In her 1985 interview with the Paris Review, Elizabeth Hardwick said, “In general I’d rather talk about other people. Gossip, or as we gossips like to say, character analysis.” Gossip and analyze character she does in her 1974 book of essays, Seduction and Betrayalwith acuity, humor, and intellect one often does not find in everyday gossip. As Joan Didion points out in her introduction to the NYRB 2001 reprint of the essays, Hardwick seems to have seen no distinction between ‘the real and the literary’ and understood “that the women we invent have changed the course of our lives as surely as the women we are.” Hardwick’s essays on the Brontë Sisters, Sylvia Plath, or Zelda Fitzgerald are as much analysis of their works as explorations of writing as an act of transgression and actualization; they are, it becomes clear, characters in a broader history of women in literature as female characters in literature — Nora and Hedda of Ibsen, for instance — are reflections of women in history.
Hardwick writes of of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, “We may very well predict that [Nora] will soon be laughing and chattering again and eating her macaroons in peace, telling her friends – she is going back to her hometown — what a stick Helmer turned out to be. Otherwise her freedom is worth nothing.” She gives us not only an analysis of Nora as a character on stage, but what Nora is as a dramatized but recognizable extension of reality. Hardwick continues: “Nora’s liberation is not a transformation, but an acknowledgment of error, of having married the man. Her real problem is money — at the beginning and at the end. What will she live on? What kind of work will she do? Will she get her children back? Will she get a new husband? When the curtain goes down it is only the end of Volume One.” Through Hardwick, our concerns as readers of Ibsen are extended beyond the drama.
I can’t quite imagine, when thinking of a cliché image of gossips, Elizabeth Hardwick’s acutely original voice discussing suicide as performance in Plath’s poems; for this, I have in mind the Greek chorus. But I like to imagine how natural and, to a degree, fun it must have been for her to discuss such matters over, say, a light lunch in her Upper West Side apartment. Perhaps the facts that she was, with Robert Lowell and the late Bob Silvers, one of the founders of the esteemed New York Review of Books, was friends with Mary McCarthy, and was acquainted with Billie Holiday influence the way I read and review her essays.
But it is less my admiration for the author of Sleepless Nightsand more for the quick and revealing sentences that carry her judgments and ideas — such as, “[Plath’s] fate and her themes are hardly separate and both are singularly terrible” — that make the essays stand out as examples of creative, original, and truly revelatory literary criticism.
Hardwick once wrote in her famous 1959 essay, “The Decline of Book Reviewing”, published in Harper’s, “The flat praise and the faint dissension, the minimal style and the light little article, the absence of involvement, passion, character, eccentricity — the lack, at last, of the literary tone itself — have made the New York Times into a provincial literary journal, longer and thicker, but not much different in the end from all those small-town Sunday ‘Book Pages.'” In Seduction and Betrayal, it’s easy to see what Hardwick meant by involvement, passion, character, and eccentricity; she has them all and more to offer her readers. Her scathing review of the Times is humorous but also frightening to one such as myself daring to add on to the conversation. All reviewers — or at least all that one should care to read — should fear adding on to ‘a puddle of treacle’ faced with Hardwick’s work. But good thing she also showed us what to aim for.
There’s a slight naiveté in thinking that a tv-show called Dear White Peopleconcerning black students in a fictional Ivy-league like Winchester University should not stir up so much talk. As of an hour ago, the thirty-four seconds teaser trailer on the upcoming Netflix series based on the the 2014 independent movie directed by Justin Simien, has over four million views, 56,709 likes, and 419,525 dislikes with some calling for a boycott with #NoNetflix as their Twitter calling card. Simien responded in an interview with ET, “thanks, white supremacists, you really helped me promote my show.” Whether the controversy has indeed promoted the show or led people to unsubscribe is unclear and perhaps even besides the point. The series premieres this Friday.
