Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In a Word... Brendan Healy on Pig

(photo of Brendan Healy via Buddies in Bad Times website)

by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Originally from Montreal, Brendan Healy began his career as an actor, appearing most-notably in Peter Hinton’s production of Greg MacArthur’s Girls! Girls! Girls!, presented at the 2001 Festival TransAmériques. It was at that festival that Mr. Healy met Richard Maxwell, whose company, the New York City Players, is considered to be one of the most influential alternative theatre companies currently operating in Manhattan. That meeting led Mr. Healy to New York where he interned under Mr. Maxwell and where he decided to dedicate himself exclusively to directing. Since relocating to Toronto over a decade ago, Brendan has established himself as a central figure in the city’s theatre scene and his work has been presented across the country. Notable productions include: Jean Genet’s The Maids, Nina Arsenault’s The Silicone Diaries, Sarah Kane’s Blasted, Martin Crimp’s Fewer Emergencies and Wallace Shawn’s A Thought in Three Parts. He is a graduate of the National Theatre School’s Directing Program and he has trained extensively with one of the pioneers of the American avant-garde Anne Bogart and the SITI Company. His productions have garnered multiple Dora Mavor Moore Awards and he is a recipient of the Ken McDougall and the Pauline McGibbon awards for directing. Mr. Healy was the associate artist at Crow’s Theatre before becoming the Artistic Director of Buddies in Bad Times and is a regular instructor at the National Theatre School of Canada.

CHARPO:  You're just coming off directing Entertaining Mr. Sloane at Soulpepper [read our review] and are jumping into directing Pig. Aside from the fact that you don't seem to have a summer to yourself, how does the energy transfer - both physical and intellectual?

HEALY: The energy just builds upon itself. I am feeling very inspired by everything that I am doing and I am fortunate to be able to work on such amazing works. My work feeds me intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically. I always seem to have energy. The real struggle in my life is finding the time to do everything that I want and to make space for a personal life. I suspect that most people struggle with this.
CHARPO: Now tell us about Pig. I can't help thinking with the title and the way it's described we're heading into some controversial territory.

HEALY: The play follows three gay couples testing the emotional and physical boundaries of their relationships. It's an extraordinary play about desire, sex, intimacy and death in gay male sexuality. 

It's also about this particular junction in gay male history where we are presented with a socially-accepted path that involves monogamy, marriage and mid-class values and explores whether this is what we really want. 

It's also about the line between what is real and what is fantasy in a world where so much of our sexual lives are lived out through online channels. I believe that it posits that our virtual/imagined selves are as REAL as our "real"-world social selves. Or perhaps it goes even further by suggesting that our virtual selves are more real than our "real"-world selves. This is a very exciting debate right now. [Slovene philosopher and culture critic Slavoj] Žižek makes a similar argument – for instance, he makes the argument that someone who pretends to be a serial killer online is most likely a serial killer. It's just that the social constraints involved in existing in the "real"-world are so strong that this person will not allow themselves to act on their impulses. The recent case of the "cannibal cop" in the US seems to point to society's gradual acceptance of this – he was convicted for crimes that he never actually committed beyond virtual spaces. Anyways, we live in very interesting times when it comes to the question of what is our true nature/self and PIG dives right into the heart of this. I suppose that this is what truly makes the play 'controversial': I think that we are still made very uncomfortable by the notion that perhaps much of what we think we are, believe in and represent are complete social fabrications that have little to do with who we really are.

CHARPO: This play - and your own mandate at Buddies - seem to be re-inscribing Buddies as not just a Queer theatre but as an 'out there' company. Is that the intention?

HEALY: I don't know how I feel about the moniker of 'out there' but I believe that Buddies has always been a space for innovation, experimentation and radicalism for the past 35 years. I'm just attempting to do my best to live up to this legacy in my own way.

CHARPO: Is there a danger - with marriage equality, etc. - that North American Gay writers will become, not to put too fine a point on it, 'fat and complacent'?

HEALY:  Well, there's nothing wrong with getting fat. 

I do think that our society as a whole is in danger of getting complacent. We live at a time when so many people feel disenfranchised and powerless to affect any real change – whether it be politically, personally or spiritually. We have lost a sense of class consciousness. We have really bought into the idea that we are all just consumers and that the market place is really the only place where we are able to exercise free choice. I see this happening everywhere, not just within the Gay community. I am a hippy at heart and I view Queer liberation as being intimately tied to class, race, gender and sexual oppression. I cannot totally tease these issues apart in my mind. I want freedom for all people. 

CHARPO: Aside from Tim Luscombe, needless to say, who are some other writers we should be keeping an eye on.

HEALY: Tarell Alvin McCraney – I've just discovered him via Mel Hague at Obsidian theatre. He's a young African-American playwright who EVERYONE needs to keep their eyes on. Check out this New York Times review of his thrilling trilogy "The Brother/Sister Plays".  

Pig is at Buddies in Bad Times September 14-October 6

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