Monday, April 7, 2014

The Question... Stuart Fink on inFurnace Theatre and Living Room. Dark.

And Now...?
by Estelle Rosen

Stuart Fink has worked professionally as an actor and director in three provinces so far. Most recently he performed in the Opera de Montréal's production of Porgy and Bess. This past summer he was in productions of Self-Help by Norm Foster and the Wizard of Oz, with Kimberley Summer Theatre in Kimberley BC. He has been directing since 2010 when he directed, produced, and acted in Who's on First's production of Biloxi Blues by Neil Simon. Selected acting credits include Millet in Fuddy Meers by David Lindsay-Abaire, Jack in the Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde, Juror #10 in 12 Angry Men by Reginald Rose and Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night by Shakespeare. Stuart has a DEC in Theatre from John Abbott College and a BFA in Acting from the University of Alberta. 

CHARPO: Your website indicates the goal of inFurnace Theatre is to focus on "now" plays written in the last 15 years that resonate with 18-30 year olds who don't consider theatre as part of their regular activity. Basically to provoke and shake up the status quo. What prompted this focus and how's it going so far?

FINK: The focus for inFurnace's mandate came from my observations of what shows were currently being produced in this country. I've had the privilege to work in the theatre here in Montreal, in Edmonton and in a small town in BC called Kimberley, and everywhere I went I would see a lot of the same works, the same playwrights. And I understood why the companies were choosing those plays. The line between a financially successful show and a failure is always so razor-close, and companies have to bank on the playwright's already established reputation to guarantee ticket sales. (cont'd)

FINK: (cont'd) There's also a vicious circle going on in our theatre community, where the majority of play-goers are middle-aged and older. So we create work that demographic will appreciate. And they do appreciate it, and they come back for more, and they subscribe for full seasons. But a side-affect of that is we don't target the young adult demographic, who have grown up with a rougher, blunter style of storytelling from television and Hollywood, so they feel unwanted and don't come. We are in a society whose rules of conduct are becoming more and more accepting of the 'Other'; where being different is slowly becoming more celebrated, where all sexual orientations or gender classifications are respected. We're getting there. And our stories should speak with our new-found voices.

All that griping aside, there is such incredible work being done in this city, and I have nothing but high hopes for the continued growth of the English-speaking theatre audience. We chose this mandate because (aside from our personal connections to this material) we felt it filled a niche in our city that was under-developed. Montreal has enough terrific Shakespeare companies in town. And I dont know nearly enough about opera to do shows like the Opera de Montréal. 

inFurnace's goals are two-fold: To tell hard-hitting, thought-provoking stories in the voice and language of our current Canadian society. And to develop brand new Canadian work each year, with Canadian playwrights, to foster their development and give them a platform for their work. And in this, our inaugural season, we are pursuing those goals with all our combined creative expression and dedication. 

It began with our first production, of Stone Cold Dead Serious, by Adam Rapp, in October 2013. And is now continuing with Living Room. Dark., by Leah Jane Esau, a world premiere.

I met Leah Jane at a coffee shop 16 months ago, and I found her to be a strong, politically-minded, fierce woman. I knew that, as a National Theatre School playwrighting graduate, she would have game. But the work she has done in the past year, creating a brand new play from scratch, is a testament to the skill and commitment the next generation of Canadian playwrights have, and the urgency with which they need their voices to be heard. Leah Jane is at every rehearsal, and is editing the text every week, as we collaboratively (and it is a true collaboration in rehearsal, all the actors and designers have brought deep and meaningful insight) strive to tell a sharper and more concise story of a Montreal family at a cross-roads in their life. 

The next 24 days before we open are going to be a challenge for me. I've never been at the helm of a brand new play. But when I think about the work that Leah Jane, the actors, designers and the producing team at inFurnace have done so far, I have nothing but faith that we will bring a story to the Montreal community that needs to be heard. That will generate conversation, and debate. And that we will be proud to call a Canadian creation.

Come check it out. And feel free to say hi, I'll be the guy running the concession stand.

April 24 - May 3

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