Questions for Madeleine Jullian: directing GASH

Madeleine Jullian has worked as an actor, writer, and director in Berlin, London, and Toronto.  She produced and directed Nick Dipchand’s solo show The Nature of a Bullet as part of the Toronto Fringe in 2013 and produced a double bill of Sheldon Rosen’s one-act plays, New Order and The Grand Hysteric, at Ryerson University’s Abrams Theatre in 2015.

Madeleine’s written works include Prize Horse, performed at the 2012 New Voices Festival, as well as bagged, created with the 2013 InspiraTO Playwriting Academy.  She also won Pat the Dog’s 24-Hour Playwriting Contest with her play Bunk*R in 2014.  Other directing credits include Caitie Graham’s earlier work Paradise Comics (2014), Positive I.D by Peter Dickinson (2012), and Laurie Campbell’s Just to See You Smile (2012).

Madeleine directs Caitie Graham’s GASH that opens Nov 22nd at Alumnae Theatre.  Let’s find out more: about Madeleine and GASH.

1) Are you more like your father or your mother?


Madeleine Jullian

Both, I think. My mother studied literature and taught for many years, and my dad ran a microelectronics company for decades.  So, at first glance, it may look like I get my artistic sense from my mum and my analytical side from my dad.  But my mum is intensely logical and likes to extract facts – she could be silent for much of a conversation, only to come out all of a sudden with one perfectly-crafted sentence that summarizes what we’ve been discussing, changes the perspective on the situation, and also happens to be extremely funny.  And my dad – well, he’s a visceral storyteller.  You should watch him play the board game Articulate: he becomes utterly possessed with the word he wants you to guess.I could go on, but I feel I’ve inherited all of these things in strange ways.

2) What is the best or worst thing about what you do?

The lack of structure.  I was an athlete for a long time, so my days, years even, were intensely planned out.  I could tell you what I would be doing at a 5pm on a Thursday three years ahead of time. Since graduating I often feel like I’m treading water, instead of swimming to my destination.  But that’s a personal problem.

3) Who do you like to listen to or watch?

I’m definitely a people-watcher.  I like to see what I can know by looking at a person.  Do they have their employee ID on them?  Who do they work for?  Why did they choose that shirt this morning?  Are they in pain?  How did they come to take on that particular posture to get through their day?  We give off so many clues about ourselves without knowing it.  Where is that particular individual going?  What does their way of moving say about them?  Where do they hold tension in their body?  Oh, and I love period dramas, the Bourne films, Luther, and Broadchurch.  I once waited three hours in the rain to get a photo with Ruth Wilson, because she was both in Luther AND in my favourite version of Jane Eyre.  Rough ride man.

4) What ability or skill do you wish you had, that you don’t have?

I wish I could time-travel, but somehow I don’t think that’s what you mean.

[actually that’s an awesome answer…!]

Or see into the future, but I guess that would be useless if I could travel in time?  Then again, if I could see into the future, then I wouldn’t have to worry about being seen by my future self and therefore ruining the universe.

But then, I wouldn’t be able to live in the past, which I think is ultimately what I’m after… I think I would do really well as a medieval farmer.  Actually, I did this thing on a website once that said in a previous life I was a medieval farmer.  Wish I could remember that.  I bet I was like the second person who said it would be a good idea to use fertilizer.  Not the first person, nah, but the first person’s friend who was like, that is a good idea, you should pursue that, and what’s more, I’ll do it too.  And then we both get invited to talk about our experience to the king who’s like, you two are smart, and then I can go, I’m not, your majesty, but my friend is.  She’s incredibly smart, and funny, too.  And then me and my great friend would go off and have some mead or whatever booze they drank back then and celebrate a little before heading back to our land to rock our new farming practices for the next ten years or so before we die of overwork.

5) When you’re just relaxing and not working, what is your favourite thing to do?

Hot tea in bed, wine and chips, lattes and walking.  I also like to buy scratchcards and call out the numbers like I’m in a bingo hall.

More questions about GASH.

1- Please describe how you came to be part of the team preparing GASH


Playwright Caitie Graham

I directed Caitie’s play Paradise Comics when it was part of the New Voices Festival back in 2014.  It was a great experience for both of us, and I’ve been a massive fan of her work ever since.  She sent me previous drafts of what was then called POSE BALL, so I feel I’ve been with the play for some time.  I remember reading early drafts while sitting in a coffee shop in South London.  She had already had an excerpt of the play produced as part of the New Ideas Festival at Alumnae, as well as a staged reading of the play at Tarragon, so when Caitie asked me whether I would consider directing it for Alumnae’s Fireworks Festival, I was honoured that she would think of me.

We then worked on Sama Kokabi to be our Stage Manager.  Sama is a stunning artist and incredible SM – she’s also one of the best people I know.   She’s worked with us many times, and always brings a caring and resourceful energy to the room.

