Interview with Storyteller Ian Kalman

Jo Hunter: So I’m here with Ian Kalman. I’m going to start by asking you why do you do art? Why do you make theatre? 

masks theatreIan Kalman: I’ve been an actor for many years, apart from a gap like most of us. I call myself a storyteller because I feel the theatre is about telling stories, to make people aware of issues. I used to do comedy stand-up as well, and write my own stuff. It doesn’t mean it’s got to be hitting in the face of it. It means it can be really subtle, they might laugh all the way through, and then they go out and all of a sudden they get the message. And that’s what any sort of art or theatre should be about, whether it’s dance or anything. I used to help run drama groups. We actually got my friend who got in this dance group, and they based all their movements on British sign language. Amazing. It is to be aware that anything can create a story. 

Jo: Do you do it every day?

Ian: I write. For me the biggest problem is to stop myself writing. I’m used to be an actor but now I’m trying to concentrate on writing. I have enjoyed being in theatre, I interview people and I do it all, and I’ve now just written an article about the job market and signing-on. So virtually I’m doing something every day, but when it comes to stories, I think of a story every five seconds and that is the biggest pain, because it’s just constant. I’m concentrating on one and I find it difficult.

Jo: And what do you think it brings to the rest of your life?

Ian: I like variety you see. That’s the problem. I do lots of things. As you’ve probably heard, I have my own difficulties at the moment, housing, but I just never stop. Sometimes it’s actually just saying, “I’ve got to stop and look at this”. Maybe it’s fear as well but I don’t admit it. I trained as a counsellor, so I know about my own psyche, but it brings enjoyment to my life. I studied also Native American Shamanism and there’s a phrase there I learnt once, it’s nice: ‘Everybody you meet is your teacher.’ Every moment you’re going to meet someone who’s going to teach you something, and it might be something really, really gets on your nerves but they still teach you something. So creativity is all around.

Jo: And how do you, or do you, kind of reflect on that? Do you think about what you’re doing?

Ian: At the end of every day, and it came from when I did the counselling, I found it very therapeutic. I used to do it in the journal form, now I do it in my mind. If it really gets heavy, I write it down, but I reflect on what’s done today. I probably look at my wins and my losses. I’m a person who’s not very negative about things. I don’t think, “Oh I did that wrong, I’ve got to kill myself now.” I deal with it afterwards. I just go over it every day. At the end of every day, I think of how the day went. What did I do well? What did I do? I don’t think, “Can I do it better?” because it’s gone now, it’s the past. And we all have our little scripts that we repeat, and there are things that I do that I repeat again. I will never learn the lesson, but at least I’m aware of the lesson. So I reflect on it, but also it sometimes provides me an insight to a character that I might want to create. So everything is about creativity for me in life.

Jo: How important are other people in your practice, either people that you collaborate with or the audiences?

Ian: Well as a performer, it’s important. I’m somebody who once you put it out there and you feel the energy from the audience, you know when it fails. You know when it’s succeeded. I did a play years ago, it was a two-hander with another guy, it was a comedy. I won’t tell the story because that doesn’t matter, but first night had them laughing all the way through. Second night they were quiet. What’s gone wrong? The thing was about death really, about life, life and death, and the third night they got the secret message of the play and he was happy. We were doing a tour of several theatres, the last night at that venue on the Friday night, one of my friends come along who had performed before, I heard him laughing at the right places. There was some idiot laughing at every line, but you can’t get everything! But you feel, and I think the main thing for me is, I’m a loner mostly. I’m good at talking to people. That’s my skill I’ve always said. I like to interact with people. I do a lot of work with people and I do one day a week at a hostel. Like last Friday I took a group out to see what they wanted to do at the hostel. It turned out better than I thought it would be. But I think people are magical. I believe in honesty and integrity I suppose.

Jo: And what about the people you work with if you’re acting, if you’re making a piece of work; what about the collaboration?

Ian: There must be communication. There must be trust there. I’m good at trusting my fellow performers. Sure there’s going to be one or two people who’ll get on my nerves, but once it comes to performing, I hope to feel I can trust them. It’s like walking on a tightrope okay. You’ve got to make sure they’re not going to sway the tightrope. I must admit I’ve been quite lucky here with what I’ve done. I’ve done the hostel tour one year, I’ve done some other things with Terry and they’ve always been great, because the main thing is, I think Cardboard Citizens have got, they work on the team, then work on the performance. So it’s not like if you go to professional theatre, you’re working with a top director, it’ll be the performance, the performance and saying “I expect you to work together”, you know, whatever, and that’s different I think.

Jo: Great. So finally I just want to ask if you were giving a piece of advice to an actor or a writer, whether they wanted to be a professional or whether they just wanted to have a go, what advice would you give them?

Ian: I think the main thing is that we all talk about, I get a lot of people come up to me and say “I’d like to be an actor” and they don’t realise the hard work of an actor or a writer. I’m not disciplined enough in my writing. That’s my problem. Like today, I woke up at four and I wrote a couple of pieces, like one was the article and one was something else. Number one I would say, is know it’s going to be hard work, but number two is enjoy it. Have fun, and I think that’s the important thing, for me personally, to have fun.

Jo: Thank you so much. That’s brilliant.

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