The 2014 movie dramatizes black students’ experiences of racism and prejudice in universities across America with likable characters, each with quirks and characteristics that are forcibly placed to simulate the complex and diverse nature of race relations; there’s a mixed-race radio host, a gay black student, one who just wants to fit in, one pursuing academic and professional success, an Asian cameo, etc. In one scene, Sam White’s radio show is accused of being racist by the dean of students, who is also black. Sam responds: “Racism describes a system of disadvantage based on race. Black people can’t be racist since we don’t stand to benefit from such a system.” The scene does little to enlighten or inspire to examine race relations in the U.S. — the discussion, though it is more akin to listening to commentators with talking points, merely pushes Sam’s character as the intellectual and somewhat rebellious would-be leader. That Sam is right accomplishes little both within the movie and the minds of the viewer.
As a whole, the movie, in that it hints at social and cultural habits of race relations and the politics of the university as an institute and a microcosm of society at large has noble intentions of inciting social and political thought and, perhaps, even action. But, as is the case with many political movies aimed at exposing or addressing a large issue, it disappointingly does not go deep enough into the issue. And to my frustration, the movie was not even remotely controversial. If anything, the only true controversy within the film seemed to me to be the sudden emergence of a harmonious minority collective at the end that brings swift justice to evil-doers — this requires a bit more faith than I’m comfortable practicing.
Regarding the movie, there’s little, it would seem, to be mad about as there is little to celebrate. But that this mildly titillating and somewhat political film exists and would cause so much backlash and droves of angry responses online — much from white supremacist groups/accounts — speak volumes on our current social climate.
What is the relationship between safety and freedom? Though seemingly apart from race issues, the question is central to grasping what it means to be a student at a university or a citizen in a society. The recent controversies at Yale and at other Ivy-league schools demonstrate that the two are intricately linked. Too often we associate freedom of speech with safeguarding hate-speech and safety with some kind of millennial liberal mindset of needing protection. The true controversy underlying the movie and the issues at these schools is that somehow we are led to believe the two, safety and freedom, are inevitably mutually exclusive.
Perhaps the ten thirty minute episodes of the new series will address the important issues brought up in the original film in more depth and risk more controversy and truly shake the minds of the viewers.
Tate Sameshima is a photographer, a visual artist, and the owner of TKVO on Dundas West. We met in front of Windows Gallery, where his latest series, HUMAN. is being shown, and walked to Glad Day Bookshop to chat about his work and how the different aspects of his life are connected. In person, it’s difficult to avoid recognizing Tate’s generosity of mind, his willingness to see beyond the surface and eagerness to let others’ shine through. And this side of him is abundantly clear in HUMAN. wherein the seemingly mundane or overlooked details of life that make up most of our experience yet remain in the background bind us in ways that overgrown politicized and make-believe differences in culture, sexuality, gender, etc. continue to fail in breaking.
Hoon: You come from a medical family, studied theatre production at Ryerson, you’re a photographer, and you’re the owner of TKVO on Dundas West. How would you describe yourself?
Tate: I would say that I wear a number of different hats. I’ve always been creative, ever since I was a kid, and never without my family’s support, although yes, they’re all medical. Studying Theatre Production at Ryerson was definitely a launching pad for me; that’s where I learned how to be a storyteller. Storytelling has been a prominent focus in my work, especially my recent work. And even within my retail shop, TKVO, there’s an underlining story being told – why the shop exists, why I felt the need to deem it a ‘safe space’, through the curated collection of goods we offer; it’s our story, which I feel is a relatable story to a lot of folks. So essentially I’d say that I’m an art maker, business owner, and storyteller.
H: On your website you write, “[Tate Sameshima] learned how authenticity and vulnerability can connect us, bridging gaps across differences that too often divide.” What did you mean by that and does it still inform your work?
T: For me it’s a matter — especially for the work that I produced this year [HUMAN.] — of being really honest in terms of how I present my work as an artist. I live a fully authentic life now. This is my true self and it was imperative that the work I produce is representative of that. For me, authenticity and vulnerability go hand in hand, I can’t be one without the other. I think when you’re honest with yourself and each other there’s a far greater chance that differences can be understood and respected, rather than disregarded and used as another means to increase a divide.
H: Could you tell us what you mean by living authentically?
T: For me living authentically… well, I discovered that crucial missing piece when I transitioned from female to male. I began transitioning in September 2015, I finally reached the point of living authentically when I was honest with myself and made that decision to transition. I can’t speak for others, but I think it can be as simple as being kind, being genuine, being true to yourself and presenting yourself as such to the world.
