An Open Letter to the Factory Board from Atom Egoyan, Michael Ondaatje, Martha Henry & others

From Press Release

Friday August 24, 2012

Dear Members of the Factory Theatre Board:

Ron Struys, Chair
Lynn Bevan
Janet Dey
Georges Kapelos
Elyse Parker Milan Roy
Beverley Simonsen
Jennifer Schipper
Michael Wolfish

We write this letter in response to your recent announcement of Michel‐Marc Bouchard’s withdrawal of his play from the Factory season, which decision you ascribe to “the boycott environment”. We feel some clarification is necessary.

Almost one month ago, some of the undersigned, along with a great many other concerned members of the theatre and cultural communities, signed a Boycott Letter stating that we would not engage with Factory, either as artists or patrons, until Ken Gass was reinstated and the theatre had entered into “meaningful negotiation” to resolve the current crisis.

We gather that there is now, in the wake of yet another artist withdrawing his work, a serious effort is being made to come to the table with Ken and a professional mediator to look for a mutually satisfactory resolution to this situation. We applaud this development and hope that all parties are able to come together in the best interests of the theatre.

We do deeply regret, though, that the season is already so seriously endangered by the stand these artists have taken, and more than that, we feel for the sacrifice they are making. As fellow artists, no one understands better what it costs to walk away from a production of one’s work or how painful it is for the other artists involved whose next job has suddenly vanished.

That being said, we are troubled that the Board’s announcement blames “the boycott environment” for M. Bouchard’s withdrawal of the opening production. This is more than a little disingenuous: The current environment is entirely of the Board’s making. The fact that it has taken this long for Michel‐Marc to make this decision suggests that it could have been avoided had the Board entered into good faith negotiations to resolve the dispute. Indeed, the boycott could have been lifted in an instant had the Board been willing to come to the table.

(Please note that we speak only for ourselves: We are neither organizers of nor spokespersons for the other two hundred and forty-­‐odd signatories to the boycott or the more than 4,000 signatories to the petition.)

Factory Theatre, like most of Canada’s theatres, is a public trust. The vast majority of the money that built and sustains it comes from the citizenry. Furthermore, in our current funding system, that public money is granted to artists by artists or, occasionally, to artists by public officials.

In addition to public subsidy, theatres are supported by an enormous amount of “sweat equity” from the artists and staff whose salaries and intermittent fees are very small in comparison with private sector standards.

Members of the board are trustees. We don’t want to denigrate their important contribution. They give of their time to provide support, guidance and fiscal oversight. In the best cases they help raise money as well, often from their own pocketbooks.

But legalities aside, they do not constitute the theatre itself. The theatre belongs first and foremost to the public that sustains it.

It is indeed heartbreaking that artists have to pay the price but at this point only the board has the power to correct the situation and we hope they find it within themselves to act truly in the best interests of the theatre or step away and allow others to do so. For our own part, if there is anything that any of us can do to help the two parties come to an understanding, we are happy to do so and place ourselves at the service of the theatre.


Atom Egoyan
Martha Henry
Annie Kidder
Seana McKenna
Michael Ondaatje
Eric Peterson
Gordon Pinsent
Fiona Reid
Richard Rose
R.H. Thompson
David Young

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