Celebrated Canadian playwright, screenwriter, director and actor Daniel MacIvor told a group of enthusiastic students at Theatre Glendon last week that he avoided the theatre all through high school for fear of drawing attention to himself as a gay kid in a small town in Cape Breton.
It wasn’t until university that he started studying acting and really discovered his calling, writing his first play while still at Dalhousie University. MacIvor not only spoke about his personal history, he also read from his new play The Best Brothers and answered students’ questions.
Glendon English Professor Cynthia Zimmerman called MacIvor’s work, including two of his most recent plays Communion and This is What Happens Next, strikingly original.
Left: Daniel MacIvor at Glendon
MacIvor outlined the premise for The Best Brothers, his latest work, before providing a spirited rendition of a scene from the play, usually performed by two actors in the roles of 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, then added, “This play also has a lot to do with my recently acquiring a dog.
“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,” he said.
Making his comments brief and incisive, MacIvor left much time for questions from the audience. Responding to a student’s query, “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 are 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,” said MacIvor, adding, “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, 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, which he collaborated on with longtime 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.
Submitted by final-year Glendon translation student Kathleen Dodd-Moher