Once Sama agreed to come on board, the team was set.


Sama Kokabi

2- The social media storm surrounding Harvey Weinstein & the #metoo conversation makes this play feel very timely, in its concerns with consent & sexual violence.  How has that impacted your feelings about the project?

Once in a philosophy elective a young woman began her in-class-participation-mark-getting comment by saying, “I’m not a feminist or anything but…” There is definitely a lot coming to light recently, but this is not a recent fight.  My mother went to a bar with some friends who joked she should get on the table and dance for them.  My grandma was pawed down at neighborhood dances.  As the metoo hashtag shows, surprise surprise, there’s something wrong with how things are run, and we’re getting sick of it.  I hate “timely” pieces.  Caitie did not write a “timely” play.  She wrote what was true to her, what she wanted to explore, and it’s that truth that speaks to me, the story of these three young people.  I don’t jump on bandwagons, and I don’t feel like talking about sexual violence being flavour of the month.

3- How would you describe yourself & your previous work(s)? 

I’ve worked as a director, actor, writer, producer… and done a shedload of retail and customer service.  When I was in school I wrote a play called Prize Horse, about a sinister bet between a brother and sister.  I’ve also written a ten-minute play about a young man confronting a piece of rope after his father has died by suicide. I’m fascinated by darkness and the thoughts we don’t want anyone to know we have. When I read something in the news about a horrifying crime, I try to think, in what kind of place would I have to be to even consider committing that crime?  Psychologically, financially, emotionally, logically.  And I think that’s what my work is about.  Just trying to see where people are coming from.  So in terms of directing, that’s what feeds my hunger for new work.  I love mining text, digging through layers, thinking about characters and the shape and structure of scenes and plays, and what’s motivating all these people.  And when I get in the rehearsal hall, it’s about giving actors the most delicious things to work with.  You can just see when a note or a thought fires an actor up.  That’s when you shut up and let them try it, and see how you can best shape that drive to give the actor the most to play with.

4- GASH tells an existential CSI kind of story, piecing together events between a woman and those around her.  Please unwrap some of the politics for us.   

Ah, if we’re going to start name-dropping shows, then I’m a Law and Order: Special Victims Unit kind of a woman. Olivia Benson, you know what I’m saying?  But GASH doesn’t even deal with the justice side of things, we don’t even enter that reality.  It’s not even brought up as an option, because it’s basically understood that if Cata decided to go to the cops, she would be out of the police station with an “unfounded” stamp on her forehead quicker than Harvey Weinstein ejaculated into that potted plant (allegedly of course).  How sad that seeking justice is not even on this young person’s mind.  So instead we see their trying to figuring it out themselves.  When you know you will never get justice, when you’re not even sure what justice actually means, how do you move forward?  Cata so desperately wants to be in charge of her own life, but Jules, and even her friend Isa, take that agency away from her in different ways.

5- Caitie Graham’s work often concerns youth and their particular concerns. Please talk a bit about what that means to you, in terms of process & how you direct the script.


Meara Khanna

This is a really tough time for young people.  I didn’t have facebook until university; this next generation doesn’t know a world without youtube.  They’re smart, crafty, resourceful, and critical, but it’s hard to grow up and figure out who you are when your phone can tell you via snapchat, facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc. how the rest of your acquaintance is living a better, more glamorous, more fulfilling life than you. Now, dramatically, of course, this is supremely fascinating, and to watch young people play young people is really cool as a director.  In theatre school you get used to seeing twenty-somethings play all roles, regardless of age, which is part of the training.

Seeing young actors play young people, it brings a whole new energy to the room. Both Meara Khanna, who plays Cata, and Blake Murray, who’s playing Jules, are relatively close in age to the characters (17 and 23).  It gives them an immediate grasp on the material that an older actor may struggle with.  And Caitie, of course, knows the play intimately, so it’s particularly fun to see her come at the text as a performer.  I get to see what weird and wonderful things they bring to the work and then we go from there!


FW-GashbgCaitie Graham’s GASH runs Nov 22 – 26 at Alumnae Theatre, directed by Madeleine Jullian.  (Information & tickets)


Thursday November 23
Free Panel Discussion: Navigating Consent
Moderated by Anne Wessels, director of education at Tarragon Theatre. Our panelist is Andrew Townsend, coordinator of teen programming at Planned Parenthood Toronto.

Saturday November 25
Writer/Director Talkback with Caitie Graham and Madeleine Jullian


This entry was posted in Dance, theatre & musicals, Interviews. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Questions for Madeleine Jullian: directing GASH

  1. Reblogged this on The Alumnae Theatre Company's Blog and commented:
    Interview with Madeleine Jullian about directing GASH – in the final week of Alumnae Theatre Company’s FireWorks series (Nov 8-26, 2017).

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