Amiel Gladstone: Playwright, Director, Blogger (he has one of the best titles for a blog ever), he works all over BC from Victoria (a co-founder of Theatre SKAM) to Vancouver to the Okanagan. His numerous plays include Hippies and Bolsheviks and My Three Sisters, a Chekhov adaptation.
Amiel is truly tireless in his efforts to carve out a theatrical legacy for BC, and we’re grateful he took the time to be interviewed. Read on for his thoughts on the business here, and some truly innovative ideas towards lifting us to the next stage…
1. In one word, describe your present condition.
Bucharest! (I’m here for the Romanian premiere of my play ‘Hippies and Bolsheviks’.)
2. In any number of words, describe the present condition of the North-West theatre scene.
The North-West theatre scene? I’m not exactly sure what the boundaries are of this scene. I have vague ideas of what happens in Whitehorse, Kamloops, Nelson, Victoria and Vancouver, so it’s hard to paint this all with the same brush, but I would say that in the places outside Vancouver I see theatre that is finding ways to survive and the audiences are responding to it, possibly because there is a deep human need to hear stories presented live in front of them.
I think the Vancouver scene has experienced a well documented rise by the latest generation of companies, and we are currently in a plateau phase, which may not be able to last long. I think we need to start taking big immediate steps forward as we risk losing momentum.
3. What is it about the nature of theatre that has kept your attention for so long?
This question makes me feel old. I think part of it is because I still haven’t been able to get it right – there’s always something to be working on to make it better. Plays are never finished. There’s always structure to be strengthened, moments to clarify, things that I’d like to make stronger, clearer, funnier. The creation of theatre is always changing, always a puzzle, but with no box top to help guide you. It is an emotional elusive compelling thing. And there is no better drug than the deep belly laugh of an audience enthralled. It takes collaboration and trust to make that it all happen. Trust and collaboration amongst fellow addicts.
4. Is playwrighting a solo or collaborative exercise for you? Why?
Initially very solo. This is changing a bit because I’m trying to adapt to the way most theatres work – that is they take a ‘completed’ script and rehearse it. I have started rehearsals with actors with 12 measly pages of script and written furiously as we went along. It can be a particular kind of hell for actors. But as I said I’m trying to get better and have more on paper before bringing in actors.
5. How are we evolving as a theatre community?
There is more sharing of resources. There is more awareness of how we all fit in the ecology of our community, in fact it appears we actually have an ecology. We are reflecting the diversity of our population more.
6. If you were given one million dollars towards improving the health of independent theatre here, how would you spend it?
I would like to try a grand experiment. In Europe, this idea of running a show for 10 days and then closing is absurd. Equally crazy to them: the subscriber model in which each play runs for 4 weeks whether is is successful or not. The European community does performances once a week, or twice a month say, and is able to run them for months. Audiences are built for successful shows, actors have months to develop roles in performance, Plays can have a longer life and greater impact.
I’d love to be able to try this. Perhaps this is the next step we need.
ATP in Calgary tried a season in rep a few years back and it didn’t seem to work at all, so there is obviously risk involved.
We have many obstacles over here to prevent this, including how the actors’ association contracts, how we schedule our companies, and how the venues are shares. So with my one million dollars I would like a building in which we can try to run shows in rep. Various companies can bring in shows, throughout the season.
This building ideally would have a lot of much needed rehearsal space, and a theatre bar which actually caters to the theatre community, as a gathering place, an idea sharing place, a place to party.
7. What should our new theatre artists know about the legacy of the scene that has come before them?
I think that we are all trying our best.
8. What should they change about it?
I think good work is the best argument for everything.
9. What has been your proudest theatrical moment to date?
Standing in the lunch line up at the Banff Centre cafeteria as part of the PlayRites Colony for the first time.
10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?
Tips: Ideas for Directors by Jon Jory. The most useful book that I have found on directing in today’s world.
Obedience, Struggle and Revolt- A collection of lectures by David Hare. Lucid, provocative, inspiring ideas.
The Stage Lighting Handbook – 4th Edition by Francis Reid.
11. What’s next?
20 Minute Musicals – Theatre Replacement at PuSh. I’m directing short works by Veda Hille and Bill Richardson and Geoff Burner. Jan 29 / 30.
Jack Pine – a new children’s opera by Veda Hille. Directing this world premiere for Vancouver Opera which will tour schools and go to BC Scene in Ottawa. Public premiere February 15 at Centennial Theatre in North Van.
The Ends of the Earth. Directing Morris Panych’s Governor General Award winning 1992 play at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria, opens March 15.
E-stage for the Vancouver Playhouse. Guiding high school playwrights through some script development workshops during Spring Break.