New Year’s resolutions for 2002

I’ve written weekly columns on a variety of topics almost constantly for more than 20 years now, which means I’ve probably written at least 20 New Year’s columns devoted to the topic of resolutions–and guess what? This is one of them.

This being a column on the arts, of course, the resolutions have to relate to the arts in some way. So let’s begin with a few resolutions you might want to adopt yourself, then finish up with some resolutions the arts and entertainment world might consider for itself.

First, resolve to go to more art galleries. You’ll be astonished by the endless creativity of people. You’ll find a lot that’s beautiful, a lot that’s ugly but technically impressive, some that’s just plain ugly without any redeeming features at all, and more than a little that’s silly and pretentious–but so what? The pieces you might consign to those various categories are probably quite different from the ones I would, and that’s the point. Art has the power to provoke, inspire, alarm, annoy, outrage, move and even disgust–and more power to it. It’s a great way to broaden your inner landscape, and make you look more deeply at everything in the world around you.

Second, resolve to go to more live theatre. Movies and TV are fine forms of entertainment and I indulge in them myself, but they don’t hold a candle to the enjoyment and enlightenment provided by live theatre. The Wizard of Oz at Globe Theatre before Christmas was a case in point. It didn’t have the special effects or fantastic sets of the movie version–and yet, it was just as entertaining and effective. There’s nothing else that can compare with the excitement of watching actual living, breathing people acting, singing, dancing or otherwise performing in your presence.

And, I might–and will–add, there’s added excitement in the knowledge that the performers are from right here in Regina. Regina Little Theatre, Regina Lyric Light Opera, Regina Summer Stage, Do It With Class–all of these companies feature local performers, only a handful of whom are “professionals” in the sense of sometimes getting paid for what they do–yet the shows these companies stage are often every bit as good as those staged by the companies who bring in most of their performers. So don’t just go to more live theatre, go to more live theatre by local amateur companies. You’ll be amazed at the talent we have right here in Regina.

Third, resolve to read more books. Reading more books by Canadians in particular would be very helpful to Canadian publishers right now, many of whom are in bad shape after Chapters just about did them in over the past couple of years, but reading more books of any kind would be a Good Thing. It supports authors like me. (Reading and buying my books would be a particularly good thing to do.) It broadens your mind. And besides that, it’s fun.

Fourth, try distancing yourself a little more from the celebrity-driven side of our culture. A few years ago I began subscribing to Entertainment Weekly while I was in Saskatoon rehearsing an opera. I kept it up year after year–until last year. I don’t know exactly when, but somewhere along the line I realized I just didn’t care what Tom Cruise was up to or about the latest dispatches from the rap wars. Actors, singers, producers–they’re just people, like you or me. Sure, let’s enjoy their talents, but let’s keep it in perspective. There’s only so much information about the world you can soak up each day–why waste brain space on the inane doings of Cruise and Cruz?

Fifth, purely selfishly–and please disregard this suggestion if it doesn’t apply to you–resolve this year to keep your mouth shut when you’re at the movies, or (especially) at the theatre, or (even more especially) at the symphony. Nobody wants to hear you. They want to hear whatever it is they paid to see. You’re being a nuisance, a distraction, and a boor. You are not watching TV at home, where you’re free to blab away as much as you like, you’re sharing a public space with strangers, who do not find your running commentary on the movie, play or concert you’re attending as they do the movie, play or concert itself. And when they turn around to scowl at you, take the hint, will you? Because a chorus of “shhhhs” is even more distracting than you are.

And what, you may well ask, is my personal arts-related resolution for 2002? That’s easy–to write this column much more regularly than I managed in 2001.

Look for it next week at about this time, and you’ll know how I’m doing.

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