This One Goes to Eleven: Katrina Dunn

If you want an example of absolute commitment to our theatre, look no further than Katrina Dunn, who has been on the front lines of the fight to bring great Canadian theatre to Vancouverites for many years. She’s been the Artistic Director of Touchstone Theatre and its all-Canadian mandate since 1997, and was one of the architects of the envelope-expanding PuSh Festival, where she remains as Associate Curator. All this while working consistently as a Director-for-hire. Meet one of the stalwarts of our industry…

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1.) In one word, describe your present condition.

If by “condition” you mean the condition of the show, I would say “poised” meaning poised to take off and meet it’s audience.

2.) Describe the condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.

Smokin’.

3.) Please describe Touchstone’s criteria for choosing its material.

Our mandate is Canadian work. We pick the the most provocative and exciting new voices creating Canadian work.

4.) Can you tell us a bit about the working process of your Playwright-in-Residence program?

We work with playwrights over a long period – usually 2 to 3 years. The development process includes a series of workshops and hands on dramaturgy with myself and a dramaturg. We carefully usher a show to production and make a significant investment in its premiere.

5.) What advice could you give young companies with regards to structuring themselves towards long-term sustainability?

Diversify your audience and your revenue sources. Plan for things to change, especially when it comes to funding.

6.) How healthy do you feel Vancouver theatre is as a mutually supportive community?

It’s excellent. I think we work together more than any major centre in Canada. Because in the West we’ve been forced to work with less resources, we partner more and share more.

7.) So far, what has been your proudest PuSh Festival moment?

I think it must have been the 07 Festival, when I realize the thing had grown so big that it was impossible for me to take it all in.

8.) If you could offer only one piece of advice to our new directors, what would it be?

Believe in your vision and pursue it despite the nay sayers.

9.) Given a time machine, what one piece of advice would you give yourself as you start out on your career?

Try not to work so hard.

10.) What are your top three theatre reads?

Joseph Chaiken’s The Presence of the Actor

David Mamet’s True and False

John Lahr’s The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan

Tony Kushner’s Thinking about the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness

Four – I know but I couldn’t choose.

11.) What’s next?

Janet Munsil’s new play “Influence” about John Keats, the Elgin Marbles and the nature of artistic inspiration. Touchstone is producing it in November.

New Feature Alert – Video Listings Now Available

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Marketing a play? Looking for some exposure? The Next Stage is pleased to offer a new section of video listings, free for a limited time to Victoria independent theatre companies. Features of your listing include: all your production and contact information, a brief write-up or synopsis of the play itself, embedded links to your company site or blog, and a 30-60 second video clip of a company member of your choice telling us, the citizens of Vancouver, just exactly why we need to come out and see your play.

These clips are not “trailers” for your play, they are your chance to publicize the ‘elevator pitch’, or essential selling point of your production. The style of your pitch is entirely up to you, and the more creative and engaging the better. Each clip is shot and edited by us at The Next Stage, and will be available on YouTube for use on your own site.

This service is being offered free of charge, so click here to see what we’re talking about, and then contact us at vanstage(at)gmail(dot)com to arrange for your very own video listings shoot.

The Art of the Business, Part 2 – Putting a Value on our Work

For a downloadable or streaming audio podcast of this article, click here.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: this is a column that is supposed to be dedicated to tips and tricks about marketing artists, right? So what the heck is this whole “putting a value on our work” thing?

Because, my friend, you have to be able to put a value on your work before you can market and sell it. That is probably oversimplifying the situation, but please just bear with me for a moment.

When was the last time someone asked you to help them out by contributing your artistic skills for free? Yesterday? Last week? Five minutes ago? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

See, there’s this perception out there in the world (and we as artists are guilty of it too), that because we get intrinsic value from our work, that we don’t need to be compensated financially. In an ideal world, we would all make a living from our artistic practice. Some of you out there already are (and you make me very happy and proud and give me a great deal of hope, so thank you). But for the rest of us, where does it end?

