Sunday, December 30, 2012

Umbrella Talk with Chloë Whitehorn



I first found out about Chloë by falling in love with her play Love Virtually at the Toronto Fringe. Lucky for her, I was on the best of fringe jury and convinced my fellow jurors to see it. Then we met up at the fringe tent and it turns out she's a lot of fun to hang out with. I'm so happy to have her here. You can find her on twitter @fishbowlmuse.


A Little More about Chloë Whitehorn

Chloë Whitehorn is a playwright, actor, and underwater photographer. Her plays include Love, Virtually (Best of Fringe, Toronto 2011), The Frank Diary of Anne, Verona Heights, AEON: an evolution of sin, and The List, and have played in San Francisco, London, Kingston, Selby, and Toronto. Chloë’s work often examines taboo moralities, tragic love, and the licentious desires and imaginative reasoning of human beings.

Her latest play The Deepest Trench will be presented as part of the Alumnae Theatre's New Ideas Festival in March. For more information on Chloe, visit her website: www.chloewhitehorn.com      




What do you drink on opening night?
White wine. I'm pretty animated and white wine tends not to stain.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
Franco Dragone, Diane Paulus, Dominic Champagne.
The Cirque seems to find the most outrageously creative minds for their shows.

What scares you? What can't you write about?
Lost love. There's something about the intensity of that emotion and how viscerally we feel it's absence when it's gone. I think that's why so much of my work involves someone finding the one person they want to be with and then for some reason not being able to be with them. Whether it's because the person is dead, or their brother... I imagine the hardest thing is loving someone you're not supposed to love.

I don't think I've been at this long enough to say there's something I "can't write about". Perhaps something that I feel isn't my story to tell? Although even then, I'd have a different perspective to offer. It might suck, but I could try. I mean, I'm an only child but that didn't keep me from writing about sibling incest.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
My mom. The mothers in my plays tend to be portrayed in a negative light but my mother was the most incredible person I've ever known, and I really want to write something that reflects that. One of the last things my mom said to me was to "write her well". That is a lot of pressure.

I've recently started working on something though that I think will honor her memory appropriately. It's called Clarissa on her Deathbed and it's about an eleven year old girl dealing with the recent death of her mother. It's been difficult to work on, especially since I tend to write in public spaces and generally people get concerned when they see someone crying in the corner of a coffee shop.

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)
It probably wouldn't be a play. Quirky characters who have interesting moments but without real purpose don't make a play. Or so people keep telling me.

It'd probably be an interpretive dance. Or a silent film. Or a silent interpretive dance film.

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
Not well, with either I think. I'm still learning. I tend to brush off praise without really taking it in, and anything negative seems to stay with me for a really long time. I'd like to be able to learn from both, but I think that's just going to take more exposure to it all.

Where would you like your work to be produced?
I love the idea that something I write could be seen and heard by someone halfway across the world and affect them/move them/make them angry/make them think.

In the foreseeable future though I'd just love to have my work produced across Canada in theatres run by people who haven't been to my house for board game night. Although by the time the show goes up I'll definitely have invited them over to play.

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
Coffee shops. I like the constant flow of people around me. I start with pen until I have enough that I think I'll start to forget what I meant to say when I can't read my handwriting, then I switch to typing.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
Well, in theory I'll still be alive in 50 years, so hopefully nothing that'll make me cry.

Things that sound pompus coming from me, but not when written by academics: "Chloë Whitehorn's work captured the essence of her generation while appealing to a wide-array of audiences and challenging them to think beyond society's boundaries."

Also, that it was the most lucrative intimate theatre of all time. That'd be awesome.

