By Ryen Veldhuis
This year, Thorneloe University has had a new face in the halls: Dr. Bill Lane.
“I basically answered an ad for the position of sabbatical replacement. Ian Maclennan normally teaches half the courses in the department and he was going on sabbatical,” Lane says, about how he found himself at Laurentian this year.
Lane has been active in Canadian Theatre since the 70s, which he spent working exclusively in theatres as a director, playwright and dramaturg.
In 1982, Lane worked at CBC radio and developed, produced and sometimes directed over 500 radio plays. That same year he was both included in the 1982 publication of the Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre and won the first Pauline McGibbon Award: an award for Ontario directors.
In 2004, Lane received his MA in the department of Social and Political Thought at York University after having a BA for most of his professional career. He then proceeded to get his Ph.D. in the Department of Theatre Studies at York.
“I spent a lot of my life in the Toronto area and working in major cities and about three years ago, for personal reasons, I made a drive to Alaska from Toronto,” Lane says. “I discovered, which I probably already knew, but I discovered in a different way that there is a whole world north of Toronto. And I guess it was shortly after that that I saw this position advertised and I thought ‘well, it would be interesting to spend some time in Sudbury. It’s not as north as White Horse, but it’s still a bit further north than Toronto.”
During his time here, Lane has been teaching seven courses: Theatre History III, which is 19th-century theatre history; Theatre History IV, which is 20th-century theatre history; Dramaturgy; Play Analysis; Directing; Theories of Drama and Canadian Theatre.
Lane was particularly enthusiastic about the Dramaturgy course which he believed was “something new for Thorneloe which feels kind of exciting for students and others who are writing plays so they can workshop and showcase those plays.”
“With the dramaturgy we’re doing an interesting thing. Dramaturgy, I don’t think a lot of people know exactly what it is, because it’s a fairly new craft in Theatre. Dramaturgy can be one of two things: either looking at older plays and discovering things about them which you need to know in order to produce them; things like what kind of hats they wore in the 19th century, or it can be –and this is where I’m more interested – developing new plays. I have basically turned the dramaturgy course this year into a laboratory for developing new plays and we’re going to do a few reading of these plays later,” says Lane. “I just think working with living playwrights that are developing is a lot more interesting than working with dead playwrights on plays that will never change.”
After having the opportunity to work on the academic side after so long working on the professional side Bill says: “I guess I’ve seen the world of Theatre from both sides now; from the side of the professional theatre, which often distrusts the academic world; and from the side of the academic world which often resents or distrusts the professional side. And that’s one thing I like about this place too, is that those two sides are close together.”
Bill Lane has directed the second main stage play at Thorneloe this academic year entitled Down the Main Drag. After his experiences with both the students in his classes and the performers in the play He says: “There are some really talented actors here who are going to be hopefully some of them at least, finding some place in the profession before too long.”
Unfortunately, this academic year is coming to an end, meaning Bill’s time year is also coming to a close. “I really enjoyed the time I spent here,” Lane says. “And I would love to stay a little longer. It’s amazing how fast ten months go by. Maybe I’ll be back.”