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Game on, Mr. Schipper!

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We received our season tickets for your theatres, Steven — time we had a frank talk.

A really frank talk, the kind that Winnipeg School Division trustees only have behind closed doors.

First off, and this is not up for debate, there will be absolutely no mention from you or your theatres this winter of the two most frightening words in live theatre: no intermission.

Don’t even dream about it, and don’t try giving me that nonsense about how an intermission interrupts and affects the sensibilities and sensitivities of the artistes.

Take a look around at the demographics of your season ticket base, Steven, and ask yourself how much of your revenue and your own paycheque comes from people who start to squirm after an hour, especially when you’ve been flogging beer and wine and coffee pre-show out in the lobby. You think I’m a grumpy old man now? You don’t want to see me when I get squirmy and desperate...

Speaking of the lobby, I can barely breathe out there. This scent-free policy just isn’t working out, Steven. How can I put it politely to my fellow patrons: some of your personal grooming products smell awful, and I don’t want to choke on them from two rows away — think you could put that up on prominent signs?

Something else you can do for me, Steven. All the reminders to turn off cell phones are fine, but how about telling theatre-goers that when the house lights dim, the curtain rises, and the guy up on the roof starts to play his fiddle, this is not a signal for people in the seats to start shouting so they can continue their conversations over the rude interruptions from the stage?

And seriously, what are we supposed to do when some &^$$^ pulls out his cell phone repeatedly during a performance, we’re in the fourth row sitting next to him, and he keeps accepting and responding to messages, that bright glow lighting up the audience, and he snarls repeatedly at us, "I need to take this call."

What are we supposed to do that won’t further disrupt everything?

And while The World’s Most Important Person is on his cell, two seats to his right there’s a patron snoring like some beast from Star Wars, and no one will nudge her because she’s there alone.

Sure, come the Monday morning I phoned last year and reported their seat numbers, but neither was a season ticket subscriber, so there wasn’t much your staff could do. Just what would you have us do?

Did I mention that I still won’t leap to a standing ovation just because the cast includes an actor from a TV series last aired in 1972?

I recognize that my tastes will differ from many theatregoers. I thought Seafarer was great theatre when many other didn’t, including the life-mate who was occupying the second of our two season seats. I still kick myself for not getting up to applaud the cast of the brilliant Assassins, even if I was fated to be the only one. I’m bewildered why I was supposed to be dazzled by Our Town, and at the other end of the theatre spectrum, by Top Girls. For the latter, I’m reminded of what Jeff Rovin wrote in his book about cult movies, that just because a film is incomprehensible does not make it profound.


On the other hand, I thought last year’s productions were generally really terrific, seven or eight out of the 10 shows on the two stages really great Saturday nights out.

But, Steven, I think you owe me big time for my behaviour and control during Gone with the Wind.

I wanted so badly to jump up and yell out to the entire theatre: "You do understand that all of these people own slaves? You do understand that, don’t you?"

Or, "Am I the only one here who realizes that Scarlett O’Hara is an aristocratic monster? And that Rhett Butler is a slimy arms dealer and war profiteer, getting rich off the blood and misery of hundreds of thousands of people?"

Or, "You do recognize that your darling Ashley is a former slave owner who just created the Ku Klux Klan and now murders carpetbaggers and terrorizes just-freed slaves, you do recognize that, do you not, even though you appear to believe he’s a gallant but tragic romantic hero?"

Steven, you owe me big time for staying in my seat and keeping my mouth shut.

I’m thinking you can thank me by letting me direct a new version of Gone with the Wind, using the template of the early 70s counterculture western Doc to show Scarlett and Rhett and all the rest as the dreadful people they truly were. That’s the one in which Stacey Keach and Harris Yulin portray a despicably evil and conniving Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, portraying a thinly-disguised Nixon and Kissinger.

Yes, Steven, I agree, my version of GWTW would only sell tickets if we cast the stars from some 1981 TV sitcom in the leads.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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