Taking Chances - and career advice

Young director and her mentor both enjoy the 'process' of creating a play from scratch

Story by Dana Gee, The Province

For young director Becky MacDormand the IGNITE! Youth Festival is a key building block 
for a future in the performing arts.

"I think the IGNITE! Festival is an opportunity for emerging artists, a free opportunity to show what we've got," said MacDormand, who is helming the play Eden Ablaze at the Cultch-held festival. "That is a really big blessing for young people."

The young artists are not only given a stage on which to present their work, but they are given valuable advice and seasoned insight, thanks to workshops and mentorship relationships with veteran performing arts people.

"Having a bunch of different resources, the mentors, it's been great," said MacDormand, a graduate of Trinity Western University. "Other (proteges) being the designers and the publicists and stuff, and helping, allows you to focus on your own craft."

The creative brain the 22-year-old MacDormand got to pick belonged to director/actor/writer James Fagan Tait.

"That has been really great, that is the part I am most grateful for," said MacDormand about the relationship with Tait.

"Being able to ask him questions and he is excited and ready and willing to answer them. It's been amazing.

"I've learned a lot, but it also feels like I am just talking to a friend about my art. So that's really been encouraging."

Tait, who helped to decide on the four directors and two playwrights that were accepted into the festival, said his relationship with MacDormand is nowhere near one-sided.

"It's a privileged position to sit in on a young person's process today, especially when you're 57," said Tait, whose long resume includes productions for the Vancouver Playhouse and Bard on the Beach.

"I get to find out where the younger generation is at. I have enjoyed it a lot and our conversations have been so stimulating. She has inspired me."

For the festival MacDormand is directing a one-act play (one of three world-première plays at the festival) that is unique in its form - or rather lack of form.

A "devised" play, Eden Ablaze began with no script, just a theme: beauty. The five actors were then asked to explore what beauty meant to them. The play, which will be staged four times during the festival, was then shaped out of those experiences.

A play without a script is of course a daunting task, something MacDor-mand said drew her to the format.

"It's been a really great experience, but would I do it again? I don't know," laughed MacDormand about the 35-minute piece.
MacDormand's willingness to take a chance and try something new and challenging is one of the things that attracted Tait to her and her work.

"She chose to go to the 'devise' to challenge herself," said Tait. "She had this idea around beauty and she brought it to her group and her group exploded in a million different ways and she was thrilled. It really touches on something on where they are at today, young people."

Getting in on the ground floor of a career is something that Tait said gives him a ton of joy and a ton of energy and he is very happy to be a part of the IGNITE! Youth Festival.

"She has some real cutting-edge ideas. It's wonderful," said Tait. "I am watching her at the beginning before she is jaded, before she is worn out, seen it all, tired of it all.

"She is experimenting with things that are really exciting. Things that I would not be experimenting with at my age, and that's pretty exciting for me. To relive that through her is great."

The festival is held at the various on-site theatres and spaces at The Cultch and alongside the theatre presentations (three never-before-seen one-act plays) the program includes a wide array of arts performances from improv to circus arts to a visual arts exhibit.