Daniel MacIvorThe question always puzzled me back in elementary school.

“Who is your hero and why?”

I could never give a proper answer, despite the demands of classroom projects. Sure, I could think of people who had done things I admired, or who had character traits I wished to emulate, but no one person really distinguished themselves enough in my mind to warrant the title of Hero. When I was in my Civilization 2 craze, I said Sid Meier. Afterwards, I said Terry Pratchett (author of the Discworld series). Had to fill that page of the project somehow. But neither really fit.

In my first year at UVic’s theatre department, I discovered Daniel MacIvor. At the Studio Series auditions (where I was sitting as playwright for Hullaboo, whispering away to my director), I saw my (now) good friend David Perry perform an electric, charged monologue from MacIvor’s House, and I thought, “Gee, I really want to give that monologue a go”. I promptly found a copy of the script and read it; the words jumped right off the page.

I don’t quite know what it is about MacIvor’s work, but his characters take on their personalities so immediately, so arrestingly intriguingly, that they find their three-dimensionality in one page where most playwrights need a dozen.

I read up on what he was doing in the world. The man seemed to honest to goodness be making a living in this industry, and boy howdy was he respected among my theatre community. He had done it all: successful screenplays, television scripts, theatre for large scale casts, and one man shows that he himself performed in. He refused the model that says that a play is completely done the moment it hits opening night – a philosophy I’ve always found ridiculous. After all, how can live theatre really be complete without that crucial performance-altering ingredient that is an audience! And why NOT improve a show as it goes along? Why NOT give the closing audience the best darn show you can?

In short, the career I want for myself.

Then I found that my professor and friend (and celebrated playwright in her own right), Joan MacLeod, knew him well. Then last year, he came to UVic (at her bequest, I gathered) as part of a lecture series, where he performed something from House and spoke to students. I asked him a question on writing female characters. Then this year, I learned that one of our mainstages next Spring would be a play of his, Inside. And that he would be here this term for the auditions. That he would be rewriting the script to fit the cast. His life seemed to be spiralling closer and closer to my own.

I didn’t get in. Didn’t get a callback. In the audition hall, he, for some reason, leaned diagonally in his chair, a few seats to the right of the esteemed director, David Ferry. As us auditioners introduced ourselves, one by one, he leeeeeeeeaned over to Ferry’s table and scribbled little notes on the corners of the audition forms, then unleeeeeeeaned back to his slouched diagonal in his seat. Such a personality.

I even got to meet him. Meet the man who is possibly the closest I’ve had to answering that question of who is your hero. And how did it go?

The short: I bombed it pretty badly.

The long: On the day of callbacks, I was chatting with Joan in her office when she got a phone message from Daniel, who was on a brief break from the 30 called-back auditioners (culled from the nearly a hundred who he saw the day before). Joan and I continued our conversation as we walked just outside the Fine Arts building to where the exhausted Mr. MacIvor was waiting. Joan introduced me. I thanked him for doing this show for our theatre community. Then I added a “even from those of us who weren’t called back”, which was sincere, but sounds like a complaint. He apologized. I apologized. He apologized again. Joan mentioned that hey, I have my playwrighting to fall back on. I then made a crack about gee, how lucrative that industry is, with my zero knowledge, to two of the most successful Canadian playwrights in the country.

Wait, what? Of all the moments I would like to rewind.

Why did I say that? What possible reason had I… I still don’t know. True, I was feeling a bit down about not getting to be in a Daniel MacIvor show. But that’s no excuse. I understand how auditioning for a show works. And I try so hard to be a positive individual. But yes, one of my rare-ish bouts of negativity and pessimism came before Joan MacLeod and Daniel MacIvor.

After that, I left them to catch up, understanding that the last thing MacIvor probably wanted on his break was a jilted auditioner.

Regrets aside, it really was still good to meet him, to see more of his personality, to catch a glimpse at our differences and similarities.  To feel his empathic heart. For that, I am grateful.

So is he my hero? Well, he’s a good, talented man that I admire. I’ll leave it at that.

(Oh, and for the record? The first time I auditioned for… <<insert sound of heralding trumpets>> THE ACTING STREAM, I used another section from House as my monologue. I didn’t get in. For that, I would need the words of another Canadian playwright – Michel Tremblay. )

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