1) What the fuck is going on?
So much is going on that it’s hard to know where to begin. ArtHouse Cabaret just closed and in three days we’ve turned around the space to put up Hysteria, Canada’s largest multi-disciplinary festival of women’s work. Our Queer Youth Program is going gangbusters. And we’re reading Rhubarb submissions. And I just got back from two weeks in Japan. (Oh, and my whole house needs a general clean . . .)
2) How have you developed as an Artistic Director since first joining Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in 1999?
I came to Buddies as pretty much a neophyte, having run only one company before, and that (Cahoots Theatre Projects) was a much smaller organization and only for two years. So the learning curve has been tremendous since I got here. The company itself has grown and shifted, most notably from our focus on script and play development towards supporting the creation and presentation of more form-based theatre. My development continues as I work to catch up my training with the current trends in theatre, away from scene- and character-driven drama, and more towards a looser depiction of what theatre and theatre creation might be.
3) Are there any overarching themes or ideas that are common to the work being presented in Buddies’ current season?
I think there are themes of interactivity and interfacing that pervade works like Gay4Pay, Art Fag and The Beauty Salon, and notions of playfulness that permeate all of the work that Buddies is producing within the season. We jokingly called it our “playful, play-less” season. We’re forcing the audience to re-evaluate how they perceive theatre, and we want to make it an enjoyable experience.
4) Do you ever feel restricted by Buddies’ mandate of promoting queer Canadian culture?
We have turned what some might perceive as a restricting label into something much more liberating by approaching the term queer as two-pronged. As such, we’re pursuing work which is queer in an LGBT sense, but also queer as in work of challenge, which counters mainstream habits and conceptions.
5) How well are queer Canadians being served by and represented in contemporary Canadian theatre?
I think LGBT Canadians have a fair amount of representation in contemporary Canadian theatre. Most mainstream theatre companies will include at least one show within their season that features an LGBT character or theme. Many LGBT playwrights are being produced by major companies. That being said, I think a lot of LGBT work gets “whitewashed” as it goes through a process of dramaturgy, direction and presentation in the hands of non-LGBT artists. Queer work, on the other hand – alternative work that challenges the norm – is often still marginalized by the larger companies, often out of a fear of disturbing their crucial subscriber base.
6) What qualities do you look for when committing to the development of an emerging artist?
For me personally, I look for someone who has something different to say and can articulate what it is they are striving towards. I look for someone who is at a point where interactions with other artists or with dramaturgy or direction are welcome and not struggled with. And finally I look for originality in ideas, in voice, and in presentation.
7) At the independent theatre level, what should members of a theatre company expect from an Artistic Director?
If you are referring to members of a theatre company and their own AD it is difficult for me to answer since Buddies is not an ensemble company. We bring creative members on in a show-by-show basis. If you are referring to the broader sense of what should independent theatre artists expect from the AD of a company like Buddies, I think they should expect to be seen, and listened to. Their ideas heard, if not acted upon. And I think they should expect an element of leadership in that theatre’s involvement in the community. But they should also expect that each company has a focus that is more specific than the breadth of their mandate, and although their idea may fit the mandate, they should expect that it does not always fit the company. (I’m not sure I got that one right . . .)
8) What can theatre makers learn from cabaret that they might not get from other forms of theatre?
I think one of the great things about cabaret is the versatility that can be presented within a single program. How often do we go to the theatre for an exciting evening, only to be disappointed by the same “flavour” all the way through? I also think one of the great advantages of cabaret is the ability to more easily extract what doesn’t fit or doesn’t work. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to simply lift out that scene or that character that just doesn’t work in a drama?
9) If you could change one thing about theatre in Toronto, what would it be?
I think I would want to shake up the audiences. And the theatres for that matter. To both be more challenging of each other.
10) What is ArtSexy?
ArtSexy is an attitude. It’s a state of mind. It’s a sexy new website for Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.