Clement isn’t dismissing a resurrection, but enthusiasm for the idea has waned since theatre artists rallied outside the Playhouse Theatre on a rainy Saturday night, declaring they would fight to save the company. Now there is some acknowledgment that the Playhouse may have been beyond saving. Some say the 1950s-era model for the large regional theatre is outdated (although it thrives in cities such as Calgary), and the Playhouse rented its theatre from the city, and therefore didn’t always have access to the space. globe and mail
I’ve spent many an entertaining evening at the Playhouse. Shakespeare, Chekhov, Tom Stoppard – usually played well and staged intelligently. But it has been decades since I went to live theatre – children and having served for half a year on the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards Jury pretty much did me in. (Being on the Jessies Committee meant, at the time, seeing three or four plays a week of radically varied quality.)
Live theatre and the arts in general have been fighting for attention for years. It is not that the performances have declined in quality, if anything standards have risen. Instead, I suspect, a combination of demographics, cultural shifts and more diverse options have changed the audience beyond recognition.
Demographics and culture make a huge difference. Vancouver is now 50% Asian. (Some people argue the number but close enough for the argument.) An Asian community does not have much of a link to Shakespeare, still less to Chekhov and likely none at all to Tom Stoppard. And, yes, I am speaking generally – no doubt there are legions of Chinese Chekhov fans but only relative to a more general cultural indifference to Russian playwrights in translation.
At the same time, the overall population of Vancouver is aging. And, as we age we (or rather they as I live in Victoria) tend not to spend as many nights out. A subscription to the Playhouse, once a fixture of my dating life, would be a bit of a burden at this point.
Perhaps most of all, the attention deficit is built upon the fact that people have many, many more alternatives. When I grew up in Vancouver (about a million years ago but actually in the late 60’s and 1970’s) there were five TV channels and no internet. An evening at the theatre was a break from the monotony of “a night at home”. That has hugely shifted.
I’m sorry to see the Playhouse close but, sad to say, I will barely notice it’s gone.