H: How would you say Theatre Production informs your work?
T: I studied Lighting Design at the Ryerson Theatre School and having that comprehensive understanding of how light behaves has definitely influenced my work. I shoot in natural light environments so in a sense the light is an additional subject in the frame and it’s that kind of challenge (manipulating light) that keeps me invested in the photographic process. But essentially, it was really the attention to detail that RTS engrained in us. In first year you have to study everything and as a results you gain knowledge and experience in every department that exists in order to mount a theatrical production. It was that type of learning model that helped sculpt me into a more mindful, aware artist that considers every detail of every shot.
H: How did you get into photography from theatre school?
T: I picked up a camera when I was 15 and I never really put it down. I was heavily influenced by my high school Drama teacher. To be honest, high school was quite challenging for me. My Drama teacher — her name is Valerie — became my safe person. That class was such a joy for me, it was one of the few things I would look forward to. I was very depressed throughout high school, but I found myself really invested in her class. She made it OK for me to consider pursuing a career in the Arts. She was such a positive force in my life during a really dark time. I would say that Photography was always my passion, from the moment I picked up a camera, but it was those 4 years at Ryerson that really saved my life.
H: Take us through your creative process.
T: I capture through both digital and analog processes so that’s my starting point – what do I feel like holding that day? I had a friend once say that if you look at something for more than 3 seconds, it’s worth documenting, so that’s my mindset when I’m working, I don’t want anything to escape me. I have an appreciation for daily city life – streetscapes, texture, patterns, stories people can relate to. But for the HUMAN. series it was a very different process; the entire series is based on connecting with people in a very personal, intimate setting. Each finished piece is comprised of the subject’s story / their experience, and our time spent together. There was a level of vulnerability and visibility present in those pieces that I had yet to experience, hence why this series is very special for me.
H: Would you say that it was a thematically or conceptually motivated piece?
T: Honestly I had produced a completely different body of work for The Artist Project and I shared it with a few very close friends of mine who also have creative backgrounds. And it was my best friend, in particular, who challenged me. He said, “This really isn’t representative of the year you’ve had. It doesn’t feel like you.” Hearing that from him really impacted me. He pushed me — as he always does — to take a closer look at the work, at myself and decide – what do I want to put energy into creating. The Human. series is thematically motivated because, in a way, any human being can relate to this work. With the current political climate we find ourselves in, I felt that it was very necessary to produce work that was going to instigate important conversations, ones regarding safe spaces and the LGBTQ+ communities.
H: You have a lot of experience photographing architecture and space. Yet for the HUMAN. series you decided to photograph the interviewee’s ‘Adored Item’ to showcase alongside the collages. How did you come to that decision?
T: It was simply a matter of relatability. I wanted to essentially level the playing field. Everyone has a personal item they feel close to, whether it’s from their current day to day life or an item from their childhood. Having everyone hold their item in their portrait and displaying that item next to the finished piece, it creates that link…a way to connect. Anyone has, say, a stuffed animal that they are fond of because it reminds them of their childhood. I felt like there had to be some type of connection to bridge the gaps, some way for the viewer to relate to these portraits of folks they had never met. Sure enough people were really expressive when they took the series in, pointing out the GameBoy they remembered playing or being reminded of their favourite stuffed animal growing up. The ‘adored items’ definitely created the response I was hoping for; they weakened the socially-constructed boundaries that cause these divides in the first place.
H: Transgender issues are starting to pop up more frequently in mainstream media — Transparent, for instance, or, more recently and controversially, in Dave Chappelle’s comedy special. What are your thoughts on how artists and audiences can make positive contributions to shaping our conversations around transgender experiences?
