Category Archives: Interviews

Interviews with playwrights and directors.

Megan Piercey Monafu talks to us about Mabel’s Last Performance

Megan Piercey Monafu

Where do you live?

Ottawa, Ontario.

Where are you from? Hometown?

Halifax, Nova Scotia.

When did you start writing?

I wrote a murder mystery about cats when I was in grade 4. It was a hit.

Why did you start writing?

I started writing during university because I was lonely. Writing about other people who were lonely made me feel saner, and more connected to the world in a way.

What inspired this play?

A woman named Alice, who I cared for in my extremely brief stint in the health care field, inspired this play. Alice was fierce, trying with all her might to understand where she was and who she was. If she had been complacent, her life in the nursing home would have been so much easier, but she was a fighter. I admired that, though it was also terribly sad. She stayed on my mind, and then later, when I learned more about early-onset Alzheimer’s, the title “Mabel’s Last Performance” sprang into my head. And so it began!

Do you have a day-job? What do you do other than writing?

During the day I am a community developer with a housing agency for people with mental illness.

What time of day do you write best?

If I start writing in the early morning, I tend to hit my stride at 10am. Sometimes, kinda, maybe. I wish there was a simple formula…

Where do you write? (coffee shops, home etc.?)

Home most of the time, coffee shops when I’m starting to lose my sanity and motivation!

How long did it take you to write this play?

I started writing “Mabel’s Last Performance” in a playwriting class with Kit Brennan in the winter of 2009, and I officially stopped working on it summer 2011.

What do you like best about writing for theatre compared to other mediums?

Theatre writing seems more immediate. I love how novels can delve into a character’s psyche, but theatre is interesting because you can’t see a character’s innermost motivations, you can only see what they do. I find that really stimulating. I also love how it then requires a team effort to bring it to life; the writer lays down a solid foundation, the actors embody it and add complexity, directors conduct it, designers riff off of it, stage managers keep everyone breathing, audience members gather in a physical space together to experience it, etc. It can be such an amazing thing to be a part of.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Interviews

Rebecca Hooton: Collective Writing, and Directing Hack

Theatre Sentinel

(Rebecca is the second from the right.)

Where do you live? Where are you from? Hometown?

I currently live in Toronto but I am originally from beautiful Montreal.

When did you start directing?

I have been assistant directing shows (aka giving my opinion as I had too many ideas to keep my mouth shut) since I started making theatre but the first time that I took on a whole show was in my final year of high school.

Why did you start directing theatre?

I have loved theatre forever. My parents brought me to shows from a very young age. Whenever I left a show, I remember thinking ‘I want to give this feeling to… EVERYONE!’ Once I started making theatre, I realized that I wanted to see the piece through from start to finish. It happened gradually, first I gave suggestions through the assistant director from onstage, then I became the assistant director myself and finally… well here I am. However, I wouldn’t strictly call what I do right now ‘directing’, as this piece was a collective creation made using devised theatre techniques. Directing implies that it was my vision from the start, where in reality, HACK comes from multiple minds put together. The actors, as well as my co-creators all had a say in the staging and direction of the piece. I don’t think I could every return to ‘normal’ theatre (whatever that means) as working in a collective is the most rewarding type of directing I have ever encountered.

What inspires you?

Too many things. I make a lot of issue-based theatre, therefore the real world is where I draw a lot of my inspiration for pieces.

Do you have a day-job? What do you do other than directing?

Currently I am a student at York University, but will be graduating in April after which I will indeed be finding a day job.

How long did it take you to direct this play?

It took us a month and a half to create the show (after brainstorming on and off since we found out we got into Fringe) and a month to get it on its feet.

What do you like best about directing theatre compared to other mediums or other theatre work?

Devising is probably the most satisfying artistic work I have ever experienced. Because you are making original pieces of theatre, you have the opportunity to craft everything from the words to the movement to the message you are trying to convey.

What is the greatest challenge you think directors/thespians face today?

Creating something innovative and original that will last.

What kind of support do you have for your directing? 

My colleagues are incredibly supportive; I can’t wait to work with them again and again.

Are you on FB, Twitter, Flicker? Do you have a website/blog? Can I contact you?

All of our team is on facebook (with our full names) and Theatre Sentinel is as well! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about our work!

What was it like to write as a collective?

We had a lot of fun. The process can be trying at times; when you hit a wall or can’t figure out the logical direction for a piece to go, but generally we laughed our way through it and came up with an absurd piece of theatre!

How does that work?

We discuss the characters together, come up with major plot points or action that we want to see happen and then figure out how to get from point A to point B. It is much like when one person writes a show, only this time there were 6 of us!

