Fourth in a series of blog posts by Apprentice Artistic Director Camilla Fitzgibbon as part of the Conseil des arts de Montréal’s DemART-Mtl program

Sunday, September 27th, 2020: The ninth and final episode of En Pointe closes the play series in Montréal.

Monday, September 28th, 2020: Premier François Legault announces that theatres and activities organized in a public place are (once again) prohibited in Québec for a period of 28 days.

I hesitate to describe the situation as “lucky” – it seems distasteful to do so on an occasion that is less than celebratory.

Tableau D’Hôte Theatre may have just slipped through the closing gates of lockdown #2, but our colleagues across the city have not similarly escaped the Code Red clutches that now hold their shows in vulnerable suspension. There has been collective ire around the stark new government measures, which appeared to unjustly target a sector which has gone to exceptional lengths to adapt to the working restrictions of the pandemic. Even now with the province’s injection of $50 million towards the recovery of the culture industry, however, there is little that can be done towards the restitution of our artists’ faded morale.

(Allow for a clarification: I am in no way in opposition of confinement to promote the reinstatement of public health and safety. I have been relatively conservative in my own distancing behaviour during this crisis, and find silly cheer in my little handmade mask collection that now encompasses all of the colours of the Ça va bien aller arc. What I have struggled with is the rationale behind why certain activities are shut down as other higher-risk ones remain open, and feeling like a scapegoat in the waves of outbreaks.)

As my furious boil comes a resigned simmer, I gently sit with what it is I observe that I am actually mourning: the divide and dissolution of community. The burning world around me is no longer as I once recognized it. There is a furrowing split even among those we formerly knew to love. Partisan divisions have rendered us asunder. I myself am torn in the conflict of who and what to believe, detached from any figure of presumably trusted leadership.

In this moment of solitary stillness, I find myself in the longing for a unity. Something of a consensus. Conciliation.

I try to look to the little shared joys of the present: a call with a friend, a conversation with family.

I then fondly recall the theatre elations of this past summer: rehearsals in the open air, familiar faces in guise at shows, the music of concerted applause, and the treasured company of small Alice and George. I remember coming to intimately know a neighbourhood by first getting lost through its diagonal streets – streets that I today recognize by the names of Ash, Centre, and Wellington and whose routes I have now committed to memory. Each week of performances brought a new discovery in the life and history of a community. I find myself washed by a sense of gratitude for En Pointe and what it brought to the people of Pointe-Saint-Charles this year.

While the ephemeral gathering has now left a vacuum in space (as I guess is true with all live arts), I distill my grief even further. I trust that this physical distance among us is not permanent. Basic physiology has it that this tensioning and stretching out of our collective fibre will lead to a contraction. We will come to join again in time to share our parks, restaurants, and museums.

What worries me is that this not apply to the separation of ideologies. That, to me, seems to be the irreparable social tear. I realize what I most long for then, isn’t necessarily for a crowded theatre, but for a coming together of minds. Even a well-intended $50 million can not fix that crimson bleed.

I suppose it is utopian then to wish for a diversity of opinions to co-exist without inflammatory debate. And thus, fundamentally divided we remain.