Digging for theatrosphere gold

In no particular order, four pieces of theatrosphere gold:

  • The good people at Umbrella Talk interview Canadian master Daniel MacIvor.
  • A new Toronto theatre blog: Emerging Art Productions.
  • Vancouver’s Lyric Stage Project is marketing its upcoming production with this intriguing campaign.
  • Chicago-based theatre advocate Don Hall continues his painfully honest series of posts on divorce.

Any more? Please paste your best theatrosphere post links into the comments section below.

Mackintosh, MacIvor, Murphy . . .

. . . and one extremely annoying question
By Alison Broverman

When Ian asked me to make a guest post on this smart and lovely blog, I was surprised and flattered. Doesn’t he read my blog? Doesn’t he know that my blogging consists mainly of ridiculous photos (often of a plastic shark), obscure references to David Hasselhoff and Mario Lopez, and shameless self-promotion?

But then he wrote the opening scene of his amazing robot play in my comments, so clearly he is familiar with my nonsense. OK, Praxis Theatre Blog. You can’t say you weren’t warned. You knew what you were getting into when you invited me here to ramble.

This is a theatre blog, so my hosts here would probably like it if I started talking about theatre before everyone goes and starts reading Garfield Minus Garfield (as if you aren’t already – that was so two weeks ago). So. Theatre. Last week was Broadway week on American Idol. Mario Lopez is starring in A Chorus Line on Broadway. I just read a teen novel that makes a casual reference to the 1976 Broadway flop Rockabye Hamlet. None of these things are relevant, but they make me giggle.

Relevence: I promised Ian I’d write a little something about the things I’ve learned in my (not very many) years of interviewing theatre types. Things that didn’t make it into the paper. That sounds like I have all kinds of juicy dirt, which I don’t. But people always seem to want to know “what it was like” to interview so-and-so. And I have the good fortune to be able to have great conversations with a lot of fascinating people.

Cameron Mackintosh

Like Cameron Mackintosh (I know, right? He called my house and everything!), with whom I discussed why Les Miserables resonates so strongly with children. (Awesome kid characters, obviously.) Then he told me that people who played Young Cosette et. al. back in the 80s are now trying to foist their own kids off on him for current productions. There’s something a bit creepy about that image, isn’t there? That cycle of Cosettes begetting Cosettes?

Daniel MacIvor

I initially became an arts journalist because I wanted to see theatre for free, but I’ve since discovered that this career is a really excellent extension of my theatrical education. That I get paid for, instead of paying for. And I don’t have to commute up to freaking York anymore. I probably learned more from one conversation with Daniel MacIvor (I interviewed him in September 2006 for this story) than in an entire semester of Theatre Survey. You can learn just as much by reading his insightful blog – he’s one of the few theatre artists blogging about his own artistic process, the work of others, and just life in general. (And one time he wrote that I was a “fine young writer”. That is the kind of thing you try to remember on days when everything is crap.)

Colleen Murphy

More recently, I chatted with Colleen Murphy about her new play The December Man, and also about how difficult it’s getting to make theatre in this city. She specifically asked me to try and work something into my article about how programs for new play development keep getting gutted in Toronto, but it didn’t flow with the article. So I thought I’d mention that here. I interviewed Colleen right around that weird time at the end of March when all that nonsense was going down at CanStage. She thinks abandoning their new play development was a terrible idea.

She wants playwrights to band together and demand respect. Or money. Or both. [As a personal aside, although on principle I think that CanStage should obviously support new Canadian work, I can’t remember the last good play I saw that had been developed by CanStage. Probably something by Ronnie Burkett. And the work he developed there was not as good as the work he did before his association with CanStage. I don’t know what they were doing wrong, but yikes. If, say, the Tarragon were to pull its Playwrights’ Unit (god forbid), it would be a much greater tragedy, because most of the work coming out of there is cool and interesting.]

Was that insightful at all? Are you still even reading? Or are you all trying to explode this cow? If you’re still here, I have one last thing to say (this is way too long a blog post. I hope Ian breaks it up with snazzy pictures!), something that’s been bugging me for a long time:

Whenever I go to see a play with someone who doesn’t see a lot of theatre, or doesn’t feel they know a lot about theatre, they always ask me this extremely annoying question: “What was your professional opinion?”

