Plan to Attend: Kristin Slaney & Jessica Barry Talk Slaneypalooza

jessica barry & kristin slaney

Once Upon a Theatre Collective, in association with Off The Leash, is presenting According To Plan: Four Short Plays by Halifax based playwright Kristin Slaney at the Neptune Scotiabank Studio Theatre tonight November 15th, 2012 and Friday, November 16th, 2012 at 7:00pm. I sat down with Slaney, along with two of her fellow actors, Jessica Barry and Griffin McInnes at Own Space in the Dalhousie Theatre Department to chat about their upcoming show.

Amanda Campbell (AC): Originally Once Upon a Theatre Collective was slated to produce Kristin’s new play Poem for the Smallest Boy, but you had to change your plans unexpectedly because of some issues with the Canadian Actors’ Equity rules, is that right? Can you tell us a little bit about what happened?

Kristin Slaney (KS): It’s been a crazy month. Once Upon a Theatre Collective had been rehearsing a show, a play that I wrote called Poem for the Smallest Boy, which was chosen by Jeremy Webb and his production company Off the Leash for his Off The Leash Presents Project. We were given two nights of [Neptune] Studio [Theatre] time and we were chosen along with [title of show], TheatreSpeak’s production. We were picked for that and we started rehearsing and getting stuff together. This was the first time that Once Upon a Theatre Collective has tried to engage two Equity artists: Sherry Smith and Mauralea Austin. Mauralea was in the cast, Sherry was directing and Jessica [Barry] and Glen [Matthews] were both going to be acting as well. So, this was the first time that we had to look into the Equity business and so we started to try to work with them but then every barrier that could be put in front of us was put in front of us and the Union (which exists for a reason and we are all supportive of that), in this instance, wasn’t in line with what the artists wanted in this case. So many roadblocks were put in our way that it actually made it impossible for us to do the show. We could have recast and re-directed it, but I think we had gotten to the point in the process that we didn’t want to just throw something together. We wanted to do the work justice, I think.

Jessica Barry (JB): It’s a really great play.

KS: Well… thank you. We didn’t want it to be a rushed thing thrown up for the sake of having these two nights of Studio time, so we figured we would postpone the play until the Spring, when we will regroup and get our ducks in the proverbial row and then we’ll come back out swinging again.

AC: Is the plan to do it in the Spring with the cast as originally intended?

 KS: That’s something that we have to keep looking at, as the time frame changes it depends on if the artists are all available.

AC: But more time will give you more leniency with Equity?

KS: I think, yes. Also, we had been approaching this whole thing without any funding at all, so planning for the play in the Spring means that there is time to get that stuff in order. So, that’s what happened with that.

JB: I also think that it’s a sign that Once Upon a Theatre Collective is growing that now we have had this first experience with Equity and we are learning from it, and we definitely want to work with these new artists and to continue to learn from each other. Hopefully this whole experience will take us as a company to another level.

AC: All small companies have to deal with these things as they grow, absolutely. So, you have changed your tactics and decided to do something completely different. So, what is your new plan of action?

KS: I had a number of short plays, some of them had been done for Once Upon a Theatre Collective’s Short Play Night and I added a few sort of from my pocket. There’s something about our Short Play Nights where we miss having the opportunity to spend real rehearsal time on them and polish them, and so we realized that this could be an opportunity to approach some of the these short plays again. It’s completely different than Poem for the Smallest Boy because most of these plays are comedies. They all fall under this idea of “Things Not Quite Going According to Plan,” which we thought was an apt theme given the whole situation. It’s something I feel like people know about. So there are four short plays, a core group of four actors: me, Jessica Barry, Glen Matthews and we asked Griffin McInnes on to the project and each of us is directing one of the projects as well.

