As we reach the close of week two, I find myself getting more and more excited about the direction things are going for Mature Young Adults. In celebration of some of the exciting discoveries and concepts we've been playing with in the rehearsal hall, I've asked Alexander Offord, our dextrous director, to consent to an interview to tease and illuminate some of what we've been working on.
Alexander is a colleague from George Brown Theatre School who has been involved with Mature Young Adults for a little over a year, since directing the public workshop presentation this time last summer. He is a novelist, director, playwright, intellectual, and all around great guy. He also happens to be one of the best actors I know (more on that next season...). Recent projects include: The Hystericon (Toronto Fringe) which he wrote and directed and Or Be Eaten (also TO Fringe) which he directed. Last year's Fringe he was featured as an actor in the "Shakespeare-of-the-Absurd" hit Madhouse Dramedy and was the reluctant director of the Gaelic musical, Tam Lin. His thoughts can be further sought out on his Blog, which you can access here.
Aim for the Tangent: What interests you about Mature Young Adults and what drew you to the project?
Alexander Offord: If you're any kind of consumer of culture at all, there are certain trends or evolutions in form that you've necessarily been saturated with, particularly in the last twenty years or so. Almost of all of these trends or forms reduce to what we might call "irony," which is to say the kind of self-conscious, wink-wink-nudge-nudge-ing that one sees in TV programs like HBO's Girls, where day-to-day tragedy & self-reproach & inner turmoil are removed from the characters' experience & replaced with a carapace of dramatic self-awareness that is both a) the inevitable consequence of a generation of hyper-educated, internet-fed young people suddenly being driven to create art, & b) dangerously seductive in terms of being accessible & entertaining to watch. It also happens, at least in my opinion, to be at times seriously abrasive to the soul. The American critic Lewish Hyde once wrote, in an essay called Alcohol and Poetry: "Irony has only emergency use. Carried over time it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy their cage."
Mature Young Adults appealed to me because it is about unhip, uncool, unsexy subject matter. It is about the day-to-day experience of human beings who, above all else, feel. It is about two young people who are in love, old-school love, before the whole notion was reduced to eye rolling and a misting of A10 cells with dopamine in the ventral tegmental area of the brain. If there is going to be another major aesthetic movement in the coming years, I suspect it might be a return to themes or characters that are easily written off as "sentimental." It will be a second-coming of characters who don't need to be admired, only loved.
To Wesley's credit, it's also one of a very small minority of plays which I read & didn't just see the playwright trying to convince the audience how smart he is.
Were there any challenges that come to mind (either in the rehearsal process or working with a new script or even not getting to go to Halifax to see the end result...)?
AO: This depends on what is meant by "challenges." I try to excise difficulty from my creative process by working with people more talented than I. Yes, there were serious cuts made to the script; yes, there are always sticky points in rehearsal, but in truth, the biggest challenge in working with Wes & Renée is resisting the temptation to dick around too much.
That being said, the venue itelf is causing me a certain amount of psychic pain, but to an extent that's the nature of Fringe. My kingdom for @#$%ing gobo...
AO: I have a whole rant I could do about this but I don't know of how much interest it would be to your readers. My only experiences thus far have been with the Toronto Fringe, so I can really only speak to that. I guess I would say that conceptually the Fringe is possibly the most important theatre festival in the country, in that it provides basically the only venue for emerging artists to not only a) produce their work on a budget, but b) actually get people to see the stuff. The Canadian theatre scene is so hellaciously underfunded that there is a real hostility to young artists from a lot (though not all) of the establishment. Fringe to certain extent obviates some of this restriction.The worst thing about Fringe really doesn't come from either its patrons or staff/volunteers, but from the reviewers. A sad reality is that far too many people decide to see shows based solely on the arbitrary tastes of a particular journalist. Which, whatever, critics are just doing their job & everyone has to eat & live. But the notion that the worth or existential merit of a work can be reduced to how many fucking "N's" it gets is pretty dispiriting.
What's the best and worst thing about working in Fringe?
What's something you learned from your first relationship?AO: That all grievances, no matter how small, must be aired. Fighting, or at least bickering, is very healthy in a relationship.
AO: I have nothing whatsoever to say to any past girlfriend. Which should tell you a great deal.
If you could ask a past girlfriend one thing, what would it be?
Why should people see MYA over other options in the Fringe?
AO: Because in ten years when Wesley's Artistic Director of the Tarragon Theatre, and Renée's been forced to hire servants just for the task of polishing her Doras, you'll want to be able to say that you saw them act in a shitty art gallery in Halifax for ten bucks. If you remember my name at all, it'll most likely be in some formulation of, "Oh yes, I saw his production of 'Aladdin' at the Norfolk County Theatre. It was a little slow, I thought.'"
IN OTHER NEWS...
Today marks the penultimate day with our beloved Associate Producer, Lois Dawson, who will be abandoning us for the West Coast (or as I like to call it, the second best Coast) in scant few hours. Lois has been an enormous help on the project thus far, and will no doubt continue from afar. She is spending her final hours in the city watching our first run through tomorrow... No pressure at all.
We have also had a slight set back procuring a bench for our set. If anyone has - or knows anyone who has - access to a park bench in or near Halifax, please feel free to message me!