Phil Rickaby: Hey Guys, just a quick note before we start. In this episode, I will be talking to Alan Dilworth, and he wanted me to issue this quick correction. In this episode he gives the year of the Utoya shootings as 2004, when the event actually occurred in 2011.
Welcome to episode 225 of Stageworthy, I’m your host, Phil Rickaby. Stageworthy is a podcast about people in Canadian theatre, featuring conversations with actors, directors, playwrights and more. In this episode, I will be talking to Alan Dilworth.
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As I mentioned, my guest is Alan Dilworth. Alan is a director, playwright and teacher, and is the Artistic Director of Necessary Angel. Alan joined me to talk about Necessary Angel production of David Greig’s The Events, at the Streetcar Crowsnest Theatre, From March 1 to March 15, in Toronto.
Phil Rickaby: so I was doing a little bit of reading about the Event – The Events I keep wanting to say the event,
Alan Dilworth: but
Phil Rickaby: its The Events
Alan Dilworth: but isn’t, it’s interesting, isn’t that
Phil Rickaby: I think, I think there have been movies and TV shows called the event, and I think that’s where.
My brand, the brain goes is like, Oh, of course it’s about an event, but no, this is about, this is more than one event.
Alan Dilworth: It is. ,
Phil Rickaby: and it’s, it seems like it’s, it seems a little dark. Is it as dark as it seems, or is it
Alan Dilworth: I would say that it’s a piece that finds light in the darkness, and I think it’s actually this, the, it’s one of the more hopeful pieces I’ve ever read in that.
It’s such a determined search for light in the darkness and it’s the search action of it. That for me is really interesting and instructive and it speaks to resilience in a way that I think is really useful in the world right now.
Phil Rickaby: What’s the, what’s the, . What’s the elevator pitch for the events?
What can you tell me about the Premise?
Alan Dilworth: Okay. The premise, so this is a play that’s inspired by the horrific Anders Breivik shootings in Norway in 2004 and this, but this piece, what it does is it takes the idea of the political youth camp, that was the site of the shootings in Norway, and it translate, it translates it to a community choir, and it’s written by David Greig, Scottish playwright, and it premiered in Scotland at the Edinburgh festival.
Phil Rickaby: Okay.
Alan Dilworth: In 2013 so what it does is it. It takes a community choir. So there’s a, the, there’s a priest and she runs a community choir for vulnerable people. And a, an extremist young man targets the choir and comes and shoots the choir. It does not dramatize the violence. What it does is it dramatizes the priest journey of trying to come to terms with this event and to try to understand it in some way.
On some level. I think what she’s doing is she’s kind of also reclaiming her soul that she feels that she lost in the incident or in the events as it were.
Phil Rickaby: It’s interesting to be dealing with a priest in that. That kind of situation. It brings to mind the, that age old question that, that religious people are always asked, why do, why do, why does God let bad things happen to good people?
And that’s definitely like, here you have these vulnerable kids and this terrible thing happens, and they were just trying to be better. How is that? It’s gotta be really , shattering for a priest.
Alan Dilworth: I think incredibly shattering. Someone who has, who’s whose identity and work and efforts and labor are all around making people feel welcome and helping to care for them and giving them a safe space.
And then of course, it ends up being a very not safe space this particular day.
Phil Rickaby: How did, how did this play come across? How did you come across the play?
Alan Dilworth: I came across the play because I have read some of David Greg’s work before, and I had heard about the play and for, and had forgotten about it. , as happens as you’re, you know, I read many, many plays.
I hadn’t read the play yet, but I did read the play in a moment. I read it. I felt I have to do this play. , it’s also a play that uses his relationship with language and theater for me is, is both something recognizable and provocative at the same time. And I feel like his writing is such that. It. He knows sometimes with the theater, and I mean this and not some old stodgy way, but in a kind of living present way.
There’s something mythic about what he’s doing that I, I, that appeals to me. And I think there’s some wisdom in it. Dealing, even though with a very contemporary, this kind of reactionary political extremism.
Phil Rickaby: Yeah.
Alan Dilworth: It’s such a part of our world. And so its relevance is very high. At the same time, I feel like there’s some very, very old ideas in it that are for me, gave me some solace.
