Donna Spencer’s Response to Colin Thomas

In this week’s issue of the Georgia Straight, critic Colin Thomas reviewed Kid Gloves and took fault with Firehall Artistic Producer Donna Spencer’s choice to produce an “unpolished” play. This is her full response, a portion of which was sent in to the Georgia Straight as a Letter to the Editor.


Letter to the Editor

Re: Kid Gloves Stylistically All Over the Map, November 22, 2012

In closing his recent review of Kid Gloves, Colin Thomas takes me to task in my role as the Firehall Arts Centre’s Artistic Producer for producing this new play, advising that “Spencer’s biggest mistake was at a programming level … she should have looked beyond the historical and contemporary relevance of the subject matter and recognized it for being the artistic grab bag that it is”. One would assume from this statement that he is suggesting that the play should have never been produced. I am not writing to respond to his criticisms of the play, as they are his personal opinion, but rather to take Mr. Thomas to task for his cavalier and dismissive comments which seem to suggest that only polished and perfect plays should be produced. As a playwright himself, surely he does not truly believe this and if he does, what is it about theatre that keeps him drawn to writing about the imperfections of theatre? Is he questing for the perfect play, which frankly may only exist in the minds of academics and playwrights who have become critics? If only perfect plays should be produced, why are we still enjoying Shakespeare 400 years later?

One of the mission statements of the Firehall is to give voice to new and emerging works from both established and emerging theatre artists which have relevance to Canadians. That indeed is a risky business and one that allows for failure and success. Our thirty-year history reveals that we take our mission seriously, with the most recent evidence of that being our highly successful production of Chelsea Hotel.  Not a perfect play but indeed a highly imaginative artistic expression. And our production of Kid Gloves is a continuation of that mission.

I would remind Mr. Thomas of the purpose of theatre through two quotes from playwrights whom I am certain he has admiration for:  “I regard theatre as the greatest of all forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being”- Oscar Wilde. In response to his suggestion that the perfect play should take precedence over relevance, I remind him of the words of Dario Fo, famed Director, Playwright and Activist whose plays are recognized for their criticism of organized crime and political corruption,  “A theatre, a literature, an artistic expression that does not speak for its own time does not have relevance”.

Sally Stubbs’ Kid Gloves is indeed an artistic expression that does speak for its time, has relevance and does share with another the sense of what it might have been like to be the first women in Canada sworn in with full police powers.  It does “hold a mirror up to nature” (Shakespeare) and reminds us that women still go missing; gender bias still exists and good people still fight for positive change.