Interview by Hallie Seline
We’re all about hard-working #bossbabes being at the helm of the theatre we see, so it was such a joy to catch up with Ali Joy Richardson to discuss her latest directing project, Liars at a Funeral, why her directing mentors have been instrumental in assembling her own director’s utility belt, and the top three pieces of advice she’s living by right now.
HS: Tell me a bit about your current directing project, Liars at a Funeral, and what caught your interest when deciding to direct it.
Ali Joy Richardson: Liars at a Funeral is set in a funeral home in Northern Ontario where a grandmother has faked her own death in order to get her family back together for Christmas. It’s a farce: 4 doors, 5 actors playing 9 characters, and a family curse of female twins who hate one another…but without the stale sexism that’s so often sprinkled in the genre. Sophia Fabiilli has revived farce with a refreshing dose of 2017 sexuality and three generations of very funny women. Sophia told me the plot of the play over a pint at Tequila Bookworm back in September and I was hooked. I immediately sent her a batch of imagery that resonated with the play for me (Edward Gorey illustrations, Wes Anderson stills, and some weird ‘70s family Christmas photos). I’m very grateful to have been trusted with this play.
HS: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned so far in your experience directing?
AJR: It requires rigorous, detailed homework to be able to properly play jazz in the room.
HS: Do you have a directing mentor? If so, who is it and why do you think it’s important to have a mentor?
AJR: Thank heaven for mentors. I learned the fundamentals from assistant directing for Melee Hutton and Estelle Shook and script coordinating from Andrea Donaldson. Richard Rose has been my primary teacher for the last while (his process has totally re-shaped my practice) and Aaron Willis is my go-to emergency phone call for all things theatre. These directors have given me clarity and confidence in my practice. I’ve gratefully thieved tools from each of them to assemble my own utility belt.
HS: You have a pretty #bosslady production team going on for this show with you (director/dramaturg), Laura Jabalee Johnston (producer) and Sophia Fabiilli (playwright/producer). How has it been working with this team?
AJR: DREAMY. Lots of late night 3-way calls, endless hustle, and masterfully colour-coded email threads. They’ve made me a better artist and collaborator. I’d trust these women with my car, child, or estate (if I had any of those things).
HS: What are you most excited for audiences to experience when they come see the show?
AJR: The rollercoaster – Liars at a Funeral is very funny and bravely truthful.
HS: Describe the show in 5-10 words.
AJR: Just one: unstoppable.
(For a complete list of the myriad of obstacles we overcame, from the Storefront Theatre closing to our casket hinges busting right before we opened, buy anyone on the team a drink.)
Rapid Fire Question Round:
Favourite place in the city:
The Toronto Reference Library.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Conversations, naps, and the Toronto Reference Library.
What are you reading/watching/listening to right now?
Harry Potter and the Sacred Text (a deeply nerdy podcast by two Harvard theologians) and re-reading Patti Smith’s “Just Kids”.
Best piece of advice you’ve received or current mantra you’re living by:
“What is the next right move?” (Oprah)
“Follow the campground rule – leave the audience better than you found them.” (Neil Silcox)
“Stand up from your desk every hour, Ali.” (my Mom)
Liars at a Funeral
Playwright – Sophia Fabiilli
Director & Dramaturg – Ali Joy Richardson
Ensemble – Ruby Joy, Rhea Akler, John Healy, Danny Pagett & Terry Tweed
Producers – Laura Jabalee Johnston & Sophia Fabiilli
Stage Management – Lori Anderson
Set & Wardrobe Design – Lindsay Woods
Sound Design – Nicholas Potter
A black comedy about a grandmother who fakes her own death in order to reunite her family in Northern Ontario.
Grandma Mavis stages her own funeral in order to reunite her estranged family… just in time for an ice storm to trap them all in a funeral home over Christmas. Can this eccentric clan of liars navigate the rocky road to reconciliation? Or will the next 24hrs be the final nail in this dysfunctional family’s coffin?
Featuring five actors playing nine characters, Liars at a Funeral is equally hilarious and heartbreaking. It’s also a teensy bit inspired by Hamlet.
St. Vladimir Theatre
(620 Spadina Ave, south of Harbord
May 5-14 2017