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|Written by Agnes Cadieux|
|Wednesday, 16 June 2010 00:00|
With the heat of summer just around the corner, the season of festivals is quickly approaching. Soon we will be able to couple the warm evenings with music, laughter, and theatre performed by some of the best local talent the city has to offer. But long before we are engrossed in the hype of Blues Fest, the soul of Jazz Fest, or even the spirit of the Dragon Boat Festival, we get the pleasure of kicking off the summer months with the fun, unrestricted expression of the Ottawa Fringe Festival. It is an opportunity for directors, producers, and performing artists to push the boundaries of their craft to new limits; and we, the audience, get to reap all the benefits.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Wayne Current, one of the directors lucky enough to have his play debut on the festival's opening night (June 17) and talk to him about his latest creation: Prisoner's Dilemma. Written by the award-winning playwright, Sterling Lynch, the story is based on a fundamental problem in strategy known as "game theory." The term was coined in the 1950s by Albert W. Tucker, and examines why two people may not co-operate even if it is in both their best interests to do so.
So, making sure that my own scruples were in check, I headed out, eager to see what Wayne thought about his latest Dilemma, his new production company, and what theatre in Ottawa means to him.
(Cult)ure: How long have you been involved in theatre?
Wayne Current: I've actually taken a long break from it. I did a lot seven years ago. I did children's theatre, and university theatre, but I've just really gotten back into it recently.
C: What do you want your audience to get out of your plays?
WC: The main thing about my company, [Current Productions], is that I want to produce works by local writers, so each play will be different, depending on the content of the play. A whole lot of variety will be done in the course of a season. I'll probably do two or three a year. But it's mainly about getting local work on stage, by local actors, and get involved with the community.
C: Your company is in its fledgling stages right now, but have you gotten any feedback for it yet?
WC: It's all brand new. People haven't seen the shows yet, so we haven't gotten any feedback, but we've received a lot of support. I guess we'll see what happens when we actually get on stage. The actors [for the upcoming play, Prisoner's Dilemma] are well-known in the city, so I'm hoping for a good turnout.
C: Let's talk about getting back into the game after such a long absence.
WC: It's different now. I think everyone hits a point in their life where they think they have to decide what they are going to do. For me, the question was do I get this all out, or is this just something I'm going to do on the side? It was a bit of a false dichotomy, but I just learned that, for example, I could work a government contract and still do theatre seriously. It's great because it offers this sense of security and also provides the money to fund the show. Like right now I can invest two or three thousand dollars into a show -- which I wouldn't have been able to do as a full-time artist.
C: What's the drive that brought you back to theatre, particularly into directing?
WC: I've done a lot of acting before, but I find it more fun to actually lead the project. I like to have the vision and let the actors interpret that, rather than be the actor who needs to interpret. You also have a broader perspective as a director, you get to see the whole thing when you direct, and I enjoy that process a lot more. I like working with people; I like taking a new script and seeing its evolution. I actually became a theatre critic for (Cult)ure Magazine last year, and seeing a lot of the plays really made me want to be on the other side of the stage. I've been influenced by the London Theatre director Katie Mitchell. I've read her book, The Director's Craft, and that's what really inspired me.
C: What were some of the greatest challenges you encountered when you were producing Prisoner's Dilemma?
WC: There were several along the way, but the biggest trick is to find the perfect blend between humour and drama because this play has both. It's got a lot of Simpsons references, a lot of one-liners that are funny, but it can also be kind of surreal in places, and then there are part where it is serious, and the audience has to get that. And I feel like we've got it. I had an idea of how it was all going to look from the very beginning so I don't think it's going to scare anyone off. It's a good storyline with good characters. It's going to be funny, but I think they'll enjoy the tension as well.
C: The play is very fast-paced. How did you find working with this sort of production as opposed to other work that you've done?
WC: I'm actually used to that because I've done a lot of children's theatre, and it is usually a faster pace -- more physical. I've applied the same approach to this: it's very physical, it has a lot of movement, and it's only about 35 minutes long, which is what audiences are used to seeing these days. It's easier to do, actually -- I think it takes more to do a full, two-act play. I think it takes more effort to keep the audience engaged for that long, so this is definitely easier.
C: What was your favorite part of this play in particular?
WC: I love all the Simpsons references. We're actually going to do a contest where the audience needs to count them all, and, if they can pick them all out, they win a gift certificate.
C: As a final thought, what would you suggest to people who are thinking of tackling something like directing?
WC: Start in community and university theatre. Even if you aren't in university, you can still participate. They're always looking for people to take on the role of stage managers and such, and that's the best place to get your feet wet. The next step would be to work with some of the independent theatre companies like Vision or Evolution here in Ottawa, and from there you can try and do your own thing. The beautiful thing about festivals like the Fringe is that you put in your application, and, if they pull your name, you get to put on your show.
From there Wayne and I continued to talk shop. I don't know much about the theatre scene, so I was impressed that the blog page of his company's website showed us the side of theatre that we the audience don't normally see. From what you would find in a stage manager's kit, to what it means when you are finally 'off book,' his website gave me a brief glimpse into what it takes to create a quality play. "And that's what it's all about," Current tells me. "When you put yourself out there, when you engage with your audience before and after the show and become more real to them, then you get noticed. Publicity spreads by word of mouth in theatre, and these are the simple details that get you known."
The Ottawa Fringe Festival begins June 17th and runs through the 27th. Tickets to the shows are only $10, plus a one-time purchase of a Fringe pin for $2. For more information about the festival, schedule and events, visit: http://www.ottawafringe.com/
For more about Wayne please visit: http://manyfacesofwayne.wordpress.com/