Sasha: When told that the theme of the current No More Potlucks was Ego, you quickly responded, “I have a lot to say about that bastard.” Please tell me what you meant by that. In other words, when you hear the word ego, what or whom does it conjure up in your mind?
Daniel MacIvor: Ah, Ego. Makes a great fuel but a shitty engine. It took me a long time to come to terms with how I could use ego without ego using me. Ego is that “more, now, again” thing that wants to suck the life out of today in an effort to get to tomorrow for more “more, now, again.” On one level Ego is like an entity we carry on our backs with its teeth sunk into our jugular. It is happy to kill us so it can keep living – it is so caught up with itself it doesn’t realize that once we’re dead it’s dead too. On the other hand Ego is the thing that makes us stand up and speak up; the thing that convinces us that what we have to say is worth finding a stage for. Without Ego we would be happy to commune with nature and evolve; Ego places the human above nature – so the struggle is to let Ego feed us and to manipulate the energy it gives us and use it to commune with one another and still maintain evolving as the point. Which is difficult because to really evolve, is to lose Ego.
S: You are entrenched in two practices that are preoccupied with the ego: Shambhala Buddhism and theatre. Tell me how the concept of ego in Buddhism informs your work as an actor and how the concept of ego in theatre informs your practice in as a Buddhist. Or do these things intersect at all?
DM: Yes, I think they interact greatly. The Buddhist practice asks that we release Ego – to live in a “letting” way not a “wanting” way. Ego is all about want. And in the theatre the first question that any director or playwright or actor or dramaturge asks about a character is “what do they want?” Ego is the oxygen in the world of theatre. Even as an audience we participate in theatre in order to see ourselves represented somehow – this is in part our Ego looking for reflections of itself. There is a battle in these two ways of thinking. But if one recognizes the power of theatre to expose Ego – to make us face it and its desire to control us – we can use that recognition, that insight, as a way to control Ego.
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