Beginning to value your work also means beginning to say ‘no’. And I don’t know about you, but I find that scary. Scary because, if I say no to someone, am I cutting off all future ties? Will I lose paying business down the road if I don’t give them a freebie the first time? Maybe. I can’t answer those questions for you. But what I have experienced is this: often unpaid work leads to more of the same. Conversely, paid work often leads to more of the same.

I’m not saying you should never volunteer your skills and services. I do it all the time. I’m doing it right now. I’m not saying you should never give a discount to a new client to make yourself a bit more appealing. What I’m saying is, be strategic. Weigh it. Don’t just say ‘yes’ to everything because you are afraid the well of opportunities will run dry. In fact, the very opposite may be true: when you start turning down unpaid work, you make space in your life for work that pays. And if you value yourself, so will others.

So, how do you put a value on your work? There are three possible ways.

The first one is called the going rate. Talk to people who are out there doing something that is similar to what you are doing. Ask them how much they charge. Do they charge by the hour, the contract, or the piece? It’s important to know this information, because it is not good to under-price yourself. You may get people hiring you because they think you’re a good deal, but ultimately people also believe they get what they pay for, and will be wondering what it is that you are not doing that the competition is. Also, price wars do not help anyone—if your competition starts underpricing you, then where will you be?

Second: look to your union or governing body or trade organization to see if they have any guidelines around pricing. They can often be really helpful in this respect.

Third: there is a somewhat complex formula you can use to calculate your hourly rate. Check out Flying Solo, a blog from Australia for the exact formula (math was never my strong suit!).

Here’s my last word on the topic: some people subscribe to the romantic, bohemian notion of being a “starving artist”. That’s cool, but if you belong to that category I’m asking you to stop reading my column, because there’s nothing here for you. You wanna be an artist and (gasp!) make money at it? Keep reading. But first, you have to believe you can do it. Or at least be a good enough actor to fake it.

And now for some shameless self-promotion. Biz Books, which is Vancouver’s only bookstore dedicated to the theatre and film industry, is sponsoring a great series called How to Start... I have been invited to give a talk on How to Start… Building a Buzz about Your Next Project, on Wednesday, March 19th; 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. The location is Biz Books, 302 W Cordova St, Vancouver, BC. It’s free, but you need to RSVP to 604.669.6431 or e-mail: info@bizbooks.net.

Until next time, here’s to bums in seats everywhere…

Rebecca Coleman

Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company.

A Proud Day for Canadian Theatre

It is now T-minus 30 days until World Theatre Day and counting. The WTD organizing committee, the International Theatre Institute, has officially announced the author of this year’s international theatre message (drum roll please): Canadian icon and contemporary theatre revolutionary Robert Lepage.

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The ITI is an world-wide non-governmental agency founded by UNESCO in 1948. On every WTD it invites an international theatre luminary to pen the year’s key-note address celebrating the importance of theatre to our planet. With his inclusion this year Mr. Lepage joins the roll of past theatreists which includes Arthur Miller (1963), Laurence Olivier (1964), Peter Brook (1969 and 1988), Eugène Ionesco (1976), and Vaclav Havel (1994), among many others.

The speech is set to be officially presented during World Theatre Day on March 27, when it will be read before the curtain at theatre productions around the globe. But in an exclusive for The Next Stage readers we have received an advance copy of the message, and are proud to share it with you here, in its entirety.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Robert Lepage…

There are a number of hypotheses on the origins of theatre but the one I find the most thought-provoking takes the form of a fable:

One night, at the dawn of time, a group of men were gathered together in a quarry to warm themselves around a fire and tell stories. All of a sudden, one of them had the idea to stand up and use his shadow to illustrate his tale. Using the light from the flames he made characters appear, larger than life, on the walls of the quarry. Amazed, the others recognized in turn the strong and the weak, the oppressor and the oppressed, the god and the mortal.

