Published on July 8th, 2016 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Medina Hahn
Medina Hahn and Daniel Arnold are the two creative forces behind the engaging romantic mystery Any Night, which is now on at Pacific Theatre and being directed by Julia Siedlanowska as part of the theatre’s apprenticeship program.
We spoke to Medina Hahn to find out more about her process in writing the play with Daniel Arnold and the fascinating true story that inspired it.
Can you start by telling us a little bit about you and Any Night?
I am an actor, writer, singer, producer, wife and mother who has worked in theatre, film and television. Born in Edmonton, I have bounced back and forth between BC and Alberta for much of my life – earning a BFA from the University of Victoria and a BFA from the University of Alberta (where I met Daniel Arnold) in the process.
Any Night is a play about a troubled young dancer who moves into a new basement suite and finds herself drawn into romance with the charming young man living above her—until she starts suffering strange behaviour in her sleep. It’s a romantic mystery about privacy, trust, and the power of the subconscious. It’s a play that Daniel Arnold and I co-wrote, performed and toured for four years (including a production in Vancouver presented by the Cultch and Touchstone Theatre, and a run Off-Broadway), and now Pacific Theatre is producing a new production through their apprentice program.
What was the inspiration for the story?
There were a couple things that inspired us to create this story… The first was the true 1987 story of Ken Parks, a man who got up in the middle of the night, drove to his in-laws house, attacked them and woke up in his car with blood on his hands. He had slept walked. We began to study somnambulism, dreams and night terrors in great detail – talking with specialists, visiting sleep labs, etc… and we became fascinated with how much the medical industry still can’t explain about our sleep/dream world. The other inspiration I can’t really tell you about without giving away some of the play! But it definitely made us want to explore the themes of fear and trust.
Can you share some of your creative process in writing the script?
The development and creation of Any Night was super unusual . We started writing it while we were touring our first play, Tuesdays & Sundays. Then our first draft got optioned into a film by a company out of New York, so we stopped writing the play and started writing the screenplay! And then once we had a draft of the screenplay, we went back to the play, and then we back to the film and so on… for many many years. We were often on the road and in different cities. I think the play started to really come together when our director Ron Jenkins came on board, the Vancouver Playhouse helped develop it, and we did a workshop production at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria. We were able to see what worked and what didn’t. And we just kept tweaking it until it all fit into place. I actually remember us finding an entirely new storyline and writing it hours before premiering it in Toronto at the Summerworks Festival. One of the challenging and exciting things about the creative process spanning so many years, is that through those years, we were changing, the world was changing and as a result the play continued to expand and evolve.
What should audiences expect from this show?
Well, I have never been lucky enough to see someone else’s production of it so I’m super excited to see what these young creators do with it! The great thing about this play is that it keeps you guessing and thinking. It jumps timelines and as an audience you really get to be present and go on a pretty wild ride. It’s edgy. A little scary. And it’s the type of play that gets people talking and debating with one another afterwards.
What are the three most important ingredients for a successful play?
Oh wow, if I knew that, I’d never have been involved in an unsuccessful play! There are so many aspects- only three ingredients? Okay if we are saying a successful play on paper, the first thing that comes to mind for me is a solid interesting structure, strong relationships and good dialogue. And little bit of risk. And heart. Ugh see that’s five!
Are there any books or authors that have been influential to you in your journey?
I want to sit here and say that a bunch of technical books have been really helpful, and some definitely have – like The Intent to Live by Larry Moss, A Practical Handbook for the Actor and Story by Robert McKee. But it’s the books and stories about people’s journeys navigating through life that have had the most influence on me. I’m a bit of an auto-biography junkie. I love to learn of people’s ups and downs and their willingness to get back up and fight when they have been told “they can’t” or “that will never happen.” I really enjoyed Goldie Hawn’s, A Lotus Grows In The Mud and Sidney Poitier’s The Measure of a Man.
What is your most important lesson you have learned so far in your career?
Since I was a little girl, I always knew that I would be an artist. I started as a dancer and then added singing and acting to the mix. Writing and producing soon followed. I always had a strong idea of where I was heading and the arts were always a major part of me. A few years ago, I had a child and stepped away from the artistic world I knew to focus my energy on him. I remember worrying that if I was out of the creative arena for too long I might lose it or be really rusty, but when I returned, I found that I had actually grown. I’m a better actor and a better writer now than I was before. What i have learned is that when you continue to grow as a person, you can’t help but grow as an artist. And sometimes, doing something else – changing your patterns and comforts – allows for a new perspective and more openness. And those qualities are nothing but a gift to your artistic endeavours.
What other projects do you have coming up and where can people find out more about you?
In the fall, I will be onstage at the Firehall Theatre in a remount of the fantastic new musical Miss Shakespeare, which just won a Jessie Award for Best Musical and our feature film script of Any Night, which won the nation-wide CFF Super Channel Screenplay Award, will hopefully be going into production this winter.
Thanks to Medina Hahn for speaking with us!
You can see Any Night at Pacific Theatre until July 16th with nightly performances at 8PM. Tickets are “Pay What You Think It’s Worth” Cash Only after the show!
For more information, please visit PacificTheatre.org!