Self Isolated Artist
Oh, my goodness, what an honour it has been to communicate with Canadian playwright and actor Daniel MacIvor for ‘The Self-Isolated Artist’ series.
I’ve seen several of his works performed at local community theatres over the years. I also reviewed his production ‘New Magic Valley Fun Town’ at Tarragon in which he also appeared. Daniel began following me on Instagram recently. Because I hold tremendous respect for him and his work, I wasn’t certain if I should get in touch with him about a possible interview. Again I thought, as I had written in the profile interview with Mark Crawford, “Why the hell not?”
I took a chance, got in touch with Daniel through Instagram, and was most pleased when he responded and said he was interested in participating via email.
Daniel has written a short play for Tarragon Theatre’s UnGala coming up in late May. The UnGala is a series of three online events featuring scripts about possibility and hope from the bold voices of 16 of our resident playwrights: three video segments of 5-minute original plays presented over two days and read by the playwrights themselves!
1. It has been just over two months right now that we have been under this lockdown. How have you been doing during this period of isolation and quarantine
As a writer I'm a pretty isolated person anyway. My interior life remains very active. Other than lining up for groceries I find this familiar and emotionally comfortable.
2. Were you involved or being considered for any projects before the pandemic was declared and everything was shut down?
I was in the middle of rehearsals for "Here's What It Takes" at Stratford, the Steven Page musical that I wrote the book for. That was shut down, maybe next year. Also this fall I was supposed to embark on a tour of my Tarragon play "New Magic Valley Fun Town" and the solo show I created with Daniel Brooks "Let's Run Away". All of that is up in the air.
3. What has been the most difficult and/or challenging element of this period of isolation for you?
Two things. One, not having a choice. Though I live in a Spartan and isolated way for the most part, I have chosen to do that. Now I have no choice. But really that's just a game of the mind. And maybe part of the malady of the modern world is too much choice.
The second thing is no longer a problem, but it caused me a good deal of anxiety initially. I had to cut off all connection to American media. The horror show of American politics was too much for me – in fact, it felt like too much before the pandemic. I find the media generally unhelpful at this time, they can't resist trying to stir up a sense of urgency when that is the very last thing that this time is about.
I suppose there is an urgency for epidemiologists and ER workers but for the rest of us, we need step back and breathe, day by day. If that is not the message, then the message is simply opinion. I have enough opinions of my own.
4. What have you been doing to keep yourself busy during this time of lock down?
I am working on a couple of screenplays and editing a documentary called "Everything Is Real Nothing Is True" that I shot with cinematographer John Price over the last couple of years about my work with Daniel Brooks on the solo play "Who Killed Spalding Gray?"
5. Any words of wisdom or sage advice you would give to other performing artists who are concerned about the impact of COVID-19? What about to the new theatre graduates who are just out of school and may have been hit hard? Why is it important for them not to lose sight of their dreams?
I think this is a wonderful opportunity to look at our desires, our dreams, our hopes for the future. What are they? Why are they? What is the purpose of theatre? What is our place in that world? We get very caught up in careerism and gigging and jobbing and the like and we forget that we are a service industry. This is a chance to ask ourselves what is the service we do? In service of what? In service to whom?
6. Do you see anything positive stemming from this pandemic?
The very nature of the protocols – keeping distance, considering our actions, knowing where we've been, what we're touching, who we're talking to – are at the heart of mindfulness. If we can learn to move more mindfully through every day – pandemic or no - we will be better people and make a better world.
7. In your estimation and informed opinion, will the Canadian performing arts scene somehow be changed or impacted as a result of COVID – 19?
Yes. I think it will be difficult at first but ultimately the big questions that will come up as a result of this event will make us more focused and more compassionate.
8. Many artists are turning to streaming/online performances to showcase/highlight/share their work. What are your thoughts about this format presentation? Any advantages to doing this? Disadvantages? Are you participating or will you be participating in this presentation format soon?
I have participated a little. I've done a rewrite of my solo show "House" so that it could be performed to camera. It was performed by Kevin Hanchard and directed by Nina Lee Aquino under the auspices of Factory Theatre in Toronto. It was fun, 1400 people tuned in. I've also written a short play for Tarragon Theatre's UnGala coming up in late May.
My interest is how this work lives in an online reality. I'm not so interested in work read or performed as plays in this format. It's too flat. Theatre needs space.
9. I’ve seen your work on stage throughout Toronto. I saw you perform at Tarragon in ‘New Magic Valley Fun Town’. I also saw a memorable production of HOUSE that was streamed online through Factory with magnificent work from Kevin Hanchard and director Nina Lee Aquino. I listened carefully to the after-show discussion. What is it about performing you still love given all the change, the confusion and the drama surrounding our world now?
Aha, you saw it. Yes, it was memorable wasn't it. Kevin was sublime. I loved working with Nina. For me performing is a metaphysical journey into being and presence and connection. That's essential, more now than ever.
With a respectful nod to ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ and the late James Lipton, here are the 10 questions he asked his guests at the conclusion of his interviews:
a. What is your favourite word?
b. What is your least favourite word?
c. What turns you on?
d. What turns you off?
e. What sound or noise do you love?
Wind in the trees.
f. What sound or noise bothers you?
g. What is your favourite curse word?
Fuck still works a charm, in moderation.
h. What profession, other than your own, would you have liked to attempt?
i. What profession would you not like to do?
j. If Heaven exists, what do you hope God will say to you as you approach the Pearly Gates?