Nowadays, the light of projectors has replaced the original bonfire, and stage machinery, the walls of the quarry. And with all due deference to certain purists, this fable reminds us that technology is at the very beginnings of theatre and that it should not be perceived as a threat but as a uniting element.

The survival of the art of theatre depends on its capacity to reinvent itself by embracing new tools and new languages. For how could the theatre continue to bear witness to the great issues of its epoch and promote understanding between peoples without having, itself, a spirit of openness? How could it pride itself on offering solutions to the problems of intolerance, exclusion and racism if, in its own practice, it resisted any fusion and integration ?

In order to represent the world in all its complexity, the artist must bring forth new forms and ideas, and trust in the intelligence of the spectator, who is capable of distinguishing the silhouette of humanity within this perpetual play of light and shadow.

It is true that by playing too much with fire, we take a risk, but we also take a chance: we might get burned, but we might also amaze and enlighten.

Robert Lepage

Quebec, 17th February 2008

(Translated from the original French)

With thanks to the GVPTA for the scoop.

This One Goes to Eleven: Susan Stevenson

A lot of time is spent on this site and its interview series discussing the many potential ways that the theatre business in Vancouver may be improved. Lest this offer the impression that our theatre has a foot in the grave we present a conversation with Susan Stevenson. Susan is the Executive Director of the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance, a position which affords her a uniquely comprehensive perspective on the our community as a whole. Read on for a good, solid shot of theatrical positivism…

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1.) In one word, describe your present condition.

Optimistic.

2.) In as many or as few words as you’d like, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.

Growing. We have over 100 companies and new members joining the GVPTA all the time, and we publish 50% more listings in the Vancouver Theatre Guide than we did when I first started this job four years ago. Bard on the Beach reports they sold out every seat of every show for its entire run in 2007! That, and the recent success of the PuSh festival and the thriving independent theatre scene here tells me there is an audience for all types of theatre in Vancouver. We are in need of more facilities (production, rehearsal, storage, performance) to accommodate all this growth.

3.) Please tell us a bit about the role of the GVPTA today.

We produce two major events each year: The Making a Scene Conference in November and a Celebration of World Theatre Day in March. We also offer artistic and administrative workshops, publish the Vancouver Theatre Guide three times a year, issue daily information to members via e-mail, and send weekly updates to the general public on what’s playing in our “Casting the Net” bulletins. Membership is open to companies of all sorts and to individual artists and friends (see www.gvpta.ca for further details).

4.) What is the most essential resource for young theatre companies that they probably don’t know about?

The GVPTA has a mentorship program and can help find a match for emerging companies/artists with our more established companies. You volunteer some time to the mentor in exchange for your mentorship.

5.) The GVPTA started as an activist group. Is that still an accurate description of its agenda?

Our mandate is to promote live theatre and foster a thriving environment for the continued growth and development of theatre. At times that does involve advocacy work. For example, we just submitted a brief to the City of Vancouver on the acute need for performance, rehearsal, production and storage space for theatre companies. But activism or advocacy to government is only one part of what we do. Like most service organizations, we also offer joint marketing, networking and professional development opportunities to members.

6.) Where should we be focusing our marketing towards developing a future audience for theatre here?

Joint marketing efforts.

I know people pick up the Vancouver Theatre Guide because it offers a quick reference to the diversity of choices in live theatre that exists throughout all the venues/companies in the region. Theatre-goers also have responded favourably to our “Casting the Net” weekly e-mail reminders on what’s opening/closing each week. Obviously, the younger generation in particular can be found on Facebook, so our members are starting to have a presence there, too.

An annual, coordinated Free Night of Theatre program that has taken off in the United States is something that could be worth our while to explore here to help build new audiences.

7.) How healthy is the Vancouver theatre community as a mutually supportive family?

