A Conversation With Adam Seelig

On a recent Sunday in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Canadian producer/director/playwright/poet Adam Seelig left his production of Thomas Bernhard‘s Ritter, Dene, Voss, a play he directed and produced, to entertain a receptive crowd downstairs at The Cake Shop with a reading from his new book, Every Day in the Morning (slow). The book had been published that week and the play was receiving praise from no-less than the Globe and Mail and the New York Times. Adam and his father then closed out the evening with a sandwich at Katz’s Deli. That’s right. Best. Day. Ever.

Adam was kind enough to answer a few of our questions while he was in town. Here’s how it went:

Bridge: You opened Ritter, Dene, Voss in Toronto in 2006 and followed it with a Chicago run in 2007 before bringing the show to NYC’s La Mama E.T.C. this month. What made you decide to re-visit the piece after almost three years?

AS: There are some plays you want to keep coming back to, and Thomas Bernhard’s “Ritter, Dene, Voss” is definitely one of them. With each rehearsal and with each performance we discover more. The cast and I are growing with the play — growing older, literally, and in the process taking/giving more from/to the play as artists. Bernhard’s lack of punctuation in his text is one thing that makes this a play worth wrestling with, creating all kinds of interpretive possibilities for director and actors alike. It’s also worth mentioning the family at the heart of the play, a fictionalized version of the super-cultured Wittgensteins, including philosopher Ludwig and two of his sisters — however true or false they are biographically and historically, the versions we see in Bernhard’s play are fascinating.

Bridge: Why was it important for you to bring RDV to New York?

AS: It’s entirely new to New Yorkers. No one knows this play — one of the very best I’ve encountered — in North America. The novels of Thomas Bernhard have a major following in the US, but he is essentially unknown here as a dramatist. We’ve been missing out, until now!

Bridge: Importing an entire production from Canada isn’t easy and it isn’t cheap. How did you make it all work? How big a part did your collaborations with the Austrian Cultural Forum and La Mama play in bringing RDV to NYC?

AS: Those collaborations played a HUGE part. We’re able to present this NY premiere of “Ritter, Dene, Voss” because of Ellen Stewart (founder of La MaMa). And the Austrians have been instrumental, as have the Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, shipping sponsor Weiss-Rohlig, and One Little Goat’s individual supporters and advisors. We couldn’t do it without all the support we’ve received.

Bridge: You’ve brought an Austrian play with a Canadian cast to New York City. Would you then consider this a Canadian production or more of a cross-cultural collaboration? What are some of the Canadian elements of this production that come across the footlights?

AS: It’s a Toronto company’s version of a Viennese play hosted by a New York theatre — cross-cultural for sure! What makes it particularly Canadian on stage is the cast, though I’m more inclined to describe them as “from Toronto,” since Canada is vast and varied.

Bridge: Any advice for like-minded Canadian companies interested in presenting their work in the Big Apple?

AS: Call me!

Bridge: What’s next for One Little Goat?

AS: Whatever it is, it will be NEW!

Ritter, Dene, Voss runs at La Mama E.T.C. through this week. Every Day in the Morning (slow) is available for pre-order at Amazon.

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