The best comment threads, Isaac always has

Theatrosphere Yoda Isaac Butler published his first post on Parabasis* on June 18, 2004, and he still remains required reading for working theatre artists.

There’s a busy comment thread going on this post (which was, in turn, inspired by this post by the Phantom of the Blogosphere, 99 Seats), in which the community gets busy defining theatricality and its place in the work. And whose responsibility it is to inject theatre with it, if indeed its injection is something we aspire to. And LaBute gets thrown into the pot, again. Man, that guy is everywhere.

Smart people debating high concepts without petulance. This internet thing may catch on yet.

[*To answer that question in your head right now:

Parabasis was the Greek word for the moment when the chorus in a comedy would come to the front of the stage, face the audience, and advocate both for the author’s political views and for his text, so that it could win first prize. While doing this, they usually pelted the audience with candy.

July 19, 2004]

Writing vs. Acting

This is a guest post by Raphael Kepinski, a winner of last year’s Solo Flights Emerging Playwrights Competition presented by the Solo Collective and The Playhouse Theatre Company. Raphael returns this year to perform one of the ’09 winning pieces on April 13. Details at bottom of page.

Solo Flights, The Emerging Writers Competition:  Writing vs. Acting
By Raphael Kepinski

raphael-kepinski-headshotLast year I wrote a piece for the Solo Flights Emerging Writers Competition and this year I am reading one. I have been asked to write about my experiences as a writer and as an actor for Solo Flights.

Being a writer is hard.  You have to sit still, at a computer, concentrate, have an idea, fact check, not check Facebook, not play video games, not watch TV, invent characters, think about character arc, have more ideas, type, proofread, print copies, distribute them, submit your work to the dramaturge, take feedback, accept feedback, learn to live with feedback, go back to your computer, make changes, add page numbers, proof read, print more copies, submit them, receive more feedback, live with feedback, more time at the computer, make more changes, submit, feedback, live, computer, proof, print, submit, over and over ad nauseum. It’s tedious work that wracks your brain and tries your patience.

Then the day arrives when it’s time to hand your baby over to the actor.  Now, that thing you had total 100% control over, that thing that in your mind’s eye was absolutely perfect, brilliant even, your baby, your work, your sweat, your anguish, your sleepless nights, that thing gets handed over to some mouth breathing, glossy eyed, hair gel wearing, actor. An actor who never felt your pain, never sat for hours at that computer trying to find a more poetic way of saying “underwear is worn on the inside”, never lived the things you lived while writing this perfect brilliance.  An actor.  To them what they hold in their hand is not epic, is not perfect, is not brilliant, it’s merely a script, just a script, just something to do on a Monday evening; jump up on stage, yell for emphasis, pause for effect, modulate their voice to sound interesting, make a silly face for laughs, wait for applause, eat the hors d’oeurves.  Another notch in their belt.

What’s worse; at the point of reading, the actor has all the control; a mispronounced word, emphasis given in the wrong place, a silly face when there was no call for one and your heartfelt monologue about your Grandma’s experiences in a World War II concentration camp and how she found forgiveness and happiness is quickly turned into a silly comedy with a slight pro-fascist undertone. So yeah being a writer is harder than being an actor.  And to add insult to injury, Solo Flights writers pay to submit their work, while the actors get paid to read it. Still, if your work is brilliant, it will live forever on the page to be read by hundreds maybe thousands of other actors. Meanwhile the actor is just some actor; easily forgotten, and easily replaced.

Solo Collective and the Playhouse Theatre Company present SOLO FLIGHTS, a night of monologues by some of Canada’s best new playwrights, Monday, April 13 at 7:30pm at the Playhouse Production Centre, 127 East 2nd in Vancouver.


Ok sure, he’s a dick, but from a certain point of view…

…is there any bigger compliment to a piece of theatre? Especially a piece of LaBute…

As reported by Daniel Lehman in Blogstage:

In the middle of a performance of Neil LaBute’s reasons to be pretty this weekend, actress Marin Ireland ([below] right) was reportedly the target of one male audience member’s anger when she delivered a scathing monologue.

During her first act monologue, in which Ireland’s character Steph embarrasses her ex-boyfriend (played by Thomas Sadoski) with a list of humiliating facts and all the things she finds wrong with him, a male audience member stood up and began verbally assaulting the actress, including calling her a “bitch” among other expletives. (Reports of the incident are quick to note that this was not part of the performance.)

Ireland and Sadoski, who shared the stage at the time, continued the scene as if nothing had happened. Security has been raised at the theater in response to the incident.


Nice work Marin. Nailed it.

This one goes to Eleven: Cameron Mackenzie

Cameron’s Stage resume runs the gamut from set and props design to director to clown to actor to drag queen…and back to director. He is the Artistic Director of the newly inaugurated Zee Zee Theatre which just launched with Cameron’s passion project Whale Riding Weather at the PAL. After having seen the production myself all I can say is; welcome to the neighbourhood Zee Zee, please keep it coming.

The level of Cameron’s passion for Independent Stage is easy to detect…


1. In one word, describe your present condition.


2. In as many words as you care to use, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.

Experimental, daring, growing, inclusive, co-operative.

