Thursday, December 18, 2003

Theatre Thursday: It's a Gass!

Well, the big debate right now is this: Is Ken Gass, artistic director of Toronto's Factory Theatre, a big ol' racist?

Latino-Canadian Playwright Carmen Aguirre's The Refugee Hotel, dealing with the arrival of Chilean refugees in Canada in the 70s, was supposed to go on at Factory in April, but differences between her and director Gass caused her to pull the show.

What she says: Gass refused to cast actors of colour and native actors in the role, insisting on casting white actors. Aguirre claims Gass said, "I want superb actors for your play, and actors of colour are not superb."

What he says: Gass, of course, denies he ever said such a horrid thing. As Gass's son writes in the NOW article on this, "If her quote is true, then Ken must have a passion for working with un-superb actors, since nearly half of all actors hired by Factory last season were artists of colour. " (Richard Ouzounian of the T-Star, concurs.)

Here's my take on the whole thing: Gass is overworked and underpaid. He teaches at U of T, runs Factory and works on his own plays, writing and directing. Casting outside the white bubble takes work and he was slacking off... Racist? Nope.

Aguirre is probably better off the way this has gone anyway: A) Gass's direction of The Tiger of Malaya earlier this year was pure horrible and she's better off finding another director; and B) Now more people know about her play than would have previously.

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