The first word of Homer’s Iliad. And (quite appropriately, might I add) the first word of my newborn digital epic.
I have been thinking a lot about rage over the past few months. Political rage, environmental rage, Ginsbergian rage against systems and institutions, rage against neoliberalism, productive vs. unproductive rage, rage and fear – and this blog: birthed by rage, conceived out of rage, and now coming to fruition with the same name as an epic that, in many ways, poeticizes rage.
For myself at least, rage is concurrent with helplessness. I can think of no two better terms to describe our current global state of affairs, our divisive sociopolitical climate, the belligerent racism, classicism, and white supremacy – not to mention ongoing effects of slavery and genocide – that plague the western world, and of course the international environmental catastrophes that seem to summon the apocalypse.
We are a culture in crisis. Our shared sense of humanity has been challenged, compromised, and at times completely ignored or forgotten. We falter at the mercy of forces that precede and exceed us. Our individual and communal senses of self have suffered irreparable damage.
It seems petty and somewhat self-indulgent, at a time like this, to start a blog.
The year is 2019. The date is September 19th, and in four days I am getting on a plane and moving to Europe. This, (minus the Brexit catastrophe, of course) does not fill me with rage. As a matter of fact, as one would naturally expect, I am quite thrilled to go.
I’ll kick off this post with a short anecdote.
Six months into my undergraduate degree at Western University, I started my first blog. I don’t remember what it was called, but I do remember that my first ever article was in response to a talk made by Jillian Keiley at Museum London back in 2016. The day was St. Patrick’s Day. My floormates were blacking out at the bar. I was attending a lecture series hosted by a band of public intellectuals. (A good start.)
I was attending Western University to get my Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with full intentions of segueing into corporate law. It took me two months of undergraduate study to drop the module and, instead, transfer into the major module of the class that challenged, stimulated, and provoked me most – strangely enough, for me that was English Literature. (This is where I give ample thanks to Dr. David Bentley.)
I have always been a philosophical, intuitive, artistic soul – so this came as a surprise to absolutely no one. If anything, my lawyer ambitions were jarring to friends and family. I had trained in acting, singing, dance, and music for ten years of my life. I worked professionally in these disciplines and spent my high school years fully engaged in artistic endeavours.
Needless to say, I was brought back to right where I belonged.
Now back to the St. Patrick’s Day lecture:
I was struck by two major things Keiley said that day.
One. That independent Canadian theatre flounders quite clumsily in the shadow of globalized big-budget broadway musicals, and that we have collectively lost the ability to be local because we yearn to be global. In the words of Michel Tremblay: to be universal, we must be local. I had a moment of epiphany. I realized that I was living in a country with a theatre and performance economy that suffered from identity crises at every level, that lacked a strong sense of dramatic tradition and precedent.
When confronted with the literary and theatrical works of American and European (primarily British) canons, I experienced thrill and intimacy. To my own nation’s body of work, I felt indifferent.
At that point, I’d performed in plays and musicals at the forefront of public consciousness: Hairspray, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Spring Awakening. I was raised in a city outside of Toronto that, insofar as I knew, approached the liberal arts “traditionally”, which was to say globally. I never saw anything avant garde or experimental growing up – the closest I got was attending a professional production of John Logan’s Tony-winning Red, which at the time was life altering.
I didn’t know what live theatre and performance really was, or could be, until my first year of undergraduate study.
I had not seen very many (contemporary, Canadian) plays back then. I had only written two short texts, none of which had received full productions. I had not self-produced. I had not been picked up. I knew I was an artist but I didn’t know what that meant.
Two. That people go to the theatre not necessarily for the experience of culture, but for the illusion of it. Think of the Stratford Festival. Think of the countless productions in stasis, neither products of tradition nor progress (2018’s Julius Ceasar comes to mind). When did live theatre and performance become a passive medium?
So I started a blog to explore some of these thoughts in greater depth. My response was picked up by Joshua Lambier, Program Director of the Public Humanities department at Western, who showed an interest in my work and offered me a Program Coordinator position with the department.
It was the beginning of a long, exhausting, and strange four years.
As I said, the year is now 2019. The date is still September 19th. According to the bio written on my personal website, I am now an award-winning artist working across disciplines in theatre, writing, performance and installation art, music, electronic literatures, and digital media. I’ve been lucky enough to travel across Canada with my ad-hocs, producing a canon of provocative live theatre and performance work that plays intimately with various onstage technologies.
Next month, I will begin my Master of Arts at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. I will be travelling across Europe, seeing a wide variety of plays and live performance experiments, and meeting a diverse pool of international creatives.
As I embark on my Master’s, and then (hopefully) doctoral journey, I wanted to create an online space where I could engage with some of the ideas being thrown around in my communities. I could interview fellow artist-practitioners and post them here, I could review shows and installations, I could bring my academic/intellectual practice into a public realm, I could write about politics and climate catastrophe and all the things provoking that aforementioned rage – only, through public discourse, I could channel that rage in a productive, stimulating manner.
The first word of Homer’s Iliad. The first word of The Camiliad. The first step of a long, exhilarating series of journeys.
I hope you’ll follow along.