A few years ago, I had a crazy idea. I had cloistered myself up in British Columbia, hid away in school for twenty straight years, I was anxious and worried that I wouldn’t get the chances to perform in the real world, once I graduated… so I made a plan. A crazy plan. I decided to write myself a one man show and take it across the country.
I had no idea if I could hold anyone’s attention for an hour. I had no idea if I could write a show that’d work. I threw every theatrical idea into the show, creating a mad, patchwork quilt of ideas, and then threw most of them out. I mostly improvised a run at Vancouver Fringe in 2011. I rewrote the darn thing from the ground up. And then I took a deep breath, spent thousands of dollars, and took my little hat and kettle show on the road. First year, I went to London, Ottawa, Toronto, and Saskatoon, spent over two months away from where I lived – the longest I had ever been on the road.
I got stuck backstage and had to pee in a water bottle a couple of minutes before my first performance. I sold exactly zero tickets to three of my first four performances. I was on greyhound buses for forty-three straight hours. I lost money. And it was worth it.
I also met with mentors and brilliant performers who just wanted to help me along my journey. I made friends, colleagues, and talent crushes. I was introduced to the ridiculous art of attempting to smuggle women into your billet’s place without them noticing. I discovered from my billets just how charitable people can be and how awesome retirement is for a lot of people. I traveled the country, flew for only the third time in ten years. I made a man in Saskatoon give me a great big hug, break down, and cry, then loudly whoop at everyone on the street to come see my show.
And then, this summer, I brought The Hatter home. ‘Previewed’ it in Port Alberni to an empty town full of good intentions, brought it to Regina and was fed fancy meats while swatting mosquitoes and having a grand ol’ time. Then came the real homecoming tour.
Next, I went to Saskatoon, which had welcomed me so warmly, it felt like home. There’s a reason I was able to perform the most personal work I’ve ever written, there: a new show, The Most Honest Man In The World. Me being me. And most people still called me The Hatter, anyhow.
Then came Victoria. The big gulp of nervous air, a city of people I had treasured for seven years, then skipped out on when my degree was up. Spent a quarter of my life there. Felt like I was awaiting their judgment, wanting the city, old friends, ex-girlfriends, to tell me I had made the right call, that I’d made something of myself, out there in that bigger ol’ world. And the people who matter, they gave me just that. And oddly, most reassuringly of all, Victoria, well, it didn’t feel like home anymore. The Hatter is a play about searching for home. In its first draft, it was muchly a play of regretting leaving someplace, some people, somewhere. Now, it’s not that.
Now, The Hatter is about moving on.
And here we are in Vancouver, at home, and The Hatter is about to hang up his hat. No future plans for him. Nothing set. Just one more celebration, tonight at 8:15pm.
Thank you for the tea parties.
Before The Hatter hangs up his hat later today (perhaps forever?) with a show at 8:15pm, I wanted to add here my emailed responses to a rather well thought-out email interview/preview I had with Matthew at The Marble.
The preview can be found here: http://marblevictoria.com/post/95353607472/the-hatter-preview-matts-interview
1. Well it’s been a while since The University of Victoria’s Phoenix Theatre Department. What have you been up to since then?
I have been off in the great wide world! By which I mean, in the past three years, I have moved to the mainland, performed in 26 different productions for at least 16 different companies, taken three self-written one man shows (William vs The World, The Hatter, and The Most Honest Man In The World) to fringe festivals across the country (Victoria, Vancouver, London, Ottawa, Toronto, Saskatoon (x2), Port Alberni, and Regina), directed a talent show and a new fringe musical, got nominated for an Ovation Award, was picked as one of Richmond’s ‘30 under 30’, stage managed or ASMed for five productions, had a story make it onto CBC Radio’s Definitely Not The Opera DNTO, acted in a couple of no-budget films, and learned the true meaning of Christmas. Okay, maybe not that last one. Oh, and I have a half-dozen or so part-time jobs that pay my rent and let me disappear whenever I get a theatre gig. Phew!
2. That Hatter’s been following your around a lot in the last few years (or at least that’s how it’s looked whenever I’ve had a chance to peak into what you’re doing.) How did the two of your first cross paths?
The Hatter and I actually first met at The Phoenix at UVic! A directing student, Rene Linares, asked myself, then a mere writing student, and Marynia Bienkowska-Gibbs (another writer), if we could write for him a play about Alice returning to Wonderland as a professional woman. This became a SATCo production. So we did! And as we wrote it, I found myself really connecting to The Mad Hatter, really enjoying writing for him.
So when it came next to write a new one man show, there was a satisfying hook there.
3. I was tickled pink at the mention in your press release that you’ll be exploring the character’s, “serious emotional problems,” which could neatly sum up several personalities in the Alice series. Tell me, how much have you taken from the source material and what did you expand on?
When I was looking to write that new play to try and tour in Fringe festivals across the country, I also wanted to explore anger and what it means to lose control of oneself. If you’ve ever read or watched Alice in Wonderland, you know it can be succinctly summarised as ‘A whole bunch of characters yell at an innocent girl.’
In the story, Alice is rejected by many of the characters in Wonderland, and does all she can to escape it in turn. But what if someone landed in Wonderland, and never wanted to leave? And what if they were forced to go?
My writing philosophy also points me towards whatever scares me, and I remember one moment in high school where, without any thought or decision, I instinctively grabbed someone who was bullying me by the throat and shoved them into a chair. I was the most shaken up person about the whole moment, because… aye… it was like it wasn’t me, doing it. (Note: That’s the only time this has happened to me.)
But what about a character who has moments like that occurring throughout his life?
4. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered in your developing of the character, the most frustrating and, finally, the most fun?
The most surprising thing about the character of The Hatter, for me, is how desperately he wants everyone to be happy and jovial and delighted and wonderful. Figuring that out turned the show from a variety act into a story of a man trying his hardest to host a silly, happy party, but everything keeps going sideways.