T: I think mainstream media is a powerful vehicle. Hollywood plays a significant role in how certain topics are discussed, they cast the widest net. Growing up in the 1980’s, there was zero representation of a transgender person, at least not a relatable, positive representation. But now we are a community whose voices are getting louder and I really think that’s because we are speaking for ourselves, we are telling our stories and making them heard. Transparent is an incredibly inclusive project. Members of the community are in the writing room, editing room, on set, assisting actors, in the accounting department, etc. There’s a reason why it’s successful. It’s honest. Now having a comedian who has no understanding, appreciation or respect for the community (or any marginalized group for that matter) make offensive jokes, well that just breathes more negativity and does more harm. I’ve never been a fan of mean, hurtful humour and I don’t engage with people who react well to that kind of comedy.
I don’t know if you’ve heard about Her Story, but it’s a miniseries written by Jen Richards and Laura Zak. It’s groundbreaking. It’s a beautifully executed story regarding two trans women and their unexpected love stories. It features predominantly LGTBQ+ women on and off-screen. For me it’s another perfect example of how to positive contributions are being made via mainstream media.
H: Tell us about TKVO
T: TKVO is a medical acronym that stands for “to keep vein open”. My family is entirely medical and I wanted to pay tribute to them. It was a means to keep them close to me, but really I see TKVO as a state of mind – be open, embrace creativity, push against constraints. Essentially, TKVO is a queer lifestyle shop. We sell everything from gender-neutral clothing to accessories, artwork by local artists, and a number of unique home goods as well. TKVO is a safe space — everyone is welcome. Anyone can come in, try a piece of clothing on and not feel any kind of judgment. It’s a tightly curated collection of goods, highlighting queer makers, both local and international.
H: What are some ideas you’d like to explore or plans you’d like to execute both for your art and at TKVO?
T: I’m definitely going to expand the HUMAN. series. The end goal for the series would be to create a very large body of work with folks from all around the world. For TKVO, really, what’s most important to me is continuing to present ourselves as a safe space and celebrating queerness. For example, the one very personal project for me at TKVO is our Super series – that’s our in-house brand, it’s very important to us. To put it simply, we believe in living authentically. As members of the transgender community we care very deeply about living visibly and continuing to have those necessary conversations within our communities and amongst our allies. Embracing our identities has meant everything to us. We encourage others to do the same. That has been our inspiration for our SUPER series. (Super series is a line of t-shirts, tank tops and accessories, with a number of different logos like SUPER QUEER, SUPER HUMAN, SUPER TRANS, SUPER BUTCH, SUPER FEMME and SUPER ALLY.)
In Netflix’s Chef’s Table, each episode takes the viewer closer to the chef and his/her food, more often than not, at a high-end restaurant and the craftsmanship, the energy, the creativity, and the minutiae of high-end dining. Though I love the show and truly appreciate the borderline fanaticism of a chef shown in beautifully rendered sequences, there’s a gaping distance between the food — and the world around it and all its social and cultural implications — shown and the food prepared, shared, and eaten in my day to day life.
There is, in our current zeitgeist’s love of food, between the many screens and real life (an apparent redundancy that increasingly seem to be a necessary modifier in day to day conversations), a reductive tendency to exclude how the majority of society experiences food. Were it not for its sheer immensity in number, the ‘good life’ on view would be, to the viewer, a harmless exercise in suspension of disbelief. But as it were, it is a constancy. A state of life somewhere else lived by someone else; we can look on it but only with some ingenuity can we reach them as stuff of life continually intervene.
I can’t help but feeling that our relationship with food is becoming less of a communal language and more of an individualized consumer one — one that portrays and claims social and cultural status, rather than a form of communication.
Of course, good food is, after all, just good food. But when we pay too much attention to the five-dollar signed kitchens with whatever stars, the hermetic chef essentially removed from society, and the lighting on the next food photo, we forget the kitchens in which and the cooks for whom food is seamlessly integral to living. And it’s too beautiful a thing to forget. After all, the food you grow up on, the kitchens you come to love and understand do not require feats of ingenuity — they require time and patience of preparation, courtesy, and appreciation and gratitude for the miracle of a dish, of eating.
These movies tell us things about food and hunger that we often forget. No star chefs, no paintings on a plate; just living and eating.