, in moments where it feels like there are events that are despairing that can give one despair.
Phil Rickaby: What kind of old ideas. Are. Are you finding it?
Alan Dilworth: Well this idea of a prose that, a process, for example, of undergoing grief, that grief is a process. You know, it’s not something immediate. undergoing recovery from something that happens.
Is, is a, is a process and that we undergo things. Yeah. You know, I, I think it’s so easy to want things. So immediately, you know, as much as anyone, especially in our time, we can have almost anything, anytime. And this idea of actually not kind of the realities of impermanence and, and struggle are very apparent in this play, in a beautiful way, in a very hopeful way.
Phil Rickaby: And grief is not, . We live, you know, we’re very, you know, we’re sort of like in the Instagram age where everything is constructed and curated and you can’t really curate your grief. And it’s not, it’s not as, it’s not really Instagramable. It’s not it’s messy. And so I think sometimes we have less patience with it as well as we feel like other people have less patience with it because it’s, it’s, it’s hard to put. on Instagram.
Alan Dilworth: Yeah. Yeah. I always find it fascinating when artists put their grief on stage performance artists or you know, writers who have kind of taken that and done something gorgeous with it because it is such a private, and it is something that seems so not Instagrammable as you say. And, and that’s, and I, and I, I think that.
Maybe there’s a that Greig is exercising a grief. He has more philosophically about the world that the events in Norway had kind of taken from him in some way. Yeah. And he was working on working on that just as a, as a citizen of the world. To put that in perspective. You know,
Phil Rickaby: it’s interesting because you know, when you talk about the artists, you know, putting their grief on stage, whether their performance artist plays, whenever there is something. Cathartic about that. And by making art out of something that’s affected you so deeply, you, you can create something even more deep and in a way deal with it better by sharing it.
Alan Dilworth: I agree. I mean, I think I might, my friend Thomas Moschopoulos is a, as Athenian director, he’s a wonderful artist and a good friend.
And he always says that when he’s directing tragedy, which he does a lot and has many times, he says for him, it’s always so refreshing. Like the material refreshes him in some way. And I always find that fascinating and I can’t help but feel, you know, there’s been some pieces that I’ve directed in my career that have been, that are very harrowing works, but every time I feel like they’ve refreshed me, and this is, this is one of them, I feel like when I come to work, it’s like, wow, okay, we’re going to step into this world.
But it’s refreshed me. If we were birds by Aaron Shields, I directed the premiere of that at Smerworks and then later at Tarragon, and that was a similar piece. It was, there was something that was. Pretty freeing about that material and to share that material. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby: Now, this is also has, there is a choir that’s part of part of the show.
, and how we, I mean, I don’t know if you have a choir here today how is it. First of all, what role does the choir play in the performance and how, what’s the process of rehearsing something with a piece missing?
Alan Dilworth: Yes. great, it’s a great question. So yes, there is a choir. There is a, a, a choir, a community choir that will show up at each performance and will join us on stage.
, . The choir in the show is a wonderful thing. Like everything in this show, it has multiple meanings. And so on one level, they are represent a community choir. That Clare, the priest choir leader, is, represents her choir in some way. They also represent a kind of Greek tragedy that witnessed the action and bear witness to that.
And I think they also just reflect the audience, you know? And so I think they, that those are some of the, they, and they do at times. . , and they, they, they certainly, they bring the joy and beauty of music. It’s absolutely stunning. Yeah. . Anyway, so that the other, and then the process for them is really exciting because what we’ve done is we’ve also kind of shared some of the wisdom from previous productions in the premiere production, but what we’re doing is we set up a series of short rehearsals in our final week of our rehearsal process in the hall.
And so we’ll gather with them and we give them an outline structure. And some time ago we’ve. , passed on the music to them and been in conversation with all the choir leaders. Jacqueline Tay is our music director. She’s fantastic. , and she’s a jazz vocalist, has a jazz band. She was just featured on jazz FM, an article on her, and she’s a, she’s a great.
, she’s a great team member for us. And so she’s also been working much more closely as closely with the choirs.
Phil Rickaby: But the choirs, they won’t have seen the whole show. They’re an audience.
