10 questions: Greatest hits – Volume V

1) What the fuck is going on?
What the fuck is going on? Everything and nothing. The Royal Shakespeare from Stratford is in town giving us The Seagull and King Lear in repertory at the Guthrie.

What the fuck does Trevor Nunn think he’s doing, casting Nina with a novice who plays Nina as a spastic high school twit in Acts One, Two and Three, and then compounds the problem by presenting her in Act Four as even more spastic and twittish? Is this condescending snobbishness on his part? Does he think we don’t know what the fuck this play is all about? Or what?

He compounds the problem by casting the wrong actor as Trigorin, giving him the wrong costumes and facial hair, and requiring him to be even more the juvenile hippy than Constantine. You can’t have two rabid teenagers in The Seagull competing for Nina’s affections, let alone Mother’s. What a travesty. Thank God one of our local critics took the Great Unassailable Nunn to task. Don’t encourage me. I could go on for hours . . .

I see Lear tonight. Sir Ian gave his usual performance as Sorin, more or less demanding our laughter with his full range of ticks and fruity asides. Has he been dieting on his reviews? Vide The New Yorker piece by John Lahr. His onetime lover gave up on Sir Ian, complaining it wasn’t much fun living with an animated theatre poster.

What the fuck else is going on? George Grizzard is dead. I told him a year ago he should give up smoking. Broadway now more than ever has abandoned itself to high schoolers, mostly female and quasi-female.

“George Grizzard is dead. I told him a year ago he should give up smoking.”

I first went to New York at Christmas time in 1942/3 as a kid of 20. In six days I saw Howard Lindsey and Dorothy Stickney in Life With Father, the Lunts in The Pirate, Katherine Cornell, Judith Anderson and Ruth Gordon in The Three Sisters, Tallulah Bankhead, Fredrick March, and a kid named Montgomery Clift in a brand new play Skin of Our Teeth, William Prince in Eve of St. Mark, Ezio Pinza in Boris Godanov at the old Metropolitan Opera . . . Then I went to war. And you ask me what the fuck is going on today?

2) What does feminism mean to you?
Wow. This is a really big question. Feminism for me is about bringing the stories of women to audiences. To create more female-driven stories and more female roles that are exciting and complex. To tell stories that haven’t been told because they were taboo or hushed in the past.

Feminism isn’t just about equality for me. It’s about the beautiful diversity that women add to this life. Women’s stories are men’s stories, children’s stories, stories of countries and cultures. These stories must be celebrated and debated. Personally, I feel that there are fewer roles for complex female characters in theatre, television, and film than there are for men. It’s getting better, but growth is slower than I wish for it to manifest.

3) What can contemporary Canadian theatre makers do to further inform themselves about our country’s First Nations performance traditions?
We MUST have a sense of shared space and bear in mind that the first people who lived here are relevant to our lives because we all live on land that was in their care for a long fucking time. Ironically, we put so little value in the spoken word when it hasn’t been documented. Oral tradition is a huge part of all First Nations, and yet the theatre community largely thinks Canadian theatre began with imitating European structure. It’s time to stop allowing the curriculum to shape our understanding.

Philip Graeme
Photo by Tony Hoffmann.

4) Do you have any unifying theories that inform your approach to making theatre?
I constantly remind myself that I have to choose to allow myself to be bold, be brash, be brave, be physical, to remember that every utterance is a character’s act of survival, and that the stakes are always life or death. In the program notes for Peter Brook’s 1968 production of The Tempest at the Round House there were a series of fundamental questions the production set out to examine. The questions are: What is a theatre? What is a play? What is an actor? What is a spectator? What is the relationship between them all? What conditions serve this relationship best? Ultimately, I believe these are the only questions worth exploring.

5) What is poetic theatre?
Theatre that attempts to find clarity through ambiguity. Not verse theatre. Nor prose theatre or journalistic theatre. It is theatre that treats the text as a score, and treats the gap between actor and audience not as an obstacle to bypass, but as a medium through which multiple meanings can emerge. There’s a difference between shining a light directly into the audience’s eyes, and having it pass through a prism.