The Italian dish, timballo, is called timpano in Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott’s 1996 classic Big Night. It’s a regional term for the dish, prepared, in the movie, by Primo (Tony Shalhoub), the older of two brother restauranteurs behind the new Italian place, ‘Paradise,’ on New Jersey Shore. Primo cooks classic Italian food and scoffs at what we now call American-Italian (spaghetti smothered in Jersey Italian gravy with meatballs), while Secondo (Stanley Tucci), the more practical of the two, tries to convince the other, in a thick Italian accent, to make whatever the customer wants: “make it, make the pasta, make it, make it, make the pasta.” Business, of course, is not a-booming. Then comes the big night — they have a chance to cook for Louis Prima, the Italian-American singer. And for that night, timpano is on the menu. Initially, it is not the Mona Lisa of Italian dishes. But what constitutes a timpano is so visibly hearty that it is instantly understood to be celebratory. And there’re a lot of carbs and beauty in that.
Adrift in Tokyo
What is the last thing you’d eat on your way to turn yourself in at a police station for a crime you’ve come to regret? In Satoshi Miki’sAdrift in Tokyo (Tenten,2007), Aiichiro Fukuhara (Tomokazu Miura), a recently retired loan collector, makes a proposition to Fumiya Takemura (Joe Odagiri), a debilitated student in debt: take a walk with him through Tokyo for a cancelation of debt. So begins their walk through Tokyo. Aside from walking, they talk about their lives, spot lucky actors, fight an old watchmaker, and, most importantly for this article, eat. Not every food takes on meanings but the food choices Fukuhara and Fumiya make become increasingly fraught with meaning as they near the police station.
My Dinner with Andre
Louis Malle’sMy Dinner with Andre has been loved, parodied, bashed, and talked about over and over again that it’s difficult to talk about it without feeling a bit self-conscious. But I truly enjoyed this movie for its abundance of ideas and generosity in anecdotes and conflicts, not to mention the two great actors, Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, who also wrote the wonderful script. Though the dinner is a fancy restaurant that serves the likes of cailles aux raisin, galuska, terrine de poisson, and bramborova polevka, the dinner consists less of the food than it does of the two men’s conversation: the conversation is so good, so enthralling, the ideas, the conflicts so of importance that the food becomes secondary.
The lives of a lonely widower, Saajan (Irrfan Khan), with a taste for good food and a young wife, Ila (Nimrat Kaur) looking to jazz up her marriage through her husband’s stomach meet through a mix up in dabbawala delivery system in Ritesh Batra‘s 2013 movieThe Lunchbox. The movie is concerned largely with ways in which serendipitous meetings reaffirm our strange and unknowable connections to others. But it is also about a cook and a diligent and grateful eater, each sending out signals to the other, one with dishes packed in tiffin lunch boxes, and the other by sharing the food and licking the boxes clean. The notes Saajan and Ila write each other speak plainly while the food and the empty tiffin box returned to Ila at the end of the day speak with certain emotional poignancy of a secret language.
People are hungry in Wong Kar-wai’s Hong Kong. But they are not just hungry for food but also for human connections in a mega city. A character tries out a number of canned pineapples, another a daily dose of chef’s salad in the famed director’s 1994 classic Chungking Express, starring Tony Leung, Brigitte Lin, Faye Wong, and Takeshi Kaneshiro. We sometimes wish that a simple meaningful act or a sequence of events surreptitiously happened on us will help us understand our lives better. Chungking Express is is the locus of such hopes and dreams in WKW’s metropolis.
A synopsis of Ivan Viripaev’s Illusions on Crow’s Theatre’s websitereads, “Passion and death, loyalty and betrayal, truth and fiction, hope and despair, Illusions is a deceitfully dark comedy that playfully unravels the paradoxes of the lives of two couples.” To watch the play, for couples in various stages, seem equal to attending an event where so much self-consciousness and suffering is foreordained; the disparity between rom-coms and life is disheartening, but the similarities, the moments of recognitions in art is a downright catalyst. Perhaps for the better; perhaps for the worse. Imagine the conversation on the ride back home, the late-night not-quite-sleepy thoughts.
Now imagine you were a real life couple delivering the unraveling of ‘paradoxes of the lives of two couples.’
