(This post was written as a podcast article for the wonderful Broad-WHAT? podcast put together by Ryan Nunez and Theo Budd. You can find them at https://broadwhatpodcast.com/ and this particular podcast at https://broadwhatpodcast.com/2019/06/11/june-blog-month-episode-2/ )
I’m Andrew Wade, and I’m here to talk to you about life with dayjobs as a theatre artist. This isn’t advice persay, because goodness knows I don’t have a perfectly arranged life, but I thought I’d share a few ways I’ve seen people somehow both manage paying their rent and working in theatre, and what I’ve found works for me.
First, if you’re a Vancouver artist who makes their whole living doing what you love… bravo! You have my respect. Whether you’re someone who managed to slowly increase the percentage of your income earned by theatre work, piece by piece, until it made up the whole of your income, or one of those brave souls who quit everything and leapt face first into the profession to great success… I’m impressed.
I know of one fringe artist who works his butt off all summer long. He travels from fringe festival to fringe festival, using those May to September months to earn his income for the entire year. It seems like half of the time, he didn’t even win the draw to be in the particular fringe festival, but he hounds the organizers for open spots, and when some company drops out at the last minute, as often happens, he seizes the opportunity, flyers like a madman, and draws crowds. Now, this is Fringe Festival money, not investment banker money, so to survive off his earnings he then lives the rest of his year in somewhere with cheap living expenses, like an island in the pacific ocean. Earn quick, live cheap.
That’s a sort of balance. But for most of us, we need day jobs. Personally, I’ve always been enamoured by the idea of working like someone out in the oil fields, going hard for four months of the year, and then having enough money to take the rest of the year off to make art, act in shows, write. But then I’d have to work in the oil fields, and with these delicate hands? Pass. But if you can find high paying seasonal work, amazing.
There are also plenty of people in our community who choose to work the full time joe job that lets them act in one solid production a year, and if that’s your life, all the more power to you!
But for those of you like myself who want to hustle all year ‘round, going to auditions and seeking out roles, maybe booking the odd stage management or directing gig, you’re going to want to look at finding flexible work where you get to opt in to all of your working hours rather than constantly needing to get shifts covered. Many theatre artists do the 9am-5pm, full time job, and then straight to rehearsals and performances every evening, but in my view, those fifteen hour days just aren’t sustainable.
When looking for a flexible day job that will let you take time off to work that theatre contract, there are a couple of categories. First, there’s the job that you can do ANYWHERE, AT ANY TIME. My own part-time role as Executive Director for the Richmond Arts Coalition is like that. 98% of the job is spent online, updating websites and databases, sending off emails and scouring the web for arts events to compile into even more emails… all stuff I can do at 2am or whenever it’ll fit into my schedule. Other theatre artists I know do transcription work – writing up the words spoken in videos for a fee. These are jobs that are guaranteed not to be double-booked with the moment you’re about to go on as Lady Macbeth.
Second, there are the day jobs with opt-in scheduling. These are jobs that send out or post a schedule each month and say ‘what days can you work?’ and then they fill their shifts accordingly. The key to these jobs is to be valuable but expendable. You want them to want you to work as much as possible, but to not NEED you to be there. For me, I have wonderful employers at SFU Woodwards and Gateway Theatre who work this way for my Front of House Manager jobs, and my event shifts at Science World and for a company unfortunately acronymed as BBW work similarly. They’re delighted to have me, but the roof won’t fall in if I’m not there, because I’m one of a fleet of workers they have to fill those shifts. The shift opportunities themselves are quite irregular and they couldn’t have full time workers if they wanted to as the shifts only happen when there is a show or an event!, so they can’t expect their workers not to have other things going on in their life.
I’m told that serving jobs often pretend to be like this, but are often a trap, leading to angry employers demanding their employees be there for the busy Saturday when they’re supposed to be at rehearsal. I’ve steered clear of those jobs.
The downside to this kind of work is that it tends not to pay a whole lot, admittedly. That’s a sacrifice I make for knowing I can build a survivable, steady income whenever I don’t have a theatre gig to take up my time.
You may have noticed that most of my own day jobs are arts related. That is no coincidence! I’ve surrounded my work life with bosses who love the arts and want me to succeed as an artist, and that support is invaluable. There have been a lot of company rules bent in my direction to help me along my path because my bosses believe in the arts, and they believe in me.
