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David Rotenberg: His Novels Are Anchored by the Art of Acting

Book Cover Murder of Crows

I’ve been asked for years to write a book about the unique way that I teach acting. But every time I’ve sat down at my computer I’ve wanted to write fiction, not a how-to book, so instead I’ve integrated my knowledge of acting teaching into my novels. Geoffrey Hyland in two of the five Shanghai mysteries has come to Shanghai to direct a production of Twelfth Night (I’ve directed it twice myself) and Decker Roberts, the lead in the Junction Chronicles series (The Placebo Effect and A Murder of Crows which is coming out March 19th) actually teaches in the acting studio that I started in Toronto—Pro Actors Lab.

I travel all over the world teaching the very best of the very best actors in the US, Canada, China, South Africa—and hopefully soon in Turkey and the UK. The actors I’ve taught—many of whom I prep for most of their big time film and TV shooting—are names familiar to you all. There isn’t a show on Canadian TV that doesn’t feature at least one of my clients.

I was a professional theatre director for twenty years in the United States with two Broadway shows to my credit, dozens of regional theatre credits and I ran a major American Regional Theatre so it was a bit of shock to me when I returned to Canada, where I'd been born and raised, to …

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"Free fall beneath the carpet": David Rotenberg on setting The Placebo Effect in Toronto

Book Cover The Placebo Effect

I directed the first Canadian play in the People’s Republic of China in Shanghai (in Mandarin) when that country was in the massive transition from a profoundly oppressive socialist state to a basically free market economy – a thrilling time and my time there inspired me to write my first novel. I also lived in Manhattan for many years and it still forms the base for some of my work. New York knows what it is. It’s been written about, sung about and mythologized into a state of firm existence. People immigrate to New York from all over the world and become New Yorkers. You peel back the carpet and you find yesterday’s New York, you pry up the floorboards and you get yesteryear’s New York.

Toronto is different – sometimes there’s free fall beneath the carpet.

I was born and raised in Toronto, and retuned to the city in 1987 after living in the United States for the better part of sixteen years. Since I've been back, I've had nine novels published. But The Placebo Effect is the first time I’ve written about my hometown. And I didn’t find it all that easy. Toronto is a city where more than 50% of its citizens were not born in the country. Sometimes there’s “ just no there, there” – to quote Ms. Stein. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing …

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