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Sky Gilbert's World Theatre Day Message

You’re sitting at home, in your favourite chair - with your favourite animal in your lap (cat? dog? lizard?). You’re surfing the web. You like it because your favourite movies and games and TV shows are at your fingertips. But you also like it because it tells you who you are. You discover all sorts of things about yourself when you’re online. If you buy something online you get a cheery message saying “I know what you like…why don’t you try this too?”

But wait. What if you were to leave the house?

After all, you could go to a Starbucks. But wouldn’t that be an awful lot like sitting in a room full of people who are acting as if they were home alone?

What about a movie?

Yeah sure, a movie.

There will be strangers. But it will be dark.

You feel at home at the movies, because movies also tell you who you are. If you’re old—they’ll show you trailers for movies starring Maggie Smith. If you’re young—they’ll show you trailers for movies featuring pretty, blonde, blue-eyed girls singing about frozen worlds.

But what if you went to see a live play?


Why not?

When you get there, you realize it’s not very big. Only about 30 seats. How can it be a good play if there are only 30 people watching? And the chair you’re sitting in isn’t comfortable like your chair at home.

The show is about to start and you realize there are only about 10 people in the audience. And the program says there are only five people in the cast! Oh no! If you laugh too much, you may disturb your neighbour. But if you don’t laugh enough, it might  hurt the actors’feelings.

And what if it isn’t even a comedy?

Suddenly, the play starts.

Oh no. They’re saying bad words. Words you would never say at home. You didn’t come to the theatre to hear such words! And the ideas! The writer has some strange radical ideas —  and not ones you agree with. Some people are laughing. A couple of them are crying. And some aren’t reacting at all.

Should you stomp out, now—angrily— and make a scene? Or should you endure it quietly, and when it’s done — slink out?

Finally it’s over. You are stung, humiliated and embarrassed. They turn the lights on. Someone is sweeping the floor. You look around sheepishly. Suddenly you realize that there is a person sitting beside you. How could you not notice? You turn slightly and look.

It’s…it’s an old woman!  Very old. And she’s…she’s a different colourthan you.

She speaks. She has a dry, cracked voice. And you can barely understand her accent.

“I liked it,” she says. “What do you think?”

You don’t know what to do or what to say. You might have to disagree with this very kindly, very, very, very old woman.

Then, out of panic, you find yourself thinking about the play. You realize that it not only made you think—it made you feel, too. And then you realize it made you…gosh…you don’t know what’s going on ! There’s a tingle running up your spine. And it’s very odd… as if…as if…as if you are thinking and feeling at the same time! And you think and feel confused, loving, angry, passionate, scared, sexy— and kind of unhinged! What in heaven’s name is going on?

Then you turn to the woman.

You open your mouth.

And then you — you talk.


Sky Gilbert
At Buddies, Mr. Gilbert wrote and directed his own hit plays: The Dressing Gown (published by the Playwright's Union 1989), Playmurder (published by Blizzard in 1995), Drag Queen's on Trial (published by Playwright's Canada Press in 1996), Ban This Show (about the controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe) , Pasolini/Pelosi and Capote At Yaddo (published by Coach House Press). In 1990 Sky received the Dora Award (Toronto's "Tony") for playwrighting for his play The Whore's Revenge and in 2012 he received a Dora for his play The Situationists. In 2014 the City of Toronto named a street after him: Sky Gilbert Lane.

Since leaving Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in 1997, Sky has worked at The School of English and Theatre Studies at Guelph University where he is now an Associate Professor.

The Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT), Playwright’s Guild of Canada (PGC) and L’Association des théâtres francophones du Canada (ATFC) have jointly commissioned a message from Sky Gilbert (Novelist, poet, filmmaker, director, actor, and drag queen extraordinaire.... ) to celebrate World Theatre Day. This message is available in both official languages.  Find out how you can support World Theatre Day with PACT's 2016 World Theatre Day Engagement Kit.

World Theatre Day was created in 1962 by the International Theatre Institute. Each year on March 27th ITI celebrates World Theatre Day with a message written by a figure of world stature who shares their thoughts on the theme of Theatre and a Culture of Peace.

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