6) As a writer, what are you better at now than you were five years ago.
Everything, I hope.

I know I work harder than I did five years ago. I do know that.

The rest, I don’t know, I can only hope . . . life is a flawed work in progress.

I hope I’m smarter, more mature, more caring, more responsible and a better citizen than I was five years ago.

I hope I’m a more dependable friend to those I love and care about than I was five years ago.

If I can do those things and work hard, then the writing should take care of itself.

I can’t control whether or not someone digs my work or wants to produce it or even likes it, I have no control of that.

So I work hard as I can and try my best to speak to the truth.

That’s why writers and artists and musicians and poets exist, I believe.

To speak truth to power in a manner most excellent.

7) 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.

8) Do you feel that the CAEA is currently living up to the spirit of its mandate?
For Council, that is the most important question of all.

Our mandate comes from the owners of Equity: its members. The mandate is not a static thing. Theatre changes, the world changes, and members’ needs change. The only way for us to keep on top of a living mandate is to regularly consult with the members.

To that end, we have just concluded a major survey of our membership. This will tell us what our mandate is going forward, how we are living up to it so far, and what we need to do to improve.

Although complete results are not in yet, what we have seen so far suggests that we are living up to our mandate in the areas that the members commonly regard as the most important. Beyond that, they would like us to improve in providing some of the “soft” benefits of membership, such as advocacy, advice, and various resources. Please be aware that I have just condensed 1,500 pages of results into two sentences. It is a much, much more detailed picture than that.

9) What does post-modernism mean to you?
Revealing the sometimes-hidden content in form and vice-versa.

10) How well are Black Canadians being served by and represented in contemporary Canadian theatre?
what is contemporary theatre? If you mean the mainly publicly funded, mainly media supported, medium-to-large theatre houses, clearly there are not many black people (meaning womben and men, however womben especially), or first nations people or many other people of colour or differently abled people). the reason for this is clear – longstanding legacies of colonialism and imperialism (racism, sexism, classism, etc) dating back to the very stealing of canada from first nations people.

that being said, my own understanding of contemporary theatre is theatre that is being created now, today, which is happening all over; which does get some media support. If this is what you mean then I definitely feel that black canadians are both being served and represented because we are creating our own theatre and have been since we have been in canada, both as enslaved afrikans brought over on ships and as new immigrants choosing to come here voluntarily.

I am becoming less pre-occupied with being served by the former definition of ‘contemporary canadian theatre’ and more concerned with creating it. I feel that that is one of the solutions I can offer. therefore I feel that indeed in creating the stories that I am telling, I am serving canadians and am representing myself.

a major part of the reality is that as human beings we seldom relinquish power or share it simply because that is the ‘right’ thing to do. usually something has to be at stake or a gain on the part of the power-holder has to be identified. for me this has always meant removing myself from scenarios that may compromise my ability to have power over myself. Self-determination is essential in identity, self-esteem and community building.

I feel that as people in general we are responsible for telling our own stories and creating the means by which to tell them. there are some serious concerns around funding and access, however like I said these will not disappear over night so what do we do in the mean time? wait? no. we create. we live. we dialogue. we change ourselves and our families and our lovers and our friends. and we do not give up our power over self by waiting for power holders to share power. we simply create another reality in which we can find self-empowerment and positive self-reflection and collective dialoguing about change; tell our own stories. I am also less concerned about having these dialogues in the vacuum of acting/writing for theatre and more concerned with having them across broad socio-political-economic circles because these systems are old and entrenched so changing them needs a complex inter-connected circular approach.

10 questions: Greatest hits – Volume IV

Jennifer Norton

1) What the fuck is going on?
Well, as we choke on the ubiquity of war, pollution, crumbling social structures and global malaise I am preparing a solo show. How dandy!

