“I’m excited to see where it goes and what’s next for our art form. I would love to see how I can be helpful in that. I’m curious about where that will lead.”
Maev wondered if this statement above sounded cheesy on the page.
Not at all.
She has attained a great deal of experience in the industry. I believe any upcoming artist would benefit tremendously from Maev’s sagacious wisdom about the peaks and valleys of the performing arts industry whether she teaches, coaches, interviews or watches emerging artists.
I am one grateful guy Maev was available for a Zoom call last month. She had a few errands to complete before concluding her final performance at this year’s production of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ at the Stratford Festival.
She’s now back in Toronto.
I’ve admired her variety of stage work, from productions at Soulpepper Theatre to the Stratford Festival. Some productions that come to my mind in which she has appeared are ‘August: Osage County,’ ‘The Front Page,’ ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and ‘The Last Wife.’ This month, she will appear with Jesse LaVercombe in the Canadian premiere of Sarah Ruhl's ‘Letters from Max, a ritual’. More about the upcoming production shortly.
Her sharp, comical wit set me at ease during our conversation. When I asked her where she completed her training, she smiled and said: “At the dinner table.”
Maev grew up in a family of storytellers. Her mother is a storyteller. When Maev was growing up, her mother was a children’s librarian. Her maternal grandmother was a teacher interested in teaching English and storytelling, and that love of language came through Maev’s mother. Her father has always been a visual artist. Her parents play instruments, but Maev poked fun at herself, saying she doesn’t. She calls her brother “an artist of all trades,” who, in her words, “is a beautiful actor, hilarious improviser, and an incredible musician.”
Using art to think about what it means to be human was just part of breakfast, lunch, and dinner in her house while she was growing up. It was part of who they were. Maev’s father was also a farmer. Her brothers also had a few careers beyond that, so it wasn’t necessarily all ‘bohemian’ as she called it.
When Maev attended school as a child, she grew up on a couple of different farms in the Thousand Islands area. She attended KCVI (Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute), and her drama teacher was Ian Malcolm, who worked with many celebrated Canadian artists who now appear in theatre – Jacob James, Chilina Kennedy, Brett Christopher – they were all Maev’s peers.
Another interesting fact that I didn’t know. At KCVI, the fathers of two band members of ‘The Tragically Hip’ also taught there.
Maev called KCVI a high school that prioritized the humanities to educate the students, which she calls a “huge, huge gift” to the student body.
Beaty attended the University of Toronto in the University College drama program. Pia Kleber ran the program at that time. She proudly states that Ken Gass was her first-year drama teacher. She called her final year in the program life-changing when she appeared in her graduating show ‘Twelfth Night’ which toured several cities, including a few Globe theatres. She also visited the Globe Theatre in London, England, and Prague.
Although she appreciated the chance to perform at Stratford in one of the most glorious versions of ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ Maev says she has been so jealous of the Toronto theatre-going public these last few weeks. There have been some incredible offerings in Toronto theatre since September. She calls the work thorough, passionate, and unified in voice. There are big artistic risks and choices being made. Yet, there is a general atmosphere of gratitude, humility, hope and a real presence of experience and mind in the theatre community.
She added further:
“I think the Toronto theatre-going public (and not just the traditional theatre-going public) are longing for, yearning for, desperate for live human connection and collective human experiences after this time of separation. More than ever, a chance to come together and experience something with strangers and yet still feel safe to do so that explores the primary questions of what it means to be alive.”
Nothing does this better than live performance, even though she strongly admits she’s biased since she is involved in theatre. She would be remiss to say that the connection of feeling and being alive can also be felt in the other live performances of dance and opera that provide a human collective moment.
Our conversation then veered towards her upcoming production of ‘Letters from Max, a ritual.’ The story focuses on the profound connection and friendship between playwright Sarah Ruhl and her student, poet Max Ritvo, who faces the return of Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of pediatric cancer.
Maev says ‘Letters from Max’ is so completely about exploring the questions of what it means to be alive on the human heart, human consciousness, and noticing that you are alive while you are alive. The privilege of working on ‘Max’ allows both she and Jesse to venture even deeper into that question. She has read the source material for the play - the book ‘Letters from Max: a poet, a teacher, a friendship’ by Ruhl and Ritvo.