One of the main purposes of creating the Making the Scene conference nine years ago was to build community, and people frequently come away from the conference saying they realize they aren’t alone in their profession after all.

I can think of several good examples of theatre companies and artists coming together to be mutually supportive: the GVPTA Discount Card program helps make shows more affordable for individual artist members; The Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards (founded by the GVPTA but run by a separate society); The See Seven initiative; and Progress Lab/HIVE. The Performing Arts Lodge has also created a new family-like living environment for individuals.

But there’s always room for more community building and more support and services. If you have ideas about how we can work together, the GVPTA’s committees are a grass-roots forum for exploring them. Consider joining one of the following committees: Marketing, Membership, Making a Scene Conference, World Theatre Day or Advocacy.

8.) What would you like to see more of on our stages?

I enjoy seeing work that combines dance or movement with theatre. The GVPTA brought out Paula de Vasconcelos of Pigeons International (Montreal) to give a workshop Feb 16-20 on dance-theatre and it has been fascinating to see a mixed group of dancers and actors learning together. Pigeons International does both dance and theatre equally, but it’s not easy to do and it takes a fairly mature artist to be able to tackle both. As Paula commented, when she sees work that is just one or the other, she feels like she’s using just one half of her brain, but dance-theatre work has the capacity to speak to both halves.

9.) What did you think of the Open Space?

It’s a great way to get people talking and networking and I think possibly the best way to undertake a public consultation process if you really want to be thorough and democratic, rather than setting the agenda in advance.

10.) What are your top three arts administration reads?

The Art of Governance: Boards in the Performing Arts, published by Theatre Communication Group, NYC, 2005.

Hills Strategies Research Inc. e-bulletins

Art News Canada e-bulletins. Subscribe here.

11.) What’s next?

We are gearing up for a celebration of World Theatre Day at the end of March. Check out our web site at www.gvpta.ca and watch for the brochure on all the free, pay-what-you-can or discounted events. Hope to see you at our benefit performance My First Time – The Love Scene March 25 at the Waterfront Theatre! The silent auction this year features an exhibition of Art by Actors on display at the Vancouver Central Library March 1-24.

And then later this spring, we’ll be bringing out Richard Rose from Tarragon Theatre (Toronto) to lead a two-day directing workshop May 6 and 7.

For Theatre Nerds Only

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Why did no one tell me about this? Sometimes the murky depths of the internet yield up some astonishing treasures, like this internet radio station devoted to all things New York theatre. Playbill Radio features daily features like Playbill Presents: “Playbill Radio takes its microphones backstage and into the rehearsal rooms of Broadway for “Playbill Presents,” offering intimate visits with the many interesting people who make the theatre work.” and Centre Stage: “Playbill Radio’s flagship interview program welcomes a different luminary from Broadway and [yay] Off-Broadway every week.” Or you can just listen to non-stop Broadway numbers, if you’re into that kind of thing.

The real beauty of this site, however, is the podcast archives, just brimming with recorded interviews and talkbacks with scads of theatre professionals from all sorts of different areas of expertise. Par example: an interview with Edward Albee in which he talks about the sanctity of the script in production (guess which side he falls on), a 50th anniversary reunion with the original cast of West Side Story, or the producer of August: Osage County talking about his job. Or how about the Lincoln Centre dramaturg talking about what the hell dramaturgy is? Or maybe a little Davey-boy Mamet on writing political comedy to start the day off with a bang? I’ve died and gone to theatre nerd heaven. It’s kinda weird that Mamet’s up here, though.

This One Goes to Eleven: Jessica Van der Veen

Hi. My name is Simon, and I’m a playwright, actor, and working theatre artist. I can claim all of these things to be fact today because of Jess. Hers was the very first acting class I was dragged to, by a doorman at some club I was flipping bottles in at the time, 15 years ago when I wasn’t even aware that normal people could even become actors. I wish a teacher like her on anyone starting down the path of the artist. Her eagerly-shared wisdom, love of storytelling, and fierce righteous indignation at the injustices of society managed to stoke something in me that I had theretofore been unable to articulate. That class gave voice to the artist I was born to be. Forgive me if I wax a little poetic, but hey, our mentors’ll do that to us, won’t they?

