The first Traverse Through Time talk featured Peter Licthenfels and Gordon McDougall, moderated by Noel Witts. It focused largely on the difference between the incarnations of the Traverse Theatre. As someone who wasn’t super familiar with the Traverse company, but was highly interested in learning about the company, I enjoyed the talk immensely.
McDougall was involved with the Traverse from 1966-1968 as the artistic director, when it was on Lawnmarket Street, its original incarnation. He also worked with Max Stafford-Clark, a very famous and respected director, before Stafford-Clark took over.
Describing the Traverse, McDougall said that, “The Traverse was up a long flight of stone steps at James Court, and the staircase was quite slippery.” The room was 12’ x 50’ x 12’.
One of his first productions with the Traverse was in 1963 when they did Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry, which I was excited to hear about because I sincerely enjoy Ubu Roi.
The highlight of McDougall’s thoughts on the Traverse Theatre, for me, was when he said that the original space – due to its construction and small size – had this, “friction between impossibility of doing a show in that theatre and the fact that you were actually doing theatre there.”
Licthenfels spoke about being involved with the Traverse from the fall of 1975 to the fall of 1985.
“I was unusual,” Lichtenfels said about being the artistic director of Traverse. “I was training director, associate director, assistant director, then I came back and was artistic director.”
Licthenfels qualified himself as much more interested in international theatre than pervious artistic directors. Chris Parr, the previous artistic director, focused on new Scottish work. Peter tried to bring in international works, largely by going to the sites of the work and courting the talent.
“The time was when Margaret Thatcher was in power,” Licthenfels said of his new ambitions for Traverse Theatre when he was the artistic director. “Thatcher was getting at labor councils, money was being taken from the arts. So my take on that was I wanted to do new plays. I wanted writers to do plays that were wider in a Euro-American sense.”
The talk was really interesting, not to mention inspiring! As someone who dreams of the future incarnations of good, ambitious, experimental theatre, I think the Traverse Through Time talks are going to be some of the best places for information and contagious passion.