Artistic Director Spotlight: Gil Garrat, Blyth Festival

Gil Garrat has been with the Blyth Festival for 16 years, working as a director, playwright, dramaturge, actor and theatre administrator. We got to chat with the multi-faceted artistic director to learn about what inspired him to join the theatrical arts.

Q: What has your experience been like at the Blyth Festival.
A: My first season was in 1999, when I had just come out of theatre school. Since I was teenager, I have worked in theatre, both as performer and writer. I got to work with Paul Thompson, who was a very influential and formative director here at Blythe.  Paul has received the Order of Canada, and has a very enormous shadow. He pioneered this concept of “collective creation” that has radically changed and informed my approach to art making.

Paul took all the actors and writers and had them do a ton of research together – not just in terms of the historical and geographical research of an area, but also an immersive research where we went and became a part of the community that we were researching. When you finally go in to write the story, you get a palpable sense of the world that you’re writing about.

Q: What attracted you to theatre?
A: It has to be the immediacy of the live event. There is a collective act of imagining what is going on when the artists and audience enter in the theatre space together. In that moment, we collectively imagine something and it’s a really delicate act because it can be broken and we can easily fall out of it. Yet we can come together and we can choose to do it and it becomes a transformative experience.

Theatre also demands something of us as an audience – we’re not simply there to sit and to absorb, we are there to be actively present and interact. It’s a mutual experience and that’s seemingly becoming a rarity in our culture and it’s important to fight for it.

Q: You have acted in a few films and television programs. What was that experience like compared to the theatre?
A: As much as film or TV actors appear to be stars of the production, the truth is that film is the photographer’s medium. But the theatre is the actors’ medium. To be honest, I find most of the writing for film is terrible in comparison to the theatre, as the characters are less fleshed out and the language is far less poetic. There’s a bigger emphasis placed on the image than on the story.

Q: What can people expect this coming season?
A: They can expect relevant stories, inspiring spectacles and absolute professional excellence in storytelling. In the coming season, I’m bringing in three directors who have never worked here before. It’s exciting and important to bring in new voices and new perspectives.

Q: What’s your vision for the Blyth Festival in the coming years?
A: I would love to see the season be longer and I’d love to see us doing even more work. I want to start developing stronger relations with other theatres in this country, not only bringing in people from across the country, but also see more shows from across the country.

The Blyth Festival runs from June 24 to September 12.