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Quite the first impression

Playwright Daniel MacIvor couldn't have found a better time to meet PTE's new artistic director

This article was published 23/1/2019 (615 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A year ago, actor-playwright Daniel MacIvor was driving between his home bases from Nova Scotia to Toronto when he got into a "pretty terrible" car accident while travelling through New Brunswick.

"I rolled the car and totalled it," he recalls while on break from rehearsal in the Prairie Theatre Exchange complex at Portage Place. "I was stranded. I had no phone. I left my phone in the police car."

Daniel MacIvor (left) and Andrew Moodie

LEIF NORMAN PHOTO

Daniel MacIvor (left) and Andrew Moodie

"It was pretty bad. The car was a write-off and my dog (a greyhound named Buddy) and I were stranded in Oromocto, (N.B.).

"So I called some people in Toronto and they said, ‘Call Thomas Morgan Jones,’ who I didn’t know," he says of Jones, then the artistic director of Theatre New Brunswick in Fredericton.

"They got in touch with Thomas and he came and rescued me. He came to Oromocto and picked me up and he took me to his home and he took me and my dog and he fed us and let me stay overnight," MacIvor says. "So he was kind of a saviour of mine."

At the time, Jones was already the artistic director-designate at Prairie Theatre Exchange (although he had not yet been announced.)

"It’s very interesting that a year later, here we are and I’m in his first season at PTE," he says. "So Thomas and I have kind of an intimate relationship, oddly, and that he was my Good Samaritan."

With all that drama attached to a simple road trip, it makes sense then that MacIvor would be one of the country’s foremost playwrights. His work includes plays such as Marion Bridge, Never Swim Alone and Cul-de-sac, but theatregoers may have caught him as recently as last April in Winnipeg performing his monologue Who Killed Spalding Gray? at the Colin Jackson Studio.

That play, and the new PTE offering, the world première of New Magic Valley Fun Town, were programmed by now-retired PTE artistic director Robert Metcalfe, and if you’ve only seen MacIvor’s monologue work, prepare for a more fully fleshed out multi-character drama this time out.

"It’s about a family in Cape Breton, a husband and wife who have been separated for many years but they are still very much involved in one another’s lives," says MacIvor, who was born in Sydney, N.S., Cape Breton Island’s largest city.

"They have an adult daughter who has been in and out of grad school and now she’s back home because the father has been ill with a number of cancers back to back. And he’s preparing for a reunion with a friend of his from high school that he hasn’t seen in 30 years."

MacIvor proffers no spoilers for the drama, a co-production with Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre, except that it’s laced with laughs, befitting its Cape Breton characters.

"It’s typically Cape Breton with a good deal of humour," MacIvor says. "That’s sort of how comedy mitigates the tragedy. And then moving through the tragedy, we find some kind of rebirth.

Playwright-actor Daniel MacIvor returns to Winnipeg for PTE's production of his play, New Magic Valley Fun Town.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Playwright-actor Daniel MacIvor returns to Winnipeg for PTE's production of his play, New Magic Valley Fun Town.

"I find it a very typically island story," he says, advancing a theory that people who live on an island are more attuned to their own mortality.

"There’s a sense of when you live on an island, you’re very aware there is an ending," he says. "The land ends and there’s no escape from the ending, so you’re always living with the ending. When you live inland you go: Well. you never know. Maybe it’s going to go on forever."

MacIvor again found himself challenged when he took the role of the embattled patriarch Dougie. You would think it would be easy to learn lines you wrote yourself, but that’s not necessarily the case.

"I’m equally challenged because it’s easier to write things than to learn them," he says, allowing that the double role of playwright and actor could also be challenging for director Richard Rose, too.

"I’ll say, ‘As a writer I just want to say... ‘

"And he’ll say, ‘You’re not the writer right now. You’re an actor right now, so you probably shouldn’t have anything to say as a writer ..."

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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