This One Goes to Eleven: Darien Edgeler

Out in the wild, far reaches of Deep Cove (an epic 8 minute drive from downtown, an invisible accessibility discussed previously on TOGtE) there thrives a burgeoning theatre community grinding away tirelessly throughout the year. It was there that we first met Darien, preparing to be seen in his own work Seasons, directed by Wendy Van Riesen.

Darien is an award-winning producer, playwright, actor, MC, voiceover artist, and stage combat choreographer. He is the Writer-in-Residence for The Half-Stratford Players, and now a The Next Stage Interviewee…

EDGELERHS

1. In one word, describe your present condition.

Blessed.

2. In several more words, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.

I would argue that, compared to most cities, Vancouver is a theatrical Shangri-La.  All the important ingredients for successful stagings are, in my opinion, available.  Suppose you want to put on a show.  There are virtually no restrictions on the content; no limitations, in other words, resulting from ethnic or religious or political considerations.  There are also a variety of venues that you can rent, and an abundance of talented technicians and performers, many of whom will participate in your project for the love of it.  If you market your mounting effectively, there will be decent audiences, and, if your show is good, the response will be enthusiastic.  What more can anyone ask for?

3. Describe for us the Deep Cove theatre scene, and its relationship to the downtown theatre scene.

There are four clubs that do shows in Deep Cove:  Deep Cove Stage, First Impressions Theatre, Seycove Drama, and – my own company – The Half-Stratford Players.  All four troupes do good work.  I don’t know that the Deep Cove theatre scene has any connection to the downtown theatre scene except in the sense that the former is a microcosm of the latter:  the relative conservatism evident in the programming choices of the Deep Cove companies, for instance, is evident on a larger scale in a city-wide reluctance to embrace new and locally-written work.

4. Does contemporary theatre have a responsibility to leave us with a sense of hope?

Well, David Mamet would suggest that theatre’s only obligation is to delight and I, to a certain extent, would agree.  Playwrights are members of society that have, because they have a talent for entertaining others, been temporarily excused from fetching wood and carrying water.  That said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with theatre being uplifting.  Marsha Norman once remarked that she had reached a point in her career where all she wanted to do, really, was write about acts of courage and, most of the time, that’s what interests me also.

5. Who are you main influences, and why?

Shakespeare, of course; his dramatic legacy is ubiquitous.  But really, it varies from play to play.  I mean, I once borrowed a device from Journey’s End, but that was because it was the perfect tool for the job, not because I seek to follow in the creative footsteps of R. C. Sherriff.  I think it’s true that you learn to write all over again each time you pen a new play and so I think it’s fair to say that you’re going to draw on different sources and traditions each time you undertake a new project.  I mainly just try to adhere to what I have come to think of as The Golden Rule of Playwrighting:  write the sorts of plays that you yourself would most love to watch.

6. What are your long-term theatrical career goals?

I used to be a real theatre slut:  I’d do any show that came along.  As an actor, I mean.  Then one day a director called me and said:  “Darien, I’ve got the perfect part for you – you’ll be playing a slow-witted, socially-awkward veterinarian!”  I was about to say yes, when I realized that a slow-witted, socially-awkward veterinarian really wasn’t the perfect part for me.  And that was something of an epiphany; I realized that, if I wanted to tackle roles that I found intriguing and personally meaningful, I was going to have to create them myself.  All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I started writing plays for entirely selfish reasons.  And, as it happens, I continue to write plays for entirely selfish reasons.  My primary goal is have fun.  Writing plays is a lark, in other words, and all I really set out to do is offer audiences something they’ve never seen before and to make sure that each theatrical experience is better than the last.

7. What is our biggest enemy in our fight to wrangle new audiences?

Outmoded thinking.  Not many people under thirty are going to be excited about going to see Agatha Christie.  If theatre is going to survive as a medium, then production companies need to commit to helping playwrights create exciting new works relevant to contemporary Canadian audiences.

8. What do you consider to be your greatest strengths as a playwright? Your weaknesses?

I like to think that all the arrows in my quiver – structure, character, plot, dialogue – are getting incrementally sharper through use.  My Achilles heel {from a commercial standpoint, anyway} is probably that, once a show has opened, I immediately lose interest in it and start thinking about the next one.

