Nirbhaya and Nightwood – Part One: In Conversation with Beth Brown, Managing Director of Nightwood
Interview by Bailey Green
It was a joy to sit down with Beth Brown, Managing Director of Nightwood Theatre. She has a kind and welcoming spirit that I noticed from the moment I met her. After discussing a shared love of animals (with the exception of mice) and a connection to the city of Montreal, over steaming mugs of tea, we spoke about Nightwood Theatre’s upcoming production, Nirbhaya, running November 18-29 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre. The transcript of our conversation has been edited for length and clarity:
BG: How did you come in contact with Nirbhaya?
BB: We were made aware of the project through the producer Margaret Moll. She’s aware of Nightwood Theatre and our mandate and she felt it would be a perfect fit for this show. We were very inspired by the story and how it came to be. So we watched the video, reviewed the materials, and then began thinking about the logistics of bringing it to Toronto.
BG: And how did you bring it to Nightwood and Toronto?
BB: Since the production had toured before, that was very helpful to us. But one of our biggest challenges was finding a venue to put it in. Since we don’t have our own venue, we’re at the mercy of the availability of other theatres. [Nirbhaya] requires a specific stage size and we wanted a specific capacity for the audience of this show. And it was at the last minute when we found Harbourfront. Margaret wanted to get a Canadian tour for the show, so we ended up forming a strong relationship with the Cultch in Vancouver, where the show is, currently, and together we applied for funding from the Canada Council of the Arts.
BG: What common themes or elements do you see in the current Nightwood season?
BB: I love this season because of its diversity of story. There’s a lot of different stories being told. I think they’re all extremely impactful and relevant to now… to this time period. I think that they are entertaining as well as thought provoking. They grapple with issues that hit home for everyone. They are interesting and compelling.
BG: Can you tell me a bit more about your role, and what the most challenging and most rewarding aspects are?
BB: Well, I’m the managing director. Rewarding, for me, is definitely seeing the productions on stage and talking to people about them after. Whether they like them or not, I always find it to be really interesting conversation pieces about how the art affects people… what they take away from it. By and large, I have never had a conversation with someone who has disliked the work we put on stage, so that’s really rewarding to get that positive feedback and the detailed feedback as well. It’s not just ‘oh that was a great show,’ there’s always something specific that hit them or that resonated with them. Challenging is always financing, looking after the various budget lines, the nail biting as you’re watching the box office and hoping that you hit your targets and that people are going to come out and see the shows. That is always challenging. In regards to rewards, I always enjoy working with our staff and our community, the theatre community. The networking is great – so supportive and helpful.
Stay tuned for parts two and three where I speak with Artistic Director of Nightwood – Kelly Thornton, and the Writer/Director of Nirbhaya – Yael Farber!
Written and directed by Yael Farber,
Presented by Nightwood Theatre in association with Amnesty International present an Assembly, Riverside Studios and Poorna Jagannathan Production.
Nirbhaya was inspired by true events that occurred in December of 2012 in India, when a woman boarded a bus heading home…The piece is a “tapestry of personal testimonies, which tears away the shame that silences survivors of sexual violence.”
When: November 18-29
Where: Harbourfront Centre Theatre
Tickets: $20-45. Purchase here.
For more info, visit Nightwood Theatre’s website.