Andrew Shaver and Marie-Ève Perron, who are partners in life, will do just that as partners in storytelling. Andrew, who is also a co-director in the production, plays Man 2 while Marie-Ève plays Woman 2, infusing their voices that carry their personalities and experiences into Viripaev’s text. I called them up the other day to ask about the production and the creative process in talking about a subject in such proximity to their lives.
Due to scheduling conflicts, we could not conduct a three-person interview and instead I spoke to them separately and asked some similar questions; I have conflated portions of the interview where appropriate.
Hoon: What drew you to Ivan Viripaev’s Illusions?
MÈ: I actually saw a production of Illusions and I really liked the text. And I was really excited to come and work in Toronto, in English. It’s my first time playing here, and it’s a big challenge for me as a French Quebecer who spent like 10 years in Paris not speaking English at all. I also really like the space at the Crow’s and it’s exciting to do a production in a new theatre. The group that we are, those who are playing with me, I like them and I thought it’d be fun to play the show together.
A: Marie-Ève introduced the play to me. The initial impulse came first but when I read it, I felt a lot of exciting theatrical potential in it. The text has an interesting and layered storyline. I was drawn to the potential dramatic and comedic possibility of the text. I also knew I wanted to work with Marie-Ève on a piece. She wanted to act in something in English in Toronto and this was an opportunity. So when I was considering texts to do that with, it became obvious that Illusions would be a really interesting fit because it speaks of two women and two men on stage speaking about lives and love and death and betrayal and sadness and illusions. I thought it could be a really good fit for Marie-Ève and I to be actively doing together. Initially, I was thinking of just directing but then I thought, Well, no, it would be nice to act with her, especially on this piece with such a thematic resonance. And it was from there that I thought of Brett Donahue and Laurence Dauphinais who are also a real life couple composed of an Anglophone and a Francophone.
H to Marie-Ève: Describe your character for us. How did you prepare for your role?
MÈ: It’s interesting because it’s not a usual play — we are playing storytellers who are mostly telling a story about two couples, Danny and Sandra, and Margaret and Albert. I’m Woman 2 and there’s a Woman 1 and there are Man 1 and 2 as well. The author is really funny. At the beginning of the play he wrote, These four people come onto the stage just to tell the story, as if we have no other purpose than to tell the story. But of course we are telling a love story — one couple’s been together for fifty years and the other has been together for fifty four years — so of course what we are telling will be influenced by our perceptions and the way we tell it.
H to Andrew: Were there any difficulties working with a translated text?
A: I got my hands on the English translation, the one we’re presenting and truth be told I think it’s a fantastic translation. But I also had the French translation that was helpful in cross-referencing ideas. The French translation came second and there are subtle shifts in the text. I think it’s more than just shifts between sensibilities in English and French translations. The French translation happened two or three years after the English one and the play evolved over that time. You know I haven’t spoken to the playwright about this but I can only assume that the shifts that happened in the translations are something he condoned. So his evolution in seeing the play has grown, rightly. So we’re not doing an adaptation by any means, we are presenting the English translation. But it is informed by our access to the French translations and its sensibilities.
H: I know this isn’t your first project together but it seems that Illusions may be the first one that deals so directly with relationships. Could you tell us what it was like working alongside each other on this production?
MÈ: It was interesting because the first time we worked together he was directing and I was on stage. It’s a different perspective with a different relationship because there’s the director and there’s the actor. But this time, he’s the director but he’s also acting and we’re playing a couple together. It’s a different process with a different way of talking to each other. Usually in life we like the same things; artistically speaking, we have similar tastes. It was easy on that part — we agree on when some thing is working or when some thing is not. It is challenging in the sense that we speak more directly to each other than we would to, say, a coworker. But mostly I would say that it was fun trying to create together. Of course we all share different stories together and some of the things we are telling remind us of what’s happened to us or what could happen to us, which makes it a good reflection of our own lives.