AC: I kind of like it because I feel like Jeremy has been very generous and sort of given a Studio Space slot to his audience, or the audience that attends Neptune Studio Shows to say, “This also exists!” It’s really cool in this case because Once Upon a Theatre Collective does its Evening of Short Plays on a regular basis at the Bus Stop Theatre and it’s neat to use this opportunity that Off the Leash has given you to promote something that is an ongoing theatre event in Halifax. You’re not just introducing the audience to Once Upon a Theatre Collective as a company, which is important, or Kristin Slaney as a playwright, which is also very important, but you’re also saying “If you liked this, you can come and see this very similar thing again at this other theatre, where you may have never been before. This theatre also exists! These artists also exist!”

KS: I think that is one of the cool things about this project is that we do so much of our work at the Bus Stop and we are going to continue to do our work at the Bus Stop, but Jeremy has given us the opportunity to show a new audience, “Guess what happens on Gottingen Street sometimes!” And it would be great if we could bring some of those people back to our venue too.

AC: Yes. So, Kristin, you are acting in your own plays and directing one of your own plays. So, what is it like directing your own work versus allowing someone else direct it?

KS: It’s very strange. It’s interesting because for Poem for the Smallest Boy I was very adamant that I didn’t want to direct it.

AC: You had done that one before, yes?

KS: Yes. I did a workshop of it through the Dalhousie University Playwright’s Cabaret last year. And I did direct it because I was kind of interested in giving it a first pass as a director. But when it came to reviving the project I was very interested in seeing what someone else, who wasn’t in the brain of the play, would find. Sherry was finding all this awesome new stuff, which I really want to see the light of day.

JB: The rehearsals were a really amazing experience. I know I learned a ton and I know I was so happy to have the experience and I’m really excited to work on it again. I workshopped the first version with Kristin, which was great, and it’s really neat to see the difference in the first workshop with Kristin and then the three weeks of rehearsal we did do with the project-

KS- That was like three drafts later as well…

JB: It was really interesting and really exciting. So, I will get to see it again another time, which is unexpected and not according to plan, but not necessarily a bad thing.

KS: It’s an interesting thing and a humbling thing in general both acting in and directing your own work because it forces you to see things from a different perspective and to be like, “Oh! Shit! That doesn’t work!” “Why did I not say this whole line in four words instead of like, twenty?” It’s another approach to thinking about playwriting; throwing yourself in the shit and seeing what happens.

AC: Yes. Jessica, what is it like being directed by the playwright of the piece? Is it different?

JB: Yes. It is different. There’s also so many dynamics in this project as well, the fact that it’s being directed by the playwright, it’s being directed by my best friend, it’s being directed by a fellow company member, it’s being directed by my roommate, so it’s really different. It’s even more different. There’s a million lines of communication. In some ways it lets me slack off as an actor because I can just ask the playwright, but it also gives me huge bonuses as an actor as well and some insight to the playwright.

AC: Sure, yes. Sometimes you really do wish you could be like, “Yo, Shakespeare. What exactly were you going for here? What’s up with this line?” It’s always nice when you can be like, “Oh! Hey, playwright! You’re still alive! Here you are!” (laughter)

KS: Also, sometimes the answer is, “I don’t know. I think I want to change that.”

AC: Absolutely. Jessica, you are also directing, what is that like for you?

JB: Scary! (laughs) The last time I directed was the first time we did 11:11, which I also co-wrote and was in, so I wasn’t really directing, it was just being there. (laughs). Yeah. It was scary. It is scary. I’m directing Kristin and Griffin in a really adorable piece. They are really charming; the words are very charming. Hopefully I didn’t ruin it. (laughs).

Griffin McInnes (GM): You directed it very well.

JB: I actually have a finger injury from how much I bit my nails the first time that we sat down to do it. Scary. Really scary. (laughs)

AC: So, Griffin, you are directing one of the plays too. What’s that been like for you?

GM: It’s been fun. Once Upon a Theatre Collective was nice enough to invite me onto the project and when you have the company all working in various different roles, it can be messy, it can be nuts, but the room is really positive and fun. I didn’t want to overstep any boundaries, but they have been very open and warm and nice.

AC: Can you give people a sense of what to expect from these four plays?