Alan Dilworth: That’s right. That’s right. So what we will do is I am sending them a copy of the script just because I feel like I want to make sure that with the content, that we’re responsible for everyone’s wellbeing, but we will.
Give them, there’s going to be, Jacqueline will be accompanying them and guiding them through the experience. And we will do a rehearsal where we’ll roughly tell them where they need to be in space at certain spots, and then she’ll cue them when they actually get to the show. So we have like, in a way, two rehearsals with the choir without.
Probably, maybe with or without the actors. We’re not sure yet. So it’s, there’s a lot being thrown at the wall
Phil Rickaby: yeah.
Alan Dilworth: In performance.
Phil Rickaby: Yeah.
Alan Dilworth: And that’s also part of the liveness of the whole experience.
Phil Rickaby: I mean, that is the, the amazing thing about live theater is, you know, there’s that unpredictability. , just I want to detour for a second and talk a little bit about about you specifically because your, I want to talk about your theater origin story where, how you became interested in theater with took you along this path. I mean, you’ve been you were interim artistic director at Soulpepper
Alan Dilworth: acting artistic director, yes. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby: Soulpepper. Before you went to Necessarily Angel, what’s, what’s the path that got you started and took you your,
Alan Dilworth: well, I grew up, I had a chance to see some theater.
I fell in love with theater in high school. . , I came from, I come from an amazing family and, but, but it wasn’t like a, a theater, like arts and culture was not we were very, I think athleticism was something that was prevalent in my family among other things. And so it was kind of a, a course that I started charting for myself, you know, as an Irish Catholic kid, you know, background.
And I think, to be honest with you, as a little kid, when my mom dropped me off at Sunday school, I fell in love with storytelling. Because of all the diorama’s like I would play and I would be like, it would be like I’m a cat and I could, like, I’ll tell the story and I would spend hours. In fact, I think my mom worried about me because my focus level was, seemed ridiculously long to her in terms of that kind of interest and engagement.
So there’s something there I think, . And you know, I think that also like storytelling was always just such a part of things for me. I loved reading. I love books. And then I got into high school and I stepped on stage and I had a drama teacher in high school who had come up from the States. He was quite political, left leaning, you know, at a Catholic boys high school.
And he really was like. , put some very interesting works in front of us, even at that age in high school. And I was very much drawn to them. And I had a talent I didn’t realize, but it was one of the first times in my life where people reflected back at me. Just people who weren’t even interested in the arts saying, wow, you’re really good.
You know? and that was as an actor
Phil Rickaby: Had you seen it or was your first exposure to theater being on stage?
Alan Dilworth: I think I had seen it. You know, I had seen it. In a funny way, I think that there was a kind of a hippie priest at the in the parish where I grew up as a little kid who was friends with my family, an amazing guy.
And he used to direct plays with the young people. They had like a youth group or something. And I remember watching them and kind of being struck by the fact that there was this stage space where people were enacting things that somehow reflected us or we felt a part of it. And how live that was.
I loved, I loved, I loved film as a kid. I, I was very attracted to that storytelling too, but there was something just so exciting and communal about that, that as a kid that was like, I have to, I kind of think I want to do that.
Phil Rickaby: Yeah. I do think that’s why I love when, when we’re able to expose children to theater early, because if all they know is television and film, theater is different.
Like being in the room in the room with the people that are doing it is a fascinating thing. I remember going to see the panto this year with a four year old, and she was angry because she said we were just going to a movie and then as soon as it started, she was like completely enraptured because it wasn’t a movie.
They were there. You could see them breathing, and it was so real for her. And I think, you know, that’s the why it’s so important to get the kids in there as early as possible because it’s different.
Alan Dilworth: It is different. A friend of mine was just talking to me. About a piece, and my friend was saying, you know, I’m working on this project that someone related to them was upset by some of the material because they felt like it would reflect too closely on life.
Like what I mean is like if you, if you know someone like Michel Tremblay used to say, you know, I think I had heard and that he waited until his mother passed. Before he could write what he needed to write because theater is so alive. I bet if he was a filmmaker, he could’ve gone ahead.
Phil Rickaby: Oh, sure.
