Moving Target Theatre Company founder Daniel Thau-Eleff isn’t just a triple threat – aside from starting his own production company, writing and starring in his own plays to much critical acclaim, he is also an artist, an activist, and has worked as an actor, assistant director, and stage manager for numerous other theatre companies.
After successful runs of his own company’s last productions, Remember the Night and King’s Park, Thau-Eleff’s newest piece, Good People Bad Things, a one man show black comedy about evil, makes its debut Oct. 18to 28 at the Rudolf Rocker Centre.
The Manitoban: How would you describe Good People Bad Things? What is it about?
Daniel Thau-Eleff: It’s about evil, but it’s also about connecting [and] acknowledging the terrible things that happen in the world; Adolf Eichmann and his role in the Holocaust. We also tell a fictional story about a couple who get into an abusive relationship, we also talk about the events going on in Israel/Palestine and, in the show I’m asking, “How do we do something about this? How can we do better? How do these things begin? And how do they play out?” [In] theatre, but especially one-person shows, [what] the show is really about is an artist pouring out their heart and brain, and creating connections – between myself and the audience, between different events and ideas.
M: Some of the aspects of the plot of this production seem to be quite dark. How do you maintain a balance between tragedy and comedy in a play such as this?
DT: This is probably one of the most difficult things about Good People Bad Things. I’m trying to embrace the darkness and horror and heaviness of the material, while keeping a sense of lightness. It will probably be more about lightness than comedy – but there will be at least a few laughs, I promise.
M: Would you say there are some common themes in your work? You seem to have multiple pieces involving with aspects of Jewish identity – how did you choose to write about this?
DT: One commonality is the tension between the personal and the political, or in other words between internal and external struggles. [ . . . ] I think this is an interesting time to be Jewish. Particularly in the fallout of some of the major events of the twentieth century – the Holocaust, of course, and then the first sixty-some years of the State of Israel, the changes in Jewish culture in North America over the past half-century. [These] are particular experiences, but I think these are experiences people from other cultures and ethnic groups can also relate to. I talk about Jewish identity, but I think there are lessons in it for everyone.
M: What inspired you to start your own theatre company?
DT: For an independent artist, it’s basically a necessity. I think everyone should do it. It’s a lot of work, depending on the scale of your productions, and it involves developing a whole skill set that I didn’t learn in acting school.
M: How long have you been working in theatre? How did you get into it?
DT: I studied acting and directing in university. I produced and directed my first show in the Fringe in the summer of 2000. I started Moving Target Theatre Company in 2003. That year, there were some artists I really admired coming to Winnipeg to create a one-person show—Daniel Brooks and Rick Miller—and I asked them if I could assistant-direct and basically sit in on their process. That got me wanting to write and perform a one-man show, which I did in the summer of 2004.
M: Are you working on anything else at the moment?
DT: I have a new play in its very early stages. Mostly what I’m working on, other than Good People Bad Things is making theatre connections outside of Winnipeg. I toured my first solo-show on the Fringe circuit. My next three shows were just in Winnipeg. So it’s time to start getting my work seen in other cities again. I’ve been attending Canadian theatre festivals in other cities and meeting people, and we’ll see what kind of fruit that bears over the next couple of years.
Good People Bad Things opens on Oct. 18, and runs until Oct. 28 at the Rudolf Rocker Centre (91 Albert Street on the third floor, above Mondragon). To reserve tickets, call (204) 221-1120 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.