Billy Bishop Goes to War, Children & Chocolate, TooSunday, April 11, 2010
By the time my wife Rosemary and I saw Billy Bishop Goes to War at the Playhouse in 1982, my knowledge of Canadian history was no better than when I had married Rosemary in 1968. I knew nothing. It was only a few years later that I read Pierre Berton’s Vimy and began to understand a bit of Canada’s history. It was only then that I grasped how the British had the concept of Colonials (in a most deprecatory sense of the meaning of the word) fighting in WWI and not having too much confidence in their fighting abilities. That they eventually changed their mind is really what makes Billy Bishop Goes to War, not only an entertaining musical but one that has educational purposes (with no effort on my part to make the word educational seem boring as when I hear the word documentary!)
In 1982 I was not yet a Canadian citizen and the play did not involve me emotionally. At the opening of the play two weeks ago which I attended with Rosemary it was all different. I understood what was going on. I could feel the pride of a Canadian (that’s me!) in learning that our backwoods guy had topped the best that Rugby and Eaton had mustered.
I was convinced in this second experience of Billy Bishop Goes to War that the play had something to offer my 12-year-old granddaughter Rebecca. I was not wrong.
It is beyond me why with the exception of a Ballet BC matinee or a Nutcracker performance at Christmas time, I never see too many children at the theatre or at the dance.
Consider that buying a ticket for Billy Bishop Goes to War bypasses the thugs of Ticketmaster. Increasingly other theatre companies including the Playhouse are resorting to their own private ticket selling schemes so you never have to deal with surly vendors.
Consider that Canadians (as a late blooming Canadian I put myself as an exception) want to sit at the middle of the middle. These are the tickets that often are not only expensive but sell out quickly. Besides in those seats you cannot hear ballerinas gasp for air. Why would you want to miss this thrill?
Our two tickets to Billy Bishop, second row in the middle, cost us $50 in all. Perhaps there was a discount because I am an old codger and Rebecca is 12. The fact is that our seats were excellent and the price manageable. The young woman who answered the phone at the Arts Club Box Office was friendly, polite. I never had the impression that I was helping support a Hell’s Angel by buying tickets.
Contrast this experience with the thug-like folks at the Chan Centre. I took Rebecca to see Philip Glass last week and had to buy tickets through Ticketmaster, “I am over 65 and my granddaughter is 12. What will our tickets cost?” All tickets cost $50, take it or leave it,” is what I was told. When we got to the Chan I could at least tell myself that the outrageous price for a child (and I do believe that Rebecca was the only child in the sold out performance) included free parking. I was wrong. Now you must pay $7.00.
Early Music Vancouver is able to sell reduced tickets for minors (or they have a policy of a child is free if an adult buys a full ticket) and when the venue is the Chan you simply order the tickets(this must be well in advance) Take that you Chan/UBC thugs with your one-price-fits all!
The Pacific Baroque Orchestra (which intelligently avoids the Chan Centre) has a similar policy to Early Music Vancouver. A minor (I do believe to an under 18!) goes free if accompanied by a paying adult. And to the many concerts I take both Rebecca and Lauren (7) I rarely see other children.
It does make sense that the aging population that goes to the theatre, and which seems to be it biggest audience, it would be financially counterproductive to give seniors a deep discount. But to give children no discount at Chan performances smacks of out an out Dickensian Capitalism.
Going back to more cheery things I must state here that Rebecca thoroughly enjoyed Billy Bishop Goes to War. She has been going to theatre since she was 6 so the habit breeds understanding, interest and passion.
While I believe that many of the arts organizations are doing all they can to attract youth it is the responsibility of the media to promote the idea that children will profit from more exposure to the arts. I am sure that if Zachary Gray (with his matinee idol good looks with his slicked back hair) and Ryan Beil (who pretty well is known by all children because of the A&W commercials he does on TV) were to appear on CBC TV or radio stations, children could be reached (once their parents begin to understand) and they would throng to see how Beil and Gray assemble a biplane in under three minutes. Rebecca said of this feat, “It was the best.”
Rebecca understood the show well. I told her that the Lewis gun was an American invented machine gun that the British used on their planes. Rebecca immediately asked me what gun the Germans used. I did not know at the time. It is only now that I can explain to her that the Germans had the Spandaus LMG (light machine gun) which was really a modification of the also American Maxim gun. Rebecca understood the difference between biplanes and monoplanes. I told her about Vimy and how the British treated colonials. That was enough.
Meanwhile there is not a chance in hell that children will all show up simultaneously at a performance of Early Music Vancouver and create a problem that would in my mind be as delicious as the chocolate bars and candy that are not sold at the theatre. This is one suggestion (and perhaps, too, packages of lemon flavoured Fisherman’s Friends) I throw at the folks of Vancouver theatre companies. We former Argentines would never think of going to the theatre without chocolate in our pockets! The coat check gals at the Queen Elizabeth have always known this. They sell chocolate.
The photograph above features Eric Peterson who was in the original cast of Billy Bishop Goes to War. I took the picture in 1982.