What inspires you?
People inspire me. We're so messed up. And the more messed up we are, the more interesting our stories. We learn really early on that we're supposed to present to the world this mask of this put-together package, a santitized view of who we are and who we should be. I like to peer behind that mask. My characters are like the juice concentrate of what's behind all those masks. Add 3 cups of water and you get a real person. Add instead a cup and a half and give them a megaphone and you get someone who gives an audience a perspective on a piece of a world they think they know in a way they've never seen it before.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Umbrella Talk with Jonathan Fournier



A big thank you to Jonathan, who gave me this over a month ago and has patiently waited for me to post it. You can find him in the twitterverse at @JonFour


A Little More About Jonathan Fournier

Jonathan Fournier is a Montreal-based writer, director, actor and sound designer. He is a communication studies graduate from Concordia University (class of 2010) and he continues to take classes with ASM Performing Arts, Montreal Improv and the QDF. He has written/directed/produced the plays The Boy and the Wrapper and Miner Inconvenience. As an actor and "collaborative creator", he has worked with Chip Chuipka and Chad Dempski. Jonathan has several other scripts in various stages of development. As a sound designer, Jonathan has done recording and editing work for his own productions, as well as for promotional material used by Tableau D’Hote theatre.

Jonathan has no specific show to plug right now, but he is aiming to have a production ready for the 2013 Montreal Fringe Festival.


What do you drink on opening night?
My celebratory drink is a chocolate milkshake! Not much a fan of alcohol.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
Mike Nichols

What scares you? What can't you write about?
Poverty. That's a subject I don't know how to approach in my work... not yet, at least.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
Outer space, supermen, gods...

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)
Black comedy

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
I think I take them well. I don't seek out praise, but it's great when I get it. I try to remember things I've been praised on in the past and see how I can apply them to my new work. With criticism, my number 1 rule is "If you get a specific critique from one person, they might be wrong. If multiple people critique the same thing, you should probably listen to them".

Where would you like your work to be produced?
Hmmm... I don't have any one particular venue on my "to-do" list. I guess the Centaur Theatre (in Montreal) would be fun. I think the work should dictate where you produce it. Some plays are better suited to intimate spaces than giant halls.

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
I do brief notes or writing exercises with pens, but mostly I'm a computer guy. I write outlines on my phone (good for when I'm on the bus) and then write the actual script on my laptop (where I use stageplay template on my Final Draft software).

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
That it was interesting. That it was fun. The in 2010-2020 Montreal, I was producing work the likes of which no one else in Montreal was producing.

What inspires you?
People, the news, movies, music, friends, solitude. You need to be open. Inspiration can hit you in the strangest places, at the strangest times. When I have trouble being inspired by myself, I take a writing, acting or improv class. Those environments are always good inspiration kickstarters.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Umbrella Talk with Joel Fishbane



First off, apologies for taking so long between drinks. I had major surgery recently and haven't had as much energy as I've hoped. I have 3 interviews for you that need to be formatted and posted. Hopefully I'll be in a rhythm soon.

But I finally have one today! I first heard about Joel Fishbane through his interaction in the theatrosphere. An intellegent and thoughtful voice, I'm excited to have him here at Umbrella Talks.


A Little More About Joel Fishbane

Joel Fishbane is an author of theatre, fiction and non-fiction whose work has been produced and / or published in Canada, the United States and overseas. Most recently, his play A Place in the Country was named a runner-up in Infinitheatre's Write-On-Q Contest (2012). His plays Short Story Long won the 2010 Toronto Fringe New Play Contest and has gone to have readings in Ohio, England, and New York. Published work is available for Signature Editions and Eldridge Editions. He writes a weekly column for the Charlebois Post and his non-fiction has been or will be seen in Canadian Theatre Review, Theatre Journal, the Antigonish Review and CBC's Wiretap. New fiction will appear in future issues of Witness and Per Contra. He has a diabetic cat and sometimes plays the clarinet. For more information, please visit www.joelfishbane.com



What do you drink on opening night?
If it's someone's else's show, then I drink beer. If it's a show I wrote, then I drink Jack Daniels, usually starting around noon.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
If it's a musical: Harold Prince. Anything else: Andrew Shaver, AD of Sidemart Theatrical Grocery.