Have you written other works together? Do you plan to write together again?

This was our first, but we definitely intend to keep working together.

What inspired you to write as a collective?

We are all part of the Devised Theatre program at York University, so we have been trained to work collectively. I don’t think I would want to work in any other way anymore.

Leave a comment

Filed under Interviews

Indefinitely – What did you think?

Hi C’est La Vie Listeners,

Normally we would have a review up for you this week, but instead we would like to hear what you think first. So please let us know what you thought of Indefinitely. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to it it is posted below.

Next week, we will have our regularly scheduled review.

So please post in the comments section below.

Sarah

Leave a comment

Filed under Interviews

Tabia Lau discusses with us her inspirations for Indefinitely

Tabia LauWhere do you live?
I’m currently in New York City studying Playwriting at Columbia University.

Where are you from? Hometown?
Montreal, Canada.

What inspires you? What inspired this play?
What’s inspired me has always been the same but I’ve found my bravery has needed to develop as I’ve grown as a writer. I like to write about things I find are important and under-represented in public discussion: Issues of familial violence and loss, the conflict of duty and responsibility, questions of identity and feelings of belonging.  Indefinitely was the start of ideas I wanted to take further, but place out there. I think theatre is a vehicle for change, but it’s also a vehicle for comfort. I find myself inspired by events which change us, force us to think, force us to be. I wanted to write a play that explored the relationship between siblings and ultimately explore how many different kinds of abandonment issues can exist within the family circle.

What is the greatest challenge you think writers face today?
I think the greatest challenge facing all writers today is themselves. The internet has become a main and most popular medium for people to find art, to find ideas, and everything is free. Additionally, getting published is continually pressed into our minds as the finish line and top of the pyramid we should aim for, for our ideas are only validated once we can place it in our resumes. Broadway and the public theatre scene is stressing types of plays, or searching for something fresh, new, entertaining, bold, challenging, pertinent, baffling, subtly awesome, touching. Finally, critics now existing in print and online being distributed faster than the blink of an eye, and it’s truly impossible to hone your craft without acknowledging their reviews, and trying to extrapolate the constructive criticism. I think writers these days are filled with so many voices and expectations we place on ourselves, the most important thing is to stay true to your voice and keep developing it, keep working, and never stop improving.

Leave a comment

Filed under Interviews

Interview with Tabia Lau about Zip & Wick #72: Endings

Where are you from? Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec.

When did you start writing? I started in grade seven, eight, when I discovered online fanfiction and realized I could be an aspiring writer. Silly as it seems in retrospect, I had distanced authors, journalists and bloggers from myself, thinking they were distant, magical people I could only adore from afar but never join.

What inspires you? Strangers tend to inspire me most. I do a lot of people watching, on the metro, on the bus, in crowded areas where you catch a glimpse of someone taking a moment to themselves, or an interaction. Just a flicker of an enormous story you’ll never know, but it certainly takes my mind places I’d never go without seeing this one person flash in and out of my day.

What inspired this play? ‘Endings’ exploded out of my love for superheroes and the choices they make, the responsibilities and weight they bear. My fascination for enemies and their similarities, for communication and respectfully disagreeing, for connection and the oddest places you’ll find it. It began as a short story entitled ‘Soft Shoes’ and was then lengthened to the medium of a play as a birthday gift for a good friend who formerly aided me to realize its real potential. It went on to be staged for the yearly McGill Drama Festival, and just recently played at the Montreal Fringe Festival 2011.

What do you write other than plays? I tend to write bits of dialogue or short fiction pieces. During school I have very little time to write long pieces, so I keep a wide variety of blogs or facebook notes to continue working at it. Writing has always been a practice for me, not a gift.

What time of day do you write best? The time between 11:30PM and 3AM are without a doubt the best time of a day for me. A night owl through and through, I love the calm of the night, and usually get a lot of writing or important conversations down during this time. It’s when lights go out and everything slows down, and everyone is quieter, and the world is more honest.

Do you have a website/blog? Can I contact you? You can find all the information you’ll ever need on my facebook page , which ought to link you to all the other pages!

Leave a comment

Filed under Interviews, Uncategorized

Ed McNamara on writing Redshift

Where do you live? In Montreal’s Plateau, a few blocks from Parc Lafontaine.

Where are you from? Hometown? The outskirts of Moncton, New Brunswick.

When did you start writing? When I was in 3rd grade, I wrote a story about a group of space explorers who fall prey to aliens. The whole crew dies. Even as a child, my tragic sensibility shone through.

