So many words, so little to say…

Posted in Uncategorized on June 13, 2011 by rubyslipperstheatre

Here’s Ida Chong’s response (two months later)….

Mon, Jun 13, 2011 at 1:39 PM

Dear Ms. Peake:

Thank you for your email of April 11, 2011, regarding funding for the arts in British Columbia, and community gaming grants.

Firstly, allow me to apologize that we were not able to speak directly when you called.  My staff take every effort to schedule appointments and calls at convenient times throughout the day and may have seen that with many of the time slots taken already, thought it would be easier to receive a response via email.

Regarding your first suggestion of addressing eligibility requirements for the Community Gaming Grant (CGG) program, as you may be aware, Honourable Christy Clark, Premier, recently announced that in the coming months a prominent individual, who is independent of government, will be appointed to head a review of the CGG program to examine the role of government in gaming, with input from charities, community members, industry representatives and local government.  Once the review is announced, I encourage non-profit organizations and other informed citizens to participate in the consultation process by taking their suggested recommendations and options forward.

With respect to the issue of per capita funding for the arts, I am aware of the comparisons and have asked staff with the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to review the data and provide me with more details.  While it is sometimes difficult to compare one province to another, given the variables involved, what is clear is that the Province of British Columbia (Province) recognizes the critically important role that arts and culture play in the lives of families and communities across British Columbia.  The Province has provided unprecedented support to the arts and culture community, totalling more than $500 million since 2001.


Thank you again for writing to share your concerns, as your opinions do matter.  If you wish to meet with me in person, please call back and we can find a mutually convenient time.


“Original Signed By”

Ida Chong, FCGA

Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development



5 minute challenge…WEEK FIVE

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2011 by rubyslipperstheatre

Last week’s challenge was to be creative: to send something in the mail to your MLA that symbolizes what the arts cuts feel like to you. Here are some of the projects:

Ella Simon wrote in her note (at left) the following message, and enclosed with the sliced-in-half Bard on the Beach program (at right):

I am an artist living in your riding and I am still very upset about the cuts to the arts.  As a young artist still trying to establish myself in the community, these cuts have cut my opportunities in half.  This is what cutting the arts in half looks like.

And a response! “Margaret MacDiarmid, my MLA called and thanked me for sending the letter & talked to me about the new independent review regarding grants.  She didn’t have anything really amazing to say about funding.  I did press her a bit and let her know that it was definitely an issue that I am strongly considering in the upcoming election.”

Lindsay Drummond cut the centre out of a Vancouver postcard (left) and sent it to her MLA saying:

Slashing Arts funding is like cutting the heart out of Vancouver.

From a community member directly affected by the Provincial
arts cuts.

~Lindsay Drummond, TigerMilk Collective Society

And I decided to take things to a personal level and cut in half the card my mum sent me for Valentines’ Day (at right) sending along a sticky note saying:

This is what it looks like to only have half the resources you need to make your voice heard.  Please work to restore arts funding in BC.

I didn’t get a response, but the MLA in question did find me and start following me on Twitter….

Hopefully these provide our representatives with a tangible expression of how some of us are feeling and the conditions under which we now work and create.

THE CONTINUING CHALLENGE:  Now is the time to speak your mind.  While our representatives have elections on the brain, now is the time our voice as constituents can be heard the loudest.  I spoke to Jane Heyman and her advice was simple: “the first thing that comes to mind – and something I’m actually doing – is writing to all the NDP leadership candidates to inquire about their arts policies and urge them to make Arts Policy more prominent in the party platform.”  Which is a great idea – I would recommend writing to all the parties.

An even more basic idea is this: every time you receive a politician’s phone call, see someone out campaigning, or receive an electoral email, I challenge each of you to take the time to answer the phone, stop and chat, or email back and simply ask: “what is your stand on arts funding?”

Simply by asking the question we make the issue relevant, and by making it relevant, we will eventually be heard.

Thanks for taking the time to be part of the solution.  Don’t quit now!

compiled by Rachel Peake

5 minute challenge…WEEK FOUR!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 12, 2011 by rubyslipperstheatre

I’ll admit it – I’m getting a bit more fierce in these challenges as time goes on and the federal election looms.  Last week’s challenge sounded simple but turned out to be a tricky one….to call the Minister of Community Sport and Cultural Development, Ida Chong, and issue a specific, one-sentence goal that you would like her office to work toward.  There was some reluctance in people I suggested this challenge to, due in part to a lack of faith in the Minister herself: “she’s an idiot, it’s clear from her long history of saying whatever it takes to stay in cabinet.”  “My impression is that she is not a curious person.”  She has no background in culture and, “I do not go my dentist and ask him to do my taxes!

