Monthly Archives: March 2012

Virtual VS. Real Networks: Where is the Balance?

Those who read my blog know, I’m very rarely the first in line to embrace a new technology. My first cell phone was purchased only two and a half years ago. I was also very late to join Facebook.  Once I do adopt a new technology, it is usually because it benefits my life substantially. At that point, I tend to become a total convert. I now spend a large amount of time networking, sharing, and interacting in various ways on social media sites and in 2010 I made the conversion to a smart phone and haven’t looked back since. Life without it would be unpleasant.

 This weekend I was out with two friends. We were engaged in fairly mundane activities (watching a hockey game, consuming fatty foods, and drinking beer.) The night was fairly typical for us. The first part of the night, we got caught up on what each other were doing had various discussions about politics, work etc. Then later on in the night as the game got kind of boring, and there was a lag in conversation, my other friend, let’s call him “R” and myself began to turn to our smart phones. This is now as natural to me as breathing. My third friend, “J” got cranky and felt that cell phone use (while fairly minor) was a violation of “face time” with him.

 I was reminded again how we are in a period of transition. Though clearly the writing is on the wall and the overlap between real and virtual social networks will continue to expand. This divide, between those who are plugged into online connections and those who are not, for the short-term, will create friction between the two groups; however, the latter group is shrinking very rapidly.  I suspect in a few years those not plugged in will be considered an oddity (maybe we’re already there?)

Now certainly everyone is entitled to live their lives as they choose, but I can’t help but remember that hanging out in a bar watching a game, at one time, would have been considered anti-social. “Why hang out with other people if you are just going to watch TV?” Society has changed and we now recognize that we can also socialize while using this technological device. Simply put, social interactions never stop.

The same is true of smart phones. They are not making us less social, if anything they are making us more social.  This is basic human nature and it’s not surprising that a technology that has expanded the ways we connect with others has been so successful and widely adopted. Fighting this trend is futile. It’s the present not the future.

 Here is another thought: while it would be rude to constantly be talking with individuals who are not physically present (and ignoring those in real time around you) it is equally rude to force someone to ignore those individuals who are not present and completely monopolize their time because you are currently in their physical space.

 Obviously a balance has to be struck.  Where do you think this balance is?

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The show that should have not been included in Undercurrents

Undercurrents 2012 is long over but I’m happy to report it was once again a success. Congratulations to Patrick Gauthier, and the GCTC, for running a great event!  This festival is a great addition to the Ottawa scene.  I would love to see it continue to grow and nurture local talent.

Undercurrents celebrates “theatre below the mainstream” and for the most part it does this very well; however, this year there was one show that I felt didn’t really fit in with the spirit of the festival: Blue Box written and performed by award winning Carmen Aguirre and directed by Brian Quirt. 

This show was sold out early and received praise from critics so why do I think it shouldn’t have been included? What I like most about the Undercurrents festival is that it gives an opportunity for independent and under celebrated artists (independent theatre often flies below the radar) to showcase their work in an established theatre. Aguirre’s Blue Box, however, is not in this category.

Who is Carmen Aquirre? This Vancouver-based actress/playwright is an impressive figure on the Canadian cultural landscape.  She has numerous film and TV credits (30+) including a lead role in Quinceañera  (a Sundance Festival award winner).  She has written/co-written 18 plays.  She was playwright-in-residence at The Vancouver Playhouse from 2000 to 2002 and was also playwright-in-residence at Touchstone Theatre in 2004. She is deserving of all this success and is firmly a part of established theatre/film professionals in this country and has been for over a decade.

Blue Box was directed by Brian Quirt. For those who don’t know, Quirt is the former associate artistic director of the GCTC and the current president of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas. In fact, he has directed two shows recently at the GCTC.  In 2011, he directed Whispering Pines  and in 2010 The List. Both these shows played on the Irving Greenberg (GCTC) main stage as part of the GCTC’s regular season.

Quirt’s company Nightswimming has produced over 25 shows and has been in operation since 1995. Perhaps this is why he was able to attract such high profile talent such as Aguirre to work with.

 In every way possible, performer/creator, director, and company, Blue Box is not theatre “below the mainstream.” For this reason I do not think it should have been included in this year’s Undercurrents festival. I think the only question is why did the GCTC not choose to include this show as part of its regular season given the show’s pedigree?

Patrick Gauthier has an excellent eye for theatre and I enjoyed his (and the GCTC’s) programming of the 2012 Undercurrents festival. That being said, next year, I hope Undercurrents returns to the 2011 format that celebrated/promoted the work of independent non-established artists. There is a very real need for this kind of independent festival in Ottawa and it is what makes Undercurrents special.