July 22, 2018

4 Questions: Stafford Arima

50 Years of Disruption

Stafford Arima (BFA Theatre 1992) was appointed the artistic director of Theatre Calgary last year. Prior to that, he had a thriving career in the New York theatre scene for nearly 20 years, including being the first Asian Canadian to direct a musical on Broadway with Allegiance played at the Longacre Theatre, starring George Takei and Lea Salonga in 2015. He was also nominated for an Olivier Award for his direction of West End premiere of the musical Ragtime in 2004, and his production received 8 nominations including Best Musical.

This article is part of our series 50 Years of Disruption, in celebration of the Department of Theatre’s 50th Anniversary. In it, we’ll ask each participant four questions about themselves and their time at York.

1. Who are you?

Stafford Arima
Stafford Arima

My name is Stafford Arima. I graduated with a BA in Theatre Studies in 1992. I primarily see myself as a theatre director, however, last year I was appointed Artistic Director of Theatre Calgary. Since graduating from York, I immersed myself in the commercial musical theatre world, since that was my passion. I moved to New York City in 1997 and stayed there until 2017. The 20 years living and working in NYC (and elsewhere) truly was like getting my MFA in Directing. In a way, I don’t really know how my career happened; however, I do believe that following your dreams—as cliché as that sounds—is truly what has been my fuel. Having directed new works and “revisals” on Broadway, Off-Broadway, at the Stratford Festival, in the West End, in Tokyo, and Russia still leaves me speechless. I consider myself incredibly fortunate.

2. What was your favourite moment during your time in the Theatre Department, and why?

Probably during Ron Singer‘s class, “Acting for Directors.” Ron was instrumental in guiding me towards directing so I have him to thank. He was incredibly supportive during these formative years, and I am forever in his debt.

4. Is there a way you incorporate a particular aspect of your theatre training in your current work?

I still use Robert Cohen’s Acting Power as a refresher when it comes to directing actors. Ron Singer introduced me to the book (again, during his “Acting for Directors” class). Cohen’s principals still feel as fresh, and obvious, today, as they did when I first read it.