2) How has UnSpun Theatre’s production of Minotaur developed since it was first performed at the 2006 Toronto Fringe Festival?
Well, we had quite a few table sessions discussing the script before we headed into rehearsal. We laid the old script open to all our criticisms and abuse, and Chris Stanton and Alison McElwain would head off and return with a new version. Which we would read, praise, and abuse once more. The major changes have been the addition of two seminars from the TAs to help set the mood of the piece, and of course the ending, which none of us were too happy with from the original version. We also worked hard not to lose focus on the story of Kieran and Nora, and to make sure we were always returning to them.
3) Does the play arrive at any conclusions about ghosts?
No, in fact, we kind of go out of our way to avoid conclusions all together. The root of fear is ignorance – not knowing what’s in the dark. I always find a scary movie loses something when it begins explaining to you why the killer kills. However, a quote I came across from a ghost-debunker when I was originally hunting around for inspiration for the play has kinda stuck with me in relation to the play . . . he said “people are haunted, not places.”
4) What are some of the stage-specific challenges of working in the horror genre?
First off, I don’t think it’s a whole lot different than pulling off other kinds of theatre. It’s still all about timing and specific staging, the way a very physical comedy is for instance. However because we use a lot of hand held light on stage we have to be very specific and aware of how the illusion is working.
5) How would you describe Chris Stanton’s approach to directing this project?
Oh god . . . where do I start . . . how do you work with a man that breaks out into Meatloaf ballads at the top of his lungs and then runs onto stage to show you how to have sex with a ghost? No, in all honesty I am blown away with Chris as a director. He is wildly creative and is always taking a project to the next level, to bring audience members things they haven’t ever seen or experienced before. He is incredibly respectful of his actors (being one himself) and really creates a collaborative environment in the rehearsal space. Be forewarned though . . . he’ll start singing a song about his coffee, for no reason, that will stick in your head for days.
6) How well did your education at the National Theatre School of Canada prepare you for the realities of being a working actor?
Well, when I attended NTS, Perry Schneiderman was head of the program, and he had really brought together a great group of teachers and guest artists. I believe theatre school is very much a training ground for actors to experiment and work intensely on Classical theatre. That being said, it is very much a bubble, a sanctuary where you can fail as an actor and not have it affect your reputation. But because they set up this sanctuary feeling for the students the down side is they do not prepare you much for the realities of going out into the world and working as a self-employed artist. Perhaps that should change.
7) As an actor, what are you better at now than you were two years ago?
Letting go of my training. Being calm, confident, and eager to perform.
8) What are some of the questions that are on your mind these days?
This question’s too stressful . . . it’s like trying to come up with a witty Facebook status.
9) How do you feel about the quality of theatre criticism in Toronto?
[breaks out in cold sweat] I. Love. Critics. Actually I got to meet Jon Kaplan the other day for the first time and he was an incredibly approachable person and has been very supportive of the Scooby gang at UnSpun. I do read reviews, good or bad. I think it’s helpful to build up a thick skin. Reviews only really bother me when the criticism can’t help the artist in anyway.
10) Why is theatre important?
I don’t know if it is . . . telling stories is important. However you want to do it.