The most frustrating part has been trying to connect this character with a wider audience. He looks like his should be a show for kids. But it’s not. Out of the first four performances I had in the London Fringe, the first time I really got the show on its feet… only one of those four performances had any purchased tickets. The tour picked up from there, but aye, a somewhat terrifying start. How can people know how good this show is, if no one comes?
The most fun part of developing this character, for me, is that he dives into everything, 100%, be that leading a singalong, telling a poem, summoning a Jabberwock, or trying to improvise a silly song on his own. Nothing quite works out the way he wants it to, but it is so much fun to give it a go. Also, I love those moments – such as when they have to step over broken plastic cutlery to get to their tea – when audience members realize that this isn’t a show like anything they’ve seen before.
5. The last time I saw you at the Victoria Fringe (2011) you were directing one show, acting in another and assisting in another. You looked savaged by the time it was over, but (other than the merits of organization) I’d like to hear what you took away from the experience and how you feel about your return to Vic Fringe?
I am SO looking forward to coming back! I consider this whole summer my home-coming tour in many ways; I’m returning to Saskatoon (where I had a 4.5 star review last summer), heading back to Victoria (my home for seven years), and then back to the mainland. And as for the mad experience of directing, stage managing, and writing/performing three different fringe shows at the same time, all I can say is, when I graduated, I was sorely worried that I wouldn’t get chances to work on theatre in the real world, so I made certain to say yes to every opportunity that came my way.
I still, mostly, live that way, and I don’t regret that decision in the slightest. Gotta be at the edge of your abilities to really grow and improve and evolve.
6. Tell me more about the actual show, what’s in store for the Mad Hatter?
After Alice left Wonderland, The Hatter found himself troubled by little sparks of memories rushing back at him, triggered by his his interactions with this small girl… and it isn’t long after that, that he wakes up one day and finds himself in the real world, in Victoria, and not in Wonderland at all. So he decides to host a Tea Party, the silliest, happiest tea party ever, a shard of Wonderland, to try and find a way back home. (And you’re invited!)
7. Now that’s you’re several years out of theatre school, I’d really like to hear your retrospective as well as any advice to young people starting up there or about to graduate and go into the big wide theatre world?
Be rabidly ambitious, endlessly cooperative, and calmly patient. Very few careers in this world happen right out of school, regardless of the field. Never mind in such a frivolous and amazing arena as theatre. But know that the theatre communities out there are full of people who want to help you, who want to support you, and who would love some support in turn. Find those rent-paying jobs that offer up the flexibility to let you keep pursuing what drives you, excites you, fills your boots with glee. And ask the elders… pick the brains of the theatre people around you and find out where they get their opportunities, where they want to go next.
8. So as a performer, is there anyone you’d say you took inspiration from more than others?
Oh, inspiration comes from all over. Sometimes, the reassuring kind, where older actors tell me how much easier it is to find work when you’re one of the four 70+-year-old actors in town, rather than one of a million 20-somethings. At other times, the blistering heat of coming across someone who is so pumped up to get to be doing what they’re doing. Or the reasonable kind, seeing how actors pay the bills and getting that calming feeling of ‘I could do that’.
Honestly, the most inspiring thing is just being able to look back at the last three years and see a slight progression towards doing more and more paying acting, writing, and other theatre work. Slowly expanding that portion of the income pie, until hopefully someday it can reach right around. (Or at least do its very best Pacman impression.)
9. Distilling it all down, why should folks come and see The Hatter?
Come to see a 4.5 star reviewed show that has been described as ‘like nothing you’ve ever seen before’. Come to have a free cup of tea, meet a man, have fun, and be moved. Come to help out a fellow trying madly to get home. Come because the best of Fringe Theatre is all about walking into a room, engaging in an experience, and then walking out, saying, ‘I don’t know how anyone in their right mind came up with that, but I am so glad I got to see it.’
10. Finally, what tea can patrons expect to be served?
It’s The Mad Hatter’s tea party! You’ll have dozens of options to choose from, and even some mustard and relish if you want to add a condiment or two.
See you at the tea party!
(Their resultant review can be found here: http://marblevictoria.com/post/95810700942/the-hatter-charming-stranger-review )
Hey Vancouver Fringe! Here are a few things people have to say about my show, The Hatter:
“A frenetic explosion of a well loved literary character…This was one-man theatre as I’ve never seen it… You must buy this ticket. You must take this ride.” – The Marble Theatre Review (Victoria)
“Andrew Wade shows fantastic range, flipping a switch between wackiness and depression… you’d be mad to miss this play. 4.5 / 5 stars! ” – The Saskatoon StarPhoenix
“Wade embodies the character of the Mad Hatter perfectly.” – Apartment 613
People’s Choice Award! – Alberni Valley Fringe Theatre Festival
“The effect is phenomenal… It hits the right notes: it never takes itself too seriously; it shows a clear mastery of the style and text… a fascinating, frantic, engaging character who can draw our attention by simply being in the space… the Jabberwocky alone is worth the price of admission.” – Mooney On Theatre (Toronto)
“Wade’s performance as the jaded, lonely Hatter is a delight, convincing and poignant, not quite what one would expect, which is perfect for a Fringe festival… you quickly learn to expect the unexpected, which can only be attributed to Wade’s fine acting skills.” – London Free Press
“Clever and funny, with a polished, lyrical style.” – The Beat Magazine
“Wade’s charm is undeniable.” – Production Ottawa
It is hard to find the time and energy to blog between performing, flyering, radio interviews, flyering, promoting, flyering, prepping, seeing shows, and trying to escape the Saskatoon sun! As is, I’m writing this at 3am. That said, I did want to mention that my highly experimental, Sam-Mullins-esque-but-weird personal storytelling show, The Most Honest Man In The World, has received a four star review from the Saskatoon StarPhoenix! And from the reviewer whom other performers had warned me about, no less!
