Last week, I spoke with director Peter Pasyk, as he prepared to open LATE COMPANY, Jordan Tannahill's play about teenagers, parents, social media, and high-school bullying, 21st century style.
This Toronto remount is part of the Theatre Centre's NOVEMBER TICKET, a showcase of three recent scripts on provocative topics, by a trio of young, award-winning writers.
Pasyk directed LATE COMPANY's inaugural SUMMERWORKS production. "As a director, I have been quite focussed on developing new work. This play is a project of passion for me. We did the Summerworks show, as a workshop production, then did a script workshop post-festival, to fine-tune it."
Clearly, the process has paid off. LATE COMPANY has already had productions in Winnipeg, Vancouver, and now, at THE THEATRE CENTRE.
I ask Pasyk what drew him to directing in the first place. "I trained at Ryerson as an actor. I was always very aware of the director and the ways they did, or didn't invite people's best selves to the table. I found myself doing a lot of silent brooding." We both laugh. "I realized I could stay in a job that increasingly felt like a trap for me, and become bitter, or go change what I was doing. Directing felt like a calling for me, a vocation."
The rest of the November Ticket has been about about wars and genocide: big, global themes. LATE COMPANY is a family drama situated in that most domestic of enclaves, the dining room. Much of the action of the play takes place at a dinner party, around the table. Is it a case of of "the personal is the political?" "Yes, absolutely," Pasyk responds."All the plays have been about accountability. Who do we hold accountable for certain actions? Family is at the root of human development. Your family sets the course for how you understand the world."
So is this about blame? "There is never just one guilty party. The families in the play are trying to circumvent the usual system of blame, and attempt to apply a kind of restorative justice. There are opposing views on who the good guys and the bad guys are: and there's the process of grief. Jordan's play speaks to these topics across generations."
Certainly, the teenagers in the play are having a very different experience of high-school than their parents did. Social media has radically transformed communication.
"There was no performing arts high school for me to attend where I lived. I participated in a youth theatre training program at the Tarragon as a teenager. I was drawn to the work of Tom Walmsley, and when I started directing as an adult, I did a very successful revival of THE JONES BOY. As a result, I was fortunate to be invited by Richard Rose to be mentored as a director at the Tarragon Theatre. While I was there, I worked with Weyni Mengesha. Now she and I both have productions as part of the NOVEMBER TICKET. It feels like I've come full circle - from starting in the theate as a teen-ager to now."
I saw Pasyk's production of LATE COMPANY last week, and found it both compelling, and very affecting. The last show on the NOVEMBER TICKET is well worth a visit.