9. What was your last truly inspiring experience in a piece of theatre?

Blackbird at The Cultch a few months back and, before that, Robert Lepage’s Far Side of The Moon.

10. What are your top three theatre reads?

The volumes I continue to revisit are David Mamet’s True And False, Stuart Spencer’s The Playwright’s Guidebook, and Jeffrey Hatcher’s The Art & Craft of Playwriting.

11. What’s next?

I’m doing As You Like It with Neil Freeman this summer {acting and fight choreography} and then I’ll probably start work on a script to be produced next April.  I can’t tell you about it, unfortunately, because I’ve found that talking about a work in progress diminishes the impetus to actually write it.  And it’s important to protect that impetus because I, like Dorothy Parker, hate writing, but love having written.

Another one bites the dust: Buh-bye Beaumont

closedThe recent demise of the celebrated Beaumont Theatre on West 5th Avenue has caused quite the stir in our Indie Stage community of late. Beloved for its intimacy and affordability, the little black box has been home to dozens of memorable performances over the past several years, performances both polished and decidedly in-process, as befits a progressive indie mandate. This news comes hard on the heels of the announcement by The Playwrights Theatre Centre Studio that the studio theatre upstairs at 1398 Cartwright Street will no longer be available for rent as a performance space, only as a rehearsal/workshop venue. Affordable space with accessible light and sound fixtures for independent stage companies  in Vancouver is as low as it has been in ten years.

Of course, the rumours are flying as to the reasons for the termination of the Beaumont Theatre as we begin to come to terms with the loss of yet another practical playing space. So here’s Lori Triolo, the former Artistic Director of the Beaumont and its resident stage company The Evolving Arts Collective, to set the record straight in her own words:

Many people claim to be on the same page, want the same things, have the same philosophy. They get excited, jump into biz together and end up on a very bumpy road. Such was the case at The Beaumont Studios. Running a successful small theater in Vancouver is an enormous challenge at the best of times. It takes a tremendous amount of integrity to actually do what you say and be able to help others reach their artistic goals…with no money. But Evolving Arts Collective managed to do that. It has taken the better part of 5 years to build an excellent reputation for the EAC and Beaumont Stage. It is unfortunate that the artist/businesswoman (I use both of those terms loosely) who holds the lease on The Beaumont is incapable of running a business. I helped build the Beaumont from the ground up and have met every tenant that tried to make The Beaumont their home. The turn over was overwhelming. Much of their leaving was due to poor management of the building and dealing with an individual that doesn’t understand the definition of integrity. Some may see this as slander and me being dramatic about losing my home. That is not the case. We were kicked out. A sad situation for the theatre community who has next to no affordable theaters left to work at in the city.

I know that in the end it is all a blessing. That you can’t really reach your full potential living in such a bad situation everyday. And in truth, we stayed and put up with the madness as long as we did because it wasn’t as easy for us to just pick up and take the theatre with us.  We should have left far before we got kicked out. We were just so damn optimistic that the craziness would eventually go away. No such luck. In the middle of renegotiating our contract for another year, we were given no warning and were sent a letter terminating our contract. There were no reasons given. [The landlady] would later say that she wanted to take control of the theatre so she can make more money. I suppose that is her prerogative. What I hate are the lies and posing. I have worked hard to surround myself with folks that are of their word. I continue to make mistakes about people. I tend to believe what they say. Big mistake.

The EAC is actively looking for a new home. We will be back in the near future. The next venue will be a dream come true.

…until then, Colin and I are looking for a venue for The Cold Reading Series. I am also in the market for a space to teach a couple of Meisner classes. Any help in those arenas would be much appreciated. www.evolvingartscollective.com

Casting Call – Actress Wanted

Actor wanted for Fringe play

spotlightA 45-minute drama/comedy monologue for the Vancouver Fringe Festival seeks a female actor (Age preferably over 30’s)

The play: A writer’s book launch doesn’t go as planned! It seems that she is haunted by the mysterious character from her book ….

The audition will consist of a brief, prepared monologue (cold read or improv also possible).

Rehearsal dates:  August, weekdays/evenings & some weekends

Performance Location/dates: Studio 16 Theatre (Sept. 10–20th, 2009)

Please contact amoytheatregroup@gmail.com as soon as possible to arrange a one-on-one audition.