Posted on Jul 19, 2011

Various high profile members of the Vancouver theatre community expressed a variety of emotions today, ranging from concern to outrage to condemnation, in response to a soon to be mounted Theatre for Young Audiences version of the Dadaist classic, The Gas Heart.”This is an assault on our art form on every conceivable level”, said Will Stillard, Executive Director of Vancouver’s largest theatre company, The Art House. “You cannot mess with a classic. And turning Tzara’s masterpiece into a show for children is just wrong. It reeks of selling out.”

Suspicion regarding the direction of The Gas Heart production first surfaced with the announcement of the casting of local Theatre for Young Audiences (or TYA) favourite, Mackenzie Gordon. Gordon is best known for his performances in various TYA productions and was nominated for a Jessie Richardson Award for his work. “We should have known something was amiss when they cast Mack”, said Stillard, “I mean, he’s a good actor. But he’s TYA good. Don’t get me wrong, I like his work. I would probably never cast him in anything though. But he is good.”

Kristopherson Stare, Artistic Producer of the Shakespeare In A Park Festival, echoed Stillard’s concerns, “Theatre is meant to be sanitized and preserved. There is simply no room in the Vancouver Theatre community for reworked versions of classic plays. Especially where children are concerned.” Stare continued, “It’s time we stood together to boycott innovation and change”.

In response to the criticism, Gas Heart Artistic Director, Quinn Harris, explained the motivations for changing the production, “Basically we looked around the room and realized our entire cast looked like children. I mean Katie, Amitai, Tim…half our actors are under five feet tall. And I’m basically a midget. When life hands you lemons…” Harris’ polygamous life partner, James Foy, noted the monetary incentives as well, stating “There’s big money in TYA shows. I should know. I’ve been in the game for almost three months now”. Despite Foy’s lack of general theatre experience or knowledge, he added “the last time we did a show for adults was at Hive and some jerk-wad fuck-tard at Plank gave us a shitty review. That hurt. And you know what? I’m done hurting”. Foy’s moustache added, “I can still taste the cheeseburger from yesterday. This is awesome!”

However, Stillard and Stare aren’t the only one’s raising concerns over the Gas Heart production. Joyce Carlyle, President of the Federation of BC Teachers, says she’s advising students, teachers and parents to stay away. “The fact is most of the cast have criminal records which include convictions for sexual assault, ” warned Carlyle,  “There is a grand total of eight convictions amongst the company and many of these incidents involved children. It is completely inappropriate to target this show to students.” When asked if she was concerned about exposing young children to a cast of sex offenders, Harris simply said, “I don’t give a shit. I’m gonna put on my lensless glasses, shot-gun an 8 pack of Pabst, and listen to the new TV On The Radio album. TV On The Radio is my f***in’ jam!”

In a recent interview, when pressed about his motivations for being in the show, Gordon confessed: “Look dude. I’m getting married soon. I need to sow some wild oats, you know what I’m saying? And this will give me all kinds of access.” Co-star Amatai Marmorstein (yes, that is an actual name) interjected “Yeah, all the kids, they all think I’m their age anyway. I am so in! I’m all like ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. I’m thirteen too. I’ll be gentle’ and then they’re all like ‘I trust you’ and then after, when the deed is done, I leave a photocopy of my driver’s license under their pillow. Booyah!” When asked if leaving his ID with the victims led to his initial conviction, Marmorstein (I know, I still can’t believe it either) simply said “Whoa”.
Despite a cast full of sexual predators, an ambivalent creative team, and a host of criticism, The Gas Heart is having no problem attracting an audience. “We’ve booked huge school groups for every single performance,” says Harris, “We’re completely sold out so f*** you and don’t bother trying to get tickets”. “Seriously,” Foy added, “There’s not a single seat left and nothing will come available so just don’t even bother calling the box office or buying online. ‘Cuz you’ll just be wasting your time. Check out Chairs: A Parable instead. Especially if you want to see a show for adults that has integrity and purpose”.

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