David Fennario Benefit report

Hello, Electronic Rights Supporters!

On the Monday before last, September Ninth, the Centaur Theatre in Montreal held a benefit for David Fennario, playwright and freelancer, and class representative for the ERDC’s lawsuit against Southam et al., struck with Guillan-Barré syndrome (Chronic Inflammatory Demyelating Polyneuropathy). He’s recovering slowly, but in the meantime, here’s a writeup of the event: This is a short, personal, and informal report on the David Fennario Benefit at the Centaur Theatre last night, Monday, September Ninth, 2002.

It’s good that a benefit sells out, but too bad that not everyone who came could get in. Seating was limited by the size of the main Centaur theatre space, with no standing allowed. A long lineup was turned away, selling out just as I got to the ticket window. I bought ERDC Chair Stuart Robertson’s ticket from him, and took in the performance along with the infinitely charming Me. Mireille Goulet, our lawyer in the Electronic Rights lawsuit against Southam et al.

There were video excerpts, scenes from plays, and speeches. Bits of old CBC documentaries gave us a look at a Fennario with longer hair. Centaur’s former artistic director Maurice Podbrey gave a video letter from a very cozy-looking and paradisical part of South Africa. Over the evening, I enjoyed the section from “Balconville” most, performed by Jean Archambault, Yolande Circe, Jean-Guy Bouchard and Brent Watson, introduced by the director of the original production, Guy Sprung. Sprung was right in saying that one of the Centaur’s four sandstone pillars belonged to Fennario, as that bourgeois theatre had supported that working-class playwright (and vice-versa) from nearly the beginning. But this selection, like most of the other snippets from Fennario’s work, was way too short. I would have enjoyed a staged reading of the complete play, or one of the other works, perhaps in a larger, more informal space. It’s still possible.

Effective too was a reading from Fennario’s most recent play, “Perimeters,” about the Quebec Summit protest. This was acted by Anne Fuerstenberg, Laura Teasdale, and Diana Fajrajsl, and was even more compelling to me, thinking about the tear gas that had been let off that very day in downtown Montreal around Concordia University. Other actors and playwrights gave testimonials, such Michael Rudder, Vittorio Rossi, Diane English, and James Kidnie. To me it all seemed a little funereal, too much like a memorial service rather than a celebration. Especially considering that the object of the testimonial, David, was present for the whole performance. Tired, but looking better than how Mireille had described him earlier in the year, he gave a moving “thank you” from his wheelchair when it was finished, noting that “he was in better shape than the Pope.”

Bowser and Blue rounded out the evening with their style of political humour, which hit it off well with the crowd. I would have thought that an ensemble like Norman Nawrocki and Dem Stink would have been more up Fennario’s alley politically speaking, but might not have had the drawing power among the Centaur audience.

After David’s words when the performance had ended, the audience retired to the lobby bar for some politically-correct “Blue” beers. The bar proceeds, along with ticket sales and donations all went directly to David and his family. Contributions can still be made. Make them payable to the Centaur Theatre company, but mark them clearly for David Fennario. They’ll issue a tax receipt.

The address is: Centaur Theatre Company
433 St-François-Xavier
Montreal, Qc. H2Y 2T1
Jack Ruttan,
ERDC Secretary.

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