KS: They are 6-10 minute plays. They are all variations on a theme of things not going according to plan: Marriage proposals, the Holidays, your general life plans and first impressions in dating. We have four plays and some surprises. Glen and I are in one called The Proposal Game. Fuck Ups, which has been at Short Play Night before, Arthur and Amelia, which focuses on first impressions, trying to connect with somebody and something sort of going awry and something still rising from that chaos. And then Holly Jolly Winter Solstice: when your holidays go up in flames.

AC: It sounds like you have this huge collection of plays that you have written, which is amazing. It’s great that you keep having these Short Play Nights because it must keep you churning out new work.

KS: That’s how I first started writing. The Short Play Night gives you the opportunity to have people watching the plays and you see things so differently when you’re watching with an audience. As soon as you start watching it through their eyes, a new perspective makes you go, “Oh! Shit! That doesn’t play and that doesn’t play” or “Oh, that’s a joke. I didn’t know that was a joke. Great!” It’s an interesting challenge. And a ten minute play is a nice baby steps up to a longer, full-length play.

AC: I feel like when we met I saw you as more of an actor, but now I definitely see you more as a playwright.

KS: Yeah, I feel like that is where my focus has shifted.

JB: We have a Short Play Night coming up!

KS: It’s called Once Upon Apocalypse.

JB: It’s going to be on December 21st. The End of the World.

AC: Oh right! Good.

JB: Everyone should come hang out with us on the last night of the World.

KS: It’s going to be an assortment of Apocalypse and Holiday themed plays.

JB: The submission deadline for plays is Thursday, November 22. It’s coming up soon. Ten minutes. Low tech. No more than four people in a cast.

KS: Poem For the Smallest Boy will be coming up in the Spring.

AC: You are just building anticipation for this play. This is all just an elaborate rouse to build its momentum and get us all fired up about it. I see what’s going on here.

GM: The big ole’ Equity cock block. (laughter)

JB: Yes. … And I think we are all very grateful to Jeremy for giving us this opportunity. He is so successful in all the theatre business that he does and I’m really looking forward to being in the Studio and sharing these plays with an audience.

According to Plan plays at the Neptune Scotiabank Studio Theatre (1593 Argyle Street) tonight November 15th, 2012 and Friday, November 16th, 2012 at 7:00pm. Tickets are being sold through the Neptune Theatre Box Office either by phone (902.429.7070), online or in person at the box office at 1593 Argyle Street). Tickets are $20.00 (adults), $15.00 (Students, Seniors, Arts Workers) and adults purchasing tickets to both According To Plan and TheatreSpeak’s [title of show]  will receive a discount of $5.00 off each ticket**(offer not available online – call Neptune Theatre 902.429.7070 or visit in person at the box office)** For more information please visit this website. 

For more information about Canadian theatre artists calling for a re-imagined relationship with Equity that allows for independent theatre artists to make their own work with more freedom and leniency please read this great article via the Praxis Theatre Website

