My Net Worth, Virgin Radio, and “Canadian” Theatre

Nappoholics Anonymous is a weekly column featuring twelve random thoughts by actor Tony Nappo. Some are funny, some are poignant, some bother him, and some make him weep from sadness while others make him weep for joy. Here are his thoughts: unfiltered, uncensored, and only occasionally unsafe for work.

1. Jesus put out a press release this morning announcing that, in an effort to combat its dwindling popularity, HE will be rebranding Christmas this year by changing its name to MANGER THINGS.

2. Just a heads up for all you extortionists out there. This figure is off by roughly 1.7 million dollars or so.

3. Saw Britta Johnson’s Life After at Canadian Stage and the theatre actor in me was blown away by the story, the music, the performances, the staging. I found it a very healing show in a world so presently full of loss and grief. Absolutely first-rate theatre across the board. But the house painter in me was screaming inside, “Why didn’t you hire a professional painter???? Look at the fucking mess you guys are making!!!!!!!”

4. Guest Status of the Week:

5. Dad Beef:

Was listening to my daughter’s favourite pop radio station with her on the drive to Stratford and almost every song, to some degree, was about having sex. Why the hell do they call it Virgin Radio? That makes about as much sense as watching The Naked News on Treehouse.

6.

7. Top 5 Rolling Stones Songs About Going to the Toilet

5- Under My Bum

4- Can’t You Hear Me Plopping

3- Poopy Tuesday

2- Jumpin Jack Flush

1- Shatisfaction

8. Translated from Scarborough speak:

AIDZ- Hey, T. Congratulations on Bad Blood. I loved it. So proud of you.

Me- Thanks a lot, Brother. It means a lot to me.

9. Just started watching This Is Us. And I love the shit out of it, BUT is it me or is that dad doing a pretty great Keanu Reeves impersonation pretty much the entire time? Also—did a lot of men sporting the Cat Stevens look wax their entire bodies in the seventies?

10. Looks like this one is headed for extra innings.

11. Here’s an idea. Use smaller fucking letters.

12. Since Matthew Jocelyn’s departure was announced, I have been reading about a lot of people’s unhappiness concerning him not programming enough Canadian writers during his time at Canadian Stage, and how people feel his successor should focus on this aspect of programming specifically. That is fair enough, but I couldn’t help but immediately think of Coal Mine Theatre, who have not produced a single bad show since they came on the scene four years ago, whose focus (probably their mandate but I haven’t looked it up) is Canadian premieres of foreign plays. I’m not sure whether they have even produced a single Canadian playwright at Coal Mine at all. And all of their shows have been critical and box offices successes.

So in terms of an audience (the mostly non-theatre-making, full-price-ticket-buying folks who we are, theoretically, supposed to be making all this stuff for), they couldn’t seem to give a shit who wrote a show. You know what they do seem to care about? Seeing a great show. Not that there aren’t a lot of great Canadian plays and playwrights—because there certainly are—but I don’t think you should HAVE TO choose an okay Canadian play over a great non-Canadian one. Theatre shouldn’t feel like a medicine you are forced to take.

You can read between the lines here all you want but I have never left a show at Coal Mine thinking, “I wish that show was less amazing and more Canadian.” You know why? Because every show we make in Canada ends up being Canadian. Every time. Pretty much every single person who works on every aspect of every show here is a Canadian. It’s all filtered through us—our sensibilities, rhythms, pace, staging, lighting, sound design, wardrobe, poster design, programmes, warning signs in the lobby, even where the fucking chairs the audience will sit in are placed—all put together specifically for a Canadian audience by Canadians in a Canadian theatre surrounded by the events of any given Canadian day. No matter who wrote the show, it ends up becoming a Canadian piece of theatre.

For example, I’ve worked on two plays originally written in German by Roland Schimmelpfennig that were both absolutely brilliant and brilliantly received and there was nothing not Canadian about our show in terms of style or execution. Another example is that our two biggest festivals/companies in the country were established to honour and produce the work of non-Canadians William Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw. And finally, arguably the most successful theatre company in Toronto of all time, Soulpepper, didn’t produce any Canadian scripts for years (their original mandate was the classics) and they still don’t produce that many comparatively. And I personally think this is all fine. Does it matter that these scripts aren’t specifically telling “our stories”? Yes and no. Because ALMOST any great script is, in fact, about “our story” in a bigger sense. The best plays that I have ever seen or read are about the human experience, NOT the Canadian experience, and I am including Canadian plays in this thought: Insomnia, Here Lies Henry, the Suburban Motel series, The Crackwalker, The Drawer Boy, and Three in the Back, Two in the Head, to name just a few.

I personally thought Matthew Jocelyn programmed a lot of great and challenging scripts. I don’t think some of them were executed as well as they could have been, including a couple that I was a part of, but that’s part of the game. You’re gonna win some and lose some. Anyway, whoever does end up taking over the reins at Canadian Stage, I hope they aren’t going to let op-eds or Facebook threads (or my stupid column, for that matter) program their seasons and tell them who they can and cannot hire to execute them. I sincerely hope they have a clear vision and have a thorough knowledge of the best actors, designers, directors, and playwrights in this city, both men and women, of all ages, colours, religions, sexual identifications and orientations, or anyone who may be physically or otherwise challenged and employ them. And I hope they don’t spend all of their time feeling a need to check off boxes out of a sense of obligation rather then possessing and executing an actual vision that is automatically and reflexively inclusive because that’s just the way they see the work and the world around them.

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Written By

Tony is Italian, he’s from Scarborough, he’s an actor, he’s a father, he’s a really good house painter, and he doesn’t believe that most things matter, ultimately, at all.


3 Responses to “My Net Worth, Virgin Radio, and “Canadian” Theatre”

  1. Tony thanks for the kind words about The Coal Mine. Toronto is well represented by its companies – there is something for everyone that’s for sure! We do “Canadian Plays” (Instructions was presented last year and Category E will be presented this year) but we don’t make a big deal out of it, on purpose. Why? Because it would give the wrong impression as to why the show was programmed, and that would be a disservice to the writer, whose work we chose because we loved it and thought it to be of the highest calibre, not because it was Canadian.

  2. Yeah, but Tony, Canadian Stage receives over 2 million a year in funding from various Canadian government bodies. Coalmine, as far as I know, not a cent. I suppose you could argue that taking money from Canadian taxpayers does not actually require some reinvestment in actual Canadians, but I think that there is some obligation on the part of Canadian Stage to reinvest in all aspects of their programming, their artists, their plays and their leadership. Additionally, Canadian Stage for years was a hub for Canadian play development. Helmed by the late Iris Turcott, the Playwriting wing of Canadian Stage is deeply missed and while they no longer really invest in developing Canadian scripts they receive much the same funding. If Canadian Stage plans to keep using the name of Canada to promote their stage they need to do a much better job of developing and showcasing the industry they receive funding for.

  3. Ted- that’s kind of my point, exactly. You program the best scripts that you find.

    Jen- that’s kind of my point exactly, too. Theatre shouldn’t feel like an obligation.

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