For Daniel MacIvor, the creative process doesn’t germinate from an idea. His process is gradual and instinctual and, if he heeds to the feeling, the idea will come – eventually.
“There are lots of wonderful playwrights who start with an idea, like Tom Stoppard and Howard Barker. They come in, academically or intellectually, to the process. I don’t do that. I’m intuitive – it reveals itself over the course of time,” said MacIvor, a playwright, director and actor who will serve as Western’s Writer-in-Residence for the 2017-18 term.
“That intuitive process is an interesting thing to bring into an academic setting, where people are first and foremost trained to think, retaught to think. In some ways, that is wonderful. But what I will hopefully bring is the idea of listening to a more intuitive voice that can be coupled with thinking around structure and thinking around classical ideas of making fiction and making work performative. That’s a good marriage of what the academic world asks of a person and what I am asking.”
Western houses Canada’s longest-running Writer-in-Residence program, which was established in 1972. Among the alumni of that program are Alice Munro, Margaret Laurence, Joan Barfoot and André Alexis, just to name a few. The Writer-in-Residence works to raise the profile of literary activity in the community and enriches the local cultural scene, often engaging audiences with little previous literary experience.
Originally from Cape Breton, N.S., MacIvor ran da da kamera, an international touring company that brought his work extensively through Canada and the United States, to Israel, Norway, Holland, Australia and throughout the United Kingdom, for two decades. He has written a number of award-winning theatre productions, including See Bob Run, A Beautiful View, His Greatness and The Best Brothers. His work has been translated into French, Portuguese, Spanish, Czech, German and Japanese.
As Western’s 48th Writer-in-Residence, part of his work on campus will revolve around helping develop the newly renovated Theatre Studies Program, which is attracting much student attention. MacIvor plans to work with students and the broader London community on fostering creative thinking, writing and an appreciation for theatre and the doors of self-discovery it opens, he noted.
“Studying theatre makes us better humans. It’s the liberal arts. Theatre study is a really interesting way of discovery into who one is, and what one wants, and sometimes, when you enter into a theatre studies program, you don’t know where you want to go with that. But it will reveal itself; it’s a wonderful kind of broad and blank canvas,” explained MacIvor, who is perhaps best known for his acting roles in independent films and the Canadian sitcom, Twitch City.
MacIvor received the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama for his collection of plays I Still Love You and was awarded the Siminovitch Prize for Theatre in 2008. He is the recipient of an Obie Award and a GLAAD Award for his play In On It. As a screenwriter, his first script was for the Genie Award-winning short, The Fairy Who Didn’t Want to be a Fairy Anymore. As a writer/director, he has helmed Past Perfect and Wilby Wonderful, the latter of which won the Audience Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain.
But his pride and joy as a writer and actor doesn’t rest on awards or accolades, MacIvor added. Like inspiration, pride comes back to that sense of feeling.
“The greatest compliment, and one of the greatest things that has stayed with me, is when a fellow came up to me once and said, ‘Oh, I saw that show you did. I don’t remember what it was called, or what it was about, but I remember how I felt.’ I thought, ‘Oh, that’s kind of the point, in a way,’” he said.
“For me, it isn’t about you taking my idea. It’s more about the feeling in it that we share. I certainly like ideas, and I like when they come, but I do think there’s something about the theatre that’s about us feeling something together or having a feeling together.”
Alongside one-on-one mentoring and initiatives to bring in the broader London community, MacIvor will run a three-day workshop called Play Finding. He hopes to see participants come to him with ideas or an outline, or even a desire to write, hoping to help them discover their voice. He plans to give public talks about the creative process, sharing his and helping others discover their own.
MacIvor will also spend part of his time in residence working on the libretto for Hadrian, an opera he is creating with renowned composer and singer Rufus Wainwright, a project commissioned by the Canadian Opera Company. He is in the early stages of a musical with Steven Page, formerly of the Barenaked Ladies, at the Stratford Festival and comes to Western having been in residence at the Banff Centre, developing a new solo show, It Could Have Been Worse. MacIvor is working on a new play, The Myth of Men.