Alan Dilworth: But because it’s theater, the content, the lightness of it is so beautiful and alive, but also in that way threatening you also understand how political theater has always been or had the possibility of being. Yeah. That’s really cool. Yeah. , and then I started, I think what happened for me as a director was I started.
I started writing, I wanted to write before Theatre Junction became Theater Grand, they used to be a bit like Soulpepper and that they would do redo classics. And so Mark Law’s the artistic director way back when in 2000 asked Maeve and myself, my partner Maeve and we were friends at the time and we had Bell Tower theater with our other friend Patrick Robinson.
And he invited Maeve and I out to be actors in a whole season. And part of that season there was some workshopping of some plays. One was Sharon Pollock. And I was watching her and in my arrogance I thought, Oh, I think I can write. As I was watching that process unfold and I decided to write, and so for me, the process of directing, I was also watching, directing and thinking, I think I can do that.
Richard Rose one said, I was, he remembered. He wrote in a letter about me. He said he remembered having me in the room as an actor. And thinking and finding it like, Oh, it’s so annoying because he keeps wanting to look at the big picture and not the individual story. So it’s kind of there for me. But then what happened was I directed two shows, one called Ma Jolie, which was a piece I wrote about Picasso and kind of a, or the end, the tension between relationships and one’s own ambitions.
, And then later I wrote another piece called The Unforgetting. , which was a piece in a way that was loosely inspired by my grandfather, my maternal grandfather. But it’s a piece about , kind of the uncovering of information in a mill town, in a mill around the kind of person who had started that mill.
And then the effect that that had on the child who was now kind of trying to who was kind of had to experience the legacy of that. Really exciting exciting journeys for me. And also it was really exciting to be writing and also directing and I was creating with, you know, again, with Maeve, excuse me, and Patrick with belltower theater, this is an early, you know, the early two thousands in Smerworks.
Phil Rickaby: Yeah.
Alan Dilworth: And these were, works out for me, kind of launch things for me. And all of a sudden John Kaplan was watching and you know, we, you know, you get your first, like, you know, five Ns and you’re like WHAT? and then you know, you’re, you’re like, things are happening and people are paying attention. And it was a great blessing, but it opened, ultimately opened up directing doors for me and I didn’t necessarily expect to just become a director, which predominantly has been my career.
It was about just, it was about making shows with people I really love to make shows with. And I’ve been very lucky. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby: When, when things first started to go that way, it was more directing than anything else. Were you torn at all or what did it feel right?
Alan Dilworth: I feel like I’ve been really lucky because I’ve worked on so many new plays, like I’ve put over 20.
I think if I went back and counted it, probably around 25 new plays, premieres on the stage through my, you know, 20 plus years directing and including my own. And I, and I. , but I often feel like. You know, part of, I feel like there’s elements to writing and directing, and I feel like at times with the right project, I’ve been able to really lean into that.
You know what I mean? And I don’t necessarily mean telling the a writer what to write, but to work very dramaturgically. Not just with the text, but also with the design team and sometimes with the actor and how the actors operate, defined, you know, unique performance dramaturgy. Is that from me or kind of ways of, I think fulfilling some of the aspects of that kind of writer in me
Phil Rickaby: Can I ask you about when you came in as the acting artistic director at Soulpepper what you saw as, as the goal at that point. There had been, you know, there had been the, the incident, the issue with the, with that everybody knows, and, and, and the leadership had to vacate. And were you just trying to get through the season or did you feel like there was something that happened that you could do that you needed to do to start healing or, or, or.
Alan Dilworth: , I had, so what happened was the, the, some artists had come to me and said, we would, we would love it if you would be able to step in and none of us knowing what that meant or what that would be, but also, but more but more officially the board came to me and asked me if I would step up and step in as acting artistic director, you know, like a very, very difficult time and moment. , and the fact is that I felt compelled, I felt compelled to do it in terms of, I think just having, . Being there in the lead up to that, I felt compelled to see things through.
I loved, I love many people there and I wanted to, I felt that I had the information and also the ability. To weather that storm, and I can be pretty good in crisis mode. And so I felt that I could I knew that I could be helpful and I knew that I could listen even in a, as if things got very reactive.
