2014 Season - Behind the Scenes at The Shaw (by TheShawFestival)
Peter HInton’s Cabaret at the Shaw Festival - if you’re anywhere near it - go and see it. Anything by Peter is always worth seeing, but I can’t help feeling that he was born to direct this musical. Great cast, great score, and Peter’s stunning visual and literary imagination. I’m going to find a way to get there as soon as I can!
Compagnie du Hanneton - is artistic genius genetic? Perhaps. Charlie Chaplin’s grandson James Thieree is an extraordinary theatre/circus/dance/ artist. Indulge for a few moments and watch true creative excellence in action.
Hilary Sargent, aka ChartGirl, brilliantly wraps it all up! Hers was deservedly voted one of Time Magazine’s top 50 websites of 2013. Worth checking for fun and every time you need to chart a clear course…
There is an oft-repeated adage in professional public relations circles that there is no such thing as bad publicity. I don’t know where the maxim originated, but it sounds to me like something you might expect to hear Cary Grant say in a screwball comedy - “Aw c’mon now fellas! You know there’s no such thing as bad publicity?” (roguish grin and wink). There has always been something tongue in cheek about the saying; after all, no PR specialist worth their salt would ever willingly see a client lambasted in the press for unethical or illegal practices. Nonetheless, within reason, raising the public profile of a client is what we do as publicists. We provide our clients with considered, experienced guidance about messaging and exposure. We want it to be a good news story, but if it isn’t, then we are the professionals who mitigate the damage, who manage the outcomes, who protect the interests of our employers and spin the best possible results. Isn’t that what we do? Isn’t that what PR is?
Recently, events in Toronto have made me wonder if the basic ground rules of PR are changing. Mayor Rob Ford, arguably the most successful bad news story in recent memory, has made an international spectacle of himself by behaving appallingly in one public arena after another. Despite antics that would put a troubled adolescent to shame, his approval rating has barely shifted and his celebrity status seems greater than ever. True, his colleagues at City Hall have taken steps to seriously curtail his powers as Mayor, and several major brands have disavowed any connection with him: things which I’m sure have made the City’s PR folks (whoever the poor suckers are) very unhappy. What is fascinating, though, is that the Rob Ford “brand” has extraordinary traction. He has generated spectacular media coverage not only at home, but across the world, where he is common fodder for one-liners on talk shows, and a regular news item. True, the coverage is not complimentary, but it sparks public debate, it generates interest in civic politics, it heightens awareness of the internal machinations of City Hall in a way that it’s doubtful a million ad campaigns could ever do. Furthermore, I suspect it means that Rob Ford will never have to look for a job again and I would even be willing to bet that we’ll see a spike in tourism in Toronto in the coming year!
I think the Rob Ford phenomenon is the natural result of a world weaned on the Kardshians and Real Wives of Beverly Hills? What did we think would happen when we decided that watching the private world of Honey Boo Boo and her family was entertainment? We’ve been on a slippery slope for a long time. The line between “entertainment” and the real world has become so blurred that perhaps our values have permanently shifted. Maybe we don’t need our public officials to do their jobs or behave decently. Maybe it’s enough that they behave like the vacuous celebrities we idolize despite their complete apparent lack (in many cases) of talent, accomplishment or charm. Perhaps it’s more important that they parade their human failings thereby “connecting” with their public in “authentic dialogue” (something we hear an awful lot about in the PR industry).
Rob Ford is a loose cannon. I doubt he has personal PR management, and if he does, I’m sure those folks are mainlining Tylenol and Scotch by now. I seriously doubt that there is a brilliant PR strategy behind his behaviour. There has been no organized effort that I know of to rehabilitate the Mayor’s public profile, other than that made by die-hard Ford Nationers on sites such as Facebook’s “I hate this war on Rob Ford.” You never know though - maybe some young PR guru thought this whole debacle up, tailored to his client. Maybe, he or she saw the writing on the wall and realized that in the twenty-first century, it is really true, there is no such thing as bad publicity.
