Monday, September 30, 2013

The Question... Sarah Garton Stanley, Associate AD, NAC English Theatre

by Estelle Rosen

Montreal born and raised, Sarah Garton Stanley now lives between Ottawa and Kingston. She founded The Baby Grand, in Kingston, in 1985, then co-created Women Making Scenes in Montreal, and Die in Debt Theatre in Toronto, (a ground-breaking company dedicated large canvas site-specific work.) Sarah Garton Stanley is a former Artistic Director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, she co-helmed the Directing Program at the National Theatre School and is adjunct at Concordia University. Sarah creates work with Michael Rubenfeld including The Failure Show, Mothermothermother, and upcoming Oopsala and The Book of Judith. She is currently directing Beatrice and Virgil, (Lindsay Cochrane’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel) at the Factory. Her latest adventure is launching The Collaborations in her role as Associate Artistic Director of English Theatre at Canada's National Arts Centre.

CHARPO: You've been involved in various aspects of theatre for many years. Would you say previous theatre involvement was the precursor to your current position as Associate Artistic Director of English Theatre at National Arts Centre? 

STANLEY: There is a strong line that runs through all of my work: I am in love with theatre. (I am 50 now, and to declare such love seems unseemly at best, and positively Harlequinesque at worst.) Replete with this ardour are all the various attributes that present in a more conventional, person-to-person kind of love.

I have spoken to it in more than two official languages and it has responded to me in more than the ones I have addressed it with. I have, and continue to love it. And coupled with this love of theatre is a profound sense that Canada  - in its ever-changing totality - is my home. I have travelled much of it and worked in many parts of it and I am as passionate about its 'it-ness' as I am about the theatre that comes about as a result of it.

My work is primarily placed as a director. But I spend as much time disguised as a fire starter, or as a cocktail waitress, or as an investigative agent, or as a monk, or as a child, or as an unhappy spectator, or as a pretend monkey, or as an addled adolescent, or as a queer eye for the straight guy, or as a failure, or a fighter or as a lifeguard…as I do as a director. So, YES. Much that I have done has led me to where I am today.

I have a great job, working as the Associate Artistic Director of English Theatre at Canada’s National Arts Centre. There is an awesome team working in English Theatre. And, as well, I have the distinct privilege of working with fellow artist and exceptional leader, Jillian Keiley. I also got to self-style my 'handle' as her 'chief conversant', and I have heard tell that my 'chief conversant' stylings are being taken up by other artists in associate roles. And I say: “go for it!” To go without conversation is to go without collaboration. I try to remember this everyday.

I have a propensity for too much introspection, and conversation is both the tonic to this and the root of most theatrical work. Conversation is the key to our Collaborations: relationships that are extending in all directions from Ottawa. But for right now, I am just a hopeful director/converser who is heading into a workshop (at present Beatrice and Virgil in Toronto) aiming for some collaborative magic. And when I am not in the directing chair (which is a lot of the time) I am focusing my attentions on sparking collaborative conversations that can stoke our collective creative fires. It is excellent; really, I get to think about Canada and about theatre every single day. And it is the intertwining of these two loves, above all, that has brought me to National Arts Centre.

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