What scares you? What can't you write about?
The thing that scares me most is creating theatre that's neither good or bad, theatre that's simply ordinary. If someone leaves one of my shows having neither particularly liked or hated it - if I haven't provoked any reaction at all - then that, for me, means I've failed. As for things I can't write about....I can't write about things I don't have any interest in. Which is to say I don't know anything about ancient Rome - but if I had a compelling idea that forced me to explore that world, I'd be all for it. I also can't write about anyone who is happy and content. Happy, content people make for boring theatre. The unhappier a character is, the more interested I am in writing about them because unhappy people always have something concrete to fight for.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
War. Not necessarily a play set during a war, but something the deals with war and its function in society. But I'd also like to write something that explores the horrors of the battlefield, mostly because it's a place I'll never be. Like Woody Allen, in the event of war I'd definitely be a hostage. And the kidnappers would probably try to give me back.

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)
Musical. No question. If anyone ever does a biography on me and it ISN'T a musical, then they aren't doing me any justice.

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
Praise is great when it's unasked for and comes from a complete stranger. Case in point: I recently got an email from someone who had read a short story I published two years ago. The letter came entirely out of a desire to share his gratitude with me for writing the piece. Which is not to say it isn't great when my friends and family appreciate my work - but it's the sort of praise which is always tinged with the suspicion that they aren't being as honest as they might otherwise be.

As for criticism, I adore it, especially when it's been well-thought out. Some criticism is useless - "I hated it", "It was boring" - but anytime I get a remark that has some sort of reasoning behind it, I'm all ears. A lot of criticism has been invaluable in the development of most of my plays and fiction - if I think a comment has merit, I will almost always see how I can use it to make the piece stronger.

Where would you like your work to be produced?
Broadway and the West End. Even if it fails, at least I can say I was there.

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
Keyboard. I can`t write as fast as I think, which is apparently 65 words a minute.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
First of all, if academics are writing about my work in 50 years, then I don`t really care what they`re saying. The fact that they`re writing about it is good enough. But it would be great if someone coined the word `Fishbanian`and if it was used to describe other plays. As in "You know, I just saw that new play and I could really see the Fishbanian influence." That would rock.

What inspires you?
Good writing. And pretty much every girlfriend I've ever had.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Umbrella Talk with Alistair Beaton


This is a first for our blog, a UK playwright! We've decided to open up the series to writers from the UK and the US, so feel free to contact us.

Alistair Beaton is the translator for the current Canadian Stage production of The Arsonists, playing at the Bluma Appel Theatre at the St Lawrence Centre for the Arts to rave reviews. Canadians don't know that he is one of the UK's top satirists and we're deeply honoured to have him on our blog.


A Little More About Alistair Beaton

Alistair Beaton is a political satirist whose work spans theatre, television, radio and publishing. Select theatre credits include Caledonia (Edinburgh International Festival 2010); King of Hearts (Hampstead Theatre 2007); and Feelgood (winner the Evening Standard Best Comedy Award in 2001). Beaton is fluent in German, Russian, French and English. He translated and adapted The Government Inspector from Russian for the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2005, which was remounted at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco in 2008. He has also written new English versions of Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus and Jacques Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne. In 2007 Beaton translated Max Frisch’s The Arsonists, which premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre. Beaton’s work for television has earned him honours such as a Broadcasting Press Guild Awards for Best Single Drama and nomination for a BAFTA in 2007. Additionally, Beaton has done work for radio and is a best-selling author.



What do you drink on opening night?
A glass of white wine while hiding during the interval - the interval being the most excruciating moment for the playwright. On occasion I have considered swapping the white wine for hemlock.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
Morris Panych, of course. Should he be unavailable, I would have to fall back on Barack Obama, who must be longing for a change of job.

What scares you? What can't you write about?
Hmmm, how much time do you have? I find it hard creating positive characters, much prefer monsters of one kind or another, or at the very least, gravely flawed characters. I also find love hard to write about. God knows what that says about me.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
The fucking bankers.

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)
Comedy tinged with horror.

