“Your request for tickets has been denied.”
One of the few phrases I would much rather hear in a form letter. I arrived in Calgary over the weekend, and I had a brief meeting with the High Performance Rodeo publicist to discuss my coverage of the festival. I had requested tickets for five performances that I thought would give me a broad understanding of this 24-year-old international festival that I was attending for the first time.
My interest was two-fold: covering the festival for my Ottawa readers, many of whom have told me that they have never been to this festival, and I don’t believe there has been much Ottawa coverage of the event over the past decade; and doing research for my thesis project on festivals.
At this meeting I was told that there had been numerous requests from bloggers (totaling in over 100) and that since I was not writing for a notable publication (such as The National Post) it was difficult for them to rationalize giving me complimentary tickets to the shows.
I understand. I really do. When you have to pick and choose, you’re going to pick and choose those with the best reputation, the biggest names, and the highest readership. And this is not a complete tragedy in my case: I have the financial means to pay my own way and enjoy the festival, regardless. Though it would have been nice to have planned for this situation before arriving in the city.
I wonder, though: what is the value of bloggers? I would not presume to say that bloggers are more valuable than mainstream journalists — nothing beats a nice large photo on the front cover of a national newspaper — but does our guerrilla press contribute its own something to the arts scene? I would argue that while newspapers are a great forum for basic coverage, blog sites are an opportunity to start discussion with fellow enthusiasts, to encourage patrons to have a say in what they think. If I post a review of One Yellow Rabbit’s Kawasaki Exit, for example, there will not only be my review, but also, potentially, the reviews of dozens of others who saw the same show. At least, that’s what I hope will happen.
The blogging community is expanding. And I do believe that what happens on the fringe influences what happens in the middle. Just like the avant-garde influences the mainstream. Just as festival programming can influence what regional theatres choose to program in their subscription seasons.
A few more notes:
– On my first night in Calgary, I attended a getting-to-know-you party hosted by local mover-and-shaker Mark Hopkins, who works for the High Performance Rodeo. We all wore name tags and chatted with people from all walks of life. It was a wonderful introduction to Calgary social life; and Mark was sweet enough to give me a book on the history of One Yellow Rabbit for my research.
– I walk everywhere and really enjoy it. In Edmonton, I walked half an hour to get to Catalyst Theatre each morning. My backpack was heavy, and occasionally the wind was cold: but it was such a peaceful part of my day. I’ve been walking around downtown Calgary, too: lots of tall buildings! I’m not sure why that surprised me.
– Yesterday, as I was walking through the city, the first person who spoke to me was this guy who worked in a corner store. I bought some orange juice, and he asked me why I was so happy. Then we had a ten minute chat.
– In addition to seeing shows at the High Performance Rodeo, I’m going to be attending rehearsals with the Old Trout Puppet Workshop, as they work on their next installment on Don Juan. I’m looking forward to it!
– People in Calgary really embrace their redneck reputation, albeit mostly ironically.
– My allergies to dogs may be diminishing: I stayed in a house with a dog in Edmonton, and survived; here, in Calgary, I’ve been associating with a very friendly puppy who licks my hand obsessively. This is probably the best news ever.
– Finally: this afternoon I’m going to see the dress rehearsal for Kawasaki Exit, and then possibly another show this evening. I’ll let you know how it goes!