Here is the more polite, less misanthropic answer. I am finishing a master of fine arts program at The University of Guelph, then will immediately embark upon a seven-month road trip that ends in the Yukon where my partner and I have an artist residency.

2) Why verbatim theatre?
The thing I love most about verbatim theatre is that it forces you to get out there and start talking to people. It also demands an outcome that is directly reflective and responsive to what the community is interested in, since it is their words that ultimately make up the play. If no one is interested in talking about it, there can’t be a play about it (and thank God for that!).

I also think it’s so fascinating to recognize and celebrate how people actually talk with the stutters, slang, incomplete sentences, how often everyone says ‘like’. And I think audiences often like knowing that what they are watching is ‘based on a true story’, especially when the material is particularly outrageous. Truth really is stranger and funnier than fiction.

David Tompa (L) and Glen McDonald (R).

3) Do you have any unifying theories that have come out of your study of the Meisner Technique?
I’ve read a slew of books of actor’s talking about the craft and the only word or concept that appears without fail is “truth”. There are so many approaches to try to achieve truth; Meisner’s just one of them. Unifying theories or comprehensive “systems” are dangerous. No technique can achieve truth if it’s followed to the letter. They’ll give you a jump start or point you in a direction that is potentially good, but it’s such a complex, yet basic thing to achieve truth, that if you try to force a system on it, it’ll disappear.

4) Do you have any unifying theories that inform your approach to lighting design, generally?
I can think of some: Don’t be afraid to try new things, always take risks. Don’t try to to cut corners. Always do what’s good for the show, remember that your design is just one element in the big picture. Try to remain practical, don’t fall in love with your own work. Trust your instincts. Be very, very organized and do your homework.

I always try to light theatre like I light dance, I use very little front light, and as much side and back light as possible. Low side light (shin busters) and diagonal backs are my favorite lighting positions. I like bold choices with colour and patterns, while maintaining a certain subtlety. I try to do precise lighting so I use a lot of specials and usually have a lot of cues. Having said all that simplicity is a real key and very often less is more.

5) How has your interest in American politics influenced your ideas about theatre?
American politics have all the great elements of drama – farce, tragedy, absurdity, heroes, villains, clowns – the stakes are always high and although much focus has been put on the circus-like atmosphere of modern American politics, we all want to know what the next Act will bring. The Bush administration has felt like the usurping power in one of Shakespeare’s histories. With Donald “Rummy” Rumsfeld emerging as chief rhetorician, uttering such poetic lines as, “The absence of evidence, is not evidence of absence,” when no WMDs were found in Iraq. That’s a beautiful line!

I guess what I’m saying is that my passion for American politics deepens my understanding of theatre, and vice-versa.

6) How important is it for theatre artists to be out there seeing lots of shows?
Oh lordy loo. You can’t not do it. Whether you spent three years in a theatre program or not, going to shows acts as a major training ground for a young artist. And as you become more established, I think it prevents you from getting too complacent about your own work. Seeing shows is the only thing that can hone your aesthetic; the only stage on which it’s possible to really test and challenge folks like Judith Butler and Richard Schechner.

I find that sitting in the audience has clarified my artistic goals more than acting on the stage itself. I am, though, an engaged audience member. I attend to a performance so actively that it can cause involuntary spasms and vocalizations. Going to shows MUST be about engaging with the piece on all levels. I also think it’s important to go outside your own discipline. It’s too easy to become enamored of a particular methodology when the creative process in theatre, dance, visual arts, music, media arts and design could be enriched by a little cross-pollination.

Kate Cayley

7) What does feminism mean to you?
An ever-changing concept. Especially since I think, for women of my generation in this country (including myself), freedom is so taken for granted that feminism is often a word to be avoided, having associations of something doctrinaire, and maybe slightly prissy.

Feminism is an extremely loaded word – so much of it has been seriously flawed through concerning itself mainly with the rights of upper-income women to uncritically wield the same power as upper-income men, in the same limited sphere. I can’t get worked up about female stockbrokers making slightly less than male stockbrokers, since the fundamental assumption that certain kinds of work can carry a grossly inflated salary isn’t really questioned. However, it’s a good word to keep (and love).

