Breaking up is hard to do

Local Director/Playwright/Performer Amiel Gladstone (check out his TNS interview here) has made the tough decision to start moving on with his life, and split up with an old benefactor. He would like to share the painful decision with us here.

It’s being posted across the country, on the blogs of Toronto’s Crow Theatre, and Calgary’s Verb Theatre.

Getting Over It: Amiel Gladstone breaks up with the BC government

It’s over. No warning.

I was not in favour of this break up. I knew that things weren’t perfect but I felt like they still could be fixed. We’d worked through some hard times. I thought I had good arguments of why we should stay together. I felt like I was understood and appreciated. My achievements were trumpeted. International visitors were invited from around the world and my art was part of the incentive to come. I thought we would all be able to celebrate together. Now all our international visitors are coming, but it can feel a bit strained to plaster on the smile and pretend I’m happy to be at the party since The Government of British Columbia no longer wants to continue our relationship.

Some nights it’s hard to leave the house. Everywhere I go I am reminded of how things were. Just around the corner from me, the Vancouver East Cultural Centre has a brand new huge renovation. Downtown the Queen Elizabeth Theatre received a facelift. There are openings all over town filled with people. Memories of how we were in synch. And now? I feel like a failure because I couldn’t make this work.

I think about moving away. The Globe and Mail has an article about how Chicago must be the third largest theatre town in North America and not Toronto. I don’t know anyone in Chicago. Perhaps this is a good thing. So much of being a theatre artist is making relationships with like-minded artists. This takes time. I’m 37 years old. Do I want to go out there and start all over again in another community?

Fellow director Kim and I talk about doing other things. All of these really, really smart people, are we wasting our time? We talk about other business ventures. We talk about opening a great restaurant.

I do my best to survive. I don’t always know exactly what I’m doing. But am I not worthy of support? Of love? Why have I been left? What did I do that has caused me to be treated so coldly? With what feels an awful lot like contempt.

The provincial minister who has been assigned arts as his portfolio, Kevin Krueger, is the type of man who, when in public, talks about how he loves culture so much because he saw a great Rita MacNeil concert however many years ago. Our premier Gordon Campbell seems like he shares the same love for reading and playing the piano as Stephen Harper. But this is just my anger bubbling over. It happens sometimes. I need these guys.

I want to go over to Krueger’s front lawn with a boom box playing Rita MacNeil songs.

I realize I’m not to be trusted. I’m going through a bit of mental illness. My thought processes aren’t right. My filter is wrong. I think about going back into therapy.

I take my friend Matt to a Canucks game at GM Place. Matt’s feeling down too, broken hearted, so I’m splurging to try and cheer us up. We drink a lot of $9 beers at the game. Henrik Sedin is having an excellent season. It’s an exciting game, but the home team loses by one.

The government announces a $458 million dollar project – building a new roof for BC Place: our other downtown stadium. I wonder how the government can start seeing other people so soon. I wonder why the government likes stadiums more than theatre. Then I think about Henrik Sedin. Even I paid a lot of money to see him.

I think about how I work so much from the unknown. Often grant applications are made up or some sort of weird guess, when really they are attempts to get into the place of the unknown. What happens when there is even less money for funding? Will the unknown be even less likely to get funding? How do I shift my process so I know more, earlier?

I am directing a play at a college that trains actors. I am enjoying the work. I allow myself to fall in love with them a little bit, but my heart feels vulnerable. I feel afraid for what will happen to these young actors, as they attempt to follow a career path – especially when our political leaders are suggesting that what they are doing is worthless. I think of how we are teaching and learning to tell stories, but not teaching and learning the real skills they need. They need to be able to survive financially and be able to drop everything to take gigs. The ones that figure it out will survive.

Amiel is an award-winning playwright, director and performer based out of Vancouver. You can find his blog – theatre for people who don’t like theatre – on his website.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user JavaJan1


  1. Awesome, heartfelt, and it is the truth!

    Anyone out there? Can you hear Amiel Gladstone, NOW???!!!

    Can you hear me now???!!!!

  2. Amiel, exactly what I’m going through. I’m in a long-distance relationship with the Government of BC right now, going on to three years. Here I am, pursuing graduate studies at the University of Alabama and wondering if there’s a home for me to, well, come home to.

    Long-distance relationships are hard, for sure, but I was willing to make it work. I’ve missed friends and family, I’ve sacrificed love, and I hope that this will all pay off down the road. But Campbell has pulled up the “welcome home” mat and pretty much locked the door.

    My eyes are focused elsewhere because, hell, I can be unemployed anywhere.

  3. Dear Amiel;
    If it is any consolation whatsoever, (and I’m sure it very probably isn’t) we’re in the same position.

    After a 20-year relationship with the Ministry of Environment, providing the entire province with a toll-free phone number and live operator service to answer any and all calls about recycling — through which we receive over 170,000 enquiries a year — our funding has been eliminated enitrely.

    As far as Campbell is concerned “green energy” is sexy now and nothing else matters, as far as the environment is concerned, anymore.

    For us, it’s a serious WTF moment that utterly contradicts everything he has said and promised, up to this point, in terms of greening the province.

    I wish you all the best. We’re all going to seriously need it.

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