Former York teacher flies another mission with Billy Bishop

Much like Billy Bishop, the remarkable character at the centre of his best-known stage show, John MacLachlan Gray is a Canadian original, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 12.

The 62-year-old has had about eight different incarnations – rock-band pianist, actor, theatre director, playwright, screenwriter, satirical CBC-TV commentator, novelist and newspaper columnist. Gray has been doing more creative tinkering recently, preparing for Soulpepper Theatre’s remount, opening this week, of the musical Billy Bishop Goes to War, one of Canada’s most successful pieces of theatre at home and abroad. For their first professional reunion in a decade, Gray and Eric Peterson, who stars as Bishop, have revised their original, three-decade-old script.

Broke, Gray got a job teaching acting at York University for a semester and used his downtime to write a first draft [of the original script]. When Peterson returned from an extended Caribbean vacation, they rewrote it extensively. “Eric was much better at the documentary details, the technical and period terms.” On a small grant from Theatre Passe Muraille, they spent a week researching in a dusty military archive in Ottawa and discovered some treasures: wartime letters from Bishop to his wife and family.

Gray then wrote the score, which he calls a combination of ragtime and Presbyterian hymnal music, inflected with the odd rhythm-and-blues lick.

Integrity commissioner fired by Aurora council

Aurora council has fired its integrity commissioner after just two months on the job, the latest salvo in an ugly political war of words that started over pointed criticisms of city staff posted on a longtime councillor’s blog, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 12.

David Nitkin (MA ’74), president of EthicScan Canada, was axed last Thursday, a day after he rejected a formal complaint lodged by town council against one of their own, Councillor Evelyn Buck, for allegedly slanging city officials in her lively “Our Town and its Business” blog.

In a report last week, Nitkin ruled council’s statement of complaint against her was “unacceptable” as written and “therefore no investigation or inquiry will take place.” Nitkin went on to say the complaint and the way it was handled by council “may be seen to be wholly political,” and “raised concerns of political interference.”

Councillor Alison Collins-Mrakas says council is overreacting. Collins-Mrakas, a senior manager & policy adviser on research ethics at York University and a member of a York tribunal that hears non-academic code-of-conduct complaints, is concerned that such codes could be used to muzzle or even attack fellow politicians.

Collins-Mrakas says Nitkin, who was hired specifically to oversee complaints involving the code of conduct, did his job. “To have him dismissed is disheartening.”

Former Osgoode director is Toronto’s new integrity chief

Toronto has appointed a new integrity commissioner to replace Lorne Sossin, who held the post on an interim basis, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 12. Janet Leiper, former director of the Osgoode Public Interest Requirement and a lawyer and adjudicator who has practised administrative and criminal law, takes over Sept. 8.

She has been a visiting professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and chair of Legal Aid Ontario from 2004 to 2007. The integrity commissioner reports on complaints made about councillors and provides advice.

Mariposa tickets already on sale

Just a month after the 49th Mariposa Folk Festival, organizers are putting the word out about next year’s milestone: You won’t want to miss it, wrote the Orillia Packet & Times Aug. 12.

As festival organizers prepare to mark half a decade of showcasing arts and entertainment, tickets are already on sale. The advance tickets will be the best deals available. A weekend pass is $69. For youth, it’s $49. For individual days, Friday will cost $49 and Saturday will cost $59.

The 2010 festival will include items and displays from its archives at York University. The plan is to have a section of the festival dedicated to the festival’s history. “We want to have a bit of a historical retrospective,” said Catherine Brennan, president of the Mariposa Folk Foundation.