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Thursday, November 10, 2011

This is What Happens Next... I spend a day with Daniel MacIvor...

Last weekend I journeyed south to Calgary for Playworks Ink (you can read about that weekend in my previous post). The whole weekend was wonderful, but Saturday I got to spend the day with Daniel MacIvor and that was indeed a great day for me. There were a lot of other people there, but still, it was good.

Who is Daniel MacIvor? Well, if you know anything about Canadian Theatre - you know. He is one of the most prolific and most successful Canadian theatre playwrights we have. "We" - it's nice to have ownership of him, isn't it? His plays vary from multi-cast pieces like Marion Bridge, A Beautiful View and This is a Play to his solo-shows like Monster, Cul-de-sac and his upcoming This is What Happens Next.

The day played out as follows:

The Session - Play Finding
Eleven of us were lucky enough to take this session with Daniel. We walk into the room and meet Daniel and Buddy, Daniel's incredibly well-behaved and occasionally focus-stealing dog. First, each of us has a getting-to-know you conversation with Daniel. He talks to us about our goals, our past projects and then he reads our writing - aloud. Then he deals with us, one by one, talking about what is in our writing, where it could go, he ask questions, he makes statements, he makes us each think about what we want to do with it. Then Homework - over lunch we each get an individualized assignment to complete. The task is daunting, impossible, challenging and thrilling - "Yes! That is exactly what I need to do! How come I didn't know?!" - is what goes through my brain. We come back and share what we have done. For some of us it is a monologue or a scene. Others are tasked with writing a synopsis, character list & a scene. Each gets what they need. He does not leave it there. After he hears our homework he gives further questions for us to think about where to go next and then he has us set a deadline for the completion of a first draft. All in one day. I leave with the beginning of a play I didn't even know I needed to write. It might not sound like much, but there is something compelling in what he talks to each of us about. We all talk about wanting to go to Banff in February to complete the 3 day workshop with Daniel.

The Keynote - The Artificial Authentic
Please note - Theatre Alberta or APN will often publish the Playworks Ink Keynote in it's entirety - herein I just scratch the surface.

What I take away from this keynote is summed up as follows:
- Theatre is bigger than us - We are not the theatre. Ego = Death of the Authentic.
- Theatre is context for being - it is a place for communion and transformation (we should be seeking to connect as theatre artists - to allow the audience true moments of communion and transformation). This is opposed to observation and appreciation. We should be aiming for connection - not just entertainment.
- There is a difference between criticism and judgement. Trust instinct not taste. Enough is not enough - the audience is enough.
- And the most important Questions are: Why Bother? and Who cares?

The Upcoming Show - This is What Happens Next

MacIvor speaks to the production upcoming. He talks about his vowing not to do another solo show and then needing to do the show after coming through the challenging events of his life. He sought to leave theatre for a while, feeling that all he was doing was making things up and pretending and then discovering that once he left, got married and tried to live a 'normal' life - that everyone was pretending but they were just not being honest about it. So he reversed his earlier decision and worked once again with his long time collaborator Daniel Brooks. Brooks helped him take something that was very dark in his life and lift it into lightness. I ask about being authentic when everyone is pretending. How is that possible? He says it is the attempt to be authentic on stage that what counts. To find that moment of communion or at least to seek it.

I know why I am going to see this show. I have spent the day with Daniel MacIvor. His charisma is undeniable. His keynote is inspirational. If he is that compelling giving a keynote speech, I can only imagine what seeing him onstage in one of his shows will be like. The session on play-finding demonstrated his generosity of spirit in art. I missed seeing him in Cul-de-Sac a few years ago at La Cite - my friends rave about it and the complexity of the performance and the sense of place and story that permeated the one man show. I too have had those moments of 'where is my life going now' and that fascinates me. I have many reasons to go. I ask MacIvor why Edmonton audiences should go - if those reasons about are not enough, and he says, "I think that the show appeals to many people on many levels. For anyone who is interested in storytelling - which seems to be most people - the show looks at the pros and cons of what it means to live in a world where our whole lives are made of stories. And for those who might have some understanding of or interest in how people survive dysfunction and addiction, there is a level they will get that others might not. And who doesn't like a hands-down, no-holds-barred happy ending? And did I mention that it's funny?" Good enough for me.

The Citadel Theatre presents Necessary Angel's production of
This is What Happens Next
A scary comic fairy tale
Written and Performed by DANIEL MacIVOR
Directed and Dramaturged by DANIEL BROOKS
November 12 – December 4/11
in the Rice Theatre

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