So I was on my own.  Unfortunately, the Minister is a difficult person to reach.  My first attempts to phone her resulted in her office bouncing my inquiry over to the BC Arts Council, who were wonderful and called me back very quickly.  However, that was not who I wanted to talk to so I tried again.  This time I didn’t say I was involved in the arts in any way but simply that I as a constituent who considers cultural development extremely important would like to speak to the Minister.  I wasn’t allowed to talk to her but they did take my contact information and say someone would get back to me.  I’m still waiting…

Andrew Templeton put it well when he said, “Alas, this is an old problem in the English-speaking world. The “culture” portfolio is amongst the least desirable for ministers to have. Status is based on the size of the budget for each portfolio and arts (which often linked to sports – under the general category of “hobbies”) is usually tiny. In France, the cultural minister is a big deal. We need to have a profound shift in the status of culture and the role of government in promoting culture.” Making it difficult to attract the best people to this uphill struggle.

My goal statement to the Minister was going to be: 1.Please fight to set a specific deadline to address re-defining the eligibility for Gaming funding, and 2.Please fight to raise the per capita arts funding to be on par with the national average.

Sounds simple enough, right?  I’ll keep you posted if I ever have the chance to tell Ms Chong…

CHALLENGE WEEK FOUR: This week, we’re going old-school and asking you to drop something in the mail.  Use your creativity to send something that symbolizes what the arts cuts feel like to you, and then send it off to your MLA’s office (to find him or her click here).  Give them a card or a piece of art to hang on their wall to remind them what it feels like to work with less than half of what you need.

We’d love to see what you send!  Post a photo of it here before it hits the mail!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words…..


compiled by Rachel Peake

5 minute challenge… WEEK THREE!!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 5, 2011 by rubyslipperstheatre

Are we gaining momentum?  Are you feeling the looming election?  Last week’s challenge was to call up your MP or MLA and invite him or her to attend an upcoming show, or even to speak at it.  The idea is to promote dialogue between political figures and our audiences in order to connect politicians with constituents who really care about theatre.  To bring representatives in to see what we do and the people – the voters – who benefit from it.  It makes me hopeful if both sides can put a face to this movement.

The first question everyone came to in this challenge was: how do I decide which MLA/MP to invite? Do I invite the person from where I live?  Where my company’s office is?  Where the show is taking place?  I say invite them all, but I decided to start with option three and invited representatives from the area where my event was taking place: Solo Collective’s Solo Flights Showcase at the Playhouse Production Centre.  I called the offices, thinking that might get more of a response than an e-vite, but was then asked to follow up with an email.  I haven’t heard back from MP Hedy Fry yet, but MLA Mary McNeil’s office tried really hard to make it work in conjunction with another event, sending several emails back and forth before they eventually had to pass, “Thanks again for the invitation, I am truly sorry that she is unable to attend.

Dave Deveau invited his reps to his upcoming show, Zee Zee Theatre’s My Funny Valentine, and reports: “Hedy Fry has confirmed and will be speaking.”  Excellent!  David C Jones invited some provincial politicians to judge the new OUTtv series Tops and Bottoms – I can’t wait to see that one!  Michael Scholar Jr “invited them via email to come to [Macbeth: nach Shakespeare] opening night or night thereafter.  Just to see the show. Not to speak. So far I’ve gotten auto responders from them, but nothing specific.”  It sounds like the best way to get politicians out is to offer them a chance to address your captive audience.  Understandable I suppose.

Now that the dialogue has begun, on to the continuing story…

CHALLENGE WEEK THREE: Most of you know that a few weeks ago, new Premier Christy Clark replaced a number of Ministers directly affecting arts organizations.  The Minister of Community Sport and Cultural Development, the closest thing British Columbia has to a Minister of Culture, appears to be a challenging position to hold.  The previous Minister, Stephanie Cadieux, had expressed “discomfort” with talking about British Columbia’s arts spending on a per capita basis (for the per capita provincial comparisons go here), particularly when BC’s arts spending was shown to be less than a third of the national provincial average!  The new Minister, Ida Chong, did not begin well either.  Her first interview in the Georgia Straight delved into the future of BC Gaming Funding (if you missed it, check it out here), and she had very few answers for us.

This week’s challenge is to call the Minister of Community Sport and Cultural Development, Ida Chong, and issue a specific, one-sentence goal that you, as a voter and a resident of British Columbia, would like her office to work toward.  Simply: “Welcome to your new office.  In your new position, I would ask you to target…” and then spell it out for her!  Make it impossible for the minister or her office to misunderstand exactly what the expectations are. You can reach her at 250 387-2283 or via Inquiry BC at 1-800-663-7867.

Then let us know how it went by commenting here below…..