Why did you start writing? It wasn’t until high school that I started developing my own personal style. I read a chapbook memoir called “Please Don’t Kill the Freshman” by a punk lesbian from Oregon a few years my senior. It blew me away. It detailed in brutal, fresh, honest terms life as a teenager. I remember reading this (and likeminded books by guys like Burroughs, Bukowski, Eggers, Kerouac, and Saligner) and realizing that I could write my way. I could push buttons, stir shit up, and most importantly – I could make things beautiful. I could take the quotidian experiences of pubescent angst – my own insatiable longings and melancholic musings – and turn these (rather crummy) sentiments into something lasting and true. Something that might somehow, I dunno, absolve me. Of what? I’ll never know.

What inspires you? Bears. Babies. Music. Conversation. Tall things you have to crane your neck to see. Long walks. Carl Sagan.

What inspired this play? Strangely, black holes. I say ‘strangely’ because there is little mention of astronomical conceit in the play itself. Quantum physics in general informs most of my work, though there is usually little textual evidence.  I got a little obsessed with black holes a couple years ago when I wrote this play. In my research, I found that the edge of a black hole is called the event horizon, and when objects fall into a black hole, the gravitational force at the event horizon essentially stretches, separates, and ‘spaghetti’-fies them. Disturbing, I know. If we were standing outside the black hole watching someone fall in, they would be “redshifting” away, falling into the void. A redshift occurs when the distance between wavelengths increases as an object moves away from us. When we hear an ambulance siren passing, its sound gets lower and softer as it speeds away; this means that the soundwaves are redshifting. I love this word, and thought it similar to the way relationships work. Get too close and you get sucked in and torn apart. This is a play about a wounded, delicate, breakable man who deals with his neuroses in the only way he knows how: he feigns normalcy. He constructs a protective façade. His past keeps him paralyzed, unable to get close to someone for fear of the inevitable redshift, the gravitational pull of romance, and the violent forces of human intimacy.

What do you write other than plays? I’ve written for a variety of different mediums  – journalism, literary criticism, speeches, autobiography, press releases, letters, screenplays, poetry, and prose.

Do you have a day-job? What do you do other than writing? I do a little telemarketing to pay the bills. I’m also keen on music, usually revamping songs into ambient acoustic covers, or composing my own. I also take the occasional photograph, and make the occasional video.

What time of day do you write best? I used to only write very early in the morning (when I first woke up) or after midnight (when all the rest of the world went to sleep.) But lately, I find myself more productive in the buzzing hours before evening begins (ie. late afternoon, rush hour.) There’s something about the winding-down of the workday that makes me eager to be proactive. These days, it’s also less about inspiration (channeling the muse, waiting for her to show up…) and more about getting down to business – simply gluing my ass to the chair and writing. I have to trust my fingers.

Where do you write? (coffee shops, home etc.?) I sneak a few paragraphs in at work, but most of my writing is done in solitude, at home. I need to be absolutely alone. Handel helps.

How long did it take you to write this play? The two large monologues that frame the piece were written many years ago, when I was sixteen, a sort of stream-of-consciousness exercise I gave myself. I picked them up again in 2010. The actual construction of the play took about a month.

What do you like best about writing for theatre compared to other mediums? Ultimately, the stage does what no page can. Of all art forms, I believe that theatre has the most potential for affect. Unlike reading a novel, or watching a television show, the immediate tangibility of onstage action witnessed by a live audience produces a visceral, intimate, and unfettered reaction. It takes place within a living, breathing environment – not a page, not a screen. It is unframed and impermanent. These events are there, happening. They are alive, and they die once the curtain falls. They are reborn the following night, or not at all. The viewer is also there, in the flesh, inside the experience. The audience is an element of the space (albeit an unpredictable element) and therefore an essential part of the play, without which the drama would cease to have meaning. For this reason, the theatre is a potential powerhouse of artistic expression. It can encompass text, performance, music, dance, multimedia, design, fashion, and a multitude of other hybrid art forms. The theatre extends beyond itself, and for this reason I feel it deserves much esteem.

What is the greatest challenge you think writers face today? Without a doubt, it is the lack of funding for the arts. The recent cutbacks in grant money for literary magazines in Canada is… disconcerting, to say the least. We need to promote debate and discussion in this vein in order to emphasize the value of artistic diversity and its effect on culture and political economy.

What kind of support do you have for your writing? Writing centres, groups etc. For the most part, I stand alone. However, I’m beginning to build up a network of contacts here in Montreal – readers, writers, editors, teachers, producers, aficionados, etc. C’est La Vie Theatre included!

