‘Hope is a verb’, says David Diamond, the founder and artistic director of Vancouver’s Theatre for Living. As the company celebrates 35 years of creating award-winning, interactive community theatre, Diamond reflects not only on what it takes to keep hope alive but also on what has effectively become his ‘life’s work’.
‘Nobody is more surprised than me,’ he jokes as he recalls the loose beginnings of the company in 1981 when it was ‘a group of writers, actors and directors frustrated by the housing problem’ who created theatre that toured the country addressing that issue.
35 years later Theatre for Living (formerly Headlines Theatre) has a remarkable body of work of over 550 projects and trainings not only in Canada but also throughout the world, addressing complex issues such as climate change, globalisation, rampant consumerism, endemic violence, substance abuse and addiction.
Influenced initially by the radical pedagogy of social educator Paolo Freire, Diamond later trained with Augusto Boal, adapting Forum Theatre and other Boal methodology.
Boal called Diamond’s work ‘extraordinary and groundbreaking’ referring in particular to his adaptation of Forum Theatre for TV and the Internet and most notably, his highly acclaimed work with First Nation communities throughout Canada.
Diamond, who, among many awards, has received an honorary PhD from the University of Fraser Valley, the Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre and the City of Vancouver’s Cultural Harmony Award and the Mayor’s Award for Culturally Engaged Art, attributes some of the success to the company’s approach when working with communities.
The work is being hosted by different organisations including a joint Jewish, Christian and Muslim organisation and environmental groups. For our North American friends you can find more information on www.theatreforliving.com.
Later in the year Diamond will be joining the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where he has been asked by the Dean to help change the culture of the teaching environment using the Theatre for Living approach.
At the same time fund raising has already started for a large 2017 project that is examining the reality behind ‘reconciliation’ in Canada, ‘what does reconciliation really look like in today’s society?’.
David Diamond rejoices in what he considers a great privilege ‘ I get to have crazy ideas and do them…and work with incredible people in intimate and interesting ways!’