Western Edge Theatre in Nanaimo, B.C., will present a public reading of the play Homegrown in July in support of SummerWorks, and to protest Ottawa's decision to withdraw funding for the Toronto festival. Artistic producer Frank Moher says the withdrawal of funding was clearly politically-driven, following SummerWorks' presentation last year of Homegrown.
The controversial play, which premiered at SummerWorks last year, explores the relationship between playwright (and lawyer) Catherine Frid and one of the convicted members of the so-called Toronto 18 terrorist plot.
Before it opened, the play was criticized by a PMO spokesperson who suggested that it glorified terrorism, and said he was disappointed that public funds had gone to support it.
The letter from Heritage Canada rejecting SummerWork's grant application did not mention Homegrown, but Moher says he has no doubt there's a connection.
"This is an act of censorship and intimidation on the part of the Conservative government, intended to send a chilling message to Canadian artists: don't present material we don't like, or you, too, will be punished," Moher wrote in statement released Thursday. "It's not in keeping with Canadian traditions or values, and has to be challenged."
The public reading - which Moher says he hopes will be one of many across the country - will take place July 15 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is by donation with all proceeds going to SummerWorks. The festival has launched a fundraising drive in light of its loss of funding - which, at about $48,000, represents 20 per cent of its budget.