Interview with Daniel MacIvor

Sep 20, 2007

Acclaimed multi-disciplinary artist Daniel MacIvor is a force to be reckoned with. Born in Cape Breton, MacIvor studied theatre in Toronto and then, in 1987, started what would soon be recognized as one of Canada’s most innovative and important theatre companies, da da kamera. The company, which closed earlier in 2007, not only created sought-after theatre at home, but was also known as one of Canada’s most successful international touring companies. Since beginning his award-winning career in the mid-eighties, MacIvor has taken on the role of playwright, director, performer, screenwriter and much more, establishing a reputation as an unwavering and prolific artist.
 What was your inspiration behind A Beautiful View?
I wanted to make a companion piece for my play In On It, which was a two-man show about love and grief and the creative process. Specifically with A Beautiful View I was interested in looking at how people respond to personal labeling – (“I am a …” “You are a …” ) and how these labels can get in the way of our realizing happiness and fulfillment. Also, I was interested in making a play that would be performed by brilliant actresses like Caroline Livingstone and Davina Stewart.
Since you started your career, you have written well over a dozen plays. How is A Beautiful View unique?
A Beautiful View is probably the everything of my theatrical stuff. In other words, if I had one play to put in a time capsule to try and indicate what I was trying to do and say in the theatre A Beautiful View would be the play I would choose.
You’ve said that it was during the development of A Beautiful View that you became aware that it would be the last new creation of da da kamera. What affect do you think this had on the script?
Knowing it was something of a sign-off for the company freed me from trying to do something “different”. I struggled for some time worried that I needed to find some new style for the play, to outdo myself as it were. Realizing that it was a finale allowed me to stop trying to be “clever” and just do that thing I do. From this freedom the truth of the play and the voices emerged.
In A Beautiful View there are several instances in which one moment completely alters the lives of the characters. Can you relate a moment like this from your own life?
In retrospect every moment, no matter how insignificant-seeming, has the potential to be life changing.
A lot of your creations are quite unique, especially to North American theatre because of your minimalist set, as well as changes in time, location and character with simply a lighting, sound or movement shift. At the beginning of your career, how did audiences respond to your work?
Initially people saw the work as experimental, which was odd to me since I see the work as very linear and emotional. Later I realized they were responding to the overt theatricality of the work. So much of the work we see is influenced by film that sometimes it’s a surprise to audiences to see a play that is not like a movie.
Your minimalist, post-modern style of theatre has a huge following around the world. Why do you think this is such an effective form of   theatrical storytelling?
This kind of storytelling requires the audience to be active in their viewing by engaging their imaginations. It acknowledges the presence of the audience and respects their involvement in the theatrical magic. Some people like that.
You have a reputation for exposing our flaws through your characters. Do you think you have a responsibility, as an artist, to do this? Why or why not?
The flaws are less “ours” than “mine”. I believe that embracing failure and learning from it is a key to evolving.   The responsibility of the artist is to use their own life and experiences as a mirror for the audience. We are in a sense Professional Humans.
This past year marked the 20th anniversary, and the farewell of da da kamera. How would you like the company to be remembered?
To have been rigourous in its art and to have been more interested in good questions than good answers.
Who or what inspires you?
Teachers who continue to learn.
What projects do you have in the works and on the go?
His Greatness a play I wrote about Tennessee Williams in Vancouver in the early 80’s is playing at the Arts Club Theatre now and I am currently directing my play How It Works at the Tarragon in Toronto. I am working on a new play for three women called Communion, which is about religion and therapy.
Is nothing enough?
Yes and too much – that’s why we try to stay so busy.