To emphasize that point, I just came off of a dinner theatre contract that kept me in Alberta for five months, and might have gone as long as eight months. I was real nervous about it – I accepted the gig in late November and left December 31st. Not a whole lot of notice. I was sure I was going to lose some of my Vancouver safety net, but you know what? To a person, my bosses were all delighted for me. They told me not to worry about it, and that they’d look forward to offering me shifts when I got back into town. And now I’ve accepted a second dinner theatre contract that’ll take me back to the prairies from mid July until either January or April, and they’re still happy for me.
So that’s my advice – if you want to be theatre-flexible all year round, find jobs with bosses who love the theatre where you can be valuable but expendable, so that you can disappear for that two month contract when you book it. My own financial anxiety finds the idea of dropping all day jobs to pursue my art full time to be far too intimidating (and frankly, I’m not sure I’ve got the talent to achieve a lofty goal like that in Vancouver), so I keep dayjobs like these, with my schedule flexible but my rent payments steady.
It works for me. Thanks for listening.
I broke her heart as a dandelion.
She saw me as a flower
when I wondered if I were a weed.
We grew stubborn roots
that kept us together through two breakups.
Though my petals leaned away,
something deeper kept its grip,
brought me back to the soil of us,
to the school field and the ocean air,
And then it didn’t.
I was a dandelion,
and I could feel the change in the seasons,
my petals turning to seeds,
with the lightness and lift that comes from them,
and I couldn’t remain a bright flower for her;
I couldn’t be her wine.
It was in my nature;
I longed for a steady wind
to cast me about in five hundred directions,
to grow again, apart from that place
and from her.
So I left.
A weed and a flower,
a flower and a weed,
I launched into the breeze,
billowing about through winters
summers and falls,
at first without aim,
at the whims of the wind,
hither and thither,
learning my shape and my size,
my weedness and my florality,
the pest and the prize,
at last, I gaze out of the gust
and hope maybe for a garden
with soil and a soul
in which to root.
I just finished reading High Fidelity, the book (obviously) – read the last close-to-two-hundred pages in a single go. That’s one thing I’ve really enjoyed about taking this contract – I’ve become a reading person again, and that’s one thing I’ve really missed from childhood – being the kind of person who can just sit and read a book, submerged between its pages, for hours on end, because I need to find out how it goes, because I’ve emotionally and intellectually connected to it.
I’m also a bit of an empathic person in that I tend to adopt the voice of what I’m reading or watching for a little while. Which is why I’m writing this out now, and probably why I don’t watch scary slasher flicks. (Also, I just typed the word ‘flick’, which is British, so apparently High Fidelity has turned me slightly British.)
So it’s sort of a book about a jerk. I don’t entirely relate to that (and please don’t argue the opposite). I’ve been real stupid in life, but rarely with a vindictive sense of malice to it. Not since grade school, anyway, when I would plot to fill peoples’ desks with dirt because I thought they were mean to me. Nah, most of the time, if I’m thinking someone deserves negative stuff in their life, that person is me. But I’ve an affirmational poster on my wall (yes, I’m that guy) that says ‘I am a Good Man‘ (sharpie underlined), and I believe it, most of the time. My friend Jacqui added a ‘And we ❤ you!’ to it that I quite appreciate.
What the book is more about, though, is the triumvirate of the excitement of new relationships, dealing with break-ups, and figuring out what to do in the middle of a relationship. It’s about how much mental space and energy and OHMYGOD these things take up inside a person’s soul. It ends with pretty much an ode to marriage and commitment, because, heck, all of the above just take so much EFFORT, going through those first few steps of a relationship over and over and over again, and long term relationships take effort too, but it’s a different kind of effort; it isn’t the same, stuck kind of effort repeating itself over and over again.
My week has been emotionally a bit rough, probably in part due to this book. It’s all about fixating on past relationships, and, well, it’s not hard to see why that is an issue if you’ve read the second paragraph up there about empathy. And I don’t know if people with regular nine-to-five, five-days-a-week office dayjobs feel like every day is the same, but performing a show is quite LITERALLY SAYING THE EXACT SAME WORDS AND REPEATING THE EXACT SAME ACTIONS EVERY DAY.
(I actually love it, and every audience has a slightly different vibe, and let’s be honest, I usually slightly fumble a couple of dance moves or reverse a line or sing a verse with a slightly different intent, so it’s never exactly the same, but the metaphor is too precise to ignore, so stick with me.)
