Monday, August 25, 2008

A serendipitous encounter with Laureen Harper in Cow Head, Nfld., from Monday's Globe and Mail

From Monday's Globe and Mail

August 25, 2008 at 3:48 AM EDT
TORONTO and HALIFAX — A serendipitous encounter with Laureen Harper in Cow Head, Nfld., this month gave one tiny theatre company the chance to lobby against Ottawa's recent cuts to arts funding.
The opportunity to tout the benefits of the soon-to-vanish PromArt grant program for travelling artists was not lost on Theatre Newfoundland Labrador when it learned Aug. 13 that it had a Sussex Drive guest in the audience.

The troupe was staging Tempting Providence - a play about renowned Newfoundlander nurse Myra Bennett, which has toured internationally for years.

Only after the performance at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival did house manager Ruth Payne tell the actors that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's wife had been in the audience and wanted to meet them.

As an avid theatregoer, Mrs. Harper was thoroughly impressed with the play and said she could well imagine why it had toured so successfully.
Mrs. Harper and a female friend were in the lobby of the national park's theatre, there was no security around and one actor knew she had to seize the opportunity to mention the recent cuts to arts funding.

"I just felt it was my responsibility," said Deidre Gillard-Rowlings, who has performed the lead in the play for five years, including on trips to Scotland and Tasmania that couldn't have happened without a pair of PromArt grants in 2004 and 2005.

"I just sort of touched her on the arm and said, 'Your lovely husband has cut all this money.' She said, 'Yes, I have very little to do with that.' And I said, 'Yes, but I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't say anything.' "

The actor said that Mrs. Harper was very gracious about the exchange.
"She wasn't taken aback by it, she wasn't offended because it wasn't done in an offensive way," Ms. Gillard- Rowlings said by telephone from Cow Head. "Whether or not she can actually do anything, I don't know."
Theatre Newfoundland general manager Gaylene Buckle said the positive effects of the grants were exponential.

Read the rest of this article here.