For me, the fact that this show works… HUGE confidence boost. One one-man-show (William vs The World), well, that’s an experiment. Two one-man-shows (The Hatter), that could be a coincidence. But to have three now under my belt… that shows that I’m really doing something here.
(Not that I want to keep doing nothing but one-man-shows, but hey, maybe one day I’ll even strike gold and put together a show that actually sells well enough to make fringe touring the profitable choice as well!)
Anyway, onto the review! : http://www.thestarphoenix.com/Review+Most+Honest+World/10086802/story.html
Andrew Wade, who had a Fringe hit last year in The Hatter, bares his soul in this romantic tell-all that spans his childhood, adolescence and early adulthood… The content itself is cleverly arranged… It’s a pretty brave experiment, in both theater and life. If it’s true.
All I can say is, I aim to be truthful. I aim to be honest. I wanted to try a storytelling show, be myself onstage. The idea of that terrified me. I also knew I would have to plan for a quick turnaround between festivals this year… I would need to make a show anchored in genuine connection rather than complex artifice. A blank page is the hardest thing in the world, so I threw away the page instead, and grabbed a stack of flashcards. 🙂
This rather positive review also has what has got to be the best/worst anti-pull-quote I have had… “His life experiences are just as banal as 99 per cent of the population’s. What we usually see in non-fiction is the one percent, stories so amazing you can hardly believe them.”
He then said that it was this very fact that made my show intriguing. Relatable, I hope.
So… I am the 99%? Sure. Let’s go with that.
I am also the FOUR STAR REVIEW. Let’s go with that too. 🙂
Work continues apace on getting The Most Honest Man In The World in shape for the Saskatoon/PotashCorp Fringe Festival! Here’s an interview I did with my friend, Rebecca Zimmer, for her first podcast in her Roving Round series. We talk about what it’s like to tour Fringe Festivals, about The Hatter, and about The Most Honest Man In The World.
The unfortunate part about keeping a blog is that the times when I have the most to write about are also the times when I am expending all my creative energy being rather busy elsewhere!
I don’t want to leave you all in the lurch, so here’s a quick recap of all the Fringe-ful activities I am up to this summer:
Alberni Valley Fringe Theatre Festival – June 21st-22nd
Right, this one already happened! In which Andrew learned the difficulty of remounting/relearning an hour-long show in a week’s time, while also acting in five performances of another show (Gay’s The Word with APPLAUSE! Musicals) and while replacing a stolen bicycle. But it happened, it was lovely, and I was awarded the only two awards the festival gave out, the People’s Choice Award and Best Quote (for ‘God Shave The Queen’)!
Regina International Fringe Theatre Festival – July 7th-13th
(these festivals have surprisingly long names!)
A much spiffier poster! Well done, me!
The festival in which I am actually away for more than a weekend. Also the festival in which I don’t have a stage manager… so this’ll be interesting!
Saskatoon PotashCorp Fringe Theatre Festival – July 30th-Aug 10th
The Most Honest Man In The World
(okay, so I am sometimes partial to a long name, myself)
The festival I was actually profitable in last year! This year… an experiment! A new show! It may succeed, it may fail. My attempt at a personal storytelling show, described as ‘A life-long love story about the pursuit of honesty over all happiness’. Expect me to tape tissue paper to my head, walk around in tap shoes, and neurotically ponder old relationships and what it means to let go.
Vancouver Fringe Festival – September 4th-14th
A return! The show was first birthed in a highly improvised fashion in Vancouver, three years ago. Now I’m bringing it back. (Also, now people know who I am in Vancouver! The first time, I had been off the mainland, over in Victoria, for seven years, and had moved back to Richmond a mere three days before Vancouver Fringe began.)
BUT WAIT! I’M NOT DONE!
Vancouver Fringe Festival – September 4th-14th
Clutter and Contamination: An Obsessive Compulsive Disaster
For the third time in my life, I am a director, tackling my fellow UVic Writing alumni friend Kayla Hart‘s one woman play, Clutter and Contamination. The play will be performed by the lovely Christine Robinson. It has been a pleasure to work with them on the show so far! Directing a show while out on the road will be an interesting experience!
And from there… new adventures and challenges await. Bring’er. 🙂
Some men run to feel the wind in their hair and the blood in their veins, excited muscles and pounding heart. Others run to get somewhere, or to get away from somewhere. Some run because they don’t know what else to do. Some run to inspire. Some to improve themselves. Some to prove to themselves that they can. And some run because they’re afraid of what might happen if they stood still.
Here you go, everyone.
Video of my performance as the maligned, unused, and nearly forgotten Eighth Doctor at the Geekenders event, ‘Don’t Blink: A Burlesque Tribute to Doctor Who’.
I wish all shows had such awesome, amazing, excellent, vocal audiences.
There are so many things that have happened in the past month which deserve their own full blog post write-ups, but as is evident on my front page here, I just haven’t been able to squirrel away enough time and mental energy to do them justice. SO, I figure, why not give a brief summary of the amazingness that has been the past month of my life, and ask you what you would like me to expand upon!
Leave a message in the comments here (or on the facebook link, or via a twitter message, whatever) if there is anything below that you’d like me to focus a post on. 🙂
– One of the last words of advice our dear Floyd Collins director, Peter Jorgensen, gave us, was to adopt the philosophy of ‘instant forgiveness’. If something goes wrong onstage, AND THINGS WILL GO WRONG ONSTAGE, instant forgiveness, move on with the show. This is far from the first time I’ve heard these words, but it is a piece of advice I really do need to continue working at taking to heart.
– Balancing momentary opportunities to work in my career field (such as this amazing 2.5 month contract with Floyd Collins!) with stringing along dayjob employers with the odd shift here and there, whenever I can, so that I can still pay rent when the contract ends.
