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Fringe 2014: The Rise of the Western World, or, The Settler Makes a Home

January 20, 2014 Leave a comment
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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.

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Contour flag of Saskatchewan, Canada

Saskatchewan, Canada (Wikipedia)

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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. 😛

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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.

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Fringe (TV series)

(Wikipedia)

(And I’ll probably still lose money in the end. But that’s okay. Life and expression are more important than all that. 🙂 )

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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.

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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.

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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.

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( 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/ )

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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!

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(But that’s a subject for another post. 🙂 )

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Long Live Adventure! Huzzah!

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Cheers,
Andrew Wade

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How I intend to become (more) Canadian

November 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Apparently I had a bright idea.

 

I am about as Canadian as a person comes; namely, I was born somewhere else (the States), my parents are immigrants from yet another country (England), I have both worked at and enjoyed many a good 2am conversation at Tim Hortons, and (if I am remembering correctly), Sarah Koury once described me as the most inoffensive person she knows. Or hardest to dislike, anyway. I listen to Stuart McLean’s CBC Radio podcasts every week, I am supposed to be French/English bilingual thanks to my entry into Late French Immersion, I once based a theatrical character on Harold from The Red Green Show, and, heck, I’ve even sung our national anthem on the ice at a hockey game.

 

And yet, despite all my innate Canadian-ness, I have a confession to make – I’ve never travelled the country. Never been anywhere east of Chiliwack for more than an hour or two, to be honest. Well, except for the dullest five hours of my life – the amount of time I spent locked in a room at the Toronto International Airport. On my way to somewhere else, of course.

 

Oh, alright, I’ll explain that one.

 

Waaaaay back when, my older brother and I went to visit my granddad in Florida, where he spent half of each year, minus a day. (Later, he would manage to get himself adopted by an couple in the 90’s – why not! His parents are dead! – in order to get American citizenship so he could stay for longer. He lives in the south of France now.) Anyway, as I was (…I believe…) only ten at the time, and my brother only twelve, we were declared ‘unaccompanied minors’ on the plane trip from Vancouver to Florida, with a transfer in Toronto. This meant that the flight staff were all very nice to us, lead us about… and locked us in a room in the Toronto airport for five hours, between flights.

 

The room contained a couch (which my brother promptly fell asleep on), a small table, a chair, and a television that would for some reason only pick up one channel, which happened to be showing – I kid you not – STAGECOACH RACING. Which sounds interesting! For about two minutes. And all I had with me was a substandard quality R. L. Stine book, The Beast, WHICH I HAD JUST FINISHED READING ON THE PLANE RIDE THERE. Not to great to start up again from the beginning. So, my impressions of Toronto have thus far been spoiled for life.

 

There wasn't even a crash.

 

But yes, in my life I have visited Seattle, New York, Florida, Paris (for a day), and England on many, many occasions, but not once have I stepped outside an airport in any other Canadian province. Not even our neighbouring Alberta, though I did go to UVic, so I’ve met thousands of (former) Calgarians.

 

Cover of "Why I Hate Canadians"

Why this burst of discovery writing? Two reasons. First, this week I began and finished reading Will Ferguson’s Why I Hate Canadians, an excellent book that managed to in Voltron-like-fashion combine a memoir, travel journal, and history book into an analysis of Canadian culture. Brother of my friend and director Ian Ferