Acceptance Speech by David S. Craig on the occasion of his being awarded the Barbara Hamilton Award for Excellence in the Performing Arts at the TAPA Dora Mavor Moore Press Launch, June 2nd, 2014.
Thank you so much. When I first starting coming to these events as a young man I would find myself on my feet, clapping and wondering, “Who is that guy?” Now I am “that guy”.
I want to thank the jury, Martha Burns, Eric Peterson and Jim Roe, for choosing me for this prestigious award and to my friend and colleague Natalie Ackers, Managing Director of Roseneath Theatre, for nominating me. As Shakespeare would say, “you do me too much honour”. But it is not an honour just for me. This is the first time the Barbara Hamilton Award has been given to someone who has made a career with a principal focus on theatre for young audiences, and so I share this award with all my colleagues in Toronto and across Canada. Of those, I particularly want to name Patterson Fardell who has devoted so much of her working life bringing children to theatre and theatre to children and to NOW theatre reviewer Jon Kaplan who has consistently seen our work when he didn’t have to and was our champion when no one else was.
I want to thank my son Andrew and daughter Lorna who are here today. My sister Susan who has been a steady support literally from the day I was born and to my beloved wife Robin who is rehearsing in Charlottetown. We have shared a love of theatre and an understanding that we were going to be theatre artists whatever sacrifices that might entail.
Creating theatre for young people has huge challenges and joys. The biggest challenge is to create a dramatic literature that reflects all the complexity and nuance of contemporary life in a way that can be understood by a child of six. It has to be simple but not simplistic; A pure colour for the child that provokes a catalyst of colours for adults.
The biggest joy is the children themselves. They are the best audience. Young people feel emotions with huge intensity. They will eat fast food if that’s all they are given, but they are hungry, starving even, for theatrical feasts.
I wanted to create that kind of theatre and then I wanted thousands to see it. At its peak, Roseneath Theatre reached an annual audience of 120,000 young people in every school district in Ontario. That was the largest audience of any theatre in Toronto (that no one knew existed) and it is worth celebrating today because it means we could reach every child in Ontario. Denmark makes it compulsory. But we have work to do. Ontario has four dedicated, professional children’s theatres. Quebec has twenty-seven. We have the Fringe Festival, the Summerworks Festival, the Luminato Festival but we have lost the Harbourfront Children’s Festival.
People say, often very soberly, ‘children are the audience of the future’. My colleagues and I laugh because of course where else do audiences come from? I have personally never been interested in creating future audiences but I do now. I love this hungry, passionate, rowdy, reckless audience of now. Let’s get ‘em hooked. Now.