Michael Healey’s controversial play, Proud, gets a reading in Vancouver
Vancouver theatregoers will have a chance to experience Michael Healey’s much-talked-about play about a certain Canadian prime minister.
A reading of Proud is being staged by a group of local theatre companies following a controversial decision by Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre to pass on programming the satirical play. The decision by Tarragon prompted Healey to split from the theatre company earlier this year after more than a decade there as a writer-in-residence.
The play is focused on a central, domineering character known simply as the Prime Minister. The character is not named in the script but bears much more than a passing resemblance to Canada’s current top political leader. Readings have been staged across Canada recently by a variety of groups who support Healey.
The award-winning playwright has told media the play was turned down after a Tarragon board member raised concerns it could potentially defame Prime Minister Stephen Harper. However, Tarragon’s artistic director, Richard Rose, has declined to publicly explain the decision. No one from Tarragon was available to comment.
The Proud saga has unfolded amid worries over the relationship between the federal government and the country’s arts community. Toronto’s SummerWorks festival had federal grant funding cancelled last year and then restored this year after staging a play about terrorism that was criticized by the Stephen Harper-led government.
The issue resonates with David Bloom, co-artistic director of Vancouver theatre company Felix Culpa and director of the upcoming reading of Proud. He said mounting the reading of Healey’s play gives local theatre groups a chance to speak up.
“The biggest danger in the arts is not that the government’s going to come in and stomp on us for stuff that we do—I don’t think we’re at that point in this country—but I do think that we’re quite capable of censoring ourselves for fear of subtle payback,” Bloom told the Straight by phone.
Bloom described Proud as an entertaining and provocative script, saying Healey offers a nuanced take on the Prime Minister and “not just a hatchet job”.
“It’s really nice to be able to do a work that is actually about what’s happening in this country right now, to get people thinking. Certainly one of the reasons why I like to do theatre is to get people thinking and I think this play is very capable of that,” he said.
The play is being presented by Felix Culpa, Neworld Theatre, Touchstone Theatre, Arts Club Theatre Company, Leaky Heaven Circus, Playwrights Theatre Centre, Compassionate Bone Theatre, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre, Ruby Slippers Theatre, and Pi Theatre. Local theatre stars John Cassini, Tom McBeath, Gaelan Beatty, and Quelemia Sparrow are also lending their talent as performers for the reading.
The performance takes place at Progress Lab 1422 (1422 William Street) on Sunday (July 22) at 8 p.m. Admission is by donation and seats can be reserved by emailing email@example.com.