SummerWorks festival—home of last year’s “terrorist-glorifying” play—loses federal funding

SummerWorks festival—home of last year’s “terrorist-glorifying” play—loses federal funding

Lwam Ghebrehariat in Homegrown. (Image: SummerWorks) 

SummerWorks, the annual summertime independent theatre festival, announced yesterday on its blog that it has lost its federal funding for this year’s edition. With just 38 days until the festival begins, Heritage Canada has withdrawn its monetary support, representing a loss of about 20 per cent of the festival’s budget. In an attempt to make up the difference in a short period of time, festival artistic producer Michael Rubenfeld urged supporters online to donate $21 to help SummerWorks celebrate its 21st season of collaborative art. This all follows the controversy last year over Catherine Frid’s play Homegrown, about the life of Shareef Abdelhaleem, one of the so-called “Toronto 18.”

Last year, the Prime Minister’s Office condemned Homegrown as “[glorifying] terrorism,” while PMO spokesperson Andrew MacDougall told the Globe and Mail, “Had [the Toronto 18] succeeded, there would have been literally thousands of people dead. Let’s not forget, they wanted to behead the prime minister, too.” This, of course, entirely missed the point of the play, which was not about glorifying terrorism but in fact about one lawyer’s obsession with the case. This year, the organizers saw fit to include You Should Have Stayed Home, a play by Tommy Taylor, Michael Wheeler and Julian DeZotti about Taylor’s 24-hour detainment and arrest without charge at the G20 this past summer. We wonder what kind of ire that might have drawn from above.

Whatever the reason (and to be clear, Rubenfeld has not speculated on any connection with Homegrown), SummerWorks is out approximately $48,000. The festival has raised ticket prices from $10 to $15 to make up for this loss and cancelled some of its outdoor presentations. Despite this setback, festival organizers remain optimistic. Toronto theatre director and SummerWorks board member Ruth Madoc-Jones told the Globe that the problem wasn’t so much the loss of funding, but the short notice. Still, she said, the response from the Canadian artistic community has been incredible: “We’ve had a really strong response so far. We need to continue.”

Ottawa halts SummerWorks funding [The Canadian Press]
SummerWorks theatre festival will not receive federal funding this year [National Post]
Ottawa cancels funding for Toronto theatre festival that presented terrorist place [Globe and Mail]