Why I Am Boycotting Factory Theatre
Was Ken Gass' plan a good one? A realistic one? A financially possible one? I don't know and I don't give a fuck. It's his theatre.
by Tony Nappo (actor)
Gaëtan asked me to write a few words explaining why I agreed to sign the petition to boycott The Factory Theatre in Toronto and I am happy to respond as I know that this publication speaks to folks outside of Toronto, who likely do not know me personally or many of the other members of the community who signed as well.
Let me say, clearly, that I do not speak for anyone but myself. I have been saying that a lot, lately, on the pages of Facebook and whatnot, as this issue has become a very polarizing one in Toronto and I personally never signed up to be a recruiting officer or to be a divisive force in the community. At the same time, this was not a scenario where I could sit idly by and wait to see what happened. For myself, and for many, this is not just an artists vs. "the Board" scenario, it is a human one.
I would not say this of any other AD in the city
It is about Ken Gass, who IS the Factory Theatre. He started it, and when it was in need years later, he returned to save it. No, he did not do that alone.There were many people around him who helped him (a criticism of the recent "deification" of Ken that I have heard) but there are many people around everyone in the theatre helping everyone else out all the time. It is the nature of what we do. I don't think that because he had help, it diminishes the fact that he was there when the place needed him. And he started the Factory at a time when there was no real theatre scene to speak of in Toronto, at all.
He is a pioneer in that regard and should be afforded the respect, on that basis alone, to step down when he wants to. AND he DOESN'T want to yet. If you read his recent self written explanation you will see that he still had grand plans for the building and the future of The Factory - plans with which the Board did not see eye to eye with him.
Was his plan a good one? A realistic one? A financially possible one? I don't know and I don't give a fuck. It's his theatre. I would not say this of any other AD in the city, many of whom I have wonderful relationships with, because they did not found their institutions. They did not conceive of and build them from the first brick onward. They have been entrusted with them, with their mandates, their audiences and with their histories.
Ken was the head of my first theatre family.
Personally, Ken was the first AD to ever hire me and put me on a Toronto mainstage. Fiona Highet and I replaced Kristen Thompson and Ted Dykstra in Problem Child and actually gave the final performance, I believe, of that whole six-play Motel Cycle the second time it went round. It has since been revived in bits and pieces. I worked in the building quite a bit in my earlier years on stage, as well, in productions and workshops and festivals and such. Ken was the head of my first theatre family. And I am a loyal motherfucker if nothing else. I mean, I am from Scarborough where the rules are pretty simple. If someone screws with your friend, you stand up with and for them.
I have heard the arguments from the other side and they seem to have merit to them in terms of doing what is best for the theatre. I am not saying I agree with them, at all, but I have listened and understand them. I will not discuss them or where I heard them, either. The thing is, maybe I am naïve in this, but you can't put the best interest of The Factory in a scenario where you have let Ken go because Ken Gass is The Factory.
Has a founder of any theatre anywhere ever been fired before? I don't know. But Ken built that ship and it is his to sail or sink, in my opinion. That is why I signed the petition: because history matters to me and loyalty matters to me. I hope, at the very least, if Ken is not re-instated, the future occupants of the building have the decency to retire the name Factory along with Ken Gass because he has earned that.