A Stage full of Top Girls and Some Lunasea

top girls
              Caryl Churchill’s play Top Girls was written in 1982, at a time when Great Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, had driven the country into a deep recession, raised taxes and saw the unemployment levels spike to higher than three million people, its highest levels since the 1930s. It was a time when the feminist questions became intensely more intricate. What responsibility did a powerful woman have to the rest of her sex? Was being a strong, powerful working woman simply the ability to act in a characteristically masculine way and to uphold traditional male chauvinistic values or did it require an entire reworking of our collective understanding of power, of leadership and strength? 
              I’m going to do something a bit unorthodox and begin my review of LunaSea Theatre’s production of this play by starting at the end because the final scene is absolutely perfect. Martha Irving plays Marlene, a bright, ambitious, successful woman climbing the ranks at an employment agency in London. She sits in the shabby, sparse little kitchen of her past with her sister, Joyce, played by Mauralea Austin, and Churchill brilliantly brings the issues surrounding Thatcher’s political ideologies into the home and allows them to seep into the personal, intimate relations between these two women, one “professional” and one “domestic,” not surprisingly with volatile results. Which woman has made the larger sacrifice and which one reaps the greater rewards? Marlene believes strongly in self determination, of pulling herself up by the bootstraps and that those who are naturally able to rise out of poverty will and the others deserve to be left behind. Joyce believes in a collective and social responsibility and that the external factors imposed on people by the world and their lot in life must be taken into consideration when judging the able bodied and determining the worth and value of a human life. Austin gives Joyce a worn exhaustion, her bitterness at living every day at her very wits end are palpable, but her heart, her care, her propensity for acceptance shines through in the most heart wrenching of ways. Irving’s Marlene is continually justifying herself, her choices, burying her self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy deep under her superficial accomplishments and empty rhetoric. Their inability to connect and to concede and validate one another’s experience speaks volumes of the feminist question we still grapple with to this day. How do we balance being feminist whilst working within a professional world that man created and how do we balance being feminist at home, a sphere largely considered historically to belong to women, yet still, ultimately, a male-created dichotomy? Is feminism our taking ownership and pride in the ability to play just as well by the men’s rules or is it seeking to take charge and make our own? Marlene and Joyce do not have the answers.
              The play begins with a fictitious, drunken dinner party, imagined by Marlene as a celebration of her promotion. She sits at a banquet table filled with “top girls” from history including Victorian adventurer, Isabella Bird, Pope Joan and Lady Nijo from Japan. The women span continents and centuries and often all regale Marlene with their stories and strong opinions on children, politics, religion and men, overtop of one another, each one competing for the audience’s attention. This scene can prove frustrating for audiences, but it is widely fascinating, especially in the “survival of the fittest” ambiance that Churchill is playing with. It is impossible to hear every word that is said in this scene, so it is likely easiest for audiences to just allow themselves to get swept up in whichever character they feel the most drawn to at any given moment, and to not feel guilty if their attention wanes from one to another. All the characters in this scene are a little grander than they would be in realism, even Marlene, which works well to suggest that this is a playful figment of a well-educated and self-important woman’s imagination. Mauralea Austin plays Isabella Bird, with a lovely austere sense of Scottish propriety, but also a sense of the daring, adventurous spirit that took her around the world, but always with the Victorian haughtiness that, I’m sure, was what allowed her the freedoms she was afforded in her lifetime. Mary-Colin Chisholm plays Patient Griselda, a character from Plutarch and Chaucer, whose faithfulness and loyalty was tested three times by her cruel husband. Chisholm is docile with a naive, but firm, sense of duty, and she speaks enunciating every syllable of her words which gives her a strange illiteracy which is somehow faerie-like. Vanessa Walton-Bone is formidable and charming as Pope Joan, eager to interrupt, but always in a congenial way and who spews off in Latin as though talking about the football game, drunk and eating potato chips at the pub. Leana Todd, as Dull Gret, depicted in a painting for leading an invasion into Hell, is hilarious and often steals the scene with her gruff physicality and expressive wordless judgements and reactions to what the others say. Rebecca Parent’s struggles to make Lady Nijo about more than just her Japanese accent and to raise her above being depicted as a whiney child in order to be able to contend with the rest of the company.
              Parent shines most magnificently, however, as Win, one of the young agents in Marlene’s office, who you get the feeling could hold her own with the cast of Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. There is a great scene between Parent and Vanessa Walton-Bone, as Louise, a woman looking for a fresh career start at forty-six, which packs a powerful and humorous punch.
              It is interesting that the challenge in this production is with the children, just as they can present a challenge for feminist ideologies and academia and they certainly provide challenges for the characters within the play. Leana Todd plays Angie, Marlene’s niece, who is sixteen years old, but developmentally delayed. Todd is quite vigorous with Angie in the last scene of the play, a little wild and exuberant with her emotions and this is echoed nicely in an earlier scene when Angie visits Marlene unexpectedly at her office. What becomes incongruous is Angie’s first scene, with her friend Kit, played by Stephanie MacDonald, mostly because Kit is not a real person, but instead a cartoonish “pesky brat” character reminiscent of Margaret from Dennis the Menace. It’s impossible to tell how old Kit is (she is supposed to be twelve but for some reason acts closer to seven), which makes it difficult to discern Angie’s age and Angie’s fragile mental state and her disturbing hatred and anger towards her mother gets lost in Kit’s empty high pitched voice and vapid sense of the gravity of the words that are coming out of both their mouths. Kit and Angie represent the children without strong maternal figures, echoing the lost and abandoned children spoken about by the Top Girls at the beginning of the play. Not unlike “want” and “ignorance” from Dickens, Angie and Kit have the power in this scene to paint an unsettling picture for the future for young girls under Thatcherism, but here, MacDonald especially, hasn’t fleshed out all the idiosyncrasies of Kit the Unique and Individual person enough for the scene to reach its potential to terrify.
              Director Sherry Smith makes great use of the small North Street Church space. She is not afraid of keeping the women stagnant; knowing that their powerful performances are often more than enough to hold the audience captive, but she also knows when allowing a character to break from the group and take a walk focuses the attention and gives status and significance to certain vital moments. Smith lets these women unfold in a way that never seems contrived or convoluted and balances the severity of Churchill’s issues with a great amount of humour and fun.
Overall, there is a lot to love and marvel over in this play from an impressive array of Nova Scotia theatre’s top girls.
Top Girls plays at the North Street Church in Halifax (5657 North Street) until May 8th (8pm evenings, 2pm matinees on Saturday and Sunday). For tickets or more information please call 902.864-2126 or go online to www.lunaseatheatre.ca. Also, Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 8th, bring your Top Mom and get $5.00 off the ticket price!!   

