February 24, 2006
What's in a label?
A founder of Da Da Kamera shares a Canadian view of America, backstage at the companyís final show
Columbus--Daniel MacIvor is one of the founders of Da Da Kamera (literally translated as ďyes, yes to the small roomĒ and often written in lowercase), one of Canadaís most prominent modern theater companies. In their 20-year history, they have explored the creation of new works where the process of making drama often becomes part of the story being told.
As an out citizen of Canada, but one who loves to work in the U.S., MacIvor has an interesting perspective as he peeks into the politics of sexuality from his vantage point across the border.
MacIvor was interviewed in the performance space at the Wexner Center for the Arts, where he was putting the finishing touches on their latest creation, the world premiere of A Beautiful View. Itís part of an artistsí residency at Wexner.
The piece explores many of the themes Da Da Kamera has always been obsessed with and here it is told through the lens of two women who meet as friends, fall in love, fall out of love, and continue on this roller-coaster journey over a few decades.
MacIvor is an engaging human being, thoughtful and compassionate, intelligent and intense, as our interview proved.
Kaizaad Kotwal: Tell me a little about Da Da Kamera.
Daniel MacIvor: We have been around for twenty years and this is actually our last show.
KK: Youíre closing down Da Da Kamera? What precipitated this?
DM: I feel like the nature of the work we do has been explored to the fullest. Our work, which has been labeled as postmodern and meta-theatrical, has explored the nature of always being conscious of the work itself within the play. I feel like I am moving in a different direction, towards the well-made play, and I want to keep the legacy of Da Da Kamera pure.
KK: When did this shift towards more traditional theater insert itself into your artistic being?
DM: I was cast in [David Mametís] Oleanna eight years ago and I started to revisit the works of Edward Albee. Plus, some of the cinematic writing I have been doing has been moving me in that direction.
KK: What was the impulse that led you to develop this piece?
DM: I have always had an interest in the naming of things, the way we kill something by naming it. Once we name something, like a vista as beautiful or a person as a homosexual or a Christian, it stops growing organically. Once we label it, it stops being alive.
KK: What role does the love affair between these two women play in this exploration of naming things?
DM: They start out as friends and their relationship becomes sexual accidentally and it hijacks the friendship. These are two people who donít thing theyíre the kinds of people this would happen to.
KK: Would the piece be the same if you were exploring all this through the eyes of two men?
DM: I hate to generalize, but I am going to. Men have an ability to shut down and walk away. Women donít see that as a healthy way of dealing with it. So, no, it wouldnít be the same.
KK: If this were Hollywood, they would have made you tell the story with one man and one woman. Would that be the same piece?
DM: Well, the male-female relationship is the paradigm that we are all supposed to work towards and this piece tries to dismantle that paradigm.
KK: Is the sexuality central to the piece or is it the vehicle to explore the other themes?
DM: Both. It is just part of my DNA, so it [homosexuality] becomes part of the show.
KK: Canada recently elected a Conservative government, this after the Liberal one made gay marriage legal. Are you worried that it might be reversed under the new administration?
DM: Canadian Conservatives are much less conservative than the Republicans so I am not as fearful. It would be very difficult to overturn it procedurally. One of our prime ministers, [Pierre] Trudeau, once said that the government has no place in peopleís bedroom. Plus, we have that polite British influence where you donít talk about sex. And we have a much clearer separation between church and state, which is claimed in the U.S. but does it really exist? Also, the Conservatives were elected not because people voted for them, but because they voted against the corrupt Liberals for their shady dealings and taking advantage of their position.
KK: When you look across the border and see the rabid and vehement anti-gay laws and sentiments here in the U.S., what do Canadians make of that?
DM: Well, we know that the last election here was won on the anti-gay marriage issues. There are many elements of this country I love and I donít want to say anything against it or many of the people. But, there was a time when I thought that America was the place to be, the place to have a future. But not any more.
KK: If A Beautiful View became part of our cultural zeitgeist like Brokeback Mountain has this past year, you would be accused of ďaiding the homosexualization of AmericaĒ by people who protest these forms of artistic expression. What are your views on this?
DM: What is going on here is so inane, seems so weird. Makes me feel like that for my next life I donít want to come back as a human. Ignorance is my pet peeve.
People who protest based on a press release, who have probably never even seen the work, are so ignorant.
But then again, here we are, back to the naming of things. Like a gay cowboy movie. As far as I know, itís a love story, isnít it?
KK: Have you seen it?
DM: No. I have heard itís very sad. And I hear they make you cry at the end and not give you much time before the lights come back on.
KK: Since you straddle both countries with your work, is it easier being gay on a daily basis in Canada than in the U.S.?
DM: I think that has to do with the level of comfort with oneself.
KK: But you donít wake up in Canada each and every day seeing headlines or TV news pieces about say, our Ohio legislation that plans to bar gay people from adopting or fostering kids. Or an unhinged evangelical blaming 9-11 on the homosexuals.
DM: Yes. But there is something of having to fight that creates strength; a stronger community like you have here. There is a price to pay no matter where you are.
KK: Earlier you said you didnít want to come back as a human being. What would you like to be reincarnated as?
DM. I would love to do a quick cat.
KK: Quick cat? Cats have nine lives. And why a cat?
DM: No, Iíd be a naughty cat. Cats have great lives. Iíd want a big house with lots of mice, a big yard and be very independent. Then Iíd want to come back as a quick rock star.
KK: Why that? And are you implying that rock stars are not human?
DM: Well, they donít live very human lives. Iíd come back as a Curt Cobain. They always go quickly and then Iíd come back as a Buddhist monk for a very long time and then be done with this mortal coil.
KK: Well, letís suppose you came back as a politician from Canada and it was your duty to convince the anti-gay right-wingers to stop the insanity, what would you say to them?
DM: Well, first of all, I think it would help if I spoke to them as a man of the cloth. But I would take them back to their own book of worship. The basis of all religion is to love one another. We all want to love and be loved whether it is a man or a woman or a god. The only way to win war is to wage a war of love.
We have to love the bullshit out of them. We have to love the fear out of them.
MacIvor will be seen later this year in a film called A Whole New Thing, which he co-wrote as well. The comic film tells the story of a 13-year old boy who falls in love with his older male teacher. His Da Da Kamera will bring down the curtains after its last season in Toronto. After that he isnít sure where he will end up. But with his talent and his perspective on things, itís going to be someplace good!
A Beautiful View, Da Da Kameraís current production, will be at the Wexner Center, 1871 North High Street, Columbus, from March 1 to 5. For more information, call 614-2920330 or go to www.wexarts.org.