– Working with people who have found a way to drop their day-jobs and do this full-time. How they live. How they’re not necessarily as dayjob-free as I first assumed.
– Our culture’s unhealthy phobia surrounding talking about our salaries and what we make, where.
– Original RENT cast member Jesse L. Martin came to see Floyd Collins. Yep. What it means to me to get seen by a celebrity, and the strangeness of fandom celebrity worship.
– So, in my week off, I MAY have performed, erm, a burlesque routine as the Eighth Doctor at a Doctor Who burlesque show put on by my dear friends at Geekenders. In this routine, I MAY have written up a parody of Mister Cellophane, and stripped down to my underwear. I have also never, prior to this, ever even taken my shirt off, onstage. I am always looking for performance opportunities that challenge me! Geekenders/Fairlith/et all, thank you so much for having enough faith in me to risk letting me out up there. Oh, and my sister may have heard about the show somewhere and attended it. (awkward?)
– Burlesque audiences are perhaps the best audiences. I mean, I had just been performing in an amazing musical for three weeks with a stunning amount of talent onstage, but the sheer energy and boisterousness of those three hundred people in the Rio, all loudly cheering and whooping and loving life, the feeling off all that delight just shocking joy into my system as I stood onstage, there… Wow. That is somethin’ else.
– It’s amazing what audience expectations will do. A proper hoity-toity theatre musical theatre audience expects strong choreography, brilliant singing, good acting, and at least a passable script. Exceed those expectations, and they will love the show. That burlesque audience, on the other hand, expected to see from its performers a love of Doctor Who, a solid costume, sexy dancing, and someone stripping down to pasties and underwear through the course of their performance. It was a wondrous thing to see the shock and delight they had to see me actually sing something onstage! With character acting! Something I’d written myself! Wow! Expectations exceeded. (Which is great, because it also allowed me to get away with only a passable costume and less-than-experienced, erm, sexy moves.)
– What am I willing to do onstage, and what am I not willing to do?
– Fringe festival preparations for this summer, or, How I am managing to make the exact same mistakes and good choices as last year.
– How does someone write a show called ‘The Most Honest Man In The World’? Has Andrew developed an ego?
– I am consistently surprised at how clearly I regress as a person when in a state of desperately-needing-sleep. It’s almost like it’s a direct regression through the years — I start feeling emotional pangs for old flames, take on old physical quirks like holding one arm behind my back… there may be more truth than I know to the old adage that we are everyone we once were.
– I fly somewhere, and promptly am sick. Just like what happened last year with London, Ontario. What’s up with that?
– Billeting. What it means, and my experiences staying with people volunteering their homes, across the country.
– And finally, this is a thing that happened: http://www.tift.ca/floyd-collins-goes-ahead-without-sets-costumes-or-props-press-release-april-7-2014/ . Essentially, a moving company, Midland Van Lines, picked up our set and costumes and promised us a delivery time of 5-7 days to get those items from Vancouver to Barrie, Ontario, in time for our second leg of our tour. Those items were not delivered, and now we are reblocking the show in a fashion that really is quite reminiscent to the old SATCo black box theatre days as a student at UVic. The show must go on!
So aye, there’s a good summary of what I’ve been up to, this past month. Back into tech in an our or so. Anything you’d like me to expand on in a full post?
It had been a while since I’d been in a rehearsal hall.
Oh, I’ve been steadily doing theatre for the past decade, but most of my performances in the past year, including the Chinatown Haunted House, Awkward Stage fundraiser, and The Hatter on tour, either rehearsed in someone else’s basement, someone else’s living room, or at home, in the case of The Hatter. Beggar’s Opera had a chunk of choreography and a rehearsal space, but that rehearsal space was UBC or the top floor of The Penthouse (a strip club), and while we had songs for that show, we didn’t necessarily have sheet music.
Earlier this week, I asked myself what my ideal day would look like. I would sleep in until I naturally woke up. I would then lie in bed and read for an hour or two. Maybe eat some cold leftover pizza. Pizza makes the best breakfast. Then I’d get up and write something. Maybe play a game or two of Magic with a dear friend. And then I’d bike out to a four hour evening rehearsal.
Something in there surprised me! I noticed that I said ‘rehearsal’ , not ‘performance’. Now, as someone who originally got into theatre partially due to the crowd’s reaction (as I wrote about in one of my very first blog articles), and someone who tries to get out of costume and make-up as quickly as possible after a performance so he can catch audience members on their way out and thank them for coming… I was taken aback somewhat that I picked a rehearsal rather than a performance for my ideal day.
And guess where I get to be for the next couple of weeks!
And then, come March, perhaps, just maybe, for a couple of weeks I’ll get to sleep in, wake up, read for a bit, (maybe skip the pizza), perhaps write something, and then head out for an evening performance.
So very many lines and notes and steps to learn before then, and characterwork to explore, and scenes to get resonating within me…
I get to be rehearsing! Spending time exploring this amazing show alongside these amazing performers and creative minds. So blessed.
It’s a good life.
First rehearsal for Floyd Collins today.
A number of other actors told me how perfectly cast I am for my role. “And because he doesn’t need to be any age, you can keep playing him for a long time to come.”
For whatever reason, that comment stuck in me. Came from a Toronto actor, and he’s right, in his world, you can stick with a show, find it wherever it resurfaces and keep with it. Find runs that go on for as long as people buy tickets. And there are unicorns and magical space robots too, I imagine. But I’m still a young BC pup – such notions don’t really occur to me. Shows last a few weeks, then they’re done, followed by a month or two of part-time low wage work until the next show comes along. I’ve only once ever returned to perform in something I’d been in before; that was a production of Henry V that took me back to Victoria for a week at Fringe. My squirmy, powerless, irish-sounding French King.