Jessica moved with her little family of artists from Van to Victoria a while back, where she has been quicksanding herself into the vagaries of bureaucracy to better arm herself in her quixotic pursuit of making the world a better place. Or, to put it simply, walking the walk. She was good enough to spend some time here to talk the talk.

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1.) In one word, describe your present condition.

Potent.

2.) With no restrictions on length, describe the present condition of Vancouver theatre.

Oh for God’s sake Simon. How should I know? I’ve been away for some time now, although I just saw two Vancouver shows that kind of personify Vancouver Theatre. One from a senior company struggling to adapt to changing times, while not wanting to lose its core audience – which is tough, by the way: The actress was imported, in keeping with the national reach of the company, but then, is it Vancouver theatre? The acting was very good; the direction and pacing were beautifully shaped; the staging and sound scape were crashingly dull. (Acid test of theatre: why put it on stage at all? Is it really theatre or is it radio drama with costumes?) Some financial whiz thought up this idea for co-pros., forgetting that the big regional theatres should have enough funding to establish companies that can form some kind of continuity and creative identity instead of laying off all the master craftspeople several times a year. Otherwise, what’s the point of a regional theatre with all that fabulous technical potential?

The second show was an experimental work as part of the PuSh festival which was exciting, dangerous, rigorous, marvelous theatre – a feast of the senses — that had no business being so far away from the audience in the safe context of a narrow proscenium theatre. Loved it. Wanted it more in my face, maybe in the round. Someday soon you can do a big production in the round in YVR.

The present condition of Vancouver theatre is: young, healthy and pregnant! Young writers and the opportunity for mentorships at places like Playwrights’ Theatre Centre; new theatre buildings finally in progress; the cultural precincts; expansions with relations with Asia during a surge in interest in contemporary art in both China and India; brilliant young experimental companies; the PuSh festival; the art assembly, pitch sessions and projects like “Hive”; better communications amongst the ethnic communities; the writers’ strike and high dollar leaving creative people at loose ends; and hosting Magnetic North this year. There, that should get you started. The new Renaissance fund, Artspod and changes in capital gains tax laws for donations are going to make a huge difference in the sustainability of theatre in Vancouver.

3.) What is our main stumbling block towards developing a popular theatre?

There are two (of course):

1. Synthesizing cultures. Right now theatre is wrestling with so much diversity: racial; cultural; generational. Seems like people are talking about their audience, instead of trying to figure out who we are now. As a people. Personally, I can’t wait to fire the baby boomers from being in charge of everything – and I am a baby boomer! (Sort of.) There couldn’t be a better time to develop a wider audience for theatre because BC is so nascent, so in the process of evolving and so diverse. Many baby boomers still don’t believe they are going to die and haven’t really taken the time to imagine the world that will come after them. But — even though every generation thinks it is the last – they are gradually becoming interested in working with who is next. Not just who is next that resembles them – who really is next.

This, of course, means re-invention, and that is already taking place. Theatre is about identity. And our identity is in play. From now on. The moment we find an identity it will dissolve and morph something else. The reason Vancouver theatre is so rich now is that a lot of really creative people know that identity is in play and are playing with it. The ideological rut of post-colonial identity theory is being replaced by something far more exciting – precisely because no one has had a chance to define it yet.

2. We are afraid of being elitist, but we don’t want to be populist, but we want to be popular so we tend to neutralize ourselves in the middle and end up producing sitcoms. Face it: Some people are never going to the theatre. In those cases, we have to take the theatre to them. And folks are doing that in Vancouver. Meanwhile, indoors – speaking pragmatically – theatre will be popular when we make it trendy to be into theatre. Lots of people have rejected mass production. Vancouverites will drive across the city in that god-awful traffic to pay $14 dollars for a piece of fine cheese. Theatre marketing is partly about rarity, uniqueness of experience and that if you don’t get it now, it will be all gone and you might die and never know what it was like.

