Leanna Rathkelly and Michelle Bush have both posted passionate letters in the local press in response to the workshop performance of Snow: The Musical.
Their letters totally affirm that this corridor is oozing stories, and passion for great and untold tales.
Snow’s initial creative brief sounded something like “Write the Book of Whistler”, but the writing team ducked the opportunity to scribe the definitive story of the town, which was probably sensible, given that the story of Whistler is still unfolding… it’s being written right now by 10,000 different main characters.
But despite this, despite Whistler’s indie bookstore, indie newspaper, amazing patrons for the arts (Bob and Sue Adams, Bob Barnett and Sue Eckersley spring to mind), an 8 year old writers group, big-name cultural events fuelled by dedicated local creatives like the Film Festival, the B-grade Halloween fest, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival and Wellness Week, the culture of story in Whistler is pretty anaemic.
Super engaged and creative locals like Rathkelly and Bush don’t feel heard or reflected by the stories that are out there.
So what’s going wrong?
Maybe Whistler’s culture of story is anaemic because we allow our stories to be censored for the “greater good” of the resort’s success as a tourism enterprise.
Maybe it’s because the place attracts “doers” and not “watchers”, people who’d rather play than sit on the sidelines, so the bike park is busy and the theatres are empty.
Or maybe it’s because we’re better at talking than at listening.
The Vicious New Year’s wish for Whistler is: that we support each other’s stories. Not just the “one official story”, but the whole babel of tales – fairytales, nightmares, satires and send-ups, romances, mysteries, memoirs, the whole deal.
We can produce more than cookbooks and press kits in this town, can’t we?
We can listen to Grant and Leslie’s songs on the Cultural Capitals site, or buy Stephen Vogler’s new book or visit the Museum’s new exhibit, and get feisty about all the things that have been missed out of those tales, because they’re all just first chapters.
And we can start writing. And talking. And listening. And graciously accepting constructive criticism and feedback, because it is a sign of passion and engagement and give-a-shit. And it’s so much better than a great big yawn.
It’s not criticism when Leanna or Michelle offer thoughts about the musical, even to say “I feel ripped off” – just in the same way it’s not criticism when I say, hey, there are a lot of folks in the local business community who aren’t aware that they can provide stories about their own enterprises to Tourism Whistler to share with global media during the Games. And I’m tired of hearing about Myrtle Phillip and Franz Wilhelmsen, while noone mentions the critical roles that Jack Bright, Doug Perry or Dean Nelson have played or are playing in the evolution of Whistler. I wish that some of the members of Whistler’s arts community and establishment who were such vocal advocates supporting a Midsummer’s Nights Dream, had attended a Writers Festival event or Blank Slate Theatre Festival this year. I’m stoked that Sara Leach’s picture book Mountain Machines – inspired by that 5 year long highway upgrade – just hit the BC Bestsellers List. I’d love to see local “writers in residence” invited to hang out in the library when it becomes Canada House and live-blog there. I wish the Whistler Live team had been willing to be a bit more creative and risk-friendly with their programming, instead of pulling a realtor-sponsored family-friendly storytelling at dusk around the fire straight from the playbook of the Salt Lake Games.
But ultimately, these are all just first chapters, too.
Whistler needs to move beyond this dress-up make-believe idea that we’re “getting ready to tell our stories to the world.” The media coming to cover the Games are going to have their own ideas and preconceptions and missions. Fully 26.5% of the media coverage from the first week of the Beijing Olympics was about Michael Phelps. One long-limbed man with a wicked appetite for pizza. Whistler’s “official story” can’t possibly complete.
We need to start telling our stories to ourselves. And to each other.
And taking the time to listen.