My own show counts too, I suppose. But that’s different – that show keeps coming back because I’m the one bringing it back. But to be hired to a new production of an old show? That some producer somewhere might want me more thanks to my prior experience?
What an obvious and strange concept.
Coming into the first rehearsal here for Floyd, I had two options for how to present myself to the group. One, I could own the fact that I was cast for this show same as all them others, and swagger about with the best of them, confident in my career as an actor and in my equal worth with anyone else in the show. Decided that we were all picked evenhandedly and excitedly by Peter, and trust that we are going to make something brilliant because we are all gen-u-ine pro-fessionals, income-tax-form Actors who know what we’re doing.
Or two, I could own up to my ’emerging’ actor status. Point out Science World just out the window and let them know that I worked three different day-jobs last week. Shake my head at the director apologizing at length for paying us far less than we’re worth, far less than we’re warranted, and far less than we’d be making elsewhere, when this equity scale sum is far more than I’ve ever earned before from theatre work. Tell’em how I live an hour and a river away, in an office building, sandwiched between pot fumes and an abandoned gym. Let them know how grateful I am for all of this, and tell’em how doggone hard I’m going to work to reach the level all these others are already at.
We’ve got impressive specimens of charisma like Daren Herbert and Michael Torontow. Krystin Pellerin from The Tudors and Republic of Doyle. The talent in the room is so impressive.
And I’m in there with them. One of them.
So, which approach did I take? Well, truth be told, as I do, I didn’t make a firm choice, so what shone through were my defaults of TOO MUCH INFORMATION, GRATITUDE, and CONFIDENCE. Because can I bring Skeets Miller to life? Heck yes! Am I just plum grateful to be in the room? You betcha! Do I earn most of my living performing on the stage or screen? Definitely not. Yet.
The ol’ puff up pull down ying-yang that makes me just neurotic enough for these loveable squirmy outsider little-guy roles.
And now, a look behind Andrew’s furrowed brow.
Why am I still looking at job postings? Why do I still have an active RSS feed section devoted to new possible job opportunities, combing and scanning through craigslist, Alliance for Arts, and others, for me to glance through every few days?
I worked for eleven different employers last year. I am currently on the payroll for four organizations, with two others occasionally bringing me in every other month or so.
Oh, and these are the non-theatre-companies. Those are separate. Workshopping a play with one right now, and performing with another company for the next two months.
That’s right! I’m finally finding work as an actor! Fantastic! For two months. Then I’m back. Time to look for another job.
Why? Don’t you have enough?
But there are more opportunities out there! Ones you don’t know of, if you aren’t looking!
An actor always looks for auditions. Always hunts for opportunities. Never ending. Heading to auditions while rehearsing for something else. Endless job interviews. Endless rejections and successes.
I’ve been trained this way.
I’ve been trained to approach my work-for-hire life this way.
I don’t have enough time now to offer my employers.
I’m spending too much time at work. I could take more time off.
I could miss out on more opportunities.
Maybe I should check my RSS feeds one more time.
Oh. Right. I’m doing Fringe Festivals this summer. Who’s going to hire a guy who disappears for several weeks at a time, over and over again?
Right. My lovely, current employers. Who I enjoy working for! Not as much as I enjoy working on shows and being a theatre creator and performer, of course. But I appreciate and enjoy them.
But I could appreciate and enjoy something else!
Or maybe I should be dropping everything for a few months and see if this whole ‘actor and writer’ career thing can sustain itself!
That seems somewhat foolish and unnecessary. And maybe I’ll find out I don’t enjoy living only that way, very much! That could shatter me. A lot of sunken cost time into this theatre acting thing. Or maybe I’d get lazy. If I give myself too much free time, maybe I’d just squander it by hiding in books and games. Besides, my employers are happy to trade me 80$ for my day. I can’t turn that down!
Well, I could, I suppose. Technically.
And I guess I have! Sorta. For this and the next two months, living the life of the working actor.
This’ll be a grand experiment. I’m thrilled. I’m just so thrilled. Really. I am. Just peached to the extreme. Don’t lose that, Andrew! That excitement! Those butterflies! Hee!
And then it’s done, and I’m back to the dayjobs until Fringe festivals. Where I’ll likely lose money again, when considering travel costs.
I should check those job postings. Or accept more shifts in the couple days I have off before the theatre contract.
No! I’m not superhuman… I need some time to recharge. Groceries, laundry, as well, I suppose.
No, Andrew, people aren’t going to laden you down unreasonably. They expect you to need some time to yourself each day. Most people only work five shifts a week.
But I could pick up shifts on those other weeks? Or find someone willing to pay me to do something new!
I should check those feeds again. After all, as a pay-for-hire, I’m really contracting out my time to organizations. Makes sense to continually look for new clients, right? Diversification. Allows me to stick with my favourites and perhaps others fall to the wayside. Or find you unreliable because you’re never free and always gallivanting off to to theatre stuff.
Theatre stuff! I get to do theatre stuff this year! Yay! And maybe next year?
I don’t think I can take on any more than I’m doing.
But maybe there’s something better out there!
But I can’t get trapped in single full-time job life! Right? Right? That’s where people stop pursuing crazy things like acting, isn’t it? Where people get complacent?
I think I’m afraid of becoming complacent.
Or is that contentment? Is that what those people have?
I feel like I’m planning my life so that whenever I want to, I can leave everything and go pursue something else. Keeping one foot out the door. Or at least, holding the door open. Like an actor does, always on the hunt for the next opportunity.
Do I have a problem, or am I doing this right?
Welp, the dust appears to have settled, the lottery lines drawn, and the anticipation begun its nervous, ever-present hum. While a few elements are still up in the air, it’s sounding like this year I will be off on the road again to five different lands, two exotic and unknown, one a recent friendship, and two returns home.
This summer, The Hatter shall plead his case in the Alberni Valley, out to Regina, back to my former abode of Victoria, and then return in his entirely transformed state to The Vancouver Fringe Festival, where, three years ago, a draft once saw the stage.