Is theatre elitist? One hopes it doesn’t need to be an economic divide that separates theatre goers from not-goers. But there is definitely a divide. This is partly just because we all have so much choice to pursue interests suited to our unique proclivities. But I don’t hate sports franchises because I don’t understand the point or the rules of football – so why would you get mad at theatre because a bunch of people don’t get it? You don’t get mad at Stephen Hawking because you can’t understand the mathematical boundaries he is pushing. It’s a bit pretentious to say that theatre isn’t elitist in this day and age – which is not to say that great theatre can’t have mass appeal.

Advice: Write a manifesto that says what you want to do with theatre that you can’t do with any other art form. Otherwise, like I said, take it outside – especially to children.

4.) How’s theatre doing in Victoria?

Victoria is amazing. Full of accomplished people who live here because they can. It is tiny – only 400,000 people in the Greater Victoria area. Professional theatre is a small world, defined by excellence – mainly at the Belfry. Chemainus theatre survives because of brilliant marketing and smart programming. New work is fostered and developed through the Belfry’s festival and through Jim Leard’s Story Theatre among others.. We have a new artistic director coming in, so the Belfry is beginning a new chapter. Scary big shoes for him to fill. Roy Surette left the Belfry in excellent shape. Then there is Kaleidoscope which Leslie Bland keeps growing, affording opportunities for children of all ages to see and participate in theatre. The Canadian College for Performing Arts is bursting with singin’, actin’ dancin’ folks – brimming with talent.

But there are also just these irrepressible Indies that won’t go away. So you have theatre SKAM and the Fringe and Intrepid Theatre and Theatre Inconnu and community based theatres and – who can keep up? The miracle is that they keep surviving and some are doing quite avant-garde work. UVic’s theatre department is in the mix too – and technically outstanding. The blue rinse crowd is grossly underestimated. They are a different bunch than they were 20 years ago, versed in modernism, weaned on Beckett, curious about form as well as content. The audiences are tiny for Indie theatre (like everywhere for now), but they are keen, by gum.

5.) What is our responsibility as theatre artists to our community?

Curiosity – the most underrated of all human qualities. I want to talk about big ‘C’ Community. We have a responsibility to think about our audience compassionately and respectfully, without being reduced to pandering. Spend time wondering about Vancouver people — their fears, their hopes and dreams, their ideas, their interests. Yes, we need to write what we know, be innovative, be thrilling, be all these things — but finally, when all is said and done, we must care enough about the audience that we want to hand them our hearts on a plate and, more importantly, we care what that means to them. Not whether they’ll buy a ticket. Not whether we hit a demographic. There is too much didacticism in the theatre. We need to care what they think. We need to be interested in them. We need to talk about them instead of having endless discussions about the state of the theatre. We need to wonder about their complex lives in this time and place. We need to spy on them. We need to see physical things around us that are unique to here and now.

You want to write what you know? Study specific people and places in the community that really fascinate you –get to know them – then write about them. You are the unique lens, but they are the picture. Then you will be so damn interested in what you are doing that the audience will be too. Lots of folks are doing crazy beautiful things – like theatre in swimming pools. Some of them are brilliant. All of them are worth trying.

6.) Can you quantify your approach to actor training?

Ah yes. What does it all add up to? Well, independence really. I want you to not need me anymore. I want to teach you how to think about what you need to do next to prepare a role. I want to teach you how to investigate. I want your technique, and your emotional and intellectual and physical flexibility and athleticism to be developed so that you are the artist. You know it and you own it. So I teach all those painfully dis-inhibiting rehearsal techniques – the ones that automatically make demands on you physically, vocally, emotionally, mentally — the ones everyone wishes they could skip because there is no way to do them and be cool or even contained at the same time. And then, somewhere along the way, actors realize that those techniques are like jumper cables and they just chuck them in the trunk and roar off into the distance.