The Fight to Save Canadian Programming

sherry smith
By Sherry Smith

Growing up in the isolated northern town of Happy Valley – Goose Bay, Labrador, we had one channel – CBC – and my Dad worked for them! He was head of technical services and he was responsible for installing television and radio all along the coast. Of course, when the TV went off the air, we would get the numerous phone calls looking for “Joe” because the hockey game was on and there was no picture!
My first recollection of morning programs was Chez Helen, Mr. Dress-Up and The Friendly Giant, and I loved them in all their black and whiteness, until the big guy from south of the border introduced me to the crack of kids programming – Sesame Street. Wow! Suddenly my simple, friendly, gentle shows were looking dull and slow and kinda sad next to the world of Cookie Monsters and grouches in garbage cans and a tall yellow bird. Then when colour was added – Double Wow! I was hooked.
My television had shared stories with me of other people who were just like me. Programs like Skipper and Company on Saturday morning brought young entertainers into Skipper’s house to show their talent. How I longed to go to St.John’s and be on that show! I felt I could because those kids looked and sounded just like me. Then came Search for Stars and a friend of mine actually competed in a dance off! It was exhilarating to see someone I knew on TV! The Forest Rangers looked like it could have been shot in my backyard with all the wilderness, and there were kids that dressed for the outdoors. They were me and my friends. It was inclusive. Then I laughed with Wayne and Shuster and King of Kensington and, later on, with Codco and Up At Ours. Once again – they spoke like I did – well, maybe not that thick an accent! These were my celebrities, these were my idols, these were my role models – they were Canadians, like me, working on television, and I knew that I could grow up to do that too!
Forty years later, I am standing on the steps of the CRTC building holding up a placard saying “Save Canadian Programming”, and it makes me sad. Has my country really come to this? Where private broadcasters choose to spend $740 million on US programs and a mere $54 million on our own Canadian people. And while it is true that 71% of Canadians want more of Canada on their TV’s, CTV spent 11 times more on US and foreign programs than on Canadian dramas and comedies, Global spent 19 times more and City TV spent 29 times more. What is with that? WE own the airwaves – me, you, us!!! Not broadcasters, not cable companies! Why we support or allow a company in our country that has increased their rates by 85% (Rogers) IN ONE YEAR!!!! Their revenues increased by 10% last year to see a record high in profits of $2.1 BILLION DOLLARS!! And faster than the speed of sound, our Canada is sold out to the US and foreign market. With these profits, cable companies can certainly afford to put money into Canadian programming without making the consumer pay for it with this silly “TV TAX”. What is with that??
We have learned to believe what our American neighbour has been telling us for years – we will never be as big, or as great, or as influential, or as powerful, or as popular, or as famous as they are. We have learned that their programming is slicker, funnier, better produced, better written, better acted, and that we – well – we’re just not good enough.
Oddly enough, my first role on television was Mary Walsh’s niece on Up At Ours – I met and worked with one of my first role models. I later met Fiona Reid from King of Kensington. I cried when Mr. Dress-up died. I recently watched all the fans gather around Sydney Crosby – their hero – a Canadian model of success. I wished I played hockey; then I could celebrate my hero too. I would watch my hero every Friday night on Hockey Night in Canada. And if it was ever suggested that we don’t need Canadian hockey coverage, then my country would join me in an uproar.
This is a no brainer. I am Canadian. I own the airwaves. I want more of us – my friends, my family, my cities and towns, our stories, our history, our role models. I want that little girl or boy who is sitting on a snowbank in a small rural town to be able to dream that one day they too can grow up and be a big Canadian television star.

