October 30, 2012

Spotlight on Alumni: Anthony Black

Anthony Black Anthony Black in The Invisible Atom

Anthony Black (BFA 2001) is a theatre artist who works as a writer, director, actor, designer, and as artistic co-director (with Christian Barry) of  internationally acclaimed 2b theatre company (Halifax, Canada). He did an undergraduate degree at York with classes in directing, playwriting, and creative ensemble, before studying directing at the National Theatre School. His various pursuits within theatre practice are complementary and mutually informative, leading to a holistic approach to theatre creation, production, and performance.

Anthony's plays and productions with 2b theatre have played at theatres and festivals and have received awards and rave reviews across Canada and around the globe.

What is your fondest memory of studying Theatre at York?

I made a bunch of friends in the theatre department and we did the things that university students typically do. We worked. We partied. But our parties were populated with passionate discussions about theatre and art. I'm so glad that these conversations weren't recorded. I, in particular, had a serious case of opinionitis forte that I'm sure I would cringe to listen to. But they were a wonderfully healthy way of testing out, in discussion at least, theories and ideas springing from what we were learning in class and observing in the theatre.

And I think we worked hard. I think for my first scene study assignment for my second year directing class, we rehearsed something like 25 hours for a 5 minute scene. That was invaluable time to take to explore, try, fail, and try again.

Do you have any advice or tips for York students just entering the dept.?

Make friends that you're interested in working with and work with them on class stuff, and on independently-initiated stuff. And then don't get comfortable and close the circle, but work with new people and see what they're about. Make your own experiences, and in doing so you'll put yourself in the way of good luck.

And exchange ideas with people outside theatre. Theatre is a language. It's no good speaking a language if you have nothing to talk about.

Lastly, a piece of advice I got from a teacher about what it takes to create work: “If you're not doing anything, you're not doing anything.”

If you had the chance to go back and visit your younger self as you were beginning at York, what advice would you give yourself?

I've been asked this question before and I don't think I would say anything. It's really important to make mistakes, even embarrassing ones, and learn from them. I was blessed with an upbringing that gave me a lot of confidence, and that confidence was important in terms seeing my ideas through to execution, forgiving myself my mistakes, and sometimes remaining in a state of denial about those mistakes until such time as I was able to recognize them.

Did connections, friendships, relationships you made at York help you afterward?

When it Rains Conor Green and Francine Deschepper in When It Rains

Yes and no. Living in Nova Scotia, there isn't really a group of people I graduated with around me. I do have an ongoing collaborative relationship with actor/ writer Conor Green. Ironically, although we were in the same year and great friends at York, we never worked together until after graduation. I see some folks from my year from time to time, like Weyni Mengsha, who has had tremendous success as a director and has done some beautiful work since graduating. I get to work with a number of York Graduates and I have to say that there is some degree of comfort in sharing a vocabulary. It means we can work pretty efficiently and clearly.

The neat thing is actually to have built networks outside of the York community and then see how many ways these networks, including the York network, overlap and intersect. This is a very small country in terms of theatre practice.