Phil Rickaby: And did they get reactive or,
Alan Dilworth: Hmm. I mean, I would say I witnessed a lot. , I witnessed incredible amounts of courage. I witnessed incredible amounts of generosity. , and I did, I also witnessed a lot of reaction from many different, you know, in many different ways from many different constituents, you know, and I, I, but I, I, I learnt an enormous amount, and I think at my best is when I was listening very, very carefully and and a very proud of the work that happened.
I, you know, including a show I had two months after. , the events there, I was had been programmed to direct Idomeneus this Roland Schimmelpfennig play, which I love. And and it’s one of these plays I couldn’t pa – . If it had been a more simplistic naturalistic piece, I would’ve just said, please someone else do this. Cause there’s lots to take care of. But I couldn’t quite do it with the nature of that play because there’s the level of kind of. Authorship in a way that has to happen with it and had already happened. So and I’m enormously proud of that piece of art in the heat of it all. And, and so much of the art that was created in that time , and inspired by so many people, there was an enormous amount of support.
I think about. , I think about it a lot all the time. , and I felt very, you know, I was very fortunate to have all of the people around that were around to work with and collaborate with in that, in the building and outside the building. Yeah. Yeah. I’ll never forget it. Yeah. And, and yeah. And yeah.
And I, I’m very excited about Soulpepper and the leadership of Emma and Weyni. You know, I really, really, Mother’s Daughter there, which we had done a Stratford and it was, so, it was great to be in the building and the opening night to be at, you know, they have dinners before the opening, and to be back at at one of the dinners there and seeing so many familiar, friendly faces. It was great.
Phil Rickaby: how long after you finished at as the acting artistic director did did you, were you approached by Necessary Angel?
Alan Dilworth: Well I had, let’s see, how long after was I approached. It wasn’t, you know, I heard about, I had heard that there was going, they were going to be searching for a new artistic director and began thinking about it.
And, you know, I, I love the company a lot. I always have. It’s always captured my imagination. And so I was, . You know, I was very eager to just kind of find out what would be happening and what would happen. And so I just kind of kept my ears open and then when it was appropriate to, to start kind of a conversation and, and see where that would go.
, I was hired in June at the very end of may, at the beginning of June. , and, you know, I was I was up in Stratford at the time, kind of finishing up the process up there. , so it was a really nice kickstart right before my opening there to have this news and this excitement. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby: . For people who might not be familiar with, with Necessary Angel. What’s the Coles notes about what necessary angel is as a theater company?
Alan Dilworth: Hmm. Well, this is really funny. The Coles Notes. Okay. So Necessary Angel is 40 years old, or has just switched 41. , and of course it was started by artistic. Yeah. , by the the, the Richard Rose created the company with some colleagues and he was the artistic director for almost 30 years.
And then Daniel Brooks was the second artistic director. And of course, Jennifer Tarver, all of whom are extraordinary directors. It is a Necessary Angel is an artist driven company. It always has been. I think the idea that, you know, necessarily angel could run out of someone’s bedroom if it needed to.
It’s that kind of a company with, you know in terms of just like the plan making the plan, because it’s actually a, it’s really an artist driven place, but it has, I think it’s, . It has grown as an organization, certainly through Richard’s time and then very much in Daniel Brooks’s time. And and I think that the company is, for me, I say like, I think about restaurants.
Phil Rickaby: Okay.
Alan Dilworth: So Necessary Angel is the kind of restaurant. That you could take care and wa- and take look after and take care of all the ingredients. You can have your eye, you know, everyone who’s working there as opposed to a much larger restaurant where there are many, many you have to have a larger menu and you have to have more staff and you need more managers to take care of that as well. Necessary. Angel is this gorgeous, gorgeous size. I feel really lucky.
Phil Rickaby: Yeah. So you’re, you’re able to like sort of look at the whole picture as artistic director?
Alan Dilworth: I think very much so. I mean, you have to, that’s kind of the job. So there’s myself and two staff. , Gail Packwood is the general manager and Leonard McCardy is head of communications and development with us.
And so really it’s the three of us. And then on an ad hoc basis. Based on projects, we’ll hire another people. And it’s a wonderful, it’s a, it’s a wonderful size, and certainly we’ll see. I think it, you know, it may grow, but it’ll, I think it’ll grow in a very sustainable way. You know?
