I met Heidi for the first time a short while ago while she was in rehearsal for the play she just finished directing, and was immediately struck by her passion and directness on the topic of our independent theatre scene. She’s completely immersed in it, as an actor, a director and as a Dramaturg; Heidi is the Dramaturg at the Playwright’s Theatre Centre, actually. She has worked with many of the local companies, including Radix, Public Dreams, The Only Animal, and Leaky Heaven Circus, and she teaches at SFU, from which she holds an MFA. She is a founding member and an Artistic Directer of local company Proximity Arts.
Thanks to Heidi for taking the opportunity to be direct with us here…
1. In one word, describe your present condition.
2. In as many words as you would like to use, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.
Internally vibrant, sporadic in its connection to the world at large, increasing in diversity, chronically under-funded and under-rehearsed
3. Why does theatre still persist, despite years of predictions of its imminent demise?
Everyone makes theatre, whether they know it or not – the form changes, but it’s a natural human activity – telling stories to other people. We just need to adjust the form to keep seducing an audience.
4. What is the greatest strength of Vancouver’s independent theatre? Its biggest weakness?
The community is very interdependent and supportive once you enter it. Under-resourced indie companies lack marketing power to connect with audiences.
5. What should independent theatre be doing better at, towards a goal of sustainability as an industry?
Claiming its space as a necessity for the culture.
6. What’s your best piece of advice for our neophyte directors?
See more dance, visual art, and live music. Read more plays published since 2000. Don’t be too sentimental.
7. What do you look for when choosing material to work with?
A connection to the unique combination of form and style, and a punctum – some moment that pierces the heart.
8. If you could have a drink with 3 theatre artists – living or not – who would they be and why?
Elizabeth LeCompte, because the Wooster Group makes theatre that is actually avant garde. Wallace Shawn, because he’s a great conversationalist. And Erik Ehn, because his politics and plays inspire me, and I think he’d actually have a drink with me.
9. What’s the single greatest thing you’ve ever seen on stage?
I don’t have one example, it depends. But the Wooster Group’s Brace Up is a highlight. St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, February 2003. A remaking of the Three Sisters, with Willem Defoe as Vershinin – completely deconstructed, elegant, controlled, and spontaneous at the same time. They know that the real event is taking place between the audience and the performers, not the performers and the text. They stopped before the end, said thanks for coming, and it was still a complete experience.
10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?
Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes, which taught me how to look; Actions: an Actor’s Thesaurus by Maria Calderone, which I make all my acting students buy (cause it’s called “acting”, not “feeling”); From Acting to Performance by Philip Auslander, because it buts acting in a context of performance that is much broader, and recognizes naturalism as a style.
11. What’s next?
My company, Proximity Arts, is being commissioned by Neworld Theatre and Playwrights Theatre Centre to create an original outdoor audio walking play. We’re one of five commissionees, and the Pod Plays will be produced by Neworld in October 2009.