Coal Mine Theatre recently held the Toronto premiere of the award-winning DETROIT by Lisa D’Amour. With direction by Jill Harper, this production concludes the company’s exciting seventh season and runs in-person.
This production is headlined by a distinguished ensemble of exceptional performers including Diana Bentley, Sergio Di Zio, Craig Lauzon, Tommie-Amber Pirie, and the legendary Eric Peterson. The backstage creative team includes celebrated designers Ken MacDonald (set), Kimberly Purtell(lighting), Melanie McNeill (costumes), and Tim Lindsay (sound).
Coal Mine’s Co-Founder and Actor Diana Bentley took time from the show’s current run to take part in my 5 Questions With… series. Here is what she shared with me.
HM: You are an actor, but you are also the Co-Founder and Co-Chief Engineer of the Coal Mine Theatre with your partner & husband Ted Dyskstra. Could you please talk about your role at Coal Mine in terms of planning the current season over the last couple of years during the pandemic?
Diana Bentley (DB): Ted and I founded Coal Mine together in 2015 in the basement of the Magic Oven at Pape and Danforth. I am the Co-Artistic Director and the Artistic Producer of the company. That means that I’m the producer, but I’m also artistically very involved in programming and casting and design. The pandemic was both incredibly challenging for us (the stress of keeping the company afloat and also engaged), but it was also a moment to pause and reflect and make some adjustments both personally and professionally.
HM: Coal Mine’s upcoming production is DETROIT by Lisa D’Amour. It has been described as “a perfect play for an era of economic uncertainty and political shape-shifting.” It is a dark comedy of sorts. Please describe the decision to choose this play as the conclusion to the current season (your 7th).
DB: The decision to program this play was a long one. We read DETROIT back in 2017 and have wanted to program it for a few years but it never felt like the right moment- until know. It is a chaotic, wild, dark comedy. Something disastrous and about people trying to get to the bottom of things, or rather being forced to it. Suddenly after the pandemic, as our lives are in hyper focus and sometimes uncertainty, it felt like the right moment for it. And also – we need a laugh. I think we all need a laugh and comedies are very hard to find!
HM: DETROIT also marks your return to the stage; it will be directed by Jill Harper and has a nice cast of 5 people. What has been the preparation been like for you for your role as ‘Mary’ in this play?
DB: Mary is a wonderful character. She’s neurotic, desperate, very controlling. She is easy for me to identify with in many ways – she’s trying to make sense of her life by controlling it and I find that very human. Working on this show and with this cast has been a huge learning curve for me. It hasn’t been easy but it’s made me grow so much as a human and artist and I think we always need that- even is there is pain in the growth.
HM: Regardless of the city named in the play’s title, how do you think Toronto audiences can relate this play?
DB: Ultimately it’s about a couple who need to figure out how to connect and how to love each other for who they really, truly are. I think that’s what makes it a glorious play and I think most audiences will take something away from it for that reason. It resonates with one of the deepest human pieces; the desire to love and be loved.
HM: Before closing, what other roles can we look forward to seeing you (on stage, or tv) in the near future?
DB: I’m in Season 3 of Netflix’s Locke and Key. [I’m having] a delicious time playing one of the new bad guys. I am also in Guillermo Del toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities coming soon to Netflix. But I’m so, so excited to be making my directorial debut at the Coal Mine next season. Stay tuned for our season announcement coming mid August!
DETROIT continues at Coal Mine Theatre until August 7, 2022. Performances will run Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online.