She spoke about the connection she and her husband, Alan Dilworth, have with Ruhl.
Dilworth and Beaty have a ten-year-old daughter. The first Sarah Ruhl piece Maev worked on was ‘Passion Play,’ a substantial theatrical endeavour with ‘Outside the March,’ ‘Necessary Angel,’ ‘Convergence’ and ‘Sheep No Wool.’ The production was an epic promenade three-location, three-and-a-half-hour ensemble piece. Beaty was eight months pregnant at the time. She laughed at the memory of the madness used in the most respectful term as the ensemble walked outside down Danforth Avenue.
Alan has gone on to direct Ruhl’s play ‘Eurydice.’ He and Ruhl have gone on to have a correspondence like what ‘Max’ is about. She’s reminded of the biographical confessional production ‘Secret Life of a Mother’ which she co-created with Marinda de Beer, Ann-Marie Kerr and Hannah Moscovitch. Risks were taken in the revealing of true selves in 'Mother'. Ruhl does the same thing in ‘Max,’.
Maev further adds:
“The generosity of the writer (in both plays) to share their actual private writings with the public is a special kind of vulnerability and generosity because you’re just so exposed. I feel privileged and vigilant about shepherding Ruhl’s words to this play.”
What’s one thing that drew Maev to Ruhl’s script?
She says it’s a play that deals with death head on, but it’s so much more about life.
She paused for a moment to think before adding:
“Because of the environment I grew up in, I really believe that words are sacred and hold sacredness. Words can be medicine, holy and transformative. Words work on the body, they work on the neuropathways, the nervous and skeletal systems... In ‘Max’, what has struck me the most is how words put down in a letter, email, or text to another person or loved one carry medicine, meaning, and profound connection through the airwaves (or postal system) to another soul and be reciprocated.”
Maev marveled how can that be not purely an intellectual exercise but an existential one? In the pandemic that’s what everyone had – relying on words that carried to others that carried through Zoom, social media, and text.
In the case of ‘Max’ where the two characters are distanced physically across the country from California to Connecticut, or the distance in illness, what can one do to let that person know they are not alone? That they are alive? Or trying to find the right words to reach that person far away in isolation (whether it was through the pandemic or physical distance).
This last part of my conversation with Maev has touched my soul and I found myself welling up as I write this profile. As a cancer survivor and someone who lost a younger sibling to the disease, I can still vividly recall how words I used, and others used, influenced my life and my family’s life at that time.
Rehearsals for ‘Max’ have been going wonderfully in the circular antechamber of a church in Stratford. Maev worked with Jesse before in ‘Bunny’ at Tarragon. It’s a pleasure to work with someone again as they continue to discover the voice of the play and take risks. Jesse and Maev have a shared sense of humour, and Alan has been very ‘patient’ with it. She laughed at the word ‘patient’ so I’ll allow my imagination to wonder about what has gone on during rehearsals.
And what’s one message she hopes audiences will take away from ‘Letters from Max’?
“Notice that you are alive.”
True words spoken that mean so much.
What’s next for Maev Beaty once ‘Max’ concludes its run?
She coyly smiled and said:
“Maev is just going to rest and try to take a wee break. Maev is very much longing for some time with the family. It’s been such a huge gift at this particular time of the year, and there are some adventures ahead in 2025.”
She has something planned for next year in 2024 but she doesn’t want to talk about it yet. All she did say – she fulfilled one of her dreams in playing Beatrice in ‘Much Ado’ this past summer. Now that one dream has been fulfilled, the door has been opened for some other opportunities to fulfil in the next thirty years.
I can wait, Maev, because what’s that adage? Patience is a virtue.
‘Letters from Max, a ritual’ presented by Necessary Angel Theatre and directed by company Artistic Director Alan Dilworth will run at The Theatre Centre from November 10 to December 3. For tickets: https://theatrecentre.org/tickets/?eid=106867
To learn more about Necessary Angel Theatre Company, visit https://www.necessaryangel.com/.