In theatre, or art in general, I used to think it meant telling stories about women. I still think that, but now I also think it means women telling stories –about women, about men, about anything – with the same creative scope and freedom as men have always had. And perhaps telling lots of stories about men, and not censoring ourselves into feeling that we must tell stories only about women in order to be good feminists – god knows male novelists and playwrights have told stories from the female perspective without being accused of neutering themselves. Gender’s a fun thing. Play with it.

STAF staff (L-R): Erica Reuter, Jackie McApline, Frances Shakov, Felicia Bana.

8) What can theatre makers do to further stretch their marketing and PR spend?
Building audiences is all about building relationships, so keeping a good database is important. Don’t only “talk” to them if you want them to buy a ticket. Keep them informed as to what you are doing year round. So, doing great e-blasts is very much OK as long as it doesn’t become intrusive.

NOW and eye weekly love to do media sponsorships and will up the buy, which allows for the advertising dollar to be stretched.

Don’t pester the press. A good clear press release goes a long way to being well received. Words like “unique” and “exceptional” and “creative” don’t cut it anymore – people like Jon Kaplan have been doing this stuff for years and know when a press release is full of shit.

Simon Ogden

9) How much of your work is informed by a sense of anger?
What kind of stupid fucking question is that? You’re lucky you live on the other side of the country Mackenzie, or I’d punch you right in the face.

Actually, my first hit was: anger? Me? Whaddya mean, I’m not angry . . . am I? And of course, a look back at my body of work to date reveals that there’s levels of anger in the genesis of all of it, which, upon further consideration, is as close an approximation to my personal definition of the true nature of art as I have ever considered. The play I’m working on right now, set in a bar, is entirely about the consequences of anger, as a matter of fact. Revelatory, thank you.

10) 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.

10 questions: Greatest hits – Volume III

David Cote

1) What the fuck is going on?
Workwise, constant theatergoing and writing that’s my job. I edit the theater section of Time Out New York (TONY), assigning reviewers and reporters and trying to review two or three shows a week myself. What I can’t fit into the Lilliputian space our magazine allots for reviews (approx. 280 words) I dilate upon in my blog.

But if you ask what the fuck is going on in NYC theater? Not enough! That is to say, our major nonprofit companies, in my opinion, are spinning their wheels aesthetically. Season after season, the programming is safe, conventional and blandly marketed to a public that doesn’t care anyway. Where’s the political theater? Where are the professional productions that exciting “downtown” playwrights deserve? Where are the plays that might (gasp) offend viewers or get them talking?

the politcal

Where are the artistic directors with charisma, media savvy, showmanship, imagination, chutzpah, vision and connections, who will create amazing seasons of established and emerging artists, who will attract media attention, get people buzzing? I’m almost less worried about nurturing the next generation of writers, directors and actors than in the administrators and marketing folks whose job it is to sell this stuff to the New York public.

Bluemouth Inc. (L-R): Stephen O’Connell, Richard Windeyer, Lucy Simic, Sabrina Reeves.

2) Is avant-garde, boundary-pushing art somehow fundamentally more worthy than art that reinforces or sustains the status quo?
To quote Bjork, “we are theatrical scientists.” It’s really not an issue of more or less. We do what makes us happy – looking at unique ways of perceiving performance is what keeps bringing us back to the process.

It’s all so relative anyhow. Whatever we may think is boundary-pushing may be tame in comparison to most of the performance art I’ve seen. How about the French performance artist Orlan, who has undergone numerous plastic surgeries to transform her face and body to challenge traditional perceptions of beauty? Now that’s commitment.

