PuSh Blog

Celebrate World Theatre Day, Vancouver!

March 27, 2014

Each year on March 27, the artistic community around the globe celebrates in their own way World Theatre Day. Established in 1961 and each year since, a figure outstanding in theatre or a person outstanding in heart and spirit from another field, is invited to share his or her reflections on theatre and international harmony. This year, the message is authored by South African playwright Brett Bailey.

Our very own Norman Armour is the author of the Vancouver World Theatre Day message, which will be delivered today at Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance’s Making a Scene conference.

Read Norman’s message below, which includes a remembrance of an important theatre artist, Adrian Howells, who contributed to the PuSh Festival on several occasions.

A day to remember. A day to remember theatre. A day to remember theatre and its artists. A day to remember that theatre against all odds, against all pronouncements and all predictions is far from dead.

But take nothing for granted. And take no one for granted, least of all our beloved colleagues.

On Monday, March 17, England-born and Glasgow-based theatre artist Adrian Howells chose to take his life. As countless people in theatre communities throughout the globe struggle with finding the words to describe their loss, none are at a loss to describe dear Adrian and his theatre practice. His one-on-one performances are the stuff of legend, and now the stuff of elegy—Foot Washing for the Sole widely considered his masterpiece.

Words often (and lately) used to describe Adrian Howells: witty, beautiful, vibrant, honest, vulnerable, unstintingly, warmth, gentleness, vision, care, love, regret, beauty, profound, emotional intelligence, warmth, courageous, honesty, quiet, kindness, good humour, tremendous intimacy, profound, wonderful, loving, joyous, desperately sad, sensual, caring, innate generosity, openness, ground-breaking, his inspiration, his voice, his touch: “a gorgeous, kindly, sharp-witted and hugely empathetic creature.”

Read the obituaries. Search the World Wide Web. Take in the Facebook postings on Adrian’s personal page: Tender accounts of friendship, collegiality, and of unfathomable, tender loss. Testaments to the unsettling power of his work. Pictures… caught in mid-smile, mid-laugh or mid-embrace, though “mid-hug” would be more correct. Impish poses for the camera, half costumed.

An evening of theatre with Adrian was of the most dangerous type. His practice mapped out a staunchly secular territory that was at once deeply spiritual, humanistic and breathtakingly personal. Like the late American theatre artist Joseph Chaikin, he searched below the surface of a contemporary world to find the hidden truth and beauty of the impulses and desires that lay under our seemingly voyeuristic tendencies, the outright mawkish clichés, and the garish tropes resplendent in popular culture—and, above all, he embraced our penchant for all things confessional. Adrian ever so slyly caught and then teased us out from behind our everyday masks, and then turned to graciously and ceremoniously hand back our very sense of self, beauty, grace and dignity.

Sui generis. He was of himself, and himself alone. The work was courageous, boundary crossing, arresting and grief inducing. It was the type of artistic practice that lived as fully in what it proposed, as it did in the actual performance or event. As someone recently wrote, “He was the embodiment of art’s promise.” To my dying day, I will hold him and his work dear to my heart and to my imagination.

Today on this World Theatre Day, Thursday, March 27, 2014, take a moment to remember a theatre artist who inspires you, whose work tells you something about you and your world—something that you suspected deep down, but perhaps could not find the words for, even feared finding the theatrical expression for. Feared…. because of what it would entail, what risks it might force, and what resolve and determination it would take to confront, to contemplate, and to find a worthy theatrical form for. For some, it might well be South African Brett Bailey, this year’s author of the Message of World Theatre Day, and a truly remarkable artist in his own right. For myself… it is Adrian Howells.

Remember this chosen artist for a moment. And if you are fortunate enough to have them still here in this world with you, be sure to not take them for granted. Do not assume their continued existence.

On World Theatre Day, speak to them, and of them.

Remember to tell she/he whose belief in the enduring act of theatre is unwavering that their faith has not gone unnoticed. Tell she/he whose work challenges and thrills you to no end that their artistry has not gone unappreciated. Tell she/he whose beatific smile still crowns the splendid act of failure and failing, that their continued defiance will not go unmarked.

Above all, speak to them of your love.

Norman Armour, Artistic & Executive Director
PuSh International Performing Arts Festival