Donnie Laflamme is a man who loves him some classic theatre. Maybe even as much as he loves vintage cars…I can’t tell, but either way he has plenty of passion for both subjects to go around. He’s brought this fire to bear as he and the company he co-founded, Chamber Theatre Hintonburg, are tackling the modern days epic DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller. It’s quite the challenge, and has been plagued by its share of troubles and traumas, everything from a cancelled initial run and enormous rehearsal process to one its cast members getting hit by a car just a month ago (I’ll let you guess which one). Donnie is the artistic director of Chamber, a professor at Algonquin College, playwright of the beloved MECHANICSVILLE MONOLOGUES series, and will be hitting center stage as world-weary Willy Loman when Salesman premieres at the Carleton Tavern this Wednesday. I fired Donnie a few questions about the show and Chamber, and got some goddam lovely answers in response. Enjoy.
1 – Tell me a little bit about Chamber Theatre, and what makes it unique in the Ottawa Community.
Donnie – Chamber Theatre is unique in that we performed where others did not see the potential to perform or create theatre. I think that has changed, there’s a Joe’s Pub vibe happening in our main venue and the idea of doing a play in a pub is no longer new here, which is good. This production is part of our Mechanicsville Collective ensemble.
2 – Why DEATH OF A SALESMAN?
Donnie – I rented the text Death of a Salesman from Dramatists Play Service because the story is so universal. It calls on the cast to do the simplest yet perhaps most difficult thing, not bullshit anyone with an impossible story line or fake character work. It’s a play it for real or fuck off script. You start off with the usual build a character thing, and then recall what a fuck that whole situation is, then move into pulling the character out of your own experience however you do that and I think it’s different for everyone. No hiding behind physical or emotional décor. I don’t give a shit if I don’t succeed at something, or if anyone else doesn’t for that matter. But nothing less than 100% honest effort is required from the start till end of the productions so that you can hold your goddamned head up after.
3 – Any praise or comments about the cast and crew?
Donnie – First, I don’t know anyone else who could have directed it other than Lisa Zanyk. She’s mastered cabaret theatre or whatever you want to call it. When you’ve directed as many plays in tight spaces as she has, who else would you call on to put this together. Plus, the goddamned play is so heart wrenching, once the band starts feeling it, you need someone who’s grown up enough to give a shit about the player’s brains and souls. What we have here is a fully developed worker, a sane director at her full power, who can pay her own way out there in the big bad. The cast and crew have put every ounce of their creative effort and blood, sweat and tears into the sonovabitch of a bastard of a play. Somehow we got the very best everyone had to offer, and that’s the director-not me to be sure. I can’t think of a single thing I’d change about any of it. Everyone involved has made it their business to give their best. There are moments and movements in the piece where the whole truth of life is laid bare by the cast, one in particular that grabs me by the heart and shoves what it means to be a human right in my fuckin’ face. What more could anyone ask them or anyone to do. They are doing it.
4 – How has the extra rehearsal time (due to the delay from the original start time) helped the production?
Donnie – The extra rehearsal time was very wise. I understand that Chekhov, and those who staged his plays, held long periods of rehearsal. We will always use this process in the future, and only work on plays that require this approach. It’s a huge piece, and we gave it what it deserved. I’m not into pulling out a car or motorcycle with a half arsed approach to structure and form-same goes for a play. The director, actors and crew all take this same approach-it’s got to be done right. Yes, and then hide the craft, yes.
DEATH OF A SALESMAN plays from the 26th to 29th of March and 3rd to 5th of April at the Carleton Tavern. Tickets are 30$, and worth every goddamn penny. Get’em HERE.
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)