Diana Daly is a Producer, Designer, Performer, and Event Project Manager based in St. John’s, NL. Diana cut her teeth as part of the DIY generation that were integral to creating the unique vibe that exists in the arts community locally that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in Canada. The first event she helped organize alongside other socially active youth, was the legendary Peace-A-Chord Festival. Diana went on to attend the National Theatre School of Canada's Technical Production program in Montreal which threw some serious clout behind her already blossoming skills in the industry.
Diana has worked professionally with various Canadian Theatre, Dance, Circus and Opera companies for over 20 years and has had a hand in organizing some of Canada’s most exciting events ranging from the stage productions to festivals and everything in between. She is an experienced Stage and Production manager, lighting designer, sound designer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, stage performer, and novice printmaker. She has even published a book! Diana is currently creating her own production consultancy business.
Who is Diana Daly and what do you do?
I am a collection of contradictions. I'm an introvert who surrounds herself with extroverts. I'm shy but I push myself to connect with people. I'm creative but I hide behind the scenes. I love being on stage but I hate being the centre of attention. I wish I was an academic but I hang out with lots of them. I love art and expression, aesthetics and process. I love the natural world. I love people who make a living with their hands. I love complex ideas and simple messaging. I love building figurative systems for people to work together but I often fail my own systems. I am privileged and am also often at a disadvantage. I love a good laugh but comedy often comes from the dark part of life. I am a musician who doesn't want anyone to hear her. I want to be seen but I don't like being looked at. hahah! I am spicy and assertive but verrrry sensitive. I love St. John's and I can't believe I moved home. I'm that townie who had to move away in order to learn how to live here ... pretty normal, ya know.
Your career path has seen you take on many different roles. Did you set out to work in one area specifically or did you always know you were destined to add some magic to a multitude of arts-based work?
I love parties. I think I have always just taken comfort in being part of something meaningful and non traditional. When I graduated theatre school I thought I was going to be a full time lighting designer, so busy and in demand that I would have to have apartments in multiple cities...ah the follies of youth! It didn't turn out that way.
I just always knew that I am a cyclical creature and I would never do well in a straight job. I've always been attracted to people who create wildly beautiful things, especially if they mix disciplines, so the performing arts are great for me. I've always benefitted from art, helping me make sense of the world. Magic as you say, and calling out truth to power. So if I can help amplify or magnify someone's story, I'm in!
I am also a work horse and will fill a gap wherever I see it so, production is a good fit for me as there are many many ways to create and add to the story, it doesn't have to be as a performer. Also, I really can't stand too much unnecessary chaos, confusion and uncertainty. I find it creates a lot of hurt, so my commitment to efficient organization and developing effective systems is crucial so that projects can happen with the least amount of tears. It has been a big part of my drive up to now.
And did I mention parties? I love gathering with people and eating and laughing and living, and the arts is a wonderful way to do that.
What is the story of your career path so far? When did it start and how has it progressed?
I guess my career path started as a young Irish Catholic Feminist Peace Punk (see? Contradictions!!) volunteering to help with projects, then educating myself and then working in the field experiencing so many places, ways of working, and wonderful people. All along the way, I continued to educate myself and challenge myself and I think my career has progressed to the point where I have a solid reputation as someone who will be honest, transparent, and will get the job done.
Throughout the years, I have been part of many successes and not too many failures so I find this quote “straight roads do not make skillful drivers” very apt. I prefer to work smarter, not harder and I will always strive to avoid exploitation of people. At this point I have worked with so many different types of mediums and companies and incredible artists and producers from tiny little companies to large national players, that I have a unique perspective on where the friction lies inside of production teams. That's why I am turning myself into a Production Consultant so that I can help find the source of these tensions and search for sensible solutions. It is all based out of love and respect. Most of our problems are usually based on a lack of listening, really listening to each other, or by denying that there even are any problems at all. I want the performing arts to do more than survive, I want them to thrive and I think this new role I am taking on will help the industry that I love to recalibrate and grow in a healthy way.
A Wonderful Bigness by Diana Daly. Based on the stage show “If A Place Could Be Made” by Diana Daly, Louise Moyes, and Anne Troake.
What are some interesting things you are working on or are involved with now?
We just finished the first ever 'Ink Fest" this weekend with St. Michael's Printshop so I am very inspired and delighted with how well it went. (I'm Vice Chair of the Board of Directors).