Dive on in – it’ll only take five minutes.  And it might just make a difference!


compiled by Rachel Peake


5 minute challenge…WEEK TWO!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 28, 2011 by rubyslipperstheatre

Last week’s challenge was to call the Finance Minister (and Deputy Premier) Kevin Falcon and thank him for arts funding you have received in the past from the Province.  I must admit, the idea of picking up the phone to call a politician terrified me, but it actually turned out to be quite thrilling. And it felt like it had more impact than simply sending an email out into the ether.

When I sent last week’s e-newsletter I received diverse responses to this challenge.  One person responded, “with all the cuts, I don’t really feel like saying thank you.” Understandable.  Another take on it was, “It’s nice to be reminded to call someone and say something nice sometimes.”

I must admit that no one I spoke to was able to actually get through to speak to Minister Falcon.  When I called, his administrative coordinator Keira Warren answered the phone and we had a lengthy conversation while she tried to determine who to pass me off to.  Finally I told her exactly why I was calling – to say thank you – and she was stunned.  I don’t think they get a lot of calls like that.  Though I still couldn’t actually speak to anyone, she seemed really happy to hear from me and asked me to put my feelings into an email and she would ensure the Minister saw it (the full text is below).  So if you’d like to get a message through to Minister Falcon, feel free to email Keira at

I asked a couple of friends in the theatre community to take part in this challenge along with me and then let me know how it went.  My friend Jeff didn’t actually get to talk to anyone in person, but left a message saying, “I’m calling on behalf of the arts community in BC and Vancouver to say thank you for grants that have allowed me to have this awesome career for 10 years!… . I look forward to many more years of great theatre in BC, and ongoing support from the BC government.” However, as Jeff noted, “Would’ve been more fun if I could have talked to him in person.” So true.

My friend Marco called and spoke to Keira as well (I wonder if she was wondering what was going on at this point…). He reported, “It was a brief pleasant exchange. I said that I had been hired as a result of a grant and just wanted to take a moment to let them know how much funding for the arts is appreciated…It was kind of exhilarating, felt like I was a kid again.”

Advocacy can be fun as well!

CHALLENGE WEEK TWO: On to this week’s challenge!  This came as a suggestion from PACT, and we think it’s a great one.   Take five minutes right now to call up your MP or MLA and invite them to an upcoming show.  You could even consider asking them to say a few words at it.  Let’s give them an opportunity to see and participate in the arts first-hand to see what their constituents (both artists and our audiences)  are taking part in.

To find contact information for your MP click here.

To find contact info for your MLA click here.

Then post a comment below and tell us how it went!  I’ll report back in next week’s edition….


compiled by Rachel Peake


Dear Minister Falcon,

I called you office today in the hope of speaking with you personally but was told you only take formal meeting requests and that you were really busy these days so it would be best to write, not call.  I wanted to take a moment to thank you, or to thank your office, for a grant I received from the BC Arts Council.  Thanks to the government’s support of the BC Arts Council, a jury of my peers awarded my company a grant that enabled us to create and produce two new plays.  It helped to provide work for 18 people over a four-week period, as well as a great deal of other periphery employment for people running the theatre space, providing transportation, food, and other amenities for the audience before and after the show, and the grant helped us to provide entertainment for the Vancouver public for 11 days.

As both the co-Artistic Director of a company and a freelance artist, this is not the only BC Arts Council grant I benefited from this year.  So thank you for those opportunities and for that employment as well.

As you enter your new position I wanted to let you know that the artists of British Columbia are grateful for the BC Arts Council.  However, as I am sure you know, the money they have to work with is not enough.  I simply wanted to make it clear to you, by sending this honest thanks, that the grant they distribute are appreciated, and are put to very good use.

I could take time to mention the valuable projects that did not happen because that funding was cut from previous levels, or to mention the people who went without work, left the province to work elsewhere, or turned their back on making art in order to earn a living, because the funding was cut.  But you know those things.  What I want to say today is that the funding the government provides the BC Arts Council is well managed, fairly distributed, and makes a big difference to people living in British Columbia, and the quality of life here.  We look forward to seeing it grow.

Thank you.

Rachel Peake

The 5 minute challenge….WEEK ONE!!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 21, 2011 by rubyslipperstheatre

Do you have five minutes?

As we approach the two-year anniversary of the start of the darkest days in arts funding in British Columbia, we could all use a little good news.  Hopes were high that British Columbia’s most recent budget would provide that positivity but it did not.  BC will be spending $6.50 per person annually on the arts (the lowest in Canada) while national provincial average sits at $26. In fact, the next-to-lowest spending province, Alberta, still spends $20.91 per person on the arts, more than THREE TIMES what BC does.

Ruby Slippers Theatre has therefore decided to use this forum, its annual The Flying Monkey e-newsmagazine, to create a five-minute challenge every week for the next four weeks.  Just twenty minutes to have impact.