But I mentioned FIVE, you say! FIVE festivals! Indeed! For in the middle of all that, I shall be bringing a new show to Saskatoon Fringe, a personal-stories-esque show (which I am still in the early processes of writing), tentatively titled ‘The Most Honest Man In The World‘. A brand new, terrifying experiment!
And so, after spending most of last summer travelling endless greyhound bus hours through Ontario, I find myself instead touring the western reaches of Canada, and bringing my show home, while testing something new in a place that appreciated my work, last summer.
This is going to be a radically different adventure. Last summer, I packed my bags, props, business cards, and posters, and headed off on the road for two months straight. This summer, due to not getting into Winnipeg or Edmonton, I may be travelling out to each city, then returning home, each time. Which means a few dozen more greyhound hours and transportation bills, I admit. Maybe I’ll see if I can hide out in Regina or Saskatoon for a couple of weeks. Finish writing the new show. 😛
I’ll also be travelling with an old friend or two. Last summer, I hardly knew a soul in any of the cities. This year, I’ll have familiar faces everywhere I go, be they other travelling performers, locals (including all the Regina-ians, Regina-ites, Reginalds?, who came to Saskatoon for the festival), and other warmly welcome familiar faces. Heck, my dear old friend, Jacqueline Irvine, who sewed the giant hat backdrop, helped me put it together, half an hour before the first trial-run performance in Vancouver, and who acted in the first draft of the show as The Dormouse (before the play became more about a lonely man, as it is now), will be stepping onboard as my stage manager for Port Alberni and Victoria.
(And I’ll probably still lose money in the end. But that’s okay. Life and expression are more important than all that. 🙂 )
I look for narratives in everything. Coming into this Fringe lottery season, I was hoping to be out on the road for at least a couple of months and try my show at the biggest fringe festivals in the country – Winnipeg and Edmonton. And perhaps show it in Victoria and see how it’d be received in my former stomping grounds.
Instead, the emerging theme appears to be that of ‘a home base’. Heading out into the world, and then coming home. Bringing my work to the places I hold dearest to my heart.
In Saskatoon, it’ll be the other way around – bringing myself and my heart even more into my work, within the safety of a distant city.
( Speaking of telling personal stories, perhaps a sneak peek this week? While I don’t expect this particular story in question to be a part of my Fringe show, this past Saturday I shared a true tale as part of CBC Radio’s DNTO (Definitely Not The Opera): Fast forward to 52 minutes to get a stylistic preview for Saskatoon: http://www.cbc.ca/dnto/episode/2014/01/16/wanted-what-did-you-find-in-the-classifieds/ )
And then in 2015, finally hit the big stops and see what everyone’s talking about, and hell, perhaps I’ll go international. Put that American citizenship to good use. But there is so much that is fantastic and awesome before we get there! Five cities! Workshopping a new play elsewhere! And in March and April, Floyd Collins!
(But that’s a subject for another post. 🙂 )
Long Live Adventure! Huzzah!
Twenty-thirteen was the year I toured a show of my own for the first time, the first time I visited any part of Canada outside of BC, the year I went out on dates and put myself out there, the year I got perhaps a little too subsumed by day-jobs, the year I accepted Richmond as a home base even as I became intoxicated by being out there performing on the road. It was the year I designed lights and called the shots for a Diversity Talent Show, gave tours of a National Historic Site, and was given the delightful news that “we’re going to write you a song”. It was the year I performed a creepy puppet show while a guy did cocaine off a passport in the front row, had the biggest role in the opening number in a musical (in concert), became a bartender, worked for nine employers (and myself), auditioned for one show both in Vancouver AND Toronto, was nominated for an OVATION! Award, and was picked as one of Richmond’s 30 under 30.
My financials spreadsheet tells me I earned 21114.94$ in a combination of pre- and post-tax income, not including my Fringe tour, as I lost money on that. Of that money, just under half of it went into savings. A bit of breathing room so that I don’t feel pressured against, say, taking days off work to go to auditions, or months off to possibly lose money performing in Fringe Festivals. I keep my expenses low with good habits, luck, friends, biking and skytraining rather than driving, and the fact that I’m a bachelor without kids. I also live frugally in a single-room accommodation in a building I expect will get demolished in 2014. That’s probably the biggest reason.
I am grateful that I have been able to find a number of employers who are content with seeing me disappear for a month or two at a time, pursuing my performing career. Hopefully those opportunities will build up enough that I can make a more complete transition at some point.
Perhaps it’s a credit and a curse to the standards I hold for myself that I’m disappointed that I was only involved in five large-scale productions this year… even if one of those productions I wrote, self-produced, and performed in four different cities over the course of two and a half months. A far cry from the ~12 productions I was a part of in 2012. I also nearly doubled my yearly income. These two things are perhaps not unrelated. 😛
Regardless, I now know I can earn enough to support myself as I pursue what excites me. I just need to do more pursuing!
This year was also the year I had a couple of hits with my blog, including one article, A First Fringe Tour – By The Numbers , which has had over 480 hits and was read and shared by people I deeply respect. It was even discussed in a university classroom! Exciting! So now, after a bit of a hiatus, I think I’m about ready to get back to blogging. But first, what the heck was I up to in 2013?
My theatre life this past year:
– Revue at the Revue as Jesus, Santa, and others, if you count the first hour or two of 2013. 🙂
– Nominated for ‘Outstanding Gypsy – Male’ at the 2013 Ovation Awards
– ‘The Boss’ in Fighting Chance’s ‘Side Show‘ (in concert)
– Mr. Zapatella and chorus in APPLAUSE! Musicals’ ‘Fiorello!‘ (also in concert.)
