Celebrated Canadian playwright, film writer, director and actor Daniel MacIvor spoke about his personal history, read from his new play The Best Brothers and answered many questions from a group of very enthusiastic students at Theatre Glendon on November 29th.
Right: Daniel MacIvor (Photo by: Guntar Kravis)
In her introduction, Glendon English professor Cynthia Zimmerman mentioned MacIvor’s more recent plays: Communion and This is What Happens Next, describing his work as “strikingly original.”
MacIvor explained that he avoided the theatre in high school thinking that, as a gay kid in a small town in Cape Breton, theatre would only draw attention to him. In fact, it was only in university that he started studying acting and really discovered his calling, writing his first play while still at Dalhousie University.
MacIvor went on to outline the premise for his most recent work, The Best Brothers, before providing a spirited rendition of a scene from the play, usually performed by two actors in the roles of the two brothers, Hamilton and Kyle Best, as well as their respective versions of their deceased mother. “This play has much to do with the aftermath of the death of the brothers’ mother, specifically their having to deal with her dog”, quipped MacIvor. “This play also has a lot to do with my recently acquiring a dog”. With this ironic aside, he was in fact expressing his view on the search for meaning conveyed in a theatre piece. “I don’t like to talk too much about what a play means; the play knows more than I do. It’s like Michelangelo said: the sculpture is in the marble, it just needs to be uncovered.”
Making his comments brief and incisive, MacIvor left much time for some thought-provoking questions from his young audience. Responding to a student’s querie, “Do you think Canadian theatre has a voice?”, the playwright replied that “…Canadians understand irony in a way that Americans don’t,” and confirmed that Canadian theatre “absolutely” has a voice which is especially distinct in relationship to American theatre, displaying a gentle, loving cynicism that is typically ours.
As for what some of the disadvantages to being a playwright were for him, McIvor said that writing plays is often an experience in “becoming a professional human being. As a writer, you become ever so slightly detached from life and its experiences, always thinking about what would be potentially interesting in a written piece.”
“I write for people who understand that life is sad, but that this sadness is beautiful,” MacIvor added, ending on a charming note for a fascinating encounter with this successful and endearing Canadian playwright. “It helps so much to be asked what one thinks, so one can discover what one thinks.”
More about Daniel MacIvor
Born in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Daniel MacIvor has had a voice in Canadian theatre (as an actor, writer and director) as well as in Canadian film. His theatre productions include See Bob Run, Wild Abandon, 2-2-Tango, This Is A Play, The Soldier Dreams, You Are Here, How It Works and A Beautiful View, as well as solo performances House, Here Lies Henry, Monster and Cul-de-sac, on which he collaborated with long-time friend and colleague Daniel Brooks. His work in the theatre has earned him several awards including a GLAAD Award and a Village Voice Obie Award for his play In On It, as well as the award for overall excellence at the New York Fringe in both 1998 and 2002 for his play Never Swim Alone. Also working as a filmmaker, MacIvor has written, directed and starred in several short films including The Fairy Who Didn’t Want to be a Fairy Anymore, winner of a Genie award, and Past Perfect, which premiered in 2002 at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Article submitted by final-year Glendon translation student Kathleen Dodd-Moher.