DalTheatre kicks off it's 2011-2012 season tonight with While We're Young, Don Hannah's tender and touching coming-of-age tale spanning six generations. Arts East spoke with the play's director Margot Dionne about the Halifax debut.

AE: How long have you been involved with Dal Theatre?
MD: This is my 5th year at Dal.

AE: What are the biggest challenges of your profession?
MD: Balancing my teaching and administrative duties with my artistic activities.

AE: What are the rewards?
MD: To behold my students grow and develop as artists and as people. To learn from them and with them through artistic endeavor. To grow as a teacher and director as one of the DalTheatre company, and to grow as an actor in the professional theatre.

AE: What did you choose While We're Young to kick-off the new season?
MD: I fell in love with this play when I heard Don Hannah reading a scene from it when he visited Dal a few years ago, having just won the Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award. I was blown away by its beauty and truth. The play had yet to be published. Don wrote it when he was the Playwright-in-Residence at the University of Alberta and he wrote for the ensemble of actors in the Acting Program there. I determined then and there that I would do this play, published or not. Of course, it has since been published. It is quite simply a perfect play for an ensemble of young actors. The writing is deep and rich, offering the actors and, indeed, the designers and tech students, the emotional and intellectual challenges of a great play.

AE: Are there any unique challenges in putting this particular piece together?
MD: We move from 2006 Edmonton to 19th century Nova Scotia to 1917 Passchendaele to 1939 Toronto to 1970 Edmonton to the present day. Also, a family runs through the play. Achieving clarity and flow with regards to time and place will be a challenge.

AE: What can audiences expect to experience during the run?
MD: Everyone will recognize themselves and relate to this play. Extremely thought-provoking, the play has young people tackling the big issues of love, marriage, death, loss, war, religion and spirituality. They grapple with belief systems passed down through the ages. A passionate and compassionate heart beats at the core of this play. Actors and audience come together in Hope.

October 12-15, David MacK.Murray Studio Theatre, 6101 University Avenue, $7/$14, 902.494.3820 /

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