Sherry Smith
Vice-President ACTRA Maritimes Branch Council
ACTRA member since 1980

on boo and beyond: a chat with daniel macivor

When I was in my first year at Dalhousie University, still uncertain what I wanted to do with my life, I had a profound experience in the James Dunn Theatre. For my Theatre 1800 (Introduction to Acting) class, we were required to attend all four of the performances by the fourth year acting students, and so, a theatre filled with bright eyed eighteen year olds greeted Daniel MacIvor as he stood center stage, script in hand, to make a very peculiar announcement. This was his play: You Are Here and he had directed the fourth years in their production. We first years didn’t know much (at all); but we knew this was big, this was exciting, they were lucky. As it turned out, Gillian Anderson (not the X-Files actress, the Haligonian theatre actor with electric blue eyes), who was playing the central character, Alison, was sick and could not perform. Yet, the show must go on. That’s how I came to see Daniel MacIvor perform the role of Alison, script in hand, in You Are Here. Un-fucking-believable. What was even more unbelievable was that through the meta-theatrical hysterics, through the incongruity between MacIvor and the role he was playing, You Are Here was so beautifully written that it still made me sit in the theatre and sob. It was the first time I would sob in a theatre. Well, I quickly acquired all the MacIvor plays I could get my hands on and read them all. Now, I will go see anything Daniel MacIvor has a hand in. I think he is that brilliant.
After seeing boo at the Atlantic Fringe Festival, written and performed by Charlie Rhindress and directed by Daniel MacIvor, I was struck by the fact that this was the first time I had seen MacIvor direct someone else’s work. Indeed, here it seemed like Rhindress was in the traditional MacIvor role and MacIvor was in the role typically played by Daniel Brooks. So, I wanted to sit down with Daniel and chat about boo and this process and his upcoming projects, but since he is currently in Sydney, Cape Breton and I’m currently in Halifax, we both had to sit down at our computers, and through the magic of email, I’m happy to bring this interview to you:

Amanda Campbell (AC): How did you and Charlie Rhindress first meet and how did you become involved in the development of boo? You seem to compliment each other nicely, especially artistically, was that immediately apparent?

Daniel MacIvor (DM): I first met Charlie when he was performing in a nine hour experimental “Hamlet” produced by DNA theatre in Toronto in the early 90’s. Oddly, when the play transferred to Montreal and Charlie couldn’t go, I took over his part. It was Guildenstern. A small part normally but huge when the play is nine hours long. I became involved in “boo” when Emmy Alcorn, from Mulgrave Road Theatre, and I were talking about his “Harry Delany” postings on Facebook. I mentioned to Emmy that I thought there might be a show in the material and said I’d be happy to help out. I didn’t realize at the time that “helping out” meant directing, but that’s how Mulgrave Road works. It was clear from the outset that Charlie and I would work well together because he didn’t argue with me for the sake of “being right” and he was happy to let me be a tough bastard when necessary. He doesn’t take things personally, a rare gift in an actor.

AC: Often you can be seen directing your own work (as in the case with How It Works, You are Here and Marion Bridge) or you and Daniel Brooks collaborate on your solo pieces like Monster and Cul-De-Sac. How is the process different when you are working on a piece that you didn’t write?

