Richard Monette: Guts + Heart = Artist

I’d never heard of Richard Monette before last night’s CBC Radio program As It Happens detailed his passing away on Tuesday evening. But like hearing about the life of any great person, especially after their death, I wish I’d known of him sooner. He was a Canadian actor and director and served as the artistic director of the Stratford Festival Theatre for fourteen years where he favored cultivating local and regional talent over peppering his productions with thespian ringers from England. He was controversial and brilliant in that combined way which marks a person who cares about the craft of their art. But there’s one particular moment in his life that, in the estimation of his former colleague Mary Henry, “crucial, pivotal” turning point for Canadian theater.

Listen to this story. It’s a mere twelve minutes long and if you insist on skipping to the particular moment I’m writing about, it happens just before the halfway mark of the podcast. I think you’ll know it when you hear it…

That’s heart, people. Not only is that heart, it takes guts to put it all on the line and speak up for what one is passionate about, ignoring any possible political or employment ramifications. That’s an artist. I’m sure if I was on the opposite side of Monette’s argument I might have different feelings but I’m not on the opposite side. I like what he’s saying and I respect him for standing up. I don’t think I could do what he did, I really don’t (Could you? Have you?). Maybe that’s one way respect is born – when someone does something you don’t have the guts or heart to do yourself.

Do you know what I’m talking about? We all have different ways of quantifying abstract terms like ‘guts’ and ‘heart’ (I suppose another way to say ‘heart’ is ‘passion’ or ‘desire,’ and if one wished to they could replace ‘guts’ with other, lower-placed organs of the male body) but I think we can be united in deciding what these terms mean when we see such a genuine example of it. If you listen to the podcast, I’m sure you’ll agree Monette should be remembered for a lot more than just his heartfelt outburst, but for me hearing that was the tipping point. It was the profound moment in that particular man’s life that made me stand up and take notice of the kind of artist I might aspire to be.

By the way, As It Happens goes on the air after The Story with Dick Gordon, at least it does on Minnesota Public Radio. If you want more brilliant radio for your ears, brains, and perhaps even your heart and guts to enjoy, The Story has captured my attention like no other radio program. But that’s for another post…

Richard Monette, Artist (1944-2008)


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