Jacob Zimmer

3) What kind of questions do you most like to be asked about your work?
I wish we talked more about the “why” questions. Not in the rehearsal hall, but between artists (and in public). Why certain choices get made, why one makes theatre, why this staging over another, why work in a certain way . . . They’re hard questions and we avoid them because, I think, they would lead to disagreement and out of some fear that articulating them could be dangerous to inspiration (over-analyzing). But I think they’re very important as we continue forward and wish we could find a way to talk about it. To talk about the ethics/values of our work.

L-R: Dusan Dukic, Martin Julien and Dragana Varagic.
Photo by Cylla Tiedemann.

4) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were younger?
That most people in Canada don’t really care about theatre that much. There’s really not much of a sustaining industry. This includes the media. Not too much happens, in the end. If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time and emotional effort trying to “build a career.” I would’ve just got on with the work, knowing it was a rarefied interest with its own rewards.

And, oh yes – don’t waste time trying to impress people. Sigh. Young people are always trying to make an impression.

Bridget MacIntosh

5) How has the Fringe of Toronto Theatre Festival changed since you started working with it?
Definitely more artists are aware of what a useful and affordable development tool the Fringe is. Each year the number of applications we receive grows. This past year we received 550 applications to the Fringe lottery and the ongoing joke in the office was that your odds were better to win $1,000,000 in the Heart & Stroke Lottery than they were to secure a spot in the Fringe.

High-profile success such as The Drowsy Chaperone, JOB: The Hip-Hopera and da kink in my hair have also introduced the Toronto Fringe and the Fringe philosophy to a wider audience and can help explain the huge increases in applications from artists across Canada and around the world.

Here at home, local artists are finding it more expensive to develop work, hence applications from local companies have also skyrocketed as artists look to take advantage of the affordable and supportive environment the Fringe provides for these artists to create.

Also, since I started working for the Fringe I’ve personally made it a point to promote and celebrate the fact that the Fringe remains unjuried and that we return 100% of the ticket price back to the artists. It’s not uncommon to see us referring to ourselves as “Toronto’s Theatre Festival” (since we remain accessible to a much larger cross section of the population) and how we’re “unjuried, unexpected, unforgettable” on all of our marketing material. I think people have responded extremely well to these statements and to what the Fringe is all about.

Over the past seven years we’ve continued to set records in both attendance and in box office revenue and hope to sell over 50,000 tickets this July.

6) Do you think class barriers are preventing theatre from being a more vital part of Canadian culture?
Yes, it’s still seen as an elitist artform in many cases, aside from the fact that you can see great theatre for the same price or less than a movie. And, in fact, even most of the larger companies offer great rush or student discounts – but no one knows about them!

Outside the theatre community, theatre is often seen as stuffy and strange. I think archaic marketing and protocol contributes to deterring new and younger potential theatregoers (namely the 18-40 demographic). They don’t read papers, which is our traditional theatre advertising medium, and it’s not easy to get to or find out about.

I also think allowing food and beverages in theatres would help matters. I know we’re not all set up for cabaret and actors would have to put up with munching and crackling, but who cares! If it gets more bums in seats (and generates more money off liquor sales for theatres), then why not! There should also be connected afterparties and events to hook people in. Create a more social environment and event and I think we’ll draw a much wider and more interested crowd.

Simon Michellepis

7) What would make Toronto a stronger theatre city?
  1. Better shows. Ultimately, it’s our job to invent a better mousetrap and meet the needs of our audience.
  2. Better management (by the varied theatre institutions [media, grant, CAEA, etc]): Leadership must come from those who have influence. In the face of the challenges that have faced Toronto theatre over the past four years, I am surprised and saddened by what I see as a fundamental lack of leadership response.
I ask: “Who is at the wheel?” – and the echoing silence of the answer speaks volumes.

Claire Hopkinson

8) How do you feel about the current state of arts funding in Toronto?
I am in a painful quandary. In comparison with all the major cities in North America, Toronto has the lowest municipal arts funding rate. Toronto’s per capita contributions to arts, culture and heritage (including both operating and capital expenditures) is $14.64. Compare this to Vancouver at $17.71, Chicago at $21.95, Montreal at $26.62 and San Francisco at $86.01. Toronto’s municipal funding is not sufficient for a city that is home to so many talented people, a city that is a hotbed of creativity, a city whose value-proposition truly is arts and culture!

