“I wasn’t an activist before G20, but G20 made me an activist…”
You Should have Stayed Home covers the explosive events in the summer of 2010 when protestors and police clashed violently at Toronto’s G20. Based on a Facebook note detailing the arrest and detention of first time rally attendee Tommy Taylor, it’s the story of bystanders and observers caught up in the chaos as police and the government cross the line and Canadian civil rights are attacked. Apt613 spoke with Taylor as the Praxis Theatre production arrives in Ottawa to wrap up its three year tour.
Toronto’s G20 events are often dismissed and downplayed in the press to such an extent that many Canadians, as Taylor puts it, “are familiar with the story of what happened to things – windows smashed, cop cars set alight – but not with the story of what happened to people that weekend”. The play is based, not on mainstream media accounts, but, on the 11,000 word social media note penned by Taylor following his “kettling”, arrest and detention.
The comical title springs from the absurdity of the situation and a rather shocking “piece of advice that a lot of people gave me afterwards”, says Taylor. That a Canadian could be detained for attending a public event never entered Taylor’s mind even as he found himself penned in on Toronto’s streets for hours watching others dragged off. Peaceful protestors, passers-by and kids as young as 15 are swept up and held, 40 to a cage, without water, food or medical attention over the course of 48 hours and a lot of the public surmised this was something they’d brought upon themselves. “It’s a bit ironic and an invitation to people that would say this to come and see the show.” It showcases that it’s an entertaining evening and an access point to starting a conversation and raising questions about civil liberties. Despite the gravity of the topic Taylor promises an evening punctuated with laughter, “some things are just so ridiculous that the only option left to us is to laugh”.
The show recruits volunteers in each city. Taylor explains, “There is a 10 min. scene where people join me on stage to recreate the detention centre. We’ve had 200 participants, from as young 14 to as old as 91, across Canada… coming out of their homes and getting in to handcuffs on stage. It’s a powerful tour”.
Arriving in Ottawa on the 20th, Praxis Theatre invites locals to get involved themselves or encourage their MPs to get handcuffed and caged. (MP Andrew Cash has volunteered to be a detainee on Wednesday’s performance.) Taylor is excited to close the production in the capital where government and lawmakers have the power to enact real change.
Cris-crossing the country Taylor met Canadians from all walks of life who shared similar stories. “G20 isn’t this crazy isolated incident. It’s crazy but not all that isolated. In some communities – talking to many Aboriginal people – it can be G20 every day and telling the story in Ottawa at the former courthouse – Arts Court – is a fitting end to the tour.” He’s heartened by not only the interest of political participants but also by the Parliament Hill reception on opening day; an ideal place to discuss Canadian civil liberties and move toward significant changes.
In the end Taylor hopes the play will raise Canadian awareness of the need to protect civil rights here at home whether for “a straight white guy” in Toronto or a minority rural community. In the face of an assault that goes to the very heart of Canadian freedoms “staying home” is ultimately not an option.
You Should Have Stayed Home, written & Performed by Tommy Taylor Praxis Theatre runs November 20 – 23. Show starts at 8 pm. Arts Court Theatre, 2 Daly Ave. To buy tickets, click here. If you would like to participate, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Rehearsals take place one hour prior to each performance.