Self Isolated Artist
Dahlia Katz’s name is one I’ve been recognizing for quite some time when I review professional productions from Toronto to London, Ontario. I’ve only seen her still photography of actors from various shows and they are stunning to behold.
During running dress rehearsals, Dahlia relayed to me her work is fast paced in following the action of the play. Often during the dress rehearsal she might only get one chance in capturing a natural and believable moment on film. In my opinion, each photo I’ve seen of her work is outstanding.
You’ll see from the answers below that Dahlia is also a professional director. She has had three Dora nominations (one this year and two last year). One nomination was for design and the other two for direction. The design nomination received was for puppet design as Dahlia is a thoroughly trained puppeteer.
She is one busy lady as she also teaches movement and gesture and was Artistic Director for five years.
I look forward to seeing her vision as director very soon when it is safe to return to the theatre.
It has been nearly four months since we’ve all been in isolation and now we’re slowly emerging. How have you been faring? How has your immediate family been doing during this time?
I was overworking for years and needed a break but didn’t know how to take one. I have intermittently struggled with an autoimmune disease over the past 15 years, I’m very grateful to have my health right now. My family is also alright, thanks for asking.
As a photographer for many professional productions, what has been the most difficult and challenging for you professionally and personally?
Well, as a photographer mainly of people and events, there’s virtually no work if there’s no gatherings. I also do real estate and food photography, so there’s been a wee bit of that.
As a director, well, I’m dreaming of a future of making great moments in small rooms but finding inspiration in outdoor spaces and a summer of yearning for the simplest human connections that motivate everything we do as theatre artists. Asking the big questions about what liveness means, what it provides us on a social/psychological/spiritual level.
Were you in preparation or any planning stages of productions before everything was shut down? What has become of those projects? Will they see the light of day anytime soon?
Having stepped down from the position of Artistic Director at Solar Stage about a year ago, I aimed to launch some independent projects with my husband M. John. We still talk often about those projects and how we might envision/re-envision them, but right now are enjoying our time together *not* working.
Running Solar Stage was enormously consuming for both of us for the last six years, we’re still recovering from it and redesigning our life together to provide more safety, comfort, and power.
I was also preparing to direct a fabulous production ‘Spring Awakening’ for We Are Here Productions to benefit Kids’ Help Phone. At the time of lockdown, we were just about to announce our cast and were supposed to have gone up in May. The plans to resurrect that project are on hold but very much intending to proceed as soon as possible.
What have you been doing to keep yourself busy during this time?
I’ve been trying to learn how *not* to be busy, and mostly it’s been about cooking, baking, fermenting foods, watching movies, exercise, the outdoors, quality sleep, lots of time with my husband and cat. Lately I’ve had the chance to do a few gigs that have really lifted my spirits and now I’m missing my work and dying to get back into it. Slowly. I hope for a bit more balance this time.
Any words of wisdom or advice you might /could give to fellow performers and colleagues? What message would you deliver to recent theatre school graduates who have now been set free into this unknown and uncertainty given the fact live theaters and studios might be closed for 1 ½ - 2 years?
Don’t waste time and energy despairing. Get creative. We don’t have to obsess over digital technologies to get out of the black box. There are thousands of years of theatre traditions all over the world that make great examples of the use of outdoor and unconventional spaces. Get busy making stuff and showing it to people. We need connection; take the holy responsibility to provide it.
Do you see anything positive stemming from COVID 19?
Hopefully some out-of-the-box thinking for producers and boards of directors. A recommitment of donors who appreciate the necessity of theatre for social and community healing.
Do you think COVID 19 will have some lasting impact on the Canadian/North American performing arts scene?
Well, yes and no. We’re awfully good at falling back into old habits and patterns if we’re allowed. If we have a good and regular infusion of new leaders and thinkers, we can adapt and take advantage of impact and turn it into new beginnings. I hope the ongoing conversations can stay as honest and humane as they have been during the pandemic. Remembering both 9/11 and SARS, life always finds a way to balance out even after immense tragedy. It can be both a strength and a weakness. We should both embrace and interrogate that phenomenon.
Some artists have turned to YouTube and online streaming to showcase their work. What are your comments and thoughts about streaming? Is this something that the actor/theatre may have to utilize going forward into the unknown?
It’s a great tool for sharing with wider audiences across time and space, it provides a fascinating amount of access. I’ve had the joy of tuning in to streamed archival videos of Sandglass Theater’s old productions, which has been enormously enriching for me because they’re from a time before I trained with them. Tapestry Opera has been seeing their audiences expand geographically through live streaming and smartly built their next season around capitalizing on that. It’s exciting.
But we need to keep liveness in mind. Our craft is the instant and constant ritualized exchange of energies with an audience; we are not filmmakers and we don’t need to be. We have always pledged our allegiance to the collective experience of a moment. I wish for us to not lose sight of that. We should adapt the given mediums to serve this necessary purpose.
As a respectful acknowledgment to ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ and the late James Lipton here are the ten questions he used to ask his guests:
What is your favourite word?
What is your least favourite word?
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
What sound or noise do you love?
A spontaneous shared breath/gasp/sigh in a group of people.
What sound or noise bothers you?
What is your favourite curse word?
Feck, or any other adorable reshaping of a conventional curse word (frig, frack, fork, fudge, sugar, shizz, butts, heck, dingus).
What is your least favourite curse word?
Other than your own, what other career profession could you see yourself doing?
Cult leader! Or maybe personal chef.
What career choice could you not see yourself doing?
If Heaven exists, what do you hope God will say to you as you approach the Pearly Gates?
“I’m so proud of you.”