A native Vancouverite, Max returns to the West Coast from a 12-year stint as the Artistic Director of Hamilton’s Theatre Aquarius to take on the newly created role of the Playhouse’s Artistic Managing Director, a hybrid of two previous administrative tent poles. He will rely on his varied history as a theatre artist – as actor, choreographer, director – and his academic training in sociology and economics – which includes an honours degree from SFU – to oversee operations and to move the Playhouse forward.
I can’t imagine how busy this man must be right now, and we thank him for taking the time to answer 11 questions…
1. In one word, describe your present condition.
2. In as many words as you’d like, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.
Vibrant, diverse, smart. Much of it atomic but some of it atomized – powerful work, but in some cases, the activity is dispersed across the spectrum of practice and geography to its credit and sometimes detriment. Exciting theatre, especially when produced and presented in combination with other artists and groups, or when able to carve an audience out of the landscape. Audience-building when one doesn’t have a building is still the biggest challenge for many.
3. What do you see as the great strengths of your hybrid position of both managing and artistic director? What do you see as the biggest challenge of such a position?
I see the mission with two eyes. Metaphorically, depth perception is created in the parallax of two eyes reconciling two views into a single image. I do this in my own brain. At large theatres, the two views are normally provided by at least two people and reconciled in conversation. The advantage of a hybrid is speed and resolve. The advantage of two or more heads, is wider perspective and “bounce”. I have to go find people to bounce with. The bounce in the two-headed model is built in.
4. What criteria do you look at when considering a play from outside of Vancouver for Playhouse production?
The Playhouse, when at its best, is a portal to the world of theatre, providing voice to our playwrights on a bigger playing platform, and providing a window to the world for Vancouver to see what’s going on across our country and around the world. This second part is as important as the first and is part of our founding purpose. Since I have the whole world to pull from, I must find the very best from the classic and contemporary world on which our theatre artists can chew and our audiences find engaging.
5. What can we be doing better to cultivate the next generation of theatre-goers?
Early life experiences are key to patronage. And we are social beings wired to especially seek and enjoy shared experiences. Young people like classics too. The material has to be good and crisp.
6. What was your impetus in removing the Playhouse restriction of only producing plays from 1950 on?
The Playhouse has to also provide graduate opportunities for actors and the ancient and 20th century classics often provide those opportunities. The Playhouse has also historically developed an audience with an appetite for those plays and themes.
7. What do you see as the relationship between the regional theatres and the independent theatre companies of Vancouver?
We’re part of an ecology. Just imagine only one of those types. We feed each other whether we co-produce or not.
8. What is your proudest career moment to date?
The Drowsy Chaperone being of such high interest to Vancouver.
9. What would it take to get you to crack the boards again in a Playhouse production?
Hmmm… I’d have to be right for it. I’m too good at casting to put myself in things.
10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?
I can’t tell you!!! I’m thinking of doing them in my next seasons.
11. What’s next?
Look for a new physical impression downtown in the facility. Star power in the next season soon to be announced. I’m working on the 2010-2011 season already with the National Arts Centre already interested! More activity in a more animated Playhouse. See you there.
Photo courtesy of The Playhouse and photographer David Cooper.