Do you have a website/blog? Can I contact you? I have a Tumblr: http://edmac.tumblr.com/ And I’m soon to publish my novella “Hydrophilia” through The Trapshot Archives, a small press here in Montreal: http://trapshotarchives.com/

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Interviews, Uncategorized

Interview with Jim Burke about writing Bestiary

Where do you live?

On the Plateau, Montreal.

Where are you from? Hometown?

Manchester, England

When did you start writing?

I regularly wrote songs for a punk band I was in during my late teens, but I began writing professionally in the late ‘80s – articles and film/ theatre reviews for various newspapers and magazines. I started writing plays some time in the early ‘90s. Most of my early plays were spoofs written with a fellow drama student – a spoof skinhead musical, a spoof British gangster thriller, an evening of spoof horror tales – all great fun to write, and a useful grounding in genre conventions. My first “grown-up” play was Cornered, a two-hander about those guys who do the rub-downs and rally the fighters during boxing matches.

Why did you start writing?

The good answer is “because I had a lot of things I wanted to say”, but the true answer is probably “because I wanted to get out of a lousy factory job making specs”. The punk songs didn’t do it, but the newspaper writing finally got me out of there.

What inspires you?

A variety of things, really, but it’s often just an image, or even the sound of a word. For instance, the impetus for writing Cornered was having spotted the word “cornermen” in a boxing article. I’m really not interested in sport, but that one word seemed to conjure up something almost Beckettian in its image of people stuck just outside the place where real life is happening. Direct inspirations would include the great playwrights like Ibsen, Pinter, Mamet, the Jacobeans etc. I’m also taken with playwrights who have no pretensions to greatness but who are fantastically entertaining (Martin McDonagh for instance).

What inspired this play?

Although I wrote it in 2003, the idea for it came to me about ten years before. I think I was in a bad mood over some break-up and was listening to a Nick Cave album (as you do), which put me in a twisted Old Testament mood, which made me think of the Jonah and the Whale story, which made me wonder what the hell was in it for the whale. I wanted to expand the idea of seeing religion, politics, morality, etc, from the points of view of sacrificial animals, and when I came across a photo of Laika the Soviet space-dog, it all came together. The “monkey” episode was an after-thought, because I felt as though the play had to be a triptych structure, but I think its pretty crucial thematically to the whole piece now, as well as being such an incredible-but-(allegedly) true story.

What do you write other than plays?

Writing regular blogs about theatre and related topics on my website has been keeping me busy. I often write just for myself to keep ideas bouncing around, stuff I would never dream of showing to other people, but a lot of it leaks into my plays at some point.

Do you have a day-job? What do you do other than writing?

I teach Creative Writing at Dawson’s Continuing Education dept. I also teach English for a couple of companies. I’ve started a theatre company called Theatre Funhouse for which I have lots of plans (both realistic and implausible ones), but it’s early days yet.

What time of day do you write best?

Basically, if I haven’t sat at my desk by 9am, that writing day’s probably gone, no matter how convincingly I tell myself I’ll catch up later.

Where do you write? (coffee shops, home etc.?)

If I don’t do that 9am thing at home, then the only hope I have of writing is finding a quiet coffee shop. Too many distractions at home, like dirty dishes, wallpaper, empty space, etc.

How long did it take you to write this play?

About four months, but it was originally a BBC commission, so they were pretty much on my case to give it a quick turn-around. Usually it takes anything from a couple of months to a couple of years (or two decades in the case of one as yet unfinished and maybe entirely imaginary masterpiece).

What do you like best about writing for theatre compared to other mediums?

Having your writing picked to pieces by actors and directors then performed in front of complete strangers is a much more reliable guide to how it stands up than having a pal read a short story in front of you and say “mm…pretty good…er…interesting ending…” Theatre writing gives you the best of both worlds – the solitude of writing and the camaraderie of putting it on.

What is the greatest challenge you think writers face today?

Maybe an overload of information these days, which can make you bounce around from subject to subject without anything actually sticking. Things must have been a lot easier when the world was smaller and our horizons narrower. Or maybe not. Related to all that, of course, is the internet – the fact that most people’s writing tool is also a window onto the world and therefore the perfect procrastination machine.

What kind of support do you have for your writing?

I’ve had a lot of support from Playwrights Workshop Montreal, and since coming to Montreal, I’ve had a lot of generous reactions to my work from various theatre folk, which has definitely kept me going. Before that I had tons of support from an English new-writing organization called North West Playwrights.

Do you have a website/blog? Can I contact you?

I’m on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/funhousetheatre.  And Twitter, though I’ve kind of let that one lapse. My website/blog is on www.theatrefunhouse.wordpress.com. You can contact me on theatrefunhouse@yahoo.com

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Interviews, Uncategorized