Cross Your Heart

Most in Atlantic Canada’s theatre community are likely familiar with Amanda Campbell. As the voice of TWISI (The Way I See It), the young Haligonian has covered and reviewed performances both across the region and in Toronto. Her latest creative effort, Cross Your Heart, debuts Monday night at the Pier 21 Museum Railside Theatre, as part of the 22nd Atlantic Fringe Festival.

How long have you been involved with theatre, and in what capacity?
I started acting in school musicals when I was eight and began taking classes at the Neptune Theatre School when I was eleven. The first time I participated in the Atlantic Fringe Festival was actually with the theatre school in a collective creation called Two Planets in 1998. I went to Dalhousie University and the University of Toronto and got a BA and MA in Theatre Studies, which is where I started playwriting. I wrote a 30 minute musical called Waiting For Bernadette for the Dal Playwrights' Cabaret in 2006 and have since written two very short plays for the 24 Hour Theatre Thing at the Bus Stop Theatre in 2011 and 2010, but I consider this play to really be my official debut as a playwright, which is really exciting (and a little scary!)  

What are the challenges of the gig?
I find the biggest challenge to be letting the work go. As the playwright you feel a special ownership toward all the words and all the characters, and suddenly once you're in the room with the director and the actors you realize that they're not entirely yours anymore. You have to share! And the directors and the actors will make choices and sometimes they make you feel super antsy on the inside! But I am really lucky with this show because the director, Kaylon Fraser, and the actors we have are terrific and they're making my words sound better than I thought they could!!

What are the rewards?
I find the rewards in doing self-produced, independent theatre to be massive because you have to work so hard in so many various aspects of the show (writing, sending press releases, making posters etc.) so when everything magically slides into place it is a small core group of you who have made this living, heart pulsing production fly. I guess because sometimes all the odds seem against you (laughs) so it's so much more satisfying when the show reaches fruition. 

What inspired you to produce this show for Fringe?
I think I am most known in the theatre community for my Theatre Blog TWISI (, and I have been reviewing shows here and in Toronto since 2007, but primarily I do consider myself to be an artist and that creative side of me was getting restless and feeling neglected. Every time I wrote for the 24 Hour Theatre Thing I felt buoyed up, and I had this play just sitting on my computer that I had written two years ago in Toronto and I thought, "This year, you're just going to go for it. Fill out an application!" And now I'm sort of going "Eek! It's real! OH GOD." But so far it's been a blast. I love the Fringe Festival.

What can audiences expect to experience at the performance?
Audiences can expect to see a creative re-telling of some stories that they are probably familiar with. The play takes place on Desolation Row, borrowed from the Bob Dylan tune, where time is fluid and historical and fictional figures intersect into one another's lives. So, in this play you see William Shakespeare before he has written his first play, Wendy Darling years after Peter Pan has stopped taking her to Neverland and Mary Magdalene within weeks of Christ's death and how they change each other's lives in a bus station.

What are your thoughts on the state of theatre in Halifax and Atlantic Canada?
I think that Halifax theatre is a really exciting place to be right now. There are so many young theatre companies that have sprung up, so many talented young, independent theatre artists, the mainstay "Indie" Companies, Zuppa and 2b Theatre, are getting national and international recognition for their consistently terrific work and the caliber of productions in Halifax and all across the province seems to be getting more and more impressive each year. I am so proud to live and work here.

What can we be doing better?
I think the biggest challenge that theatre artists face is reaching out to the public and developing a new audience. I think one of the things we have to do better as a community is to make it as easy as possible for the artists in the city to see our shows, which Thom Fitzgerald does so brilliantly during Fringe, but also we as artists need to develop even more of a habit of seeing as many productions in Halifax as we can, not just the ones produced by our friends, especially the ones coming in from out of town and I think all Artistic Directors are doing themselves a great disservice if they do not attend the shows of the "emerging" theatre companies. That would be a good start, but then, of course, we need to reach the public and that is the REAL challenge. I would love to see more theatre coverage on television and on the radio in this city. It shouldn't be so difficult to get a 10 minute slot on Breakfast Television or a segment on Live at Five for theatre. The public needs to know that theatre is happening in Halifax all year round, not just at Neptune, or else there is no chance of us filling our chairs!

What's next on your creative agenda?
Oh gosh! Well, I do have another play that I would love to produce here - it's quite a bit longer than this one and also has three characters. Most of my plays seem to be triangles. I'll have to save up some cash so I can afford a venue for that one! For now I'm throwing everything I've got into Cross Your Heart, so I hope everyone comes to see it and has a very Happy Fringe!!

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