ANYWAY, as I was saying, I needed to get to the end of the book, so I read it with an intensity – I was trying to divine some sort of wisdom from these pages to help me out, or at least to feel a sense of closure – moreso than I feel from my own life right now. I don’t want to be Rob (the main character) from the beginning of the book. (sidenote: No one should want to be the person at the beginning of the book – they’re the person who hasn’t yet learned what they need to learn to be a better person.) He’s a mid-thirties man who still acts like a teenager because his life got stuck somewhere along the way, and he blames everyone else for it happening. And I, by contrast, am an early-thirties man who is excited to read a book from cover to cover because the very act of doing so makes him feel like a pre-teen, who isn’t sure if this theatre tour he’s on is a life derailment, a career advancement, or a period of being stuck in relational limbo. Probably all three. And I mostly blame myself for how my life is. But I could be more of Rob at the end of the book. Sure, it’s a bit of a cop-out that someone else fixes most of his exterior life, but inside himself, he makes some realizations and he feels the heartdeep of what makes commitment and long-term relationships so meaningful.
Let’s be honest. I’m a 32-year-old man who had only been in a relationship with someone for longer than nine months before my last one, once, and even with the age difference, that really probably was my first time with that heartdeep, that continuity of companionship and all that comes with it, and now you’re feeling awkward reading this because these are the kinds of thing that twenty-year-old men accidentally blubber about when they’ve had too much to drink, or the kinds of things said by pathetic old men still pining over old flames, or maybe those are both images I’m projecting over myself, but I’m going to say the obvious anyway, which is that I want that heartdeep again.
I’m also probably not emotionally prepared to have it again – not that that stops some people – and anyway, I’m on tour now, hopping from Calgary to the Cayman Islands (to visit a happy, committed couple with a kid) to Edmonton and then maybe to Winnipeg and I have NEVER been good at long term planning, always been the person to embrace the ephemerality of life and that’s what I’m living in for the next three to six months whether I want to or not, and I’m going to do my darndest to enjoy it, goshdarnit, to find ways to make peoples’ lives exciting due to my being temporarily, ephemerally in them, as I continue to crawl back percentage points of my heart (yes I think of it in percentages – it’s not a null sum game – the heart can grow! – but percentages all the same), but when I finish leading this webisode, short-story, elseworlds edition comic book time in my life, and have more of my heartdeep to offer, I’d like to find a deep, long novel with someone to live in.
Anyway, this has been my book report on High Fidelity. Cheers.
There was a me, then,
When I was with her,
A me who was better than the me who came before.
I preferred the me who was with her,
the man who knew he was loved,
who didn’t have that sense of desperation, of longing,
of will this conversation lead to a romance I need a romance I think I need a romance,
that the previous me had,
a me who was less selfish,
who knew fully what it meant to go all in on loving someone,
who knew his good qualities because she told me all about them,
because I could see them in the sparkle
in her eyes
when we shared our lives.
And then we didn’t.
And now we shouldn’t.
So here I am.
Here we go.
Without a choice.
We are always becoming,
no matter how firm we try to grip to what is now,
or to wave away the waves,
to reject the flowing tide,
we are ever-becoming
who we are
the next me,
And my optimistic, foolish wish
is I want to prefer to be that person too.
People have been asking how I’m feeling.
Here’s where I’m at.
I feel like time is moving strangely, impossibly slow,
as though yesterday were a week ago,
three days ago, a month,
and last month, as far back as my time in Victoria.
Last week’s happy experiences
and hard conversations
feel like they took place a year ago, happened to someone else who existed back then.
Individual events and chats and moments feel so small,
whereas the lingering feelings,
the semi-constant emotional states
from one minute
to the next,
these feel neverending,
the ocean compared to the waves,
part of who I’ve been for all of recent memory.
Earlier tonight I worked a shift at the Drake concert at Rogers Arena.
When I arrived, they put me in the elevator,
to sit in the elevator for seven hours,
to press the buttons to go up and down
and down and up
and up and down
and down and up
and up and down,
with the occasional interesting ten second conversation
peppered along seven hours of that lurching
of being stuck
in an elevator.
Every Two Weeks.
Partly, I use the fringe circuit as a way to live different lives.
To test out different parallel universe Andrews, if you will.
For most of the year, there is a routine. Living in the suburb I grew up in. I have my day jobs. The occasional play. Family members to visit, old friends to chat with. My solitary home to go back to, maybe watch a show on my computer. Most of the year is caked, coated, overgrown with my personal history. That isn’t a bad thing, per say. It’s what I have made of my life.
