David Miller with cast members from The Cage, one of the plays being mounted as part of this year’s Fringe Festival. Photo by Jona Stuart.
This was the week David Miller seemed to publicly embrace a role he has been playing in the minds of many Torontonians for months: as the alternative mayor we wish we still had. After marching to massive applause at last Sunday’s Pride Parade, on Wednesday he also made an appearance at the official opening of the Fringe Festival. He wasn’t just there to show face though—he came with his chequebook. Miller has pledged to match donations made to Fringe’s new “Time and Space Program” (which subsidizes the cost of space rentals for independent theatre companies), up to $10,000.
Whether this resurgence in Miller sightings continues remains to be seen, but it was a welcome moment for Toronto’s theatre community, still smarting from the unexpected lack of government funding for SummerWorks, which many believe is due to a controversial play about terrorism that was mounted during last year’s festival. Miller didn’t shy away from that controversy, either; after commenting on Fringe’s wild and wacky nature, he went on to say: “It also sometimes makes political statements, and in my view the arts should feel free to make political statements and should feel free to say whatever it is they want to.”
Miller has also become a patron of the Fringe, and will be providing counsel and facilitating partnerships with potential new donors and collaborators as Fringe continues its expansion into year-round programming. We spoke with Adam Kirkham, Fringe’s development and communications manager, about this week’s donation, and whether there’s any reason to lament the fact that it is the former rather than current mayor who is playing this role. “We’ve never really had a relationship with the City in a formal way,” he told us (Fringe gets its municipal grants from the arms-length Toronto Arts Council). “David Miller, when he was mayor, was really interested in Fringe as an individual.”
Artists of all kind will be glad for as many demonstrations of support, material and moral, as they can get. With warnings from both the federal and municipal governments that arts organizations may not be able to depend on the public financing they’ve had in previous years, political champions—even retired ones—are becoming both rarer and more valuable.
For complete coverage of the festival, head over to our Fringe page.