Welcome to the first in what will be a series of Interviews with the various companies in the festival. We’ve paired shows together to interview each other. This first pairing is “If We Were Birds” (Groundwater) with “Any Night” (DualMInds from Vancouver). We asked each company to pose ten questions (that don’t suck) of the other company. Here’s the first, very thorough, very thrilling interview given by Erin Shield’s (author of If We Were Bird) with Medina Hahn and Daniel Arnold of Any Night!
by Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn
Directed by Ron Jenkins
Presented by DualMInds
Featuring Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn
Writer/performers of the internationally acclaimed Tuesdays & Sundays, and director of the multi award-winning The Black Rider, present a mystery-romance about privacy, paranoia, and violent sleep. A troubled young woman suffers from night terrors. The young man living above her becomes her guardian and lover. But the only place safe may be in their minds.
1. I am fascinated by the exploration of dreams in theatre; the way dreams are represented on stage and/or the transition between reality and dream. What led you to the exploration of “violent sleep” in this piece?
We came across the true 1987 story of Ken Parks, a man who got up in the middle of the night, drove to his in-laws house, attacked them and woke up in his car with blood on his hands and a tire iron on the seat next to him. He had slept walked. We began to study somnambulism, dreams and night terrors in great detail – talking with specialists, visiting sleep labs, etc… and became fascinated with how much the medical industry still can’t explain about our sleep/dream world.
2. Your pieces seem to be grounded in complex characters and the relationship between those characters. Do you create characters before the plot? Or develop a juicy plot and find characters that serve the story?
I think our characters develop instinctually to help the plot along. But yes, I think our strength lies in character. In the beginning they are formed out of our instinct and then refined to aid the plot. But we are very much relationship based. It’s fun to explore WHAT makes people do the things they do. With our first play Tuesdays & Sundays, since it was based on a true story, there was a structure in place for us. With Any Night, the premise gave birth to the character, which gave birth to the plot.
3. You have written this play together. Does your creation process centre around improvisation or vigorous discussion or a bit of both? How does your process begin? When do you invite an audience to view the work? Can you speak a bit about your process?
Our process changes depending on what project we’re working on. But usual the way it goes is we talk talk talk through the story , characters, journey , scenes… sometimes for months, sometimes years. Daniel is good with structure so he takes a stab at that. Medina’s strength lies in dialogue and character. So once Daniel’s banged out the structure, Medina goes through and takes her stab at it – sometimes this happens scene by scene, sometimes act by act, ect. Sometimes Daniel gets the urge to write the novel version before! Then we go through it again together, talk through stuff, rewrite on the spot together (acting it out at the computer!) or divvy up scenes and do it separately. Sometimes we lock ourselves in a room together (or secluded cabin). Sometimes it’s done over the computer in separate places. It’s always a new journey…
4. I know from experience that collaborating with another writer can be both invigorating and frustrating. What are the ups and downs of collaborating so closely with another person?
Wow. Umm… it’s fantastic and hard! You have to constantly compromise and prove your point and fight and it takes more time with two people. The great thing is, you also get two points of view, can use one another’s strengths, the ups and downs are way easier to handle as a pair than alone. And when one person has given up, the other has a flash of brilliance and it gets the other going again. But mostly, you get to learn a lot. About communication. Trust. Lack of ego. The ability to argue and not take it personally. And how to have a strong, deep belief in the other artist and in your own voice.
5. I saw Tuesdays & Sundays (I think it was in the Victoria Fringe in 2001, does that sound right?) In any event, it was a long time ago so please forgive my memory. But I do recall that the storytelling in that piece was quite marvelous; the story was simply told, and in a sense it was a simple story, but the way in which you told the story, the theatrical form you used created tension, suspense, excitement and an extremely strong relationship between characters. The form served the story which I think was one of the major strengths of the piece. Is there a particular theatrical form/device/element you are working with in “Any Night”
Any Night essentially takes place in the main character’s nightmare. It shifts between past, present, and future – from a sleep clinic, to a basement suite, to an unknown place of interrogation – as she struggles to discover where she is, and if she’ll ever wake up. That’s part of the mystery for the audience as well…
6. How has your work with form changed/evolved in your years of working together?
We are both people that enjoy challenge and learning. Over the years we have jumped into a lot of new situations as far as form goes. Our first play was a romantic two hander that was essentially a duologue. Since then we have played with a solo piece, radio adaptations, screenplays, screenplay adaptations, a musical, a libretto for a new opera, tv pilots, etc… We are both willing to jump at new things, or tackle them when asked. In working together, we have both been opened up as artists to take more chances…
7. What stage of development is “Any Night” currently in? Is it a brand new piece or have you been developing it over a few years?
This piece has been in development for years! Honestly, it has been rewritten in so many different ways and styles, trying to get it right-est! It was helped along the way by the BC Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, Theatre Network (Edmonton AB), Workshop West (Edmonton AB), Magic Theatre (San Francisco CA), Shetler Studios (New York NY), the Banff Playrites Colony, the Playhouse Theatre Company (Vancouver BC) and the Spirit of BC commission and development program.
Versions of the play have received staged readings at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, the Arthur Seleen Theatre in New York, and at the Vancouver Playhouse. In Feb 2008, a workshop production was presented by the Belfry Theatre (Victoria BC). After we got it up, we found lots worked but some still didn’t. So we have been working on a slight rewrite which will be incorporated into the upcoming Toronto production. We did a mentorship with Daniel MacIvor while he created A Beautiful View, and we very much view our process like his: so we call this a “developing production”…
8. I see from your website that you work mostly out west. Have you performed in Toronto before? Do you find there are differences between Western and Ontario audiences in general?
We are based out West so as actors we have mostly worked out here. As writer/performers we have actually traveled across Canada, USA, and internationally. DualMinds’ mandate is to develop work that we can tour. We believe that in crossing provinces, countries and boarders, we have the ability to make social, political and personal differences seem less extreme
We performed Tuesdays & Sundays in the Toronto Fringe in 2001. We were totally nervous but the press and community were so very welcoming and supportive of that one. We were the only 5-star review in Eye Weekly, and received Now Magazine’s Outstanding New Play and Production awards, and ended up on their list of “Top Ten Plays of 2001”. So we’re hoping Toronto will welcome our new play! As far as audiences in Toronto, didn’t really notice a difference … although the T-dot was the only place where a large portion of the audience waited outside the theatre and clapped for us as we came out … that hasn’t happened anywhere else!
9. What are you most looking forward to during your time at Summerworks?
Seeing shows, visiting with friends, hearing music, and being inspired. Premiering new work is always exhilarating and terrifying! As artists, what can we do but be brave and keep trying… Luckily, we have an amazing group of people to create and play with, a few of which have worked in Toronto more than us; our director Ron Jenkins most recently did Bash’d at the Fringe and The Red Priest at Factory; and our designer David Fraser often works with Buddies.
10. What is in the future for DualMinds?
Well, we got a BC Arts Council grant to write a new musical which we have a rough draft of – that’s been a lot of fun! And we also have other writing projects – Any Night’s been offered a film option; and we’re adapting Tuesdays & Sundays into a feature film – but right now we want to continue touring this production of Any Night, because that’s what we created it for! DualMinds is essentially a creative entity so we’re hoping to find presenters for the show – not only in Canada but beyond. Beyond that, we just want to continue telling stories that have a universal impact.