We started by talking to Spencer Chandra Herbert, West End MLA and Official Opposition Critic for Arts, Culture and Tourism. We asked him what he saw as successes in the arts community’s fight in response to these drastic arts cuts:

The arts in British Columbia have become front-page news.  Before this, arts issues were relegated to the back of the paper, in the entertainment section, or not featured at all.  Now, people from all sectors of the community are talking about the value of the arts  and the role they play in life in British Columbia.   For the first time in a long time, political leaders are being actively pressed on the issue of arts funding; government is being pushed to “invest in creativity.”

Thanks Spencer!  If that’s where our success lies, then we can’t quit now!  Over the next four weeks we will challenge you each week to make your opinion heard by the people in power and let them know we are not done fighting.  We will do the challenges with you (along with some friends who are helping out) and will report back as to how each activity was received.  As Spencer points out, we need to focus on priorities:

If a government representative argues “do you want us to cut health care or cut funding to the arts?” one could respond that this is a matter of priorities.  They could equally ask, “do you want to cut taxes to banks or cut funding to the arts?”

CHALLENGE WEEK ONE: Take five minutes right now to pick up the phone and call the Minister of Finance, Kevin Falcon, and thank him for a recent provincial grant you received.  It can be one you applied for personally, or one that was received for a project you worked on. Feel free to be creative in how you express your thanks: originality stands out!

You can reach the Minister at 250 387-3751 or call Inquiry BC at 1-800-663-7867 and ask to be connected to his office.

And let us know how it goes with comments here!

Now, on to action!


compiled by Rachel Peake

An Intimate Portrait of Canada’s Most Famous PM: Trudeau Stories

Posted in Trudeau Stories on October 20, 2010 by Rebecca Coleman

Presentation House Theatre and Ruby Slippers Theatre are pleased to present Trudeau Stories. This charming one-woman show is written by and stars Toronto actor Brooke Johnson, and chronicles her 15-year friendship with Canada’s most beloved Prime Minister. Trudeau Stories runs November 9-13 at Presentation House Theatre.

In 1985, while an acting student at the National Theatre School in Montreal, Brooke Johnson met Pierre Elliott Trudeau at a fundraiser. She was 23. He had recently retired from office. Through reminiscences, journal entries and correspondence, Brooke brings to life the story of a remarkable friendship. At once vital and charming; poignant and very funny, Trudeau Stories is about friendship and loss, and about searching for the identity of a country in a man who remains an enigma.

Johnson’s play…leav[es] us wanting more – as fine theatre should. –Bruce Demara, The Toronto Star

…this is a winner… Trudeau Stories … is a portrait of a shared friendship, built on a love of the outdoors, of poetry, of theatre and of life itself. …Johnson [is] a personable, passionate performer… –John Coulbourn, Toronto Sun

Trudeau Stories opens Tuesday, November 9 at 8 pm. It then runs nightly through until November 13. There will be one pay-what-you-can matinee on Saturday, November 13 at 4 pm. Tickets are $24-28 and are available by phoning 604.990.3474, or by visiting All performances take place at Presentation House Theatre, 333 Chesterfield St, 4 blocks from the Sea Bus Terminal in North Vancouver.

What Are We Missing?! – Part 6

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2010 by rubyslipperstheatre

Are you excited to experience life in Vancouver in a completely new way through Leave of Absence?  Are you looking forward to taking your niece to see Tough and open up an important conversation?  Do you want to know what adventure Radix Theatre is dreaming up next?

The British Columbia government has robbed you of this.  All of this has been taken from all of us, the audience.  These are the things the government is stopping you from having by cutting arts investments and by withdrawing the commitment of Gaming funds for Arts and Culture.

This is what you are missing.


Join the movement in any number of ways.  Have your say by commenting on any of the above links – we’ll make sure the government hears what you tell us.  Or visit to find out how to get involved.

The fight isn’t over.

Now you know what you are fighting for.

Assembled by Rachel Peake.

What Are We Missing?! – Part 5

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2010 by rubyslipperstheatre

Future Development:

Brenda Leadlay, PH Theatre

Presentation House in North Vancouver offers free staged readings to the public four times annually.  These readings are by professional actors and are plays in consideration for production as part of the Third Street Theatre Series.  As well as being a free night of entertainment, these readings allow the public to have a say in which plays they want to see – which plays should be brought through to full production.


What Are We Missing?! – Part 4

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2010 by rubyslipperstheatre


Solo Flights Showcase

Solo Collective Theatre has been offering its Emerging Playwrights Competition for six years with steady growth in the number of participants in every year.  The only program of its kind in British Columbia, the Emerging Playwrights’ Competition allows any writer, regardless of past experience, to submit a monologue for consideration and receive written feedback from two professional judges/dramaturges.  Five pieces are then selected for further development and public showcase as part of Solo Flights.   Two of Solo Collective’s productions have come from past Emerging Playwrights winners.