December 29, 2018

4 Questions: Jim Millan

50 Years of Disruption
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?

Jim Millan
Jim Millan

Jim Millan (BFA Acting 1993) has a long series of innovative creations in theatre, comedy, magic and variety that has taken him from Canada to the West End to Radio City Music Hall, Las Vegas, Broadway and beyond.  His unique talent is in demand as director of diverse and unique new entertainments built on his decades of experience in the traditional and less traditional theatre.

After founding Crow’s Theatre in Toronto it quickly became one of Canada’s new play innovators and incubators.  During this period Jim made his reputation directing such daring plays as Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, High Life, The Chet Baker Project, Dali and others.  He is proud of the numerous artists whose careers were launched by Crows and the work it continues till this day on its 35thanniversary. As USA Today said “everything theatre should be, dangerous, daring and disturbing.”

Outside of his company he was sought out by all kinds of innovators to collaborate.  He began a decades long collaboration directing the Kids in the Hall comedy group. He worked alongside Teller and Todd Robbins on Play Dead off Broadway and at the Geffen in LA.  Among his more explosive creations Jim teamed with Adam Savage and Jamie Hynneman to create Mythbusters Live which sold out across North America and toured Australia and New Zealand. As Creative Director, The Illusionists opened in New York City in December 2014 and set an all time record for a magic show on Broadway. It continues touring till this day in numerous incarnations. Jim is also in demand as a creative consultant having stepped in on Spiderman: Turn off the Dark on Broadway working with Bono, Edge, writer Glen Berger and the creative team to help save the biggest musical in Broadway history.

As a comedy writer/director he created SPANK: the 50 Shades parody which played over 400 cities in N. America and it has been produced in Australia and Poland grossing over 10 million dollars.

Recently he directed a world premiere, ACTS OF A GENTRIFIED OJIBWAY REBELLION by Drew Hayden Taylor at the National Arts Centre that is slated for a national tour in 2019/20 season and has begun development on a stage adaptation of Col. Chris Hadfield’s book The Darkest Dark.  Jim also is directing a new project in Jan. 2019 for Disney and continues in his role as creative producer for the Governor General Performing Arts Award Gala.

He has directed comedy, dramas, spectacles, magic and musicals on 5 continents in 35 countries in 17 languages and premiered over 170 new works in his career seen by tens of millions of people.

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

Studying with Dean Gilmour whose teaching of the Lecoq School’s approach upturned my ideas about what made theatre. Previously I didn’t understand how to approach new styles of theatre as a performer or creator. It seemed a place I could begin my own journey more than the naturalism of other classes. It also brought me out of myself. I also understood then theatre was a broad spectrum of live communication of many, many practices.

The cast of "High Life", Ron White (Dick), Randy Hughson (Bug), Brent Carver (Donnie), Clive Cholerton (Billy), that Jim Millan directed for Crow's in 1996.
The cast of High Life, Ron White (Dick), Randy Hughson (Bug), Brent Carver (Donnie), Clive Cholerton (Billy), that Jim Millan directed for Crow’s.

3. What comment, quotation, statement, or action that a professor—or classmate—offered had the greatest impact on you?

I was a punk rocker and very opinionated about what was cool.  Whatever talent I had as an actor and young creator was mixed up in that mask.  A teacher once said that the mask we are presenting is the least interesting part of who we are.

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

My career has been described to me as eclectic. The smorgasbord of techniques and ideas I was exposed to gave me a place to begin my own research and journey.  I think I have a spirit of experimentation from those years and a willingness to challenge the boring choice that might be the easier route. Also I began to understand that creating new work was a process and what the alchemy of ideas, methods, personalities and hard work meant.  That led me to founding a company that would be devoted to doing something different.

The Illusionists, directed by Jim Millan.