20 questions (pandemic edition) with Alex McLean

During this time of social distancing and dark theatres, Halifax Presents is checking in with members of our arts community. Today we check in with theatre deviser, director, writer and co-artistic director of Zuppa Theatre Co., Alex McLean.

Alex McLean. Photo by Kate Inglis.
Alex McLean. Photo by Kate Inglis.

During this time of social distancing and dark theatres, Halifax Presents is checking in with members of our arts community to find out how they are staying creative and managing during the pandemic.

This week we check in with Halifax theatre deviser, director, writer and co-artistic director of Zuppa Theatre Co., Alex McLean.

1. How are you staying creative during the pandemic?

I’ve been thinking a lot about digital projects that direct people’s attention outwards to the world around them. We made an app-guided walking tour called Vista20, which was released in May as part of Mayworks and then was featured as part of Luminato in June. Other than that, my main creative outlet has been gardening.

2. What’s the one thing getting you through?

My wife. I’ve been able to work from home, whereas most of her work was (and still is) cancelled. So she has been the lead character in a durational performance that keeps our kids entertained and engaged.

3. How are you staying in contact with family and friends who are not in your bubble?

Lots of Skype and Zoom chats, as well as old fashioned phone calls. The occasional distanced backyard hangout.

4. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far during the pandemic?

Some things change quickly, and some things change very slowly.

5. What do you feel the most grateful for right now?

Personally, my family. Professionally, the seven generous people who took the time to talk with us about their experiences in the public health system for Vista20.

6. What is something you are doing now that you don’t normally?

Gardening.

7. What skill have you developed since the pandemic started?

I’ve very slowly learning to grow plants from seed, but with mixed success.

8. What have you missed the most?

Face to face work in a rehearsal room.

9. Your #1 pandemic survival tip.

Try to keep moving.

10. Your biggest indulgence since the pandemic started.

I bought a barbecue for the first time in my life.

11. What have you stockpiled?

Emails.

12. What have you been reading?

A lot of news stories and opinion pieces, as well as articles that people have been sharing about anti-Black racism and alternative approaches to law enforcement.

13. What have you been watching?

I’ve tried to avoid post-work screen time lately, but earlier in the pandemic, I watched a few of the Berliner Schaubuhne’s theatre streams and a couple of Tarkovsky films that I’d always wanted to see.

14. What have you been listening to?

My one-year-old is obsessed with Brown Eyed Girl, so I hear it over and over, A LOT.

15. What are you doing for exercise?

Cycling when I can. Otherwise, does sitting at a screen count?

16. The one thing you haven’t been able to live without?

Tea in the morning, wine at night.

17. Do-it-yourself haircut or the natural look?

Supernatural. I really need a haircut.

18. Night owl or early riser?

Definitely a night owl.

19. Will you be the first out as restrictions are gradually lifted or taking a wait-and-see attitude?

I’m in no rush, and I have family members in the elevated risk category, so I’m being cautious.

20. What’s the first thing you will do when this is all over?

It’s hard to know what ‘over’ means, but I’m really excited to get into a room with a small number of thoughtful collaborators and make something new.

Meet Alex McLean

Alex McLean is a theatre deviser, director and writer based in Halifax. He is co-artistic director of Zuppa Theatre Co., and has directed and co-conceived most of the company’s
shows, most recently Vista20, tiny, This is Nowhere, The Archive of Missing Things and Pop-Up Love Party. He also created A Timed Speed Read of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Trial Transcript with Additional Notes with the ad hoc group Surplus Production Unit.

Alex’s work has toured throughout Canada, in the U.S. and U.K. He was also a founding
member of Number Eleven Theatre, with whom he co-created and performed The Prague Visitor and Icaria (1998-2006). He has taught a lot of workshops and written numerous articles for theatre journals. He was also a panelist at the 2019 Banff Digital Summit.