Worse, they ask in a way that seems to denigrate their own opinion. It reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons where the teachers went on strike and Professor Frink ends up teaching kindergarten. He explains the physics of a toy and then won’t let any of the kids play with it because they “can’t possibly enjoy it on the same level as him.”

THEATRE IS NOT LIKE THAT AND I AM NOT DR. FRINK. Sheesh. Theatre (like VD) is for everybody.

Alison Broverman is a Toronto-based theatre artist and freelance arts reporter for The National Post.

“Vancouver has too many cheerleading critics . . .”

The good people over at The Next Stage theatre blog have conducted and posted a wonderful interview with Vancouver-based theatre critic Colin Thomas (Georgia Straight).

There’s even a choice piece of Toronto bashing as told to Colin by Daniel MacIvor:

“Daniel MacIvor told me once that he likes premiering work in Vancouver because audiences here are so on-the-ball and because we’re not nearly as snooty as the folks in Toronto.”

Oh, snap! Please read the entire interview here.

10 questions: Daniel MacIvor

1) What the fuck is going on?
I’m floating in that odd place in finishing a draft of a new play where one is at once giddily joyous and bone-crunchingly despondent. In other words, same old same old.

2) How has your creative process changed since you graduated from theatre school in 1986?
It’s easier and harder. That is to say, there are fewer questions but more answers. That is to say, as one ages one’s concerns narrow but the possibilities become endless. That is to say, I know what I want but I’m not sure what everybody else wants.

3) How does Halifax compare to Toronto, from a theatrical standpoint?
Halifax is more like Victoria. There are not a lot of independent theatre companies, and certainly none with a home. And there are maybe one or two experimental companies. The good thing is that both theatre artists and audiences are hungry for interesting work so there is much room for development.

4) Do you see any contradiction between your “nothing is enough” minimalist aesthetic and the richness of the characters you create to inhabit that “blank” space?
It’s like life. We’re all just humans: skin, organs, eyeballs, bones and so on but within each human is an unfathomably rich universe of unknowable mystery.

5) Do you have any unifying theories about theatre and its relationship to community?
We need it to see ourselves. There should be a theatre in every neighbourhood. Like 7-Elevens.

6) What do you see as Daniel Brooks’ greatest strengths as a theatre director?
Brilliance. And apart from that a very healthy combination of self-doubt and ego.

7) How do you feel about your recent trip to Tokyo?
I love that city. I feel I could live there. Chaos and Order living together functionally. I also liked the fact that, as a non-Christian, I wasn’t constantly having to deal with Christian iconography. All these towering steeples and American news networks can get to one.

All photos by Guntar Kravis

8) Have you ever crossed a line during a performance that you’d like never to cross again?
Being in a one man show and getting angry at the audience is never a good idea. And I’m always wrong. I think they’re bored but they’re listening. And once when doing Here Lies Henry in Vancouver at the Cultch, I came off the stage to get in the face of an older gent who had fallen asleep. When he woke up and saw me nose-to-nose he nearly had a heart attack. That would have probably stopped the show.

9) Are there any new stories being told?
I guess I’d have to say no, but the soul each teller brings to each story is unique.

10) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were younger?
It is impossible to please people who don’t know what they want. And on a superficial note, I wish I knew how good I looked at 25 when I was 25.

Theatre link love

Holy fuck some people are smart. We are totally addicted to these awesome theatre blogs:

i) Parabasis“Lively!” – David Cote, Time Out New York.

“Isaac Butler is a blogger and theatre director living in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.”

ii) Daniel MacIvor Awesome website and ongoing notebook feature.

“Daniel MacIvor . . . is a stalwart of the Canadian theatre scene, having written and directed numerous award-winning productions including See Bob Run, Wild Abandon, 2-2-Tango, This Is A Play, The Soldier Dreams, You Are Here, How It Works and A Beautiful View.”

iii) Gasp!Writing, History and Culture with Laura Axelrod.

“Laura Axelrod is a writer and book critic. She’s a graduate of NYU, Tisch School of the Arts with an MFA and BFA in Dramatic Writing.”

Please help fuel this insane addiction. Send us your favourite theatre links or drop them in the comments section below!