Independent Theatre - The Rejected
The Rejected is a term applied to artists and companies that where systematically shut out of the Toronto theatre scene during the late 1990’s. During this era, the forces of neo-liberalism and capitalism combined with the great loss of artistic and community leaders from AIDS, created a perfect storm, where artists and independent companies experienced devastation on many fronts, simultaneously. Funding was drastically reduced and re-directed to larger institutions with the understanding that it would trickle down to independent artists. But these larger institutions had to prove their viability to funders and were under pressure to program work that would appeal to more mainstream taste. They had to implement strategies, like season subscriptions, which ultimately meant that theatre would become less accessible to lower income audiences. Ultimately any risk taking in the art form was simply too costly to chance. Under pressure to prove long-term sustainability, companies were expected to develop partnerships with private corporate sponsors in order to deal with the sudden and dramatic shortfall in public funding. These ‘unholy unions’ went against what many artists of the era held dear: that art and commerce were separate spheres of human activity, and that by marrying them, art would eventually devolve into and become marketing. Together, these forces created a perfect storm that would end the era of innovation that had been the late 80's and early 90's.
This perfect storm resulted in the dismantling of small independent groups and companies, and the exodus of artists from Toronto, many of whom went on to work in other mediums, or, in many instances, left the profession altogether.
A number of The Rejected turned to Europe, which had yet to experience the devastating effects of neo-liberalism on culture, although by the next decade, they would also succumb to these forces.
The forays of The Rejected into Europe created the initial wave of small companies touring the globe, which then lead to the creation of touring circuits and heralded a new era of international cultural exchange in theatre. With the financial crisis of 2008, the capacity of European theatres to present work from abroad diminished significantly.
Returning from their forays into Europe, The Rejected brought with them new ideas and experiences, many of them helping to fuel the emergence of Live Art and New Performance.
A Lost Generation
The Rejected are a lost generation in the Theatrical medium in Canada, as they were primarily interested in alternative and new methods of theatre production, the medium lost many of it’s cutting edge voices of the time. By the next decade, signs of recovery in the independent Toronto scene would appear, although the conditions for theatre production had not improved in any significant way.