A: That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do the play; the real life resonances in the text. It’s not without its complications, for sure. Any creative process, from my perspective anyways, with your partner involved is potentially — not necessarily, potentially — fraught with frustrations and miscommunications, arguments. Truth be told, we’ve managed to steer clear of most of those. When you wake up with a person, you go to work with that person, and you are creative with the person then you come home with that person… there’s not a whole lot of relief. It can become more agitated than it needs to. The fact that Brett and Laurence go home together — they have their own dynamic, which Marie-Ève and I aren’t a part of. So any pressure that might build up during the rehearsal day or in any process [between us], when everyone leaves, it sort of escapes and the next day you just start again. But when you are working with your partner, you have to be really vigilant about not bringing that tension home because it will become a pressure cooker. We are two people who, when we go home, will continue to talk about the work. For me, for Marie-Ève, for us, we had to learn to leave the work where it is and to be partners again. We had to try not to affect our lives as partners affect our working relationship. But then again, the lines are intentionally blurred in this play. So I think we are just gluttons for punishments, so to speak [laughs].
H: You both work across film, television, and theatre. What would you say, as an actor and a director, makes theatre different from or exciting in ways not found in film and television?
MÈ: It’s the audience. The fact that we play in front of real people and it’s about communication; it’s direct and raw. I think that makes it thrilling and exciting — nobody will edit anything at the end. We’re responsible from the beginning to the end to what we’re bringing to the stage and giving to the audience. I really like that part, which is something film and television don’t have.
A: I love TV and film. I love them but theatre is my first love and when you have your first love, it’s hard to kick that. But what I love about theatre doesn’t exclude my love of tv or film, because they have their own things that make them wonderful. But with theatre, a lot of it for me is the process, the fact that you actually get to dig in for weeks on a text with the artists and the creative team. In film, that’s just often not the case; there’s neither time nor money for that. But the process is sort of part and parcel of what makes theatre theatre; the fact that you spend weeks working on something with people; then you have to bring that night after night after night and bring the work to light over and over again to the audience. The creative process for me and the rehearsal process is for sure about understanding the text and characters and the arc of the piece, but it’s also about living and breathing as an ensemble. Again, I don’t mean to say that this is not necessarily the case in film or television, but it is true of theatre for me. It’s about teamwork and the ensemble. For me I think that came right from playing sports and loving collaboration, being on a team, and doing something as a unit. I love the fact that we get the chance to try again and again, and totry something new: it’s like a baseball or a hockey team, ‘the power play is not working, we gotta do something different tomorrow night.’ That’s what theatre is for me.
Hoon to Andrew: I’ve asked the same question to a few directors and I think you’re the first one to speak less about the audience and more about the process behind the stage and what goes on it.
A: So many of us talk about the audience because we love the audience. But I also think it doesn’t need to be binary like that: theatre is about audience and tv and film are not about the audience. TV and film are also about the audience. It’s on a spectrum. It’s ultimately done to share with an audience and the way we share is different. But in all mediums, the work is shared with the audience.
Hoon to Andrew: How would you describe your style as a director?
A: I think my approach changes every time, given the new material and new stimulus, new teammates. Like a coach — a coach brings in a system and the players execute the system. But I don’t think the system can exist in a vacuum, it can’t just exist in a coach’s head. He or she needs to be able to communicate that to the team for them to execute it. And I think it needs feedbacks need to come back to the coach and there’s going to be a back and forth. I think, for me, that’s what it is: I have a strong idea of what it is that we should be doing, an aesthetic I gravitate toward, and a lens I look through and come back to at moments of confusion. But ultimately it needs to involve the imagination, intellect, and instincts of the entire creative team. And not just the performers but also the designers and stage management; the development of a true creative ensemble voice. It needs to come through, I think, for it to be cohesive, a single lens’s end but I don’t think it needs to begin and end with that single lens. In fact, for my money, that’s limiting. To have the opportunity to have access to many imaginations over one single imagination is a gift.
Hoon to Marie-Ève: What are some roles or ideas you’d like to explore in the future?
MÈ: I like to sing, so I would like to play with that, something where there’s more singing. I watched really great documentary plays lately that I really enjoyed. I like this kind of theatre and it intrigues me.
Crow’s Theatre production of Ivan Viripave’s Illusions, directed by Andrew Shaver and Paul Flicker and starring Brett Donahue & Laurence Dauphinais and Andrew Shaver & Marie-Ève Perron opens on Friday, April 21st and closes on May 7th. You can purchase your tickets here.