DM: When directing other people’s plays it works best when I am also the dramaturge. I can get my hands dirty and I feel invested in the writing. It’s similar to how Brooks and I work on the solos.

AC: Charlie mentioned to me that boo is very different from his original conception of the show, and that you were instrumental in drawing the heart of the story out of him as a performer. Can you talk a little bit about how that evolution process came to be? Are there any of your plays that ended up being completely different from your initial concept?

DM: Many of my plays end up being completely different than the initial concept. Just ask Emmy Alcorn, or Daniel Brooks, or Iris Turcott, or anyone else I’ve worked with. In terms of the evolution of boo, I’ve been working on an idea called Play Finding. I tried it out in a one day Masterclass at Natasha Mytnowych’s development festival at Canadian Stage in the Spring, and I’ll be doing a weekend version at Banff in December. Basically it’s looking at a writer’s work and drawing out the self from the work, seeing how the heart of the work is connected to the heart of the writer, finding the truth of the play by connecting it to the truth of the writer. This was very much how I worked with Charlie.

AC: When you’re dealing with a play that centers on the very personal experiences of the performer involved, as a director do you approach this differently than you would a play that has more semblance of fiction?

DM: I’m really only interested in work that is based on “personal experience” somehow. I think it can be argued that most plays are, certainly the best plays are. There are those that will say Howard Barker isn’t working from “personal experience,” but he is working from a “personal” philosophy based on his “personal” experience. Of course superficially or semantically, Charlie’s play is more “personal” than most. I’m also working with Linda Griffiths on her play “Last Dog of War” as her director/dramaturge, this is also a very “personal” play. Even moreso than Charlie’s in that in the play Linda’s character’s name is “Linda” and she describes in detail a trip she took with her father. In this kind of process the approach is probably more dramaturgical than directorial.

AC: Your programme bio states that you live in Halifax and Toronto. A year and a half ago I heard you speak in Toronto and you said that you wanted to return to Halifax but that it was too difficult for a professional playwright to survive there. Has that changed at all in the last year and a half? Is there anything specific that you see in need of development so that Halifax can continue to foster its indigenous playwrights?

DM: I have become involved in a new theatre company founded by Kathryn MacLellan, Jackie Torrens and myself called DTS (Distinct Theatre Society), which is based in Halifax. So my connection to Halifax is more as a producer right now than as a playwright. Toronto is my playwright home. I think in order for Halifax to become a community that develops and nurtures playwrights, people who control theatre in that city have to make the development and nurturing of playwrights a priority. The regional theatre must start some kind of Playwrights Unit or Playwrights Colony or Playwrights Tea Party or whatever they want to call it, where playwrights meet weekly and bring in new work to be discussed and developed with the aid of dramaturges, directors, actors and designers. Playwrights are craftspeople not vegetables, they don’t grow like cabbage or rhubarb, they are mentored and trained like blacksmiths or architects. It can’t happen in a vacuum. Or in a mound of manure.

AC: Can you speak a bit about your new play Confession?

DM: “Confession” is the first play in a trilogy – the second two being “Communion” and “Redemption”. All three plays are for three women and all deal with a search for meaning. In the case of “Confession” it is the most poetic of the three and deals with a woman at the end of her life, the decisions she’s made, the responsibility she’s avoiding and the truth she’s afraid to tell. (Wow, that sounds like a press release.) And speaking of press release, it’s directed by Ann-Marie Kerr and staring Margurite MacNeil, Sherry Smith and Margaret Smith, produced by Mulgrave Road Theatre and touring to Guysborough, Sackville, Halifax and Sydney in October.

Daniel MacIvor is a wise and talented man. Don’t sit in the manure, Nova Scotia, go see Confession in the fall and support Sydney, Cape Breton’s word class, Siminovitch Award Winning playwright. And while you’re at it, if you haven’t already, mosey on over to your favourite bookstore and purchase a copy of his Governor General’s Award winning anthology of plays, I Still Love You.
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