– Singing, creeping, having an all around marvelous time as Filch (and a prisoner, and a thief, and so forth) in Seven Tyrants’ production of Beggar’s Opera. (They’re remounting in March, at the Jericho Arts Centre! Go see it! My dear friend, Chris Lam, will be putting his own marvelous spin on the role as I will be busy with Floyd Collins during the run.)
– Wolf Mountain Writing Collective, staged reading of my short ten-minute piece, What I’d Be Without You, with the lovely Mika Laulainen.
– The Hatter, The Hatter, so much The Hatter! Who knew you needed to write all your publicity for a June production, way back in February! Hiring a (wonderful) photographer for publicity photos, and putting together the script, and props, and travel plans to take me (economically) from Vancouver to London to Ottawa to Toronto to Saskatoon and back home, finding stage managers in each city, finding ways to get around once I am within each city, designing and printing posters and business cards, oh, and performing the show 34 or so times, plus previews and tech runs… Looking forward to getting back to it in Regina and Vancouver this year!
– Indulging my over-the-top-creepy joys as Panduin The Puppeteer in Judge Dee’s Haunted House at the Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens, also with Seven Tyrants. A twenty-minute play that starts every ten minutes, this amounted to three hours of performing (without breaks) every night, eighteen performances each night, for a week. And we sold out! Pretty much every run! Far more successful than ANYONE was expecting. Lots of leaping on bannisters and singing in RIDICULOUS pitches. Loved it. And now, back to applications for The Hatter for next year’s Fringe festivals, for which I shall update you in a couple of weeks!
– Awkward Stage fundraiser, Baby It’s Cold Outside, of which I was a chorus member with a puppet for all of a minute, so I’m not sure that one really counts. If we include that, let’s also include singing a zombie-themed Christmas song for a room full of people holding ukeleles, which, by the by, is an awesome idea for a date.
My day-jobs this past year:
(with a whole lot of acting in them, really!)
– Science Facilitator – Science World!
The occasional centre-stage show as well. I am now trained for the Grossology, Bubbles, Balloons, and Hot Stuff shows. 🙂
– Heritage Interpreter – Gulf of Georgia Cannery
Leading tours and teaching school programs.
– Bartender – Gateway Theatre
Unexpected and enjoyable!
– Standardized Patient – Medical student exams
Pretending to be ill!
– Simulations Actor – Justice Institute of BC
Pretending to be a criminal, witness, or a victim!
– Convention worker – BBW International
No, not THAT ‘BBW’. Though I did get to dress up in full Scottish garb (kilt and sporran and all) for a week at a Urology Congress!
– Walk Leader – Creatures of the Night – Stanley Park Ecology Society
At those times when you’re so busy you can’t possibly do anything else, and then a good, old friend phones you up and offers you a job. So much fun!
– Voting Officer – Elections BC
One long day, but definitely an interesting experience.
– Stage Director/Manager – Culture Club Diversity Talent Show – Richmond Multicultural Community Services
Amazingly comprehensive, in that I used skills I’ve learned from so many different places. Lighting design, working with youth, directing, stage management, producing… marvelous experience.
– Background Actor – A big, highly talked about film.
I was an extra in a film for the first time in a year or so!
– Actor – The Hatter and others
I may not have made money on it this year, but producing my own darn show is certainly a job, as is much of the acting work above, gosh darnit. 🙂
And now onto 2014, where I already have workshifts scheduled with three different employers, and have the chance-of-a-lifetime to put all that silliness aside for a couple of months and focus on a travelling production of Floyd Collins.
Hey, now I’m excited! Yay!
And, as I have a microphone here on the desk with me, here’s a song about hoping for the future. Don’t read into the darker suicide-y bit to it. That part isn’t relevant.
What are you looking forward to in 2014?
Hello, intrepid blog-readers!
So sorry for my extended absence. I’m afraid I have been otherwise detained. When I finished my two and a half month tour of The Hatter across the country, I found that, for the first time in at least six years, I didn’t have that desperate ‘I NEED TO BE PERFORMING IN SOMETHING THIS MONTH NOW WHAT IS HAPPENING WHY’ feeling eating away at my inner psyche. Instead I found myself somewhat disturbingly content to work day-jobs for a couple of months and earn enough money for the CAFF lottery, while living a more leisurely life. So I contacted a few places where I had considered working in the past, and figured I’d have plenty of time to get some more writing done.
… Yeah, we all know life isn’t that simple.
So what happened? Well, those employers… they all said yes. ALL of them. Right. So… in the month of October I will have had eight different employers. Most of them only a few days a month, sure, and a couple of them disappear when the month ends, but… yeah. Eight.
And the CAFF Lottery… the odds were not in my favour. Considering attempting a ‘Western’ tour this summer, Regina-Winnipeg-Saskatoon-Edmonton-Victoria-Vancouver, if I can get into them. Saskatoon, at least, will get to see a new show from me! Something that may or may not work as a show. Intimidating! Yep. Gotta see if a ‘show’ will come out of my ideas for that one… y’know, in all my free time…
Oh, and that whole ‘not acting for a bit’ thing? Well, my dear friend David Perry needed people to lead Creatures Of The Night walks in Stanley Park. I was only able to offer him a few days, but it really is a lot of fun. Interactive theatre with children is AWESOME.
My final chance to wander the moonlit trail up in the park will be on November 2nd. Here’s what that’s all about:
And why couldn’t I give him more evenings to work with that awesome project? WELL, that’s because from the 24th to the 31st, I shall be playing the part of THE PUPPETMASTER in Seven Tyrant’s Chinatown Haunted House in the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
You may remember me playing the parts of Filch, a crazy prisoner, a thief, and more, in Beggar’s Opera with the same company, back in May. But now? I seriously get to be a guy called ‘The Puppetmaster’ in a Haunted House which is REALLY a 20-minute long play that starts every ten minutes. (Yep. Requires some logistical finesse, that one.)