But then there’s Fringe. Every two weeks, a new location, a new living situation, a new family, if you will. From seeing what life would be like were I the child of a retired military family who dine on exotic meats and wine in Regina, to sharing a living space with a nineteen-year-old drag queen in Toronto. And I get to be different, too. I have never been a bar hopper, but what the hey, why not head to the beer tents every night this time? Or use this free time to become a bookworm for a few days. Or struggle dearly to be a streetside salesman, pitching my fringey wares. To be the kind of fellow who has a one night stand, or the kind of person who shares in a week-long relationship, seeing a person you care for every single day.
Those aren’t the Andrews I am back in Richmond. I’m not that guy. But on the road, I am. And I am. And I am.
I dubbed this season, ‘the summer Andrew sorts out his stuff’. With a hashtag. And it’s not just the shows I’m performing. In The Most Honest Man In The World, I really am onstage trying to sort through the neuroses I held four years ago about relationships. Every performance, I want that epiphany, that moment, that ‘aha’ that spurs me forward in my personal growth. The show doesn’t work unless it’s equal parts hope and regret.
As The Most Honest Man In The World, I have to face the truth. Who am I? Well, when it comes to relationships, in Richmond, I am a 28 year old man who lives alone with a minifridge and a single bed who doesn’t know how to offer up enough of his life to make a relationship work. He knows what he knows and he is who he is. That man, The Most Honest Man In The World from the play, me at 24, I’m still mostly him. Less neurotic, less nervous, far more centred, but still mostly him. I’m just used to how I life my life.
But this summer, each summer, every two weeks, I get a glimpse of what it would be like if I lived differently. If I were someone else. Or someone else. Or someone else. Or someone else. Every ‘else’ as someone almost me, but in different circumstances, a different city, with different people.
Adulthood is partly the realization that you don’t get to be someone ‘when you grow up’. You are what you choose to focus on. In Richmond, there is an inertia to where I devote my focus. But on the road, with Fringe festivals and non-fringe stops inbetween, every two weeks I get to adopt a new and different focus. And a new and different focus. And a new and different focus. What would it be like if I DID devote more attention to this, or that, or this, or that? From Toronto to Ann Arbor to Saskatoon to Nanaimo to Victoria to Vancouver, with everything I own – the artifacts that describe who I am – packed up into boxes, crates, bags, and a lone travelling suitcase.
I don’t know which me is going to come home in the end. But I hope that he’s…
I don’t know. I don’t know what I hope for.
I hope that he learns how to focus.
How to focus better on what’s important in life.
Once he figures out what actually is important in life. For him. For me. Once I do. If I do.
Or I don’t.
There is so much left in this summer.
Saskatoon Fringe: https://www.facebook.com/events/1102726283074871/
Nanaimo Fringe: https://www.facebook.com/events/1597063170563617/
Victoria Fringe: https://www.facebook.com/events/1193881917293983/
Vancouver Fringe: https://www.facebook.com/events/1633245323584144/
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 )
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.
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?
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…
A First Fringe Tour by the Numbers: For my 2013 inaugural tour of The Hatter.