3. What are you doing starting a theatre company in these harsh economic times?

I’ve asked myself that same question a few times already. First of all the “recession” hadn’t quite hit when I started the process of bringing one of my favourite scripts to the stage. Secondly the company came out of a desire to best facilitate Whale Riding Weather, although I have always wanted and knew I’d start my own company, I really didn’t start this process with that goal in mind. The other thing to remember is that as theatre artists we are always in “harsh economic times”. I produced WRW without any government assistance because I wanted to challenge myself to succeed without it – well, that and they didn’t give us any money!

4. What style(s) of production are you planning on developing with Zee Zee?

Definitely text based work.  A solid story is what draws me to any show. We are also following our loose mandate to give voice to the marginalized, but in a way that represents the universality of their stories.

5. What do you feel is the single greatest obstacle to producing indie theatre here?

Money or lack of it. Available rehearsal and performance space is a close second.


6. What do you know now that you didn’t before directing Whale Riding Weather?

That I actually enjoy producing. That working on a guaranteed 30% average house is not low at all. That I could succeed. That if you ask someone for help chances are they will give it to you if you are serious and respectful.

7. How much of a responsibility does theatre hold in representing the diversity of its community?

Theatre’s responsibility is always to its audience and to bring to that audience a universal truth, something that connects them emotionally or intellectually to the work regardless of demographic. Of course it is an art form and we as artists must always be pushing our own boundaries and enhancing our personal practice but to say theatre is responsible in some way to its community is putting too great a restriction on the art form itself. My goal as an artist is to take my audience on a journey – not necessarily a comfortable, pleasant one, but one that elicits a reaction or emotion that is in some way connected to and informed by the work, not as something that is as a result of the work.

To be clearer, I don’t want my audience to feel anger or be taken out of the experience and world of the play because I have crafted a shoddy piece of art, if anger is present it must be because the art itself has elicited this reaction. Getting to the heart of this question; yes I am very much for casting roles regardless of race. But I do not think it is my responsibility as a theatre artist to follow some prescribed quota that matches the diversity make up of Vancouver. At this point in my career I see myself as a facilitator of the script, and it is up to me to bring that script to life as close to the playwright’s vision as possible. When I am in auditions I am looking for the person who can best capture the essence and truth of the role out of who I am fortunate enough to have come to my auditions.

Theatre’s responsibility is to bring a universal truth to its audience.

8. Who or what are the great influences on your work?

As cheesy as it sounds – life.  The greatest stories are ones that capture the complexity, beauty and brutality of it.  That and Peter Brook – who directed one the most brilliant Hamlets that I was lucky enough to see, starring British actor Adrian Lester who, incidentally is of Jamaican decent.

9. What is you fondest theatrical memory to date?

My partner bought us tickets for my birthday to see The Syringa Tree, one of my favourite scripts.  Actually a friend of mine loaned me the scripts for WRW and The Syringa Tree at the same time nearly six years ago and I remember thinking after I had read them both “This guy knows my taste”.  I actually still have his copy of WRW.  So we went to see it at the Playhouse starring Caroline Cave.  I grew up in South Africa and am always weary of North American ideas or interpretations of what South Africa is, but I very much wanted to see it.  I was blown away.  I remember after the show my entire body was vibrating.  I had wept through most of the show and mumbled something to Dave that I had to meet her.  I’m not big on going to the stage door after a show but Caroline’s portrayal was so honest and so textured I had to thank her.  She was able to capture so accurately the dichotomy of beauty and joy, with ugliness and suffering that is South Africa at the same time every minute.  Even the deep resonance of her voice captured the heart breaking way people speak as a defensive mechanism to hide the suffering, but at the same time is so beautiful to listen too.  When she came out I just said thank you and hugged her and wept some more.  I have to admit I was a bit of a basket case, but she was very gracious about it and we have subsequently become friends.

10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?

Whale Riding Weather by Bryden MacDonald – obviously.

Lilies by Michel Marc Bouchard

The Syringa Tree by Pamela Gien

11. What’s next?

I am currently assistant directing Jocasta at Studio 58.  It is play number four in the seven play cycle City of Wine, about Oedipus’ mother.  The seven scripts follow the history of Thebes including the Oedipus tragedy and are being produced at various theatre schools around Canada as part of their development.  Then in May all the schools are all being flown to Toronto to do the entire cycle. Very Bacchanalian.

For Zee Zee, my partner, Dave Deveau, has been developing a script that I’ve been anxious to direct for a few years.  It’s called Nelly Boy and is about a 15 year old biological male who doesn’t identify with either sex and about the journey this character has faced that has brought him/her to an interrogation room. In North American society we don’t work well with this idea of the third gender. We have very little understanding on the issue and no language around it. I’m very excited to work with Dave and this new script and to explore the world of Nelly.

Ashes: two-minute load in

I’m a sucker for behind-the-scenes extras. Bill Marchant’s Ashes, the play that I took in on World Theatre Day at the Firehall, was the kind of work that ensures I will always want to make Independent Stage. Astonishing work at all levels. Greg Bishop, the director of the play and proprietor of Eye Heart Productions, sent over a fun company project: sped-up video they made of the set construction. Very cool chronicling. I always forget to chronicle stuff like this. Click on the HQ button for the high-quality version.

Scene: A cabin somewhere in Northern Ontario…

Set design : Greg Bishop
Set builders: Rob Hummell, Kevin Strong, Greg Bishop
Set painting: Melanie Bishop
Set decoration: Jelena Ikonomovic, Jen O’Rourke
Video: Patrick Parenteau