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Editorial: Vol 1.1

written by Rahul Varma in June 1998

alt.theatre is a new quarterly review published by Teesri Duniya Theatre. Its aim is to celebrate cultural and artistic diversity and highlight their role in Canadian the­atre. Through analytical, ideological and informative articles, alt.theatre seeks to place emerging theatre styles within an historical, social and cultural context. We regard this initiative as an opportunity to raise aware­ness and trigger discussion, rather than as a forum for espousing a particular viewpoint. Accordingly, alt.the­atre presents diverse viewpoints based on the assump­tion that any comprehensive appreciation of Canadian theatre requires a framework that reflects the cultural and artistic diversity of the country.

Over the years, Canada’s cultural make-up has under­ gone a noticeable change. As more and more pieces have fused to our cultural mosaic, Canada has come to encompass the whole world. The viewpoint that multi­culturalism is an idea imported by immigrants from countries of colour and ex-colonies has been replaced with the viewpoint that multiculturalism is a made-in­-Canada idea that enables all cultures, dominant and minority, to coexist equally, in spite of differences and numerical disparity.

The constituent cultures and their respective theatre forms are advancing the frontiers of Canada’s cultural and artistic landscape in a way that has never been seen before. Consequently (and fortunately), changes are happening in various arts funding bodies–notably the Canada Council for the Arts, which has already started to introduce policies to provide equitable support for the advancement of diverse and multicultural art. Although it is too soon to say how successful these initiatives have been, one thing is clear: there has been an appreciable increase in artistic activity by artists from diverse communities.

A common characteristic among many artists of diverse backgrounds is that, in most cases, their art is a creative response to the issues of identity, dignity, and representation. And since these creative responses, more often than not, are influenced by the theatrical elements of their respective cultures, we are seeing artis­ tic innovation in the making. While I may well be wrong or overstating the case, it is still in the best interests
of Canadian theatre to be alerted to and informed of the increasing importance of artists of diversity, the driving cultural politics behind it, the questions being asked–or not being asked–and what these artists are doing that is brand new.

Despite the increasing range of cultural and artistic diversity being reflected in the theatre today, seldom do we see a publication concerned exclusively with cultural diversity in relation to theatre. We feel that there is a need to complement and support the development of this type of theatre by engaging in insightful and focused discussion about the art forms involved and the artists that practice them. alt.theatre hopes to fulfill this need by connecting artists within cultures and across cultures.

All in all, alt.theatre is a proactive magazine that discusses artistic issues from the standpoint of cultural heterogeneity, multiculturalism, and diversity. As the name suggests, it seeks to present different viewpoints and ignite discussion and debate on these subjects.
We invite your comments, criticism, support, and partici­pation in this publication.

Rahul Varma is a director and playwright, born in India and based in Montreal, Quebec. He is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Teesri Duniya Theatre , a multicultural company dedicated to artistic diversity.