Artist Statement

These are some thoughts on making theatre and making art.

"My penchant for the unconventional, in the theatre and beyond, does not preclude a serious interest in the narrative or a deep commitment to the collaborative process. How many places in life do we have the opportunity to share at a gut level, to participate in, orgies of ideas and strategies that culminate in feasts presented to groups of strangers-- and they eat it! AND theyâ•˙re nourished by it!


Catherine HahnCatherine Hahn

My aesthetic leans away from the cheery -- I˙m more interested in the tragic than the comedy in life, maybe it˙s from growing up in a socialist family where the plight of the oppressed and the degradation of the environment were what we ate for breakfast; Bruegel and Bosch, Bread and Puppet and Mardi Gras, carnival and circus.  I look for the work that speaks to the injustices in the world, and to the "other˙s" stories, which shed light on the darker side of humanity.  At the same time, I gravitate to the projects where I can get my hands inmaking masks, sculptural settings, unusual props, lushly painted scenery; work more often found with smaller, edgier companies and, often, work where I can participate at a project˙s genesis.  Some of this impulse heralds back to my progressive childhood art classes, which I started at age 5 and continued until I became a teacher of them.  In the Arthur Lismer methodology, we made masks to learn how to look at faces, we made puppets to tell stories, we painted murals to learn how to work cooperatively, we made costumes because the puppets needed something to wearbut first we printed the cloth!  We were taught how to see, how to use our imaginations and, most importantly, to value our own ideas tenets by which I work today, and which I try to impress upon the crews, the assistants and the performers that work with me.

There is also, however, a lighthearted and celebratory aspect to what I do; I learned this early on with the highly experimental Royal Canadian Aerial Theatre (RCAT), a company that put theatre in the sky using kites and balloons as "sky symbols" to stir awareness of social and environmental issues.  It was my first serious experience with a site specific, outdoor, populist form, and I was gripped; For me, the play is all about movementhow and why the actors move around the space, and how your eye is ledwhether in the air, in a theatre, or on a field. Theatre outdoors is by nature “spectacle” and the experience of it is publicly shared.

When I was invited to join the Caravan Stage Company, a politically engaged ensemble, I leapt. While the RCAT established a conceptual aesthetic path, the Caravan fulfilled a holistic on. We toured from town to town in handmade horse drawn wagons, worked and lived and ate and sang together; a campfire was our green room.  By virtue of 24/7 proximity the work we created was by constant collaboration.  It was exhilarating, instructive, provocative, and sexyeverything I think theatre should be.  My bold and imagistic painterly style became the visual hallmark for the company and informed many of the design choices for years, through their transformation into the Caravan Stage Barge and Caravan Farm Theatre.  Making meaningful theatre in this amazing context -- with friends, with co-conspirators, with horses, with music, with children and with political engrossment it is truly life as art, and not a greater spirit frees the creative soul.  When I work with younger artists I make efforts to impart this to them, and I believe my influence to be wound through much of their subsequent endeavors. 

We can each dance, we each see with our own eyes; but let˙s try seeing with each other's, let us link arms and run down this runway together ˘til we're actually airborne.  Why not?