This is not to say that the arts are not valued here. We have champions at City Hall, and our current Mayor is certainly arts-friendly. If you read the newspapers these days, you’ll know that the City is in a terrible financial straight jacket. Years of downloading from the Province plus a Federal government that seems unwilling to invest in Toronto, are taking their toll.

My question is, what can we as citizens, as artists, as people who care about this city do about it? If you are not yet a member of Toronto Arts Coalition, this is a internet-based group of arts supporters and a forum for communication with politicians. It is free and you can join by going to www.torontoartscoalition.org.

Geoff Kolomayz

9) Why are puppets an important part of theatre?
Now that is truly a question for Ronnie Burkett! I do have a few thoughts. One of the many things theatre offers is the doorway to another world – a fantasy. Many times on a stage that is created through set, makeup and lights. When I worked in black light puppetry, we didn’t have those things so the puppets themselves, their uniqueness, their fantastical nature in being creations of the mind – everything from ordinary cats to creatures from another planet – were what created that fantasy world. I also think puppets are important because they are like living cartoons and the animated world is something that appeals to all generations young and old.

10) If class issues are preventing theatre from being a more vital voice in American culture, who’s responsible and how do we fix it?
I think class is, to appropriate Pinter, the weasel under the cocktail cabinet. Nobody wants to talk about the fact that 80% of the theatre audience is drawn from the top 15% of America’s economic class. Thus, government support of the arts looks like another handout for the rich.

As Dudley Cocke, artistic director of Roadside Theatre in Whitesburg KY says, “the assembled spectators for the typical not-for-profit professional theater production don’t look like any community in the U.S., except, perhaps, a gated one. From such a narrow social base, great democratic art will never rise.” I agree.

Who’s responsible? Tyrone Guthrie. He hijacked the regional theatre movement and made it a haven for the wealthy, educated class who would put up with museum pieces in order to appear “cultured.”

How do we fix it? First, decentralize theatre – get over our childish fixation with the Cinderella story of NYC and perform in towns across America. Second, think outside the box – by which I mean, think outside the theatre building. Do theatre in living rooms, back yards, community centers, bars, parks. Third, learn to speak the language. Different cultures and classes tell stories differently – go to them, don’t expect them to come to you.

10 questions: Greatest hits – Volume I

Tania McCartney

1) What the fuck is going on?
Most frequent line used in bad movies about the end of the world.

James Murray

2) Do you have any unifying theories when it comes to acting?
I don’t mind talking about or trying to theoretically analyze acting on my own time, but it’s way more efficient when you’re actually doing it. Amid a rehearsal process or when a film is in production, ‘theorizing’ as opposed to ‘doing’ will impede the project. In a theatre school, it’s dangerous for students to pay too much mind on theory of ‘how to act’ because when they finally get down to playing a role, their minds will be fixated on recollecting what Stanislavsky or Hagen said instead of practicing being alive in a moment. Acting is an emotional sport that needs to be practiced at all times and acknowledging your life experiences.

3) Most challenging role you’ve attempted?
Malvolio in Twelfth Night. As a preying mantis. With a German accent. In geisha-girl make-up. In Fayetteville, Arkansas. (In case you’re wondering, there is no terrifying like the terrifying of two thousand people all slowly chanting, “Soooooooooey Pig…” in unison. It was like the college football version of Lord of the Flies.)

4) What’s the most common failing of independent theatre in Toronto?
Not appealing to a broader audience. I think as artists we have to figure out how to attract the masses without compromising our creativity. I feel like the stories we tell represent a much more varied society than we are playing to. Theatre isn’t meant to be elitist. (Also, I’m unemployed right now – WHAT-UP-WITH-THAT?!?!!)

