I started directing plays while I was a student at Mount Allison University. Although the University didn’t offer a theatre degree when I was getting my B.A. there in the mid 80s, there was a very active drama program using Windsor Theatre as our base. As a student I was given the opportunity to act, direct, and work in production. We all got to learn a little bit of everything. Despite the lack of an official drama program a number of students who were there at the time went on to successful theatre careers including Ker Wells, Ross Manson, Stephen Haff, Rob MacLean, Karen Valanne, Randy White, Moynan King, and Carolyn Murdoch.
I always thought I was very lucky to be at Mt. A while the two professors who directed most of the English language shows were Arthur Motyer and Ric Knowles. Arthur was old school and first directed me in an Elizabethan play called Knight of the Burning Pestle. He was very concerned with stage pictures and the movement of his actors. I learned a lot about the history of theatre and visuals from him. Ric Knowles, on the other hand, taught me about Theatre Passe Muraille, the Factory Theatre, collective creation and the relatively new world of Canadian Theatre. Under Ric’s guidance we created a show about K.C. Irving, the patriarch of New Brunswick’s powerful Irving family, called K.C. Superstar. Ric was very interested in new theatre and collective creation. And when he directed he cared more about emotion and what the actors were trying to convey. Having these two very different influences so early in my theatre life was invaluable. I learned about directing from them and Mount Allison gave me a chance to be a student director.
When I started Live Bait Theatre with Randy White and Ann Rowley in 1988, Randy was the director. Ann and I were much more interested in acting. Early in our first season Randy got a part in a movie and I ended up taking over the directing of a show called Pleasure and Repentance. Although acting remained my first love I continued directing and ended up directing the premieres of many of my own plays, including The Maritime Way of Life, Elvis Presley is Alive and Well and Living in Sackville, Gates Motel, Under the Night, and Flying On Her Own, among others.
For about ten years, starting in the mid-nineties I also directed a number of shows for Mount Allison University’s Garnet and Gold Society and Black Tie Productions. Some of those shows included Bye Bye Birdie, Cabaret, The Sound of Music, Hair and Into the Woods.
I was eventually hired by Neptune Theatre to direct The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (abridged) in their studio theatre. I was nominated for a Nova Scotia Theatre Merritt Award as best director for the show and the production was remounted on their main stage the following year. I later directed Tuesdays with Morrie for them and for a while those two shows held the record for most popular productions in the Studio Theatre.
Over time I started directing at other theatres as well and some of those credits include Are We There Yet? at Mulgrave Road Theatre, Mesa at Victoria Playhouse, and the world premiere of Mark Blagrave’s Nomentacke at Notable Acts in Fredericton. I was also very happy to direct the world premiere of Cathy Jones’s Me, Dad and the 100 Boyfriends. The show opened at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto before touring across the country.
During my twenty years at Live Bait I would direct countless dinner theatre productions and main stage shows as well as performances by the Young Company. One of the last shows I directed at Live Bait before leaving the company in 2007 was the world premiere of Jenny Munday’s Relatively Harmless.
In 2019 I was invited back to Live Bait to help develop and direct the world premiere of Ron Kelly Spurles’ Cole, about world champion speed skater and Sackville native, Chester Cole.