Ten Years of Mooney on Theatre

Mooney on Theatre has grown a lot since my first post ten years ago today. It started as a way for me to expand my coverage of Toronto’s theatre scene. At the time I was covering shows for BlogTO and really enjoying it, but there was understandably limited space to talk about theatre. Then I was included as part of Toronto’s Mille Femmes — described as “a tribute to 1,000 artistic, creative and inspiring women from Toronto and their protégés, who embody the passion and heritage of the city” — and was told I was ‘a mentor.’ It was the kick in the butt I needed to start my own place to talk about theatre as much as I wanted.

When I hit publish on that first collection of words, I never imagined it would be what it is today.

I initially intended it to just be me on here, blathering away, but I soon found out there were lots of people looking for a venue to talk about theatre. I figured the more people there were, the more shows would get coverage.

If people agreed to play by my rules, I was happy to have them on board. The rules were simple:

    • Give people a flavour of the show they were seeing, and not an analysis. I was looking to make theatre more accessible, break down the feeling of theatre as an elite and intimidating art form (and therefore no geeking out); and
    • Always write with respect – respect the blood sweat and tears that have gone into putting this show up, and respect the reader. (Basically, don’t pretend something worked for you if it didn’t, but don’t be a jerk about it).

It was the beginning of my role changing from writer to editor. More people came on board. I started bringing in an assistant editor to help, and the Mooney on Theatre we all know today started taking shape. But even though the core of my vision for MoT was to demystify theatre and get as much coverage of amazing shows as possible, especially the smaller shows that often didn’t get coverage, there was more to it than that.

For me, it was also about bringing a diversity of voices writing about theatre to table. Diversity means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I mean it in all the ways I can think of. I wanted MoT writers to represent a diversity of experiences in theatre, genders, BIPOC and so on.

I think it was fitting that the first thing I featured on MoT was an interview with Nina Lee Aquino in her role at the time as the Artistic Director of the festival CrossCurrents at Factory Theatre. So much of that interview embodied what I believed about theatre and what I hoped was the future for theatre not only in our city, but Canada as a whole.

In that interview ten years ago, I asked her if she could tell people one thing she said: “Difference is a good thing.” You didn’t have to ‘relate’ to the person on stage to get the piece. I was so excited during the interview because it was exactly how I felt, but I’d had frustrations trying to express it to people in the past. I mean, when we watch a play about, I don’t know, someone in prison, do we have to ‘relate’ to them to connect to the piece? I haven’t been in prison, but I bet I would still connect to it.

I don’t remember this moment, but reading the piece again it really resonates with me. Apparently, Nina said “The inside of a TTC bus is what Canada is.” That’s what we strive for MoT to be. To achieve what we want to do — to provide a diversity of accessible opinions on theatre — that’s what we need to be.

I’m not really someone who believes in fate generally. I think we build our lives. I went after that interview on purpose. And I started Mooney on Theatre with that interview on purpose. But I also feel like it set the perfect tone for the site.

There are also two people who really influenced me who I have never publicly acknowledged, and I think that it’s time I do that. The two people who influenced me the most about theatre in my life are Ric Knowles and Alan Filewod. They were my two favourite professors at University of Guelph. I learned more from the two of them than I have ever learned from anyone (other than myself I suppose).

Ric basically taught me a totally new way to look at writing, and a totally new way to look at what theatre is. In fact, a lot of how I see theatre comes from Ric. Ask me someday what I consider ‘theatre.’ Maybe we can go to a Jays game together…

Alan, meanwhile, taught me the power of theatre: the amazing power of theatre to change things, to heal things, to influence things. Alan taught me the importance of bringing theatre to the people.

These people have influenced my lives — and as a result, Mooney on Theatre — more than they could ever know. Thank you to you both. Mooney on Theatre wouldn’t exist without you.

While I’m on the subject of thank-yous, thank you so much to all my amazing writers and editors. You are Mooney on Theatre. Because of you so many shows that wouldn’t otherwise get coverage have reviews to point to.

An especially giant thank you to my Managing Editor, Wayne Leung — I would be lost without you.

Mooney on Theatre will continue to work to demystify theatre, make it more accessible to non-theatre types who just want the flavour of a show. We will continue to cover as much of the great theatre this city has to offer as we can. We will continue to joyfully exhaust ourselves covering every single Toronto Fringe Festival show. And we will continue to be eternally grateful to each of you, our readers, for making us what we are.

Thank you everyone, here’s to ten years!

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