Phil Rickaby: Is it, is it a. Does the, is there like a standing company or is it just like ad hoc or how does the, how does the, the actor relationship work with, with the productions?
Alan Dilworth: It’s a, it’s a great question. Especially coming out of a theater company like Soulpepper where you do, you have founding members and then there’s people who work there fairly regularly and then there’s always some newcomers coming through.
I think that with Necessary Angel, it’s very project specific on the one hand, but there are actors, of course, who I think that the artistic director tends to gravitate towards who they have relationships with. And then of course, you know, always, you know, bringing in new people, new voices, new faces, you know, for me, I think back to Necessary Angel when, you know , back when Richard was the artistic director, you know, I remember always like,
You know, Richard McMillan, RH Thompson, Maggie Huculak. There were these extraordinary, so many extraordinary actors that kind of had passed through the company. But I just, I it’s really exciting for me. I have some relationships with some actors that continue to inspire me all the time. And any chance I get, I kind of hunted to, to, to you know, to collaborate with them.
I think that. You know, I have a responsibility to program for the company, not, you know, for the, for the actors. I think in the case of, especially with Necessary Angel, but I do, of course, that’s a huge that’s a huge part of my thinking. And also I have a series of designers that I tend to work with as well. So it’s a great, it’s a, it’s a great, it’s a great company to be able to helm at this time for me.
Phil Rickaby: What makes a good and Necessary Angel show.
Alan Dilworth: I think that Necessary Angel shows. , I think that a Necessary Angel show is a show where the it is, it has strong artistic questions at play. And I think it also has complex and layered meanings.
And that’s, and a comedy tragedy drama. It doesn’t – genre, I feel very open to genre, but for me, my experience always coming to necessary angel has always been one where it’s beyond like, right. And I think that’s where the work should live. And it’s not about liking the work or like or dislike it, but it should be something that I hope makes you think for a couple of days, you know? And it’s great if you like it though. That’s awesome.
Phil Rickaby: That’s good too. I always do appreciate when a show sticks with me like that. Like. I hate when I leave a show and I, I can sort of dismiss it with like, Oh, that was nice. Yeah. And I, I don’t want to make theatre like that. I know a lot of people don’t want to make theater, like want something that people are going to talk about for a while after.
Alan Dilworth: Yeah. Yeah. I feel like, and, and you know, I love to read something that you think, wow, okay, this is really stimulating. This is staying with me and haunting me. The other night I saw parasite. In the cinema.
Phil Rickaby: Yeah.
Alan Dilworth: You know, when I was like, wow, okay, this is stunning. And then thinking, well, I don’t know. When I was thinking about, you know no spoiler alerts, but I was thinking about the end and I was like, Oh, I don’t know what to think about that.
But ultimately what was so powerful for me was that for the next three days, I couldn’t get it out of my head.
Phil Rickaby: Right. Yeah.
Alan Dilworth: And I just think, wow, good film. Well that, I mean, great film.
Phil Rickaby: That’s rare in film too, for something to stick with you like that film is, it’s usually pretty disposable as far as we go. When we see it, we sit because we’re pa-, we’re passive ob- passive observers.
Alan Dilworth: Yes.
Phil Rickaby: For the most part, with film in a way that we’re not with theater. , and so we can watch something and we leave and we’re like, good, but you know what? I’m done. , but for it to have something to stick with you when you’ve been watching quite that passively, I think is rare.
Alan Dilworth: I think so too. And its it’s so exciting. It’s so exciting. I actually, years ago I was working with Jason Sherman and he shared with me mubi, which is a website, MUBI. And what mubi does is they create they curate films, one film a day, over 30 days. And so at the end. Every day one film that was shown 30 or 31 days ago drops off and a new one comes on.
And some, I’ve been surprised by so many of these films, but they’re most when I have a film stuck in my head, it’s usually from that site with all these cinephiles and they have a curation team. And I find that, and I, and I, I like to think of that in terms of theater as well. Like, I do love to see I think it’s not just about being idiosyncratic.
Phil Rickaby: Yeah.
