INTERVIEW WITH GILLIAN CLARK
Gillian Clark is a Halifax-based theatre artist. You can catch her show Let's Try This Standing, playing between Aug.4 and Aug 13 at Summerworks. http://summerworks.ca/artists/lets-try-this-standing/
Interview by Rebeccah Love
In your upcoming show ‘Let’s Try This Standing’, you explore life after having been hit by an SUV while standing on the sidewalk. What was the writing process like for this piece?
It started off as journaling - as a way for me to make sense of my PTSD. It was really empowering to start realizing the reoccurring poetry in my own story. Writing has allowed me to take agency over a situation that was out of my control.
What have been some of the challenges in blocking or visually depicting this story?
Good theatre creates a world where anything is possible. Projection designer Daniel Oulton has designed a world where he finds the abstract in trauma. The whole piece is lit with three projectors. This allows us to move from location to location, but not necessarily in the literal sense. For example the opening stage direction is “Gillian sits infront of a projection of an x ray. It is soft. Sometimes it can look like clouds.”
The title of the show, Let’s Try Standing, would evoke a very different reaction from someone who has experienced disability or mobility issues compared with someone who has not. What does standing mean to you?
I had to practice standing while I was in hospital. I remember I had a nurse who would say “Okay Gillian, let’s try this standing thing.” It terrified me. Mostly because I wasn’t sure if I could do it. The sense of panic “let’s try this standing” instilled in me was like when you accidentally roll the car window up on your finger and you can’t breathe so you can’t actually think about how to get your finger out and you feel like you are just going to be trapped in the car window forever.
Eventually you get your finger out of the window, and eventually I stood.
Anyway- the title came from that nurse. As a nod to one of the first steps of recovery.
I also really like when people interpret the title to be sexual.
What is your favourite moment in the play?
Honestly- all of it.
It’s a fun machine.
I like the moments when there is this particular silence in the audience because they don’t know whether to laugh or cry, or love me or hate me.
I also really like when I get to dance in my chair.
And when people clap for a particular part of Daniel’s masterful design. (Come see it to find out!)
Can you tell me about Keep Good (Theatre) Company?
Keep Good (Theatre) Company is based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia and was founded by Karen Gross, and Laura Vingoe-Cram and yours truly. We make theatre that is honest, sharpened by the interplay of comedy and tragedy, and always attentive to the fact that the audience is in the room with us.
You’ve done a piece based on A.A.Milne’s Now We Are Six. What attracted you to this collection of stories?
My mum had a copy of Now We Are Six in our library growing up. I liked everything about it.
I liked that my mum had written her name in cursive on the inside of the front cover.
I liked the old book smell.
I liked that it made me feel clever.
But mostly I think I liked that it made me realize that poetry is fun and can create a community.
I like theatre to be fun and to create community too, so Now We Are Six was great source material for my new piece.
How would you describe the creative community you belong to in Halifax?
Why is theatre important?
Theatre is important because it allows us to be vulnerable and empathetic.
What are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to meeting and seeing the work of vivacious and diverse artists from across the country.
I look forward to the day when I can be in one place for a period of time so that I can own a dog.