Come check it out if you’re so inclined! I am inclined to wish you would be there! At least, I certainly haven’t been doing any easy reclining. Okay, that was a bit of a stretch.
Well, when it comes to finding that rest and relaxation, there’s always next month, right? ALWAYS next month. Never the month I am currently in.
Hmm… my November calendar is looking a little sparse… maybe I should look for two more employers… or learn to drive…
My last post, A First Fringe Tour: By The Numbers, already has the second most hits of anything I’ve posted onto my blog. Thank you everyone for your responses and for sharing it around. Here are my own thoughts:
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Yes, I lost money. A fair chunk of change. 1,671.16$ , to be precise. But I’ve been spending money on learning experiences for a number of years now, beginning with seven years of university, followed by the National Voice Intensive last year, and now, this tour. Was I hoping to at least break even? Of course! But to take a wider view, I traveled to amazing cities I’d never visited, had grand adventures, even kissed a lady or two, and got to tell a story worth telling to hundreds of people (okay, 534 people + ushers + technicians) across the country.
For my own personal growth, I desperately needed to travel. It was all 100% worth it. Over the course of two and a half short months, I learned a heck of a lot about theatre, life, and myself, and I can’t wait to get back out there next summer (if the Fringe lotteries are willing to let me).
As a former professor once told me as he suffered through the first couple of years of his own theatre company, it’s not at all uncommon for businesses to lose money for their first two or three years of operation. This was my first ever tour. Hopefully now I have a tiny base of fans in each city, who might possibly come out and see a show of mine in the future!
* * * * *
In each city, to keep this numerical, I think I knew 1 (London), 3 (Ottawa), many (Toronto), and 1 (Saskatoon) people, respectively. No hometown advantage for me.
* * * * *
Hey Fringe Festival volunteers! You know how you happily exclaim to audience line-ups about how lovely it is that you haven’t raised your ticket price from 10$ for the past fifteen years or so? Well, inflation exists, and what you’re telling artists is that they’ve been earning less and less per ticket for every year for the past decade and a half.
I did not once hear a single complaint on the street or in the theatre about Saskatoon’s 12$/14$ ticket prices. Just sayin’.
* * * * *
Also, it’s interesting that even with a 2$ administrative fee and GST being factored in somewhere, I still came out earning 11.20$ per ticket in Saskatoon, compared to 9.94$ in London, 9.35$ in Ottawa, and a mere 8.92$ per ticket in Toronto.
* * * * *
Speaking of which, that shortfall in Toronto exists almost entirely due to the five-pack and ten-pack deals in that city. While I love having frequent fringer packs exist, compare Toronto’s 7.5$ tickets to Vancouver’s frequent fringer packs, which still offer 9$ per ticket to the performer. Seriously consider raising those frequent fringer rates, Toronto. You certainly have a reputation as being a place where performers don’t make any money. I enjoyed my time in the city, but 7.5$ tickets are hurting your reputation and hurting a performer’s chances of being able to break even in your city.
Every city is so different when trying to figure out the right number of flyers and posters. Before I set out, I pre-printed 25 posters and 500 business card flyers for each city. Rookie mistake, as I learned when I saw other performers in London editing their poster files for upcoming cities so as to include London review quotes. Come Saskatoon I finally began taping quotes onto my posters, but printing posters for each upcoming city as I go seems to be the smarter solution.
So what are the right numbers? Well, 25 posters and 500 business cards felt alright for a sleepy Fringe like London, but I could probably have put up 75 posters in Ottawa, whereas getting 25 posters up in Toronto in anywhere worth looking, proved difficult. Also in Toronto, I ran out of flyers before the fringe was half over – I could probably have handed out 1500. As an experiment, I brought 1000 flyers to Saskatoon, and despite the Fringe’s smaller size, still gave out most of them. So every city is different, and I’ve still more to learn! (It also makes a difference as to how many people you have out there, flyering – being on my lonesome can be a downside when it comes to talking up enough lines to find an audience.)
* * * * *
I gotta admit, it was disappointing to be one of 36 shows in Toronto not reviewed by Now Magazine. A few ‘N’s might have helped! (For a few more numbers, there were 148 shows in the Toronto Fringe Festival this year. 112 of them received a Now Magazine blurb and set (or lack thereof) of shiny ‘N’s.)
* * * * *
In London, I recall one performer saying that two or three days before the festival opened, they visited Tourism London to ask for Fringe information, and the person there had no idea the festival was even happening. At Nuit Blanche, I (in full Hatter garb) was asked by several people when the Fringe Festival was beginning. That was the second-to-last night of the festival. It seems London is a hard place to get word out about the festival, which was evidenced by my having zero advance ticket sales, compared to 9 in Ottawa, 23 in Toronto, and 15 in Saskatoon. Toronto is very much more of an advance ticket city than the others – perhaps there’s more of a traditional theatre-going habit there? Or is there less financial disincentive to buy advance tickets in Toronto (when compared to additional fees other festivals add onto advance ticket purchases)?
I’m honestly impressed with myself that I was able to keep my grocery bills down to size, even while on tour. Chalk it up to a combination of kind billets, hunts for grocery stores, and restraint whenever out and about with fellow performers. You guys feel free to order your meals at the bar; I’ll just wait until I get back to the food I bought with my big grocery trips on the day before each festival began.
* * * * *
I didn’t have nearly as strong a show at the beginning of June as I did come mid-August. To be honest, it took me until Toronto to figure out the core of what the show was about – a man trying to get home – and so my show pitches for line-ups weren’t great for the first 2/3rds of my tour. Please don’t take any of the above as me making excuses for perhaps not being as financially successful as I would have preferred: I fully accept my tour as it was.
Which is to say, a brilliant, daring adventure. 🙂
As with before, if you think any of this may be helpful to someone out there, please share it on! I hope these posts are worthwhile for someone else out there. And if you have any reactions of your own, please add them to the comments below!