Jack Paterson is best known in his hometown of Vancouver as a visionary director of Shakespeare (his acclaimed productions of The Tempest and Titus Andronicus are still talked about years after the fact). The 3-time Jessie nominee and 2007 Ray Michal Award winner has been globe-trotting of late, but he’s back home now delving into the life and verses of another of history’s iconic poets: Walt Whitman.
Jack graciously took some time to play “10 Questions” with us on a night off from rehearsals for Walt Whitman’s Secret.
1. What made you want to be a theatre artist?
The ability to explore the human experience, express it and create a little magic that at the right time, with the right people can change the world. If you reach just one person in that audience and affect change in them you have done your job.
2. How many plays have you directed?
Too many…my career has been an unexpected one that has taken me all around the world and across a diversity of forms. Productions have ranged from large stage to the intimate installation, from classical texts to new plays and translations, and from text-based works to cross-cultural devised experiences. Projects such as Lorca’s The Love of Don Perlimplin in a fusion of Flamenco, Deep Song and Text (The Shaw Festival); the recent fusion of devising and classical text in Romeo and Juliet in Cardiff (Cardiff Open Air Festival) or the Vancouver premiere of Titus Andronicus were challenging and wonderful experiences. My favourite is still a week of madness in Denpasar creating a fusion of Traditional Balinese Performing Arts and contemporary devising practices.
3. Who are your favourite playwrights?
Jeez – there are so many. The great poets like William Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, F Garcia Lorca provide so much theatrical potential along with singing straight to the soul. Contemporary UK playwright like David Greig. Quebecois playwrights Michel Tremblay or more emerging Francophone playwrights Etienne Lepage and Guillaume Corbeil who are pushing the boundaries. Local playwrights like Lucia Frangione. What I adore is material that brings both poetry and grit to texts seeking greater exploration or expression. Texts that live and breathe human experiences.
4. Who are your favourite directors?
Another tough question. Directors whose work has affected me and challenged me to see a broader perspective of theatre – productions that have had a huge influence on me include the stunning imagination of Marry Zimmerman’s Metamorphosis (NYC, USA), the punk rock Yuri Butusov’s The Seagull and heartbreaking creations of Dmitry Krymov’s Opus 7 (Moscow, RU), Yael Farber’s passionate Mies Julie (South Africa), Benedict Andrews’ fantastic Three Sisters (London, UK), Sylvain Bélanger’s beautiful Yellow Moon (Montreal). Locally the innovation of James Fagan Tait, the composition of Richard Wolfe are all inspirations.
5. What’s the best piece of theatre you’ve seen this year?
The Merchant of Venice at the Volkstheatre in Munich. How do you do this particular piece in this particular place…it was a beautiful and challenging meditation on the refugee crisis, racism, sexism, homophobia, identity…on being human.
6. What’s your favourite colour?
7. All-time favourite movie?
I don’t get out much to the movies and I’m a bit of a nerd. For fun: Highlander, the Star Treks (old crew). I remember being floored by the film adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad’s Incendies.
8. Favourite non-theatre-related activity?
Exploring and traveling, meeting new people.
9. Favourite drink?
A shot of homemade moonshine on the edge of a Balinese mountain; A MacDonald’s hot chocolat in the snow in Red Square; a can of GI lager on the beach as the waves crash in; Coffee in bed with a particular someone;
10. Why should people see Walt Whitman’s Secret?