Whether it’s putting on a happy face in the workplace environment, or down-playing your party life at a family function, keeping up appearances is sometimes a part of life.
The same goes when you’re acting: a nagging crush on your co-star mustn’t prevent you from playing your part to its full potential.
Queer Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor follows this strain with his popular comedy, This Is a Play, which delves deep into the internal thoughts of three stage actors during a performance.
“It was inspired by thoughts about a lot of the theatre I had seen and done where the actors were really only present for their own benefit and not so concerned about the greater idea of ‘the play,’ and how in the end, despite that, the magic of theatre wins out,” says MacIvor.
The play was first produced at the 1992 Toronto Fringe Festival.
Ottawa Fringe Festival plays host to its most recent incarnation from Jun 19-29. At the cente of that production is a new company, Evolution Theatre.
MacIvor is impressed with the company’s choice of plays this season. He feels that Evolution Theatre understands why it works so well as a Fringe production.
“This is probably the play that has been performed the most — people love to do it, partly because it’s full of in-jokes about the theatre and partly because it appeals to both the people who make theatre and the people who watch it,” says MacIvor.
MacIvor is particularly well known for his solo shows, often produced by his former theatre company, Da Da Kamera, and in collaboration with Toronto director Daniel Brooks. At the 2003 Magnetic North Theatre Festival in Ottawa, MacIvor performed in his one-man show Cul-de-sac, which details the personal lives of a sensitive gay man and his various neighbours.
“I write about the world I see and the life I live: as a person who struggles to find meaning in the world, as an artist, as a gay man, as an adult child of an alcoholic, as a recovering addict, as a Cape Bretoner, a Torontonian, and a Canadian. I’m about as queer as you can get and I can’t help but write about social politics,” says MacIvor.
Evolution’s artistic director, Christopher Bedford, is dedicated to challenging Ottawa audiences with plays that explore the boundaries of theatrical styles and conventions.
“I want to shake things up a bit and give people an experience they will remember in the theatre. We have a passion for modern theatre that pushes boundaries, and for bringing exciting, quality work to the stage that otherwise wouldn’t be seen,” says Bedford.
Well-versed in the intricacies of directing, Bedford takes the lead in all three of the company’s productions this season: earlier this month was the Ottawa English-language premiere of Larry Tremblay’s The Ventriloquist, and this fall the company presents Dominic Champagne’s Playing Bare. All plays this season are linked by the notion of questioning reality in a theatrical setting.
Nancy Kenny, last seen in Toto Too’s production of Jigsaw Confession, takes the stage for This Is a Play, alongside actors Scott Goldman and Kel Parsons. Bedford explains that the actors have a challenging road ahead.
“In this show, we see a play called A Stranger Among Us, but the audience has to piece together that story from the physical action on stage, and from the thoughts racing around in the performers heads that pertain to their companions on stage, or their feelings about the text they are not speaking,” says Bedford.
Even though MacIvor has been writing and producing plays for over two decades, he still remembers what is most important about the theatrical art form and why he especially loves This Is a Play.
“It’s got a camp element that has a point behind it, which, as a queer person, I always appreciate. Also, the male actor takes his shirt off — which I always like.”