I miss them. I love them. I’m glad they are gone.

7.) In our busy TV/film town, what responsibility do our acting instructors have to the proliferation of a sustainable theatre?

Exposure: Right now, academia owns theatre training in Vancouver. That’s wrong, because university entrance standards have been so high for the past 15 years that obedient straight A students have gotten all the spots. Some turned out to be good artists, to be sure. But there has to be room for eccentric, disobedient people to have access to training. The private training studios pander to film and TV wannabees. But fortunately for the students in all the training facilities, many of the coaches hired by the studios are stealthy. They sneak in good scripts. They sneak in theatre history notes while they are teaching technique. They create live performing opportunities. When one of those disobedient, eccentric, talented students collides with a stealthy coach and gets introduced to Canadian and world theatre…that’s what I’m talkin’ about! The rest is up to you.

8.) What’s the best piece of acting advice you’ve ever received?

Take care of your partner.

9.) Given a time machine, what would you tell the young Jessica just starting out on her career?

Travel more! Now I think maybe that isn’t so true because there is really exciting theatrical identity developing in Vancouver now. Just as exciting as Toronto or Montreal or New York. Sorry, nothing is as exciting as London right now. Vancouver is a TV town, and that is mighty distracting. In Vancouver people ‘get together’. In the East they ‘go to things’. I think that will change as all this new money gets bored with SUVs and starts wondering about the meaning of it all and buying art. I think it will also change because of the Asian ascendancy. A lot of Asians remember why art is a need, not a want.

Another good reason to go East: People aren’t so white bread, so afraid of being gooey, decadent, packed with protein, spicy, startling and not very good for you. The further East you go, the less afraid people seem to be of dying, which seems to free them to create and widen their idea of the ‘norm’. By the time you get to Berlin, even the playground equipment is perilous! By the time you get to India, there are way worse things than dying. In Vancouver you get hungry and you keep thinking you just haven’t found what you crave yet. In Victoria you get hungry and you go feed yourself in the galleries and theatres of Montreal or Toronto or Europe, or the temples and galleries and music and architecture of Asia.

10.) What are your top 3 theatre reads?

Can’t stand reading acting text books anymore. Actors need to apprentice and study. Acting is a doing thing, not a reading thing. I’m glad I read them though – for the vocabulary. The really good ones are the rare diaries and biographies where actors actually talk about thrashing their way through preparing a role. Maybe I’ll write one – with a tiny section on acting technique and a huge section on everything else about trying to be an artist.

1. Just finished reading David Hare’s Obedience, Struggle and Revolt. It was so good to be in Europe where social discourse is seamless and people don’t view an impassioned debate as a social car accident.

2. The Annual Service Plan Report and the upcoming Review of Theatre Programs Report from the BC Arts Council. The City of Vancouver Arts and culture policy papers. Read this stuff folks. It affects your future.

3. Almost all of the published CBC Massey Lectures because they are almost always about perpetrating some kind of communicative act on society. Try On the Eve of the Millenium by Conor Cruise O’Brien (1994, Anansi) for a re-grounding in the responsibility to enlightenment thinking and what electronic technology is really doing to democracy. I seem to be returning to classical and modernist rigorous thinking. Post-modernism mostly seems lazy and sloppy, relativistic – and not very fertile. Diversity does not entitle us to make mush.

11.) What’s next?

Well, you know I went and did a Master of Public Administration at UVic. I wanted to really understand how the levers of power work, how government works, how power acts on people. One way or another, my life is headed for wrasslin’ with those levers. And you thought a theatre career was precarious! Meanwhile, I still teach workshops when I am asked, and I still adore doing it.

Oh look! A windmill! Must dash…