A Powerless Maggie Langrick & Peter Birnie Takes His LeaveThursday, June 28, 2012
|Margaret Langrick, 15
My granddaughter Rebecca, 14, and I attended the opening performance of the Arts Club Theatre production of Xanadu directed by Dean Paul Gibson on Thursday evening. The musical (I have been told I was lucky to have never seen the film) was an entertaining romp which from our vantage point on second row gave us sound and action up very close. An added bonus came from the fact that sitting on my left was Bridget Esler who played ever so precociously Dinah’s sister in the Arts Club Theatre version of High Society directed by Bill Millerd.
I asked Esler, who was with her mother, if she was 15 or 16. I was astounded that a young girl with such presence was only 12. This presence peaked my granddaughter’s interest who then asked her about her schooling. I enquired if she played a musical instrument (remembering how Jennifer Lines had pulled that accordion from under the sofa and played it so well to my amazement in High Society). Esler plays the flute. We discussed how actors (and yes, for this oldie, actresses!) in Vancouver have to know how to act, sing, dance, move heavy furniture, roller blade, and in some cases master the musical saw as Sarah Donald did in Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad .
Talking to Esler made me realize how the arts (especially dance and theatre) make performers well rounded individuals (sound minds in sound bodies) so Bill Millerd’s usually funny pre-show talk (my Rebecca loves them) was bittersweet this time around. It seems that the Vancouver Sun’s drama critic was to leave his job on Friday and Xanadu was to be his last review (and it was a glowing one at that!). The audience clapped at the news. I looked at Esler and commented, “We should be crying.” She understood and agreed. It is perhaps logical that the 12-year old would understand, after all she is in the business and logical that my granddaughter at age 14 would not understand the terrible consequence of the Vancouver Sun’s shrinking presence in the arts. It was only a week ago that we found out that Kevin Griffin (dance and visual arts) was shifted back into a straight reporting beat and he will no longer be covering dance and the visual arts.
Some here might blame Vancouver Sun Arts Editor Margaret Langrick (of My American Cousin fame). The fact is that she is powerless as the parent company of the Vancouver Sun; Post Media is bleeding red ink and even had to sell its Toronto headquarters (around 24 million) to pay bills.
It is not an over pessimistic prediction for me to state that the Vancouver Sun might (in the heels of some American newspapers) publish fewer days of the week. Who remembers that the Vancouver Province at one time had an arts critic (Art Perry) and a theatre critic Jerry Wasserman?
For anybody (fewer these days) who might read the Vancouver Sun it would be pretty obvious that the Arts Club Theatre Company invests many advertising dollars there. Again for those who might say that the Vancouver Sun’s policy to shrink its arts coverage is the killing of the golden goose, the amount of money that it takes to produce a hard copy newspaper does not represent good business practice any more. And nobody has yet to figure out how to make money from an on-line newspaper.
More depressing still was my one hour conversation with a former reporter of the Vancouver Sun who told me that (he, she) attended a recent performance of a wonderful Russian ballet troupe that brought its own orchestra. The production was adequately previewed in the Vancouver Sun. Yet many friends of the former reporter did not know of the performance and were very sorry to have missed something that good. This made the reporter come to the realization that the former clout of our city’s premier newspaper is not there. People do not read it.
It is my belief that the only way that arts coverage can progress in the city is with an arts web presence put out by an editor and writers (all paid well). This web page would be linked and have links to all the web pages of the various arts organizations in town.
If enough buzz were to be generated by this web page, perhaps the radio stations (and especially the CBC whose arts coverage has declined since Paul Grant retired) and TV stations will get on the bandwagon.
After all if the arts can produce a precocious and multi talented Bridget Esler not to mention all those wonderful dancers that graduate from Artemis Gordon’s Arts Umbrella dance program, we must turn off our TVs and shut down our computers and enjoy the varied arts that our Vancouver has to offer.
I have a feeling that when I photographed Margaret Langrick so many years ago she too was, at age 15, as promising a young artist as Bridget Esler is now.