Dan’s House

Nova Scotia native Daniel MacIvor is set to take an acting break, but first, there’s House. Kate Watson catches up.

House call Daniel MacIvor heads home for a play and a break.

Daniel MacIvor has come home. Well, not home-home—as in his hometown of Sydney, Cape Breton—but home to Nova Scotia. Purcell's Cove, to be exact. It marks the first time since his days as a theatre student at Dalhousie that the award-winning playwright and actor can refer to himself as a Haligonian.

"I might as well have told my family I was moving to Tampa," says MacIvor, on the phone from Toronto where he is directing his play Marion Bridge before making a mad dash to Dartmouth for the On the Waterfront Festival, where he'll be performing House from May 11 to 13. "They don't get to Halifax very often, but I'll certainly visit them more."

After 20 years as the artistic director of da da kamera, an experimental theatre company in Toronto, MacIvor has decided to take a break from directing and acting in order to focus more seriously on his writing. One of his works-in-progress is a play called April, May & June, commissioned by the Guysborough-based Mulgrave Road Theatre company.

"It's in the early stages of development, but it's basically three monologues from three women; girl, mother, woman," MacIvor explains. "There's a lot of interplay in the monologues, and that's new for me."

MacIvor has written, directed and acted in films (Whole New Thing, Wilby Wonderful, Past Perfect) as well as plays, and he gives some of the credit for this successful versatility in the arts world to actor John Dunsworth, who was a theatre professor at Dal when MacIvor attended.

"John always encouraged us to do what we want, to write it and do it," he says. "That was incredibly important. He always told us that if we could imagine it, we could do it."

MacIvor says another important element to success, at least as an actor, is the "ability to play well with others." He holds Canadian actress Rebecca Jenkins, who has starred in several of his films, to be a terrific example of this quality. "Rebecca is the personification of sunshine. She is great actress who brings an amazing energy to the set. Who wouldn't want to work with someone like that?"

In 2006, MacIvor won the Governor General's Award for Drama for his five-play collection I Still Love You, and while he's as yet unsure of the award's long-term impact on his career, there has been one surprising payoff.

"The governor general and her husband came to dinner at my house," he says of Micha<0x00EB>lle Jean's February trip to Halifax. "She'd seen my play How it Works at Magnetic North Theatre Festival and we met again in Ottawa at the award's ceremony....The dinner was an unofficial visit, but it was wild to get a taste of that world...there was some protocol to observe, but we had people in after dinner and danced and kind of let our hair down."

Before MacIvor turns his full attention to his writing projects, he will be performing his one-man show House at Eastern Front's festival this weekend. The show is an 80-minute stream-of-consciousness monologue from Victor, an embittered septic tank cleaner. This is the play's last stop before its final performance—which will also mark the first time MacIvor has performed in his native Cape Breton—at the Cape Breton University's Boardmore Playhouse on June 9.

"A little tagline we use for House is that it's a stand-up sit-down comedy—it almost feels like stand-up," says MacIvor. "I guess it's really a disastrous comedy. Victor is pushed to the edge and can't take it any more. The show sort of helps him regain his sanity. It's therapy for him, really, a kind of rant. But I think the audience will come to sympathize with him. They won't want to ask him to dinner, but they'll sympathize."

House at the On the Waterfront Theatre Festival, May 11-13 at Alderney Landing Theatre, 2 Ochterloney, Dartmouth, $17.50 ($16 students/seniors), 888-311-9090, www.ticketpro.ca

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