5) Whats the best thing about theatre in Toronto?
The sense of community. The Indie theatre scene in the city is unlike the old guard in the sense that we realize we’re are all fighting the same battle. We share a relatively small audience for a major city. It’s dysfunctional to see each other as competition. I think emerging theatre companies realize that there is far more to be gained through supporting each other, sharing resources and talent, and creating common goals. And with some conversations I’ve recently had with other artists at the same point in their careers, I feel like we could be on the verge of some very exciting times for local theatre.

6) Whats the difference between theatrical clowning and theatrical acting?
The fourth wall. When a clown walks out on to the stage, the most interesting thing they see is the audience. Actors will go to great lengths to pretend that no one is there. If you cough in a clown show the clowns will acknowledge that and deal with it. I’ve seen outdoor dramatic theatre shows where a plane flies overhead and the actors have to pretend that it didn’t happen. As a clown I love it if an audience member starts talking or gets a phone call or arrives late or leaves early. It allows me to deal directly with them and gives me a chance to work with the audience and to temporarily get out of any prepared storyline. Another difference is playing neutral. For an actor neutral is devoid of feeling or emotion – for a clown it is feeling everything at once in balance. Clown neutral holds a lot of tension as the clown could burst out into any emotion. Oh, and a bunch of clowns are harder to direct than actors.

Adam Paolozza

7) Are there any clear distinctions between movement-based performance and dance?
I think that all theatre is movement based. You never go to the theatre and receive any information telepathically. I suppose that if we follow this line of reasoning then dance would be considered theatre, as well. Maybe that isn’t too far off the mark. All performance relies on language and play whether the language is words, gestures or movement. Maybe we should all just call ourselves performers. Then we could dance, speak or mime without offending anyone. Of course that would be a bureaucratic nightmare for grant writing how would they organize all those applications?

Josh Bloch

8) Any tips for making social-message theatre entertaining?
You don’t get carte blanche to whack the audience over the head with a social message just because you got one. Theatre that comes from a progressive, radical, left-wing perspective should still follow those basic tenets of what makes theatre work. Somehow “political art” has come to represent highly didactic, message-driven art with a lefty agenda. To me this is just bad art. Political art can be hysterical, nuanced, rife with dramatic tension, full of complex characters and all the other things that we love about theatre. Any theatre artist solely driven by the desire to deliver a message to the audience is wading into some dangerous waters.


9) How do you prepare for a Santa Claus performance?
There are two types of Santa that are popular these days: the traditional Santa and the Bad Santa. For the traditional Santa you need to get your outfit together and to be as accurate to whatever depiction of Santa you like best. Get lots of cheap gifts to hand out. Kids love free candy no matter how cheap it is. The mental preparation is to get to a contagiously happy place and keep that going for about 4-5 hours. It is not as hard as it sounds if the people you are greeting are feeding you back with positive responses.

Since the movie Bad Santa came out people have actually been looking to hire Bad Santas. Never wash the Bad Santa suit. You will need to have a flask with some really smelly booze in it to occasionally spill on yourself and sprinkle on your beard. Don’t bathe in advance. A gruff voice works well. To get the drunken aspect down you need to practice trying to find your centre of balance and failing. Review what is known about Santa, including lines from carols, christmas specials and the ’Twas the Night Before Christmas poem. Improv experience really helps as you are expected to be witty without coming across like you know that what you said was witty. Bruce Hunter would make a good Bad Santa, Oscar Wilde not so good.

10) How do you remember an entire play’s worth of lines?
Well, that’s what you are paid (fingers crossed) to do. However, by the time the play is ready to be performed, it’s no longer memorized “lines” it’s actually more like memorized “moments”: dialogue combined with physical action, intention, reaction, lighting, sound, emotion, audience, blah, blah. Some of my best moments have come when I don’t know what I’m supposed to say and simply react. Some of my worst? When I don’t know what I’m supposed to say and don’t react. As Renton said: “It’s a fookin’ tight rope, Spud.”