Alan Dilworth: I think for me it’s about personal pieces of art. Often have an, can have an idiosyncratic nature to them because an artist is following a series of personal investigations and questions themselves. And I certainly, I recognize that in text when I pick them up at the theater, that’s for sure.
Phil Rickaby: , we’re coming from and, and you know, just just this year. , Stratford, to to Soulpepper, to Necessary Angel. , and sort of like different, I imagine in slightly different roles within the companies because in Stratford you were there as a director in Soulpepper. You were there as a director, but also as the former acting artistic director. , and as the artistic director directing a show do you find that your. The position in the room changes during rehearsal based on which venue you’re in, like do people, are you viewed differently in the room either by company or actor?
Alan Dilworth: I don’t know. It’s, I mean, I think that I’m viewed, I’m probably viewed differently by every actor and in every process. I mean, I don’t you know, I think that one of the things I’m really curious about generally is. Like, I’m interested in the ingredients, all the ingredients, all the factors that are a part of something. It’s kind of a, I suppose a, a Buddhist inspired a predilection of mine and a, but also an inspiration.
And so I am, I think that I am often you know, we make something together. We are something together. And so that does change. And I, you know, I certainly don’t ignore. , you know, like, I am not only I’m a director, so there’s a certain, like, you know, people, I do some of that. Certainly a lot of the artistic hiring as a director alone.
And so, of course that has, you know, that has an impact. And there is a power dynamic there that needs when needs to be cognizant of, and then of course, as an artistic director as well. Again, you know, one has to be as an artistic director who’s a director, there’s another layer, you know, of , that there is some power dynamics there.
That one must be, you know very cognizant of, you know but you know, the truth is that at the end of the day. Pursuing the work and the questions in the work. It’s, it doesn’t always, I’m not, you know, I think that keeping the power dynamic questions you know, forward in the mind is a really good thing to do.
And then also, if the questions in the work are really driving, I find that, you know, we, we get to a point where, you know, often we can get to a point, especially if we know each other and I’ve known each other for some time where, you know, the, the, it’s, it can be very leveling. Yeah. Yeah. But I, you know, of course, I think that, you know, I, you know, I, and certainly in our time, there’s more attention than ever, and I think it’s fantastic in terms of looking at the nature of power dynamics and, and boundaries and relationships.
And I think that’s great.
Phil Rickaby: I think so, and I mean, it’s happening in some of like theater schools. Those, those power dynamics are being questioned and challenged and changed in a way that I think they needed to flow all the time. , and we’re starting now to see the, the, those changes happen some in some places a lot slower than another.
Alan Dilworth: Yes.
Phil Rickaby: , during the Toronto Fringe, I think you came from Strafford. She would do a Tent, a Tent Talk.
Alan Dilworth: I did. I did it. I did a Tent Talk.
Phil Rickaby: Yeah. What was the topic there that you came down for it? I remember. I’m trying to remember what that
Alan Dilworth: it was about safe spaces. Yeah. And I kind of said, well, I only know my own perspective around what, you know, what my efforts and what I’ve witnessed myself.
And of course I spend most of my rehearsal rooms are rooms that I’m often a director in. Not entirely, but mostly. , and that was , Taleah Leonard had asked me to, to come and take part in that talk. And it was it was very inspiring, you know, ended up being more of a group discussion. And it was, it was great.
Yeah. But I think that yeah, I, I think that, I think that, you know, there’s so much to, there’s so much to think about in that regard, you know, and to take responsibility for ourselves and to. You know, pay attention to, you know the experience and the care of others. Certainly it’s, you know, it’s exciting. It’s, yeah.
Phil Rickaby: Yeah. I think it, I think there are for people who’ve been in the industry for for awhile, there are bad habits about, not rocking the boat. They can get in the way of a safe space, not through action, but through inaction. I remember being in theater school.
I myself in 1990 whatever. , and I w we were, I mean, most of us were afraid all the time. I was like doing the wrong thing. And that I think set us up for the way that we would behave in a room. Later on, then we would be afraid of doing the wrong thing and that would reflect badly on us. , and that we might be punished for that. And I think that that’s an early lesson that took a long time for us to unlearn.
