Should government remove funding support if it doesn’t like the content of a movie or a book or a play?

Proud PosterTHUNDER BAY – Events – Should government censor art? Should government remove funding support if it doesn’t like the content of a movie or a book or a play?

In 2010, Summer Works, a theatre festival in Toronto, produced a play called Homegrown, by Catherine Frid. Ms. Frid’s play dramatized her friendship with one of the so-called “Toronto 18”.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued a statement saying “We are extremely disappointed that public money is being used to fund plays that glorify terrorism.” At the time, the PMO had no firsthand knowledge of the play, having neither seen or read it. To demonstrate support of Ms. Frid’s play and of Summer Works, theatre companies across Canada staged public reading of Homegrown, to show it was not a play “glorifying terrorism.”

The following year, in 2011, Summer Works had their entire Federal funding support cut.

This $40,000 amounted to approximately 20% of their annual summer budget. Cultural chill spread across the land.

Michael Healey, one of Canada’s leading playwrights, was a “playwright in residence” at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre for more than a decade. Last November, he gave his newest play, Proud, to Artistic Director Richard Rose for consideration in their upcoming season. After reading the play, and some consultation, Mr. Rose told Healey the Tarragon would not produce his play. The chief character in Proud happens to be called The Prime Minister. Mr. Healy promptly resigned his playwright-in-residence status. He has taken his case to the public and plans to mount an independent production of the play this Fall, in Toronto.

Here is what Proud is about, in Healey’s own words: “The third in a trilogy of plays about Canadian values, Proud is about what we actually want out of our politics, and our politicians. One man devotes his entire life to moving the country several millimetres to the right on the political spectrum. Will he succeed? At what cost? A Pygmalion for a country that, until Stephen Harper came along, had no need for one.”

Healey has given permission for his play to be read, in public readings, across Canada. A local troupe, The Superior Play-Reading Group, will be reading the play on Friday, May 11, at 7:00 pm at The Thunder Bay Centre of Change (former Hillcrest High school). The reading will be a pay-what-you-can benefit, with all proceeds going to Michael Healey. The local cast includes Derek Wall, Lawrence Badanai, Donna Faye and Steven Gothard. The reading is directed by Michael Sobota.

Further information: Michael Sobota: sobotam@hotmail.com 345-2315