orchestrated by King as a giant "play." He is dedicated, after all, to "culture-jamming, Viral Theatre, Sousveillance Theatre, meme-warfare, Electronic Disturbance Theater, and Global Invisible Theatre." (In fact, by taking the bait and writing about the grant he won, I think I am caught in the crossfire of some meme-warfare.)”

In many ways, this analysis is correct: there certainly is a “play” that has been created, and the story can also be “played”. However, suggesting my orchestration of these happenings is a little bit too flattering I’m afraid. In the OTL we “target instances of oppression” by “theatrically challenging hegemonic thought-patterns and oppressive systems”. If Donnelly had paid for her ticket, none of this would have happened. However as a bloated agent of an oppressive system (eg: corporate media), she couldn’t handle that our performance equalized her with us, at least on the theatrical (eg: character) levels. Yes, it was cheeky what our characters did, but the end result was us, not the characters, being screwed over by the Fringe and their corporate puppet-masters.

Because this was considered a major instance of oppression (not only cultural oppression in the form of co-opting, but also structural oppression (eg: banning artists from all Fringe Venues), and personal oppression (eg: by not paying us our ticket sales, a lot of artists literally starved in the months following). It was deemed necessary to delve deeper into the situation, which is symptomatic in most arts milieu nowadays. What we discovered were practices more consistent with off-shore banking than anything that dares to call itself “fringe”: hidden “service fees”, unethical, unfringe, and conflict-of-interest sponsorships, outrageous fees for artists, favouritism, lotteries, and of course the unthinkable – the trademarking of the word itself.

There is another myth that I am trying to “destroy the Fringe”. This could not be further from the truth. We are attempting to reclaim an artists and peoples festival for artists and people. If we start by literally reclaiming the fringe, hopefully we can move on to start reclaiming other

Which leads me to this:

“My personal opinion is that King's 'Reclaim the Fringe' project is bunk, more personal vendetta than anything. Canada's Fringe Festivals remain the most accessible way of getting your play put on. Most of the artists in the Fringe simply find him annoying, someone who is trying to spoil everyone else's fun.”

I’d like to know, given this information, do you still think our campaign is “bunk” and “personal vendetta”. Certainly what Donnelly, Hechtman, etc. did was not only disrespectful, but loathsome, and in normal circumstances might net them a court date or blackeye. However, given the theatrical nature of OTL’s praxis, our goal is not to get back at them personally, but rather to get them to open their eyes to the nature of their interpellated roles, and to take charge of their own self-casting.

It is the same story with this inter-performance:

In the OTL we have an expression: “nothing is ever personal”. The vendetta theory is about as useful to the truth as looking in a telescope the wrong way. In fact, all the other smoke & mirrors bullshit is the exact same thing. If people think 3 undead ghouls being halted by Fringe security at the Fringe border is an annoying matter of fun being spoiled, I suggest they might want to look more closely at (or play in) the inter-performance. What we have on video looks great. People in that mindset, to borrow an expression from former theatre critic Gaetan Chalebois, “are either intellectually handicapped or brain-washed automatons”.

So, my offer to you is this: if you want to get to the bottom of the story without, you can give me a postal address and I’ll send you the info you need in clearly spelled out details. In my view this issue needs to be settled once and for all in your mind. Certainly if you do decide to report the truth you will risk alienating your colleagues at the Fringe & CanWEST-Global. So I won’t blame you if you don’t. But for your own knowledge, and to hone your skills as arts journalist, I would recommend looking at the documents.

Hope you are well Kelly! Cheers!


Ps: If you are ever in Montreal and want to drop by for a jar at the Bifteck, say the word. We’re not really such a bad bunch – we like to do theatre and drink 'er up is all.

PPS: You might want to consider giving George Mougias some ink next time you mention the project - he is not only the artistic facilitator of the show (I play the Chaos Organizer this time), but it was him who wrote the grant that got us the loot.

"Art is not a mirror to reflect reality, but a hammer with which to shape it. " - Bertolt Brecht

From: Outside of the box | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Performance Anxiety
Babbler # 3474

posted 06 April 2004 03:31 AM      Profile for Performance Anxiety        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Looks like our CanWEST blogger is at it again. Same site as above:

Theatre Tuesday: Car Stories and the Infringement Festival Redux

Glad to see that debate is still raging down at the last Car Stories post. Forty-nine comments (as of April 6 12:30 am) is a record here at On The Fence.

Two quick things, then I'm dropping the subject until at least June:

1) Donovan King has written me a most interesting e-mail, in which he helpful delineates when he is "playing" and when he is not:
Our players and their characters are free to operate in any medium – they are not restricted to the stage.

[T]his talk of “erratic behaviour” is misleading to say the least. Given our duality in practice (the actor/character), it is important to get the facts straight. For the record: Yes, the characters are erratic – in our guidelines they are “bold and slightly grotesque urban creatures who populate the dramatic space and lead the spect-actors from car to car”. My character at the beer tent was loud, obnoxious, American, and drunk. He didn’t get it that he wasn’t making any money with 30 actors “on the payroll”. He was concerned with “stolen vehicles in the show”. He also tried to recruit others and sell the show. On other days, it was Matt Legault who played a drunken Irish lunatic in this role. Yes, the characters are erratic. But we are not. The word “behaviour” should be replaced with the word “performance”.
My response is this: Theatre requires only two things: audience and performer. Once the audience doesn't realise it is an audience, it is no longer an audience and we are no longer dealing with theatre.

What I love about theatre is that you go out there and say, "I am going to lie to you" and then do. And the everyone goes along with it anyway. There is an agreement, a contract between the audience and performer. Because everyone knows it's a lie, theatre is more truthful that reality.

The "inter-performance" that King describes in his letter isn't theatre: it's activism; or it's manipulation; or it's lying; or it's just plain reality. It's onanism: the audience and the performers are one and the same. It doesn't make people sympathize with you; it makes them suspicious of you. You know the story about the boy who cried wolf...

Now that King has revealed to me what (he says) is performance and what is not, I am more sympathetic to him. I used to be very interested in Augusto Boal myself; a couple of years ago I might have even been on board with King, disturbing the shit.

But I now feel strongly that invisible theatre is dishonest and condescending to the audience. It's the activist equivalent to a politician's staged photo op : only successful when the lie is kept up.

2) RE: The Infringement Festival. As I wrote in the comments below, I think a valid question raised by King, McLean and others is the question: Is the Fringe still on the 'fringe'?

The answer, in my opinion, is no. In most cities, the Fringe is thoroughly mainstream and a humungous festival. In Edmonton and Winnipeg, the Fringes are the largest festivals of the year.

So it's natural that fringe Fringe festivals like the I.F. have emerged. And they aren't bad ideas. Every year, there are many, many applicants to the Fringes who are unable to get in, because only so many artists can be accommodated. And there are fringey folks who feel that the Fringe has become "corporate" and "exclusionary." If you feel that way, by all means, go and form an anti-corporate festival. Nothing wrong with that. The more theatre festivals the better.

But it seems to me that the Infringement Festival is more about opposing and protesting the Fringe and less about creating a separate, "ethically sponsored", no registration fee, fringe-fringe event. This seems to me, a pity.

From: Outside of the box | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged

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