Sharon Shorty and Jackie Robinson roll up to the Ottawa Holidays Inn during Nothern Scene
Listen to Laura on the Parenting Panel on CBC Radio One 91.5 fm with host Michael Bhardwaj and parent Mike Lachapelle
The Camino Frances - over the Pyrenees and on…
I don’t think that anyone who knows me would ever accuse me of being a glutton for punishment. Nor do I consider myself in the slightest one of life’s great adventurers. However, as happens to so many, I am staring fifty in the face and taking stock and it occurs to me that the time for a grand statement has come. I have been considering how to mark the half-century in a meaningful, rewarding, reflective way - a huge party, a week at a spa, a holiday to Rome - any number of ideas have flitted through my imagination, and most of them are coloured with images of hedonistic indulgence. And then I heard about the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Actually, I saw a fictional film about a man who treks the Camino as a way to understand his estranged son who died at the outset of the treacherous trail. It wasn’t the most fantastic film. In fact, it was hugely flawed. However, it remained with me for days and weeks after I had seen it. Not because of its artistry, but because it led me to discover the thousand year old pilgrimage trail from the Pyrenees across 800 km of Spain. I became fascinated by the idea of the trail, by what it stands for and has represented for thousands of pilgrims over the last millennia. I began to read more and more about it and, recently, read Jane Christmas’ outstanding account of her experience completing the walk. Christmas was, like me, searching for a way to celebrate her fiftieth birthday. Like me, she was at a crossroads - emotional, spiritual, physical - in her life, and was seeking a way to express and investigate that metaphorical step into the next part of her life. Her book is funny, candid, well-written, and hugely compelling, and despite its frank and frankly terrifying descriptions of some of the very real horrors of undertaking the Camino, it has absolutely confirmed my commitment to join the cohort of the Camino crazy.
So…I’m in training. I have a little time. I turn fifty in January of 2014 and plan to start my walk in April of that year. Things I will need to accomplish by then include quitting smoking, losing about 80 lbs, and developing the stamina and fitness to walk 25km a day. Nothing too daunting there!!!!!! And let’s be honest - there are 80 year olds who walk the Camino. Some intrepid people cross it in wheelchairs or with missing limbs. Some people start without an iota of training. Of course, some people also die simply because they apparently lose the will to live when faced with the rigours of Camino life!
I have no idea whether I’m up to the challenges of the great pilgrimage. I’m certainly not an overtly spiritual person and not in the least bit religious. I am rather superstitious, but I don’t think that’s helpful in this kind of project. I have been walking a lot this summer already and am up to 15km a day. It must be said, however, that that already seems gruelling, and I’ve been walking on neatly maintained City of Ottawa bike paths. Still, my motivation for doing the Camino is strong - I’m in the requisite state of mid-life enquiry with all that that entails, and I’m desperate to do something that requires stamina and digging deep! I’ve never really had to dig deep for anything, unless it was pocket change for the bus.
I suspect walking the Camino is one of those experiences that you blaspheme and swear your way through, constantly asking yourself why the hell you’re doing it, but that you remember on your death bed as a highlight of the whole insane merry-go-round. I’d like to have something like that to reflect on in my final moments!
So it’s decided. I have my eye on the prize and the calf muscles to prove it. Now I just need to find a high altitude hill nearby on which to train…
I came late to the Robert Hughes party. I haven’t read The Fatal Shore, which I have been told for years by my mother and sister I must read. I did, however, recently finish reading his final book, Rome, which I thought was superb. I so appreciate a book that is not only erudite and painstakingly researched, but that is a page-turner full of just the requisite amount of anecdotal gossip, personal reflection, political bias and pictorial rendition. I feel now that I know Rome as Hughes first came to it in the 1950s and regret not having been there then. Hughes took a vast swath of cultural, political, social history and made it eminently readable. Quite a feat. I know Rome is a book I will dip into for years to come and I’m so glad to know that there is so much other writing by the author yet to discover.
Hughes’ death has somehow made me feel rather maudlin today - perhaps because we so recently lost Gore Vidal, another great man of letters who, like Hughes, was unabashed in his vocal criticism of a modern age he felt was inexorably slipping towards decline in every sense. Hughes and Vidal were both men of encyclopaedic knowledge who did more than ruffle a few feathers in their time. I haven’t always agreed with their pronouncements, whether they were political or cultural; however, I have always enjoyed knowing that people more informed and more intelligent than I exist to perform the important role of agent provocateur. Men like Hughes make one think, they dare us to disagree and form opinions. I think that’s not only healthy but vitally important in any society. I sometimes wonder if we are becoming, at least in Canada, people who can’t think - can’t reflect or reason? From what I have observed raising a child in Ontario, thinking doesn’t seem to rate high on the provincial curriculum and I can’t help thinking that with the proliferation of images, sales messages, and mass marketed information being targeted towards young people today through their phones, their tv sets, their computers - the omnipresent noise of the modern world - that the ability to reflect, to analyze and to form a personal opinion might well be the most important skill we can pass on to our kids.
But I rant. I will be raising a toast to Robert Hughes tonight, and then I will head to my nearest mass market bookstore to find a copy of The Fatal Shore.
Van Gogh’s The Road Menders - a revelation to me and now certainly among my favorite paintings.