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
Praise? Can't get enough of the stuff. As for criticism, it's fine if a) it comes from soemone who knows what they're talking about and b) if it comes in time for me to do some fixing of the script.

Where would you like your work to be produced?
Well, just about everywhere. (I feel the person who framed these questions doesn't quite grasp the enormous size of the authorial ego).

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
Keyboard, except when writing lyrics, when I like to scrawl over multiple sheets of paper, covering the floor with first drafts.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
Torn between saying 'anything at all would be fine' and 'God almighty, please let me not be written about by academics, what a fate.'

What inspires you?
I'm assuming I'm allowed at least one pompous answer, so here it is: the outrage I feel when I witness injustice and abuse of power.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Umbrella Talk with Chris Craddock



So here we are, the return of your favourite playwright interviews, Umbrella Talk! A reminder of the criteria: you must have had 2 plays professionally produced. By that we mean the pieces have moved outside of workshop/school and has appeared in front of a paying audience.We don't care where that audience was. We welcome playwrights from all over the world to answer our 10 questions.

I am delighted to kick things off with Chris Craddock. I first became aware of his work when I fell in love with Boy Groove. (The link is to an awesome mock music video for the band.in the play.) He also has an awesome twitter feed, @craddo.


A Little More About Chris Craddock

Chris is an Edmonton based Actor/Producer/Writer. His theatre work in Canada has been recognized with four Sterling Awards and two Dora Mavor Moore Awards, and his film Turnbuckle was nominated for two Ampia Awards.  He is the proud recipient of the Embridge Emerging Artist award, the Centennial Medal for his contribution to the Arts in Alberta, and the Alberta Book Award for his collection of plays for teens Naked at School. His musical BASH’d (co-written and performed with Nathan Cuckow) received a 2007 GLAAD media award.

Chris graduated from the University of Alberta’s BFA Acting Program in the spring of 1996 and since then he has worked on stages all across Canada.

Chris has created compelling and engaging works for a wide cross-section of audiences. His plays include: PornStar; 321…, Poptart; The Incredible Speediness of Jamie Cavenaugh, Indulgences; Faithless; DreamLife; SuperEd; The "Tranny" Trilogy; Wrecked; Do it Right; Making Out; Men are Stupid Women are Crazy; Ha;The Day Billy Lived (which was adapted to life on the Native Reserve in co-operation with Debajehmuhjig Theatre of Mantoulin Island); Moving Along (which was featured on Bravo’s Singular Series May, 2005); the fringe hit BoyGroove;  and an adaptation of the novel Summer of my Amazing Luck by Miriam Toews.

His plays have been included at the High Performance Rodeo, The Magnetic North Festival, Vancouver Comedy Festival, Edmonton Comedy Festival, SaskNative Theatre, International Fringe festivals in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Saskatoon, NYC, and Orlando.

Chris has recently returned from New York City, where he was performing Off-Broadway with his award winning musical BASH’d! He is the screenwriter for the feature film, “The Pharmacist/La Pharmacien”.  Chris was the 2010 Writer in Residence at the Edmonton Public Library.



What do you drink on opening night?
Beer. Maybe a crown and coke if I'm tired.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
Robert Lepage is quite good, as I understand it. If he's not available, call Bradley Moss or Ron Jenkins.

What scares you? What can't you write about?
Lately I become scared that I could be a sincere target for rabid conservatives. Some subjects I think twice about on this level.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
My son.

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)
90's drug comedy.

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
Praise is easier, though can become sugary over time. Handling the reception of criticism has everything to do with how that criticism is delivered and from whom. I range from "totally cool" to "dick".

Where would you like your work to be produced?
Germany and Austria. those guys are crazy.

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
I've always been a computer guy. My first play was written on a Colecovision Adam. I like the functionality of being able to move text at will and so forth. Rap I have to scribble out for whatever reason.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
I'd be honoured to be remembered at all. I don't know. I hope these probably never to exist academics say I kicked the ball of theatre forward into the new consciousness a little, was artistic and accessible, funny and honest.

What inspires you?
Anger. Wonder. My son.

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