Toronto social media exploded March 11 with the unexpected announcement that Brendan Healy is stepping down as artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Love and appreciation for Healy, who took the 35-year-old theatre to new heights during his six-year tenure, poured forth after he dropped the news in a lengthy and passionate Facebook note. Daily Xtra caught up with Healy to chat about his decision to leave and how his future job prospects are looking.
Daily Xtra: So we’ll start with the most obvious question: Why leave now?
Brendan Healy: Changing the leadership in an arts organization is a good thing and it’s important to bring new ideas and new voices in at semi-regular intervals. There wasn’t a specific moment. It was a gradual thing. I’m turning 40 this year, so maybe there’s a bit of a sense of starting a new decade that could be subconsciously fuelling it in a way. When I got the job I said I wanted to hand the company over in a better state than what I started with and I feel it’s in an awesome place now to go somewhere new. The work has been great. There are great people in the building. There’s great energy. I can hand it off to somebody else, and with their new energy and this kind of stability, who knows where the company can go?
How does it feel now that you’ve made the announcement and it’s official?
Last night I was lying in bed asking myself, who am I without Buddies? I don’t know anymore because so many of my interactions are interlaced with this role. I’m excited but there’s also a lot of sadness for what I’m leaving behind. But I’m always embracing the impermanence of things. Buddies is so much bigger than I am, even though it was so close to who I am for a period of time. Understanding that it’s a space that’s owned by many, many people and I’ve just been steering it for a while, that’s made it a little less painful to let go.
When you think back over the last six years, what would say is the thing you’re the most proud of?
It’s hard to reduce it to one thing, but last week I was at the NAC for the opening of Obaaberima. I felt such incredible pride for Tawiah, for Buddies, and for the queer community just to see that show at the NAC. There are also so many moments with the people in this building and the way that we work together. I’m really proud of that team spirit we’ve created and how well we get along.
Is there anything you would do differently?
I might still be too embroiled in the company to have that distance. But I can say in terms of my own evolution, I can certainly look back at my first year and see an inexperienced leader, from a tendency to micro-manage, to sometimes being a bit emotional on the job. But in terms of changing anything specific? I can’t really say.
As you close in our your final days with the company, what do you think you’ll miss the most?
The people and the atmosphere. The experience of working in an exclusively queer environment has been so transformative for me. It’s not just about being surrounded by other homosexuals. It’s about a certain kind of politic, a certain way of behaving. The people in this building have created a space that’s unlike anything else in the world. The thing I’ll miss the most is that kind of permission people feel to be themselves, to be radical, to be queer and to be sexual.
There’s a lot of chatter on social media about what’s next for you. Can you give us any hint of where you’ll be heading next or what you’ll be working on?
No! (laughs) I’m not sitting on any secret information about a new position somewhere. I’ll probably relax for a while but then I’ll have to find something to pay my rent. I have some dreams but I don’t have a specific plan. I’d like to continue directing. I’d eventually like to run another organization, not in the immediate future but down the road. I think taking some time off will be good for me. But no, there’s no job, so if you hear of anything, let me know.