Daniel MacIvor is no stranger to the pages of Arts East. The award-winning Nova Scotia playwright has had a prolific and profound run of productions across the Atlantic region - and the country - in recent years. Recently he opened up to AE about Bingo!, which premiers tonight at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax, and runs until November 4.
What inspired you to pen Bingo!?I had been working at the Banff Centre during a five week residency in a cabin in the woods. I was finishing a draft of my play "Arigato, Tokyo" a rather heavy romantic tragedy influenced by my time in Japan and the fundamentals of Noh Theatre. I managed to get through the draft and still had a week left in the residency. As a kind of exorcism of the darker work I had just been immersed in I felt like I wanted to work on something lighter, something that was no-holds-barred comedy. I remembered a conversation I had with my old friend Steve MacDonald and his partner Debbie Corkum in their kitchen in Cape Breton about trying to make work for an east coast audience that would really speak to them in a lighthearted but true way and I had an idea about a thirty year class reunion and I immediately thought of the title Bingo!. The next morning I came into the kitchen and Steve had already made the poster and put it up on his fridge. It felt like something real already. So with the extra time in Banff I went back to that idea and within the week I had the first draft of the play.
What has the response been like from audiences/critics to the work?So far so good. The critics have loved it in its first production with Mulgrave Road Theatre and in its second production at Praire Theatre Exchange in Winnipeg. And audiences have been able to see themselves in the play. People in their forties and fifties see themselves and people in their twenties and thirties see their parents. I think people are hungry for comedy in the theatre, something that makes them laugh but at the same time allows them to reflect on their own experiences.
Does that matter to you?Critical response matters less and less to me. It's taken me a long time but I'm confident enough in my work and my motives that a negative review doesn't crush me like it once did. The critic is doing a job and I understand that, every play isn't for every person. And when one thinks about how many plays a critic must see in a season it's pretty impressive then can keep any kind of perspective at all. For me it's all about the audience response. I don't even need to talk to the audience to know if the play working, being in the room with them you can tell what's landing and what isn't. That's a big part of why I continue to rewrite after the show has opened and is running. Very seldom would I make a change in a play based on a review but often based on an audience reaction.
What has it been like to work with Heather Rankin?Heather is a superstar. She's one of those people who is so confident in front of an audience that you can't take her eyes off her. And while she's a born performer she still has a genuine and totally honest access to her heart. And not only that she is one of the kindest and most generous humans I have had the pleasure to meet. We all love Heather.
What can audiences expect during the Neptune run?Wonderful performances from Emmy Alcorn, John Beale, Marty Burt, Heather Rankin and Ryan Rogerson and an excellent set and lighting design from our designers Garrett Barker and Vicky Williams. I'm very excited about having these great actors on in that beautiful stage in that special space. Audiences can expect a full evening, lots of laughs and a tug on a heartstring or two.
What’s next on your creative agenda?I have a couple of new plays in the works and I'm working on a solo show based on the memoirs of the American monologist Spalding Gray. The solo show I'm currently touring "This is What Happens Next" plays at the Studio theatre at Neptune as part of Eastern Front's season in November and then we're on to Toronto and a run at Alberta Theatre Projects in Calgary.