London audience numbers:
# of performances: 10
# of comps to media in audience: 4
# of comp VIP tickets: 13
# of comp Trouper tickets recorded: 1
# of comp performer tickets: 16
# of paying audience members: 54
Average # of paying ticket holders per show: 5.4
# of audience members (total): 87
Average size of audience: 8.7
# of shows without a single paying audience member: 3
# of advance tickets sold: 0
Average ticket price paid to me: 9.94$
Ottawa audience numbers:
Number of performances: 9
# of comps to media in audience: 4
# of comp VIP tickets: 2
# of comp Promo tickets: 2
# of comp volunteer tickets: 9
# of comp performer tickets: 3
# of advance tickets sold: 9
# of paying audience members: 81
Average # of paying ticket holders per show: 9
# of audience members (total): 101
Average size of audience: 11.2
Average ticket price paid to me: 9.35$
Toronto audience numbers:
Number of performances: 7
# of comps to media in audience: 8
# of comps (poor friend): 1
# of comp volunteer tickets: 11
# of comp 10x10x10 tickets: 33
# of comp VIP tickets: 8
# of advance tickets sold: 23
# of paying audience members: 90
Average # of paying audience members: 12.86
# of audience members (total): 151
Average size of audience: 21.57
Average size of audience, not including 10x10x10: 16.71
Average ticket price paid to me: 8.92$
Saskatoon audience numbers:
Number of performances: 7
# of comps to media in audience: 3
# of comp staff tickets: 1
# of comp company (performers with password) tickets: 27
# of comp volunteer tickets: 20
# of comp promo tickets (???): 16
# of advance tickets sold: 15
# of paying audience members: 118
Average # of paying audience members: 16.86
# of audience members (total): 195
Average size of audience: 27.86
Average ticket price paid to me: 11.20$
Failed Fringe application fees:
CAFF lottery: -25$
San Francisco: -35.60$
Photographer for promo shots: ~-100$
New hat: ~-25$
Hot water urn: -68.95$
Festival fee: -650$
500 Handbills (business cards): -34.47$
25 posters: -20.95$
Stolen bike light (bought for use in London): -20.33$
Beer for my techie: -11.25$
Festival fee: -632.80$
Stage Manager: -100$
500 Handbills (business cards): -34.47$
25 posters: -20.95$
New backpack (other one broke in so many ways): -58.76$
Extremely generous BYOV venue fee: -80$
Gift to billets: ~-15$
Application fee: -27.50$
Festival fee: -750.00$
Stage manager: -80$
Timbits offered at last four performances: -13.56$
500 Handbills (business cards): -34.47$
25 posters: -20.95$
Weekly transit pass: -38.50$
Application fee: -30$
Festival fee: -670.00$
Stage manager: -100.00$
1000 Handbills (business cards): -51.41$
25 posters: -20.95$
Gift to billet/volunteers: -7.74$
Travel costs to each city:
Plane ticket from Vancouver to London, through family friend: -120$
Suitcase-full-of-props as extra bag on Westjet: -21.00$
Greyhound to Ottawa: -59.33$
Cost to take suitcase-full-of-props on greyhound to Ottawa: -16.95$
Gas money to artist for ride to Toronto: -20$
Transit tokens in Toronto while waiting for Saskatoon: -53$
Greyhound (43 hours) Toronto to Saskatoon: -139.56$
Cost to take suitcase-full-of-props on greyhound to Saskatoon: -15$
Greyhound (25 hours) Saskatoon to Vancouver: -110.78$
Cost to take suitcase-full-of-props on greyhound back to Vancouver: -15.75$
Expenses back home:
Rent/storage costs in Richmond for 2.5 months = ~550$
Ticket sales at door: 532.00$
Average ticket price paid to me: 9.94$
6 two-for-one ticket sales (5$): 30$
17 five/ten show passes (7$): 119$
9 Advance ticket sales (10$): 90$
40 ticket sales at door (10$): 400$
stage managed a show twice: 30$
Average ticket price paid to me: 9.35$
23 advance ticket sales (9$ to me): 207$
41 ticket sales at door (10$): 410$
3 Five-pack (7.5$): 22.50$
17 ten-pack (7.5$): 127.50$
6 performer (6$): 36$
Average ticket price paid to me: 8.92$
Ticket breakdown made very complicated with 2$ deducted from each ticket for administrative fees, plus GST removed from payout on each ticket. (Saskatoon is the only Fringe Festival that does this.)
Paid by drunks for a photo taken with me: 3$
Payout from festival: 1322.11$
Average ticket price paid to me: 11.20$
Hours on greyhound buses: 8+43+25 = 76 hours.
Food not considered: Grocery/food bill, as it was kept to my usual 200$ per month.
Days away: 71
Homes graciously opened to me to stay in: 5
# of stars in London review (London Free Press): 3 (out of five)
# of stars in Saskatoon review (The StarPhoenix): 4.5 (out of five)
Failed Fringe application fees: -220.35
Pre-tour expenses: -207.39$
London expenses: -748.37$
Ottawa expenses: -955.92$
Toronto expenses: -999.99$
Saskatoon expenses: -914.63$
Travel costs to each city: -571.37$
Expenses back home: -550.00$
London income: 537.00$
Ottawa income: 787.00$
Toronto income: 803.00$
Saskatoon income: 1369.86$
Cost/Tuition for a two and a half month cross-country adventure: 1671.16$
The numbers are bit surprising. I’ll put my thoughts/reactions in my next post in a few days. Hope this is useful for some of you out there to see as well! Feel free to leave your feedback/advice/comments below. 🙂