Jane Miller (Lake Nora Arms) interviews Heather Davies of TORONTO NOIR
1. What drew you to these stories?
They explore the underbelly of ‘Toronto the Good’. They’re characters that are three dimensional, local, come from a recognizable genre, Film Noir, (and a genre that I think is fun!) and explore a super theme- guilt, or the lack of it. The quality of the writing, which is super, was also a compelling factor.
2. What’s the biggest challenge going to be for you and your company in adapting them to the stage?
I’ve been out of town for a few months- so everything, casting, designing, organising posters, contracts, has all been done via phone and internet. That’s been a wee challenge. I’m really looking forward to getting in the rehearsal room with everyone- I think that will feel relatively easy after the challenges of organizing from abroad… Once we get into the rehearsal room I think the challenge will be getting the three separate stories to work together as one theatre piece.
3. What’s the biggest opportunity going to be?
The learning curve of doing the project- at the moment the biggest opportunity is the amount there is to be learned by participating in Summerworks. After that- we’ll see what happens- one step at a time…
4. How hard was it to convince the authors to allow you to use their material? Did anyone make any requests/demands/limitations on what you can do with them?
I was really surprised and delighted that all three people, Sean Dixon, Kim Moritsugu and Michael Redhill all gave me permission. I’ve never had that happen. I’ve written to people about adapting fiction into a theatre before- but this was the most positive response. I was absolutely thrilled when they said yes. The starting point for our conversations about requests/demands was that the integrity of the stories was really important. We then moved on from there.
5. Why do you make theatre? Why this art form?
Theatre- hmm…. This could be a really long answer. The short answer is because I love telling and sharing stories and I think that an audience experiences them in a different way when ‘it’s live and in the same room’ and I like that. For me it’s an intimate, human, universal and timeless experience- My reason for doing theatre changes all the time- there are so many enjoyable components to it!
6. How does this piece fit into the trajectory of your career?
Well, it’s the first play that I’ve directed in Canada- I’ve just finished an MFA in Theatre at York and was living and working in the UK before that. This is totally new territory for me, producing, adapting, working in Canada, it’s a wonderful and slightly terrifying chapter. Not sure about where it fits into the trajectory, but I’m sure that will all become clear in good time. I really wanted to do it- so I’m excited about doing it.
7. What’s going to be the draw for audiences to want to see this show?
Film Noir meets “Toronto the Good”. These are the people in your neighbourhood, Parkdale, The Distillery District and the St Lawrence Market, as you’ve never seen them. Fantastic characters committing delightfully amoral acts. Three witty, macabre, local tales by brilliant Canadian writers, brought to life with music, dynamic acting and movement.
8. Do you like questionnaires?
Love ‘em! They make you think about what you’re doing-
9. What resources are you drawing on personally for this work and which do you need to find in others in your company?
I’m producing for the first time, so I need lots of help with this from other company members. I’m adapting for the first time, so I’m speaking to lots of chums about this- and I’m also directing, thankfully I feel comfortable doing that! I’m going to need support with music and movement from the company- and I’m sure that there will be a fair amount of collaboration in the rehearsal room. It’s super to be working with a cast that have such a wide range of expertise: music, mime, Suzuki, Viewpoints, dance, Growtowski… it’s very exciting.
10. What do you hope people will leave the theatre feeling/thinking after seeing Toronto Noir?
That they love the characters created by the writers- Kim Moritsugu, Sean Dixon and Michael Redhill. I also hope that people laugh, are a bit shocked by some of the characters’ behavior and if they say, “That was fun! I laughed and oooh- it’s made me think what a lovely person I am!” that would be marvellous. If people went on to read more work by these writers, or to see more of their theatre work, then that would be excellent.