Umbrella Talk with Diane Vanden Hoven

Yes, it's been six months but we finally have a new Umbrella Talk! Totally on my shoulders. I need to be more aggressive in finding great playwrights to bring to you.

This is the first of two Umbrella Talks we're doing to support the Playwrights of Spring festival in Aurora. Playwrights of Spring’s goal is to support and encourage the development of new voices in theatre, particularly those of writers. Now in its fourth year, new scripts are solicited by playwrights in Ontario and are juried by three theatre professionals, one of whom is the Festival Dramaturge. From those scripts, the jurists (Readers) select the best two evenings of theatre that perform for one week each.

In this week's Umbrella Talk, Diane Vanden Hoven talks about her attachment to her laptop, her struggles with praise and criticism, and invents a new genre.

A Little More about Diane Vanden Hoven

Diane’s first play This Above All, about Canadian painters Lawren Harris and Prudence Heward, won Theatre B.C.’s National Playwrighting Competition and toured throughout the province. Her next play, The Twisted Land, received an Honourable Mention in the Herman Voden Playwrighting Competition. Her short plays Welcome to Naxos and Faeire Inc. were presented at the Alumnae Theatre New Ideas Festival and her one woman show Bobasaurus played at the Poor Alex Theatre in Toronto. Two other short pieces Strings and The Inferior Planet were performed as part of the Grand Theatre’s Playwrights Cabaret.

Her latest play, Like A Mustard Seed, was chosen as the full-length production for Theatre Aurora's Playwrights of Spring festival. It was also selected to be a part of the Women’s Work Festival in Saint John’s, Newfoundland. Her one act, Bought and Souled is slated to be in the London Fringe Festival. Originally from Huntsville, Diane now lives in London with her young family.

What do you drink on opening night?
Is it an open bar? Oh it doesn’t matter - red wine.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
Robert LePage or Julie Taymor.

What scares you? What can't you write about?
I’m scared that I will run out of ideas or conversely that I won’t have enough time to write the ideas I do have. I have the hardest time writing plays that take place during my own life time. But I’m trying my best to rectify that.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
Someday I’m going to have to write about losing a loved one a piece at a time. I think I touch on it a bit in my work but I haven’t fully confronted the idea of the mind having left, while the body remains.

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)
A cross between a farce and a melodrama. A farclodrama?

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
I use to deflect praise with self deprecation. But then I realised, if someone is kind enough to say something nice I should be gracious and accept it. Criticism makes me cry. I remember it forever. Though I try to remember the source. The thing is, it’s all art, it’s all subjective. Some people aren’t going to like it. Lately, I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with a group of people who are great and giving supportive feedback and that helps to keep things in perspective.

Where would you like your work to be produced?
How about the smallest town in the middle of nowhere, in front of an audience that has no expectations, but is there simply for the experience.

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
I keep a spiral notebook where I jot down ideas for each play. I had a beat up lap top that I was very superstitious about giving up. Now I have a fancy new computer but I’m squirreled away in a little hutch in the corner of the room.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
I believe Ron Cameron-Lewis said I have a way of making everyday speech sound like poetry. Or maybe I just imagined he said that. If academics said something akin to that I would be very happy.

What inspires you?