Alan Dilworth: Yeah.
Phil Rickaby: Do you think that, that, that’s something that, cause I know, I know from my experience that, that, that happened. Is that something that, that, that you’ve seen sort of play out as well?
Alan Dilworth: In terms of in rooms.
Phil Rickaby: Yeah. If that makes sense.
Alan Dilworth: In the rehearsal room. Do you mean with me?
Phil Rickaby: Just like, just like, just like watching. Cause you know, being both the director and like sort of like an inside and outside. I have you seen or you’re aware of people not wanting to rock that boat?
Alan Dilworth: I think. I think I’ve seen it. , I’m, I suppose, I suppose, I mean, I’ve seen some, I’ve seen so many things. I mean, I, you know, I think that I’ve worked in many, many different contexts, you know, and, and I’ve certainly built, like for me, I started by working with my friends.
Phil Rickaby: Yeah.
Alan Dilworth: And we created it together and no one was the, there was no hierarchy. We were figuring it out and learning and experimenting. And when we were frustrated, we would, you know, like with your own personal dynamics, either say something or you wouldn’t, you know I understand. I didn’t early on work in places where there was very intense power differentials just because.
I didn’t, I didn’t have access to those spaces at the beginning of my career. , and I didn’t go directly. I didn’t go through theater school proper myself at that stage. So I went to theater school much later and did an MFA, and I had already established myself as a director and wanted a place to experiment.
And so I felt very much. , you know in dialogue with my professors, et cetera. , you know so it was a really different dynamic, and I think I was lucky, I think and privileged in that regard. , and that’s not everyone’s experience. I know. , but, you know, I think that you know, I’ve seen, I’ve seen so many things, and I, and I, and, and I, and I don’t, . Yeah. Like I think, I think in bigger, the larger the institution, I think the more challenging it is to hear people and to spend, to see them both, you know, for the institution. And they tend to you know, it’s, it’s harder. It’s, I think that, you know, there’s lots of work ahead. And I think that, you know, I think that people are, you know, there’s a collective movement on many fronts to try to make, you know, all the spaces we work in safer and, and places where people are free to voice their experience more.
You know. Yeah,
Phil Rickaby: Thank you. , back to the events, just, just to, just to close things off at one point where, how long it opens on when you get into performance?
Alan Dilworth: We have our first preview on March 1st and we opened on March 4th. Right. We play til March 15th.
Phil Rickaby: Okay. Yeah. , and how long have you been rehearsing at this point?
Alan Dilworth: We’ve been rehearsing this, we’re in our third week right now. Yeah. So what,
Phil Rickaby: tell me what one of the most interesting discoveries that you found in this play so far.
Alan Dilworth: Okay. So one of the most interesting discoveries that we’ve found in the play so far is this relationship with a series of scenes where.
, the boy, there’s a, it’s the two hander, but the boys sometimes slips into some other characters. And today we were working on a section of the text where the boy plays three characters back to back without being the boy in between and staging them. , I was just, I was, I was just kind of, you know, we were doing good work, developing the scenes or developing further, et cetera, but just like, what’s going on.
And the piece just keeps , telling us exactly kind of in the, in the zone, how figurative. The staging needs to be and just finding what the balance of the poetics are in the piece. And you know, later in the day, this afternoon, banging our heads against the wall a little bit, which is beautiful moment when it’s like, Oh, let’s just try this.
And then it opening, opening up in a new way. Who knows? Tomorrow we may say, ah, let’s scrap it for something else. But that’s the joy. That’s the joy.
Phil Rickaby: It is always interesting when that, that kind of like re revelation happens after you’ve been working so hard to try to force it to happen and all of a sudden. It just happens.
Alan Dilworth: Yeah.
Phil Rickaby: It’s like there. I don’t know what this, the clouds open in the muses whisper into somebodies ear and it just makes sense.
Alan Dilworth: It’s amazing.
Phil Rickaby: Yeah.
Alan Dilworth: It’s an amazing thing. It’s so fun and, and it’s so present and what happens in the room. We’re all just working away. Oh, there it is. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby: Alan, thank you so much. This has been great .
Alan Dilworth: Thanks Phil. Real pleasure.