Interview with Local Vancouver Director, Writer, and Actor: Alison Ward

Photo credit: Ray McEachern

By Rachel Rosenberg

Alison Ward is a Vancouver-based actor, director and writer; her very moving one woman show, No Gold Star, is her true story about coming out at the age of 35 after spending years married to a man and identifying as straight.

Ward has a charismatic, intelligent stage presence, and is a passionate advocate of stories by and about queer women — even establishing 8 Monkeys Productions, a film and theatre production company. Though No Gold Star isn’t currently being performed, you will be able to find her on stage later this month, appearing at Havana for the December 18-21 run of Slacks- The Christmas Show. Starring Ward alongside Jacqueline Korb, Taylor Stutchbury, and Leigh Burrows, it’s a live lesbian sitcom. Tickets are $21 for the show and can be purchased through Little Basket Theatre Company’s site. Ward is also producing, directing and co-writing a SLACKS interview spin-off web-series, available now on YouTube.

We spoke to her to find out more about SLACKS’ Christmas spectacular, her 2020 endeavors and about some of her favourite aspects of the Vancouver theatre community.

When did you start writing and performing?

I would say I officially started when I was about 23 years old.  I knew there were no guarantees of getting acting work once theatre school was finished, so I wrote a play called Hungry Woman’s Breakfast to perform after graduation —the gay-est title ever. How I didn’t know I was gay back then still baffles me!

Performing was something that started much earlier in life with dance – both Scottish Highland dancing and later ballet, and later high school drama class which sparked the real acting bug.

I originally saw you in No Gold Star, which was really moving. Can you tell me a bit about why you wrote it and if you think it’ll be coming back?

Thank you! I’m glad you were able to come see the show.

No Gold Star was inspired by my own coming out experience. I thought it might be something I would want to write about, but I hadn’t really gotten started on it until my friend connected with me about it. He had recently come out as trans, also late in life, and we decided to put on a co-production of the two shows with the umbrella title Out Late and we took it to the Halifax Fringe. As scary as it is to tell such a personal story on stage, it does give one ownership over it.

I haven’t performed the show in over a year, but that doesn’t mean I won’t revive and develop it again! I have been working on a web series concept based on the themes of the show, which may be the direction I end up going with it.

Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia

Can you tell me about your experience being a part of Vancouver’s performing arts community?

Being part of Vancouver’s performing arts community has been kind of a slow burn and has come in little pockets since I moved here in 2011. Vancouver has a reputation of being hard to break in to, but once you somehow figure out how to open these little secret doors, it’s amazing the networks that one can be a part of and/or help create.

Coming out in 2015 made a big difference in finding connections, and I think part of that was me truly embracing who I was. Performing No Gold Star connected me with artists that I wouldn’t otherwise have sought out, and it also was the thing that connected me with SLACKS creator Jacqueline Korb.

I’ve also really enjoyed being a small part of Vancouver’s puppetry community in the past few years.

What can Christmas-hungry audiences expect when they go see SLACKS? I saw online that it’s considered a live sitcom. Do you have a laugh-track or is it one of those modern no-track sitcoms?

I always refer to the show as the Lesbian Seinfeld! There is no laugh track – that’s the audiences’ job, so we have to work for it. Luckily, Jacqueline’s writing is clever, and the cast really delivers. The episodes that we are performing are specifically holiday themed. They are the 13th and 14th episodes, but the way that it’s written doesn’t require you needing to have seen the previous episodes. That said, there are some inside jokes layered in for die-hard SLACKS fans.

SLACKS | Photo credit: Peter Taylor

Can you tell me more about your spin-off series?

Jackie, the creator of the theatre show, generously allowed me to produce, direct and co-write a few short interview segments based on the stage play— like the one-on-one interview spots in The Office or Parks and Rec. It’s a way to get these characters out there beyond the stage show. We have released the first episode already, and the second will premiere this week. The webisodes stand alone but are also promotion for the stage show and potentially a precursor to a higher budget on-screen series.

Do you have a favourite venue to perform at in Vancouver and/or a favourite venue where you go to see shows?

I love the smaller venues in town. I have never performed at the Cultch Historic Theatre (only the Lab) but would love to. I really love the East Van vibe of the Cultch, Havana, and the Rio. For non-East locations, I loved performing at XY, and am sad that the venue is no longer as it was such a supportive, accessible space for queer artists. Granville Island’s The Revue Stage is also a favourite.

Are there upcoming shows or events that you are especially excited about?  

I always want to check out PuSh Festival. I am usually drawn to live performance that will give me a brand-new experience, and so I tend to gravitate towards smaller, festival type shows.

Does 8 Monkeys have any upcoming productions?

For theatre, nothing in the immediate horizon.  For film, we are hoping that the feature film completed last year, Writing Kim, will finally be available for audiences in 2020. I’m currently working on a distribution deal and crossing my fingers for a local festival premiere. Also, our YouTube channel for SLACKS has new content up immediately, and again in the new year.

Follow Ward on Twitter at @alicat888.

 

Rachel Rosenberg is a writer and library technician who is a proud member of the LGBTQ2+ community. She writes for Book Riot and can be found on Twitter @LibraryRachelR

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