The following is an interview of David S. Craig by actress Brenda Kamino for Equity Quarterly, the magazine of the Canadian Actor’s Equity Association for her column About Face. It was published in April of 2005.
THIS IS NOT THE FIRST THEATRE YOU’VE FOUNDED. WHY IS THEATRE FOR YOUNG AND FAMILY AUDIENCES SO SPECIAL TO YOU?
Childhood is the crucible of our lives. When I stand in a group of people, my attention is drawn to the children. I find what they do fascinating. I also find, artistically, distilling my ideas and feelings into a form that is simple but not simplistic a great and worthy challenge. I love communicating with children. Their laughter is heavenly.
ROSENEATH THEATRE IS IN ITS 22ND YEAR AS A THEATRE FOR YOUNG AND FAMILY AUDIENCES, PRODUCING THEATRE WITH MUCH SUCCESS. WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY TO YOUR AUDIENCES/COMMUNITY?
Roseneath Theatre seeks to produce plays that are full of ideas and feelings and laughter and insight. Plays that reveal contemporary life for a contemporary audience. Flowers, that, when in full bloom, will share important qualities: They will be feasts, not fast food, simple, but not simplistic. They will talk to, not down to. They will be emotionally strong and true, not superficial. These are the guiding principles and tremendous challenges in creating a theatre for children which we embrace at Roseneath Theatre.
WHERE DOES THE NOTION OF DIVERSE CASTS AND CASTING FIT IN?
It’s a pretty obvious choice. We want our casting to reflect our audience. Now the audience at a downtown Toronto theatre may be pretty, how shall I say, mono-ethnic but the audience of children in any school is anything but. As an audience we want to see our lives onstage. On it’s simplest level that means seeing people who look like me!
WHAT COMES FIRST WHEN YOU WRITE A PLAY, THE ISSUE, THE STORY OR THE PARTICULAR TARGET AUDIENCE OR…?
I begins with a passionate connection, usually something that grabs me personally. Getting an idea is like going out on a date. There’s some great initial attraction. But then you start asking, can I spend the next two to three years with this person. That makes you think a little more practically and frequently the answer is no. But there’s always another idea.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PROJECT AS UNDERTAKEN BY ROSENEATH?
The next one.
ANY ADDITIONAL WORDS?
In Germany, with a population between two and three times bigger than Canada, they have one hundred and fifty professional theatres for young audiences. Most towns have a purpose built Mainstage theatre for young people. They create and produce different plays for different age groups. They have a whole canon of theatre called ‘classroom plays’. And surprise, surprise… their adult theatres are very well attended. Going to the theatre and talking about theatre and arguing about theatre is just part of life. We have about twelve professional TYA companies and two theatres. It’s not nearly enough. If kids saw plays three times a year they would become connoisseurs. They would start saying things like, “I thought the other play was funnier but I liked the set on this one more.” It would be an incredibly progressive investment. Will that happen? I don’t think so. We’ve succeeded in creating theatre artists. We have failed to create theatre audiences.