I am doing a reading of my book, A Wonderful Bigness, published by Running The Goat Books and Broadsides at the Riddle Fence Pop up on June 10.
I will be giving another linocut workshop at the Festival of Quilts in Baie de Verde this August 19 and 20.
I am helping Perchance Theatre with their summer season in their brand new location in Conception Harbour.
I am involved with the restoration of Helen Gregory's mural of "Sheilagh's Brush". I noticed it had been taken down from its home on the harbour front and left as garbage a few years ago so my pal Tim and I went and got it in his truck and took it home. Since then, Chris Shortall (community hero) and Sarah Ferber (smarty pants) have made a go fund me to restore it and now Gary Taylor (incredible muralist) is restoring it for it to be displayed again. The Paintshop has even sponsored the project and I have to say, it's such a beautiful effort and really speaks to how art touches people's hearts...enough to save a 30 year old piece!
OH! And I am starting my own business.
Linocut by Diana Daly “Don’t forget the Wonder!”
You have worked on and been involved with so many interesting productions and events. Can you tell us about some of the things you have worked on over the years? What were some of your favourite projects and why?
The Lhasa de Sela Youth Stage at the Festival Folk sur la Canal in Montréal is something I am very proud of. I based it on the Neil Murray stage from Newfoundland and Labrador's Folk Festival and I went to great lengths to make sure there was representation from the many communities alive and well in Montréal. Diverse Representation on and off stage is ESSENTIAL (and I'll fight anyone who says it can't be done). It is now a mainstay part of the festival and there are multiple bursaries for youth created in Lhasa's name available to these performers. Lhasa de Sela was an incredible musician with huge integrity who passed away in 2010. She was a beloved member of Montréal's music community so it is good to be able to keep her with us this way.
The Fogo Island Song Share is one of my best inventions. It was held over two sessions during this amazing experience I was a part of by the National Arts Centre English Theatre, called The Ark on Fogo Island. It was led by Peter Hinton and we spent a month on Fogo Island learning about Ibsen. We were the first artists to use the desanctified Barr'd Island Church. We were having a hard time getting the locals and the artists to mingle, or connect. I devised a way for us to gather in the church, their church, face each other in a circle and all give a song that had to do with either Nationalism or Rebirth (two main concepts in Ibsen's writing). Well we had songs from visiting artists and locals alike in Swedish, French, Mi'kMaw, Norwegian, Narragansett and English (that's just the languages I can remember right now). It was the barrier breaker where we all shared and found common ground. It was wonderful. (There's that representation that matters again).
I am super proud of all the youth I worked with in Nunavik who have continued to create and thrive. I love keeping in touch with them and I delight in their successes.
My show, "If A Place Could Be Made" that I made with Louise Moyes and Anne Troake was life changing for me and has taken us all over this province, to the NAC and New York. This show was all about integrity and respect and love and it was breathtaking to see how far I could go as an artist when I was really, really supported. For that, I am forever grateful.
And I am also very proud of the first five years of the St. John's International CircusFest of which I was the Managing Producer.
Louise Moyes and Diana Daly in “If A Place Could Be Made”. Here Louise and Diana are embodying Mary and Cack swooning over Gordon Lightfoot.
QUICK! You are on a deserted island, what 3 items do you have?
My duvet, things to write and draw with, music.
What is your favorite thing to do in your downtime?
I love being outside, reading, cooking and eating but I also love watching trash tv!!! Naked and Afraid is "chef's kiss" gold!
Can you tell us something we don’t know about you!
Hmmmmmm, I can sing songs in Inuktittut even though I don't understand all the words...and I am learning ASL. OH! and I worked at JR when it first opened!
What’s your favorite thing about Johnny Ruth?
Aside from Kim? They have sizes that fit me properly and I am not a small person.
Linocut by Diana Daly ‘The Struggle for Day and Night’
You are starting a Production Consultancy business. Can you elaborate on what that is or what type of work you’ll be doing?
The working title right now is: Divining Rod Performing Arts Production Consultancy. I am basing it around the image of a Divining Rod, which my grandfather used as a tool to help find the source of clean water underground so that the community could have access to it. The metaphor lends itself well to who I am and the soul of the business. It’s Irish Magic!
There is a large problem in the performing arts industry that has been getting bigger every year of technical and administrative personnel suffering burn out and resigning. We are losing valuable, knowledgeable people and that leaves a weary few to guide the new members coming in. It also leaves companies in a terrible position where production roles cannot be filled. People are severely underpaid, overworked and depressed because of the unreasonable expectations that they cannot possibly fulfill. My consulting will aim to help companies learn how to listen, build and maintain sustainable working conditions as well as complete training for new technicians and professional development for established workers. I want to make sure this rich industry carries on into this next generation and the ones after that.
The Divining Rod
Why did you decide to start this business here in Newfoundland?
I love Newfoundland and Labrador. We have our own signature style of live art that mixes genres and disciplines. Our dancers talk! Our playwrights dance! Our designers sing! It's part of making the best of what you have living in a remote place. It is natural that my business is based in NL because we have the talent, the intelligence and the ingenuity to continue to create incredible shows for ourselves, our visitors and the international market.
I find it unacceptable to think that so many young artists are told that they will have to go away in order to have a career, or that NL based artists are only valuable if they make commercially successful products. We have the goods here. We have to be vigilant and nurture our human resources. I could eventually expand to other parts of the country, of course, but all good ideas do not have to come from Canada, it's ok for us to be the leaders sometimes!
Your work has led you all over the country. Why do you choose to call Newfoundland home?
This is an incredible place. There is lots about NL that drives me around the twist but the good outweighs the bad. I have a warm, loving, brilliant, gregarious, incredible family here and I want to spend as much time with them as possible. The same goes for my friends. They are gold and I would be a fool to spend any more time away from them. I am here for summer swimming, fall hiking, winter reading, spring ...well spring kinda sucks. All the visual arts, poetry and literature that happens here is astounding. We have clean air. We have a rich history. We have a diverse population and people who are dedicated to confronting oppression, colonialism, racism, classism, anti trans hate, homophobia, ableism and sexism. We have people here who make space for sorrow and for joy. I am here for this.
Your career path is so varied and exciting! What advice might you have for anyone that might be interested in pursuing a career in the arts and production management?
Be brave. Set your boundaries and plan what the consequences will be when people step over them. Educate yourself. Learn how to listen. Learn how to communicate. Respect that everyone is working hard. Make sure to make time for you outside of work. Give a hand up whenever you can. Value your co-workers as people first. Get some sleep. Don't pigeonhole yourself, do each job at least once so that you understand what you are talking about. Value yourself.
Here are the best words of advice from my mentors:
"Behind every piece of paper or document there is a person. If someone has given you a schedule or rehearsal notes or a budget, there is a reason. Read it."
"I don't care if you show up in your pajamas, I don't care if you show up crying, I don't care if you show up drunk (well, no, don't do that) JUST SHOW UP"
"If it was easy, someone else would do it."
And the best one of all: “If ye don’t ask, ye don’t get”
-My sister, Maria Haynes
Linocuts by Diana Daly for ‘the debt’ by Andreae Callanan
Newfoundland has a vibrant art community, from musicians and songwriters, to dancers and painters, authors and actors, and every form of craft in between. Johnny Ruth tries to show continued support by carrying numerous pieces and forms of art designed and/or manufactured by both local and Canadian artists and has monthly live Artist Showcases in our shop window. How important do you think it is for the community to support local arts and local businesses that support the arts?
It is essential! We are all in this together and to have a business understand and help highlight what we do is so great.
Johnny Ruth understands style and expression and hard work...artists make the clothes and books and items that the store sells and Johnny Ruth has always made a place for a beautiful exchange of spirit. When the store window is decorated to celebrate a festival or a show, it makes the city more inviting, creating a buzz that feels welcoming and cosmopolitan at the same time. I love that.
What’s the next thing on your bucket list?
I want to learn Irish Gaelic. Oh and to be able to fly again. I miss going places.
How do you see the production industry evolving in the future, and how do you hope to contribute to this evolution?
This is an industry based on and made by people. There will always be new technology and gadgets and trends to help us make our work but the people are the most essential part of our industry. Without us, you have nothing. People move around and do lots of different things but as each of us who have lost someone dear like a family member, a friend or a coworker, we all understand that people are not replaceable. Positions maybe, but not people. I hope to highlight that.
Last but definitely not least, what's the most rewarding part of your career path?
The close bonds I have made with incredible people who enrich my life and give me support and validation.
Diana can be reached through her email at firstname.lastname@example.org
To check out her book "A Wonderful Bigness" click here
Click here to check out the schedule for Lawnya Vawnya Festival of Music & Art, which Diana will be reading at.