New York–Toronto Cage Match: Shakespeare in the Subway

William Gibson, who really ought to know better, retweeted a comment today that still has me steamed: “From a friend visiting from Canada after the elections: Toronto likes to believe it’s the New York of Canada, but really it’s Houston.” Since the original tweeter lives in Brooklyn, where I lived for fifteen years, it’s that much worse; I know exactly what kind of hipster we’re dealing with here. (I was living in Park Slope even before the lesbians cleaned up Fifth Avenue, let alone before the Tea Lounge opened.) No, Toronto isn’t New York (although it is the New York of Canada, the nation’s cultural, economic, and everything else center), but by no stretch of the imagination is it Houston. What it is, is the Chicago of Canada. The museums are slightly worse, the winters slightly better, and both cities have a pointless inferiority complex about New York. Want proof that it’s pointless? Only now is New York catching up to us with Shakespeare in the subway. (H/t to the good folk at The Hamlet Weblog, which reposted this item I’d seen on Gothamist but couldn’t check out because streaming video at my day job is verboten. I’ve told you before that you should be reading this excellent blog, and now you can be reminded any time because they are on my niftastic new blogroll, to your right.)

Yes, it was last August that I told you about Spur of the Moment Shakespeare, who were performing at the time in the Toronto subway. They did not, alas, get the money they were seeking from Pepsi, but their tweetstream shows that they are, even so, doing their program of hospital performances with great success. So ex–New Yorker though I am, given that Toronto has an actual company of guerilla Shakespeare players, it’s a little hard for me to be that impressed by a couple of Johnny-come-lately buskers who, let’s face it, aren’t even really that good. And since Toronto subway riders are orders of magnitude ruder than New York riders, I’d suggest the boys aren’t even in nearly as much danger as the Spur-of-the-Moment players.

But as I said back in August, what matters is that people are coming up with creative ways to perform Shakespeare and doing it in unusual places. And as somebody with one heart in New York and another in Toronto (two hearts—no, it couldn’t be—!) I’m the last who’d want to start a war between the two cities. Especially since there is one thing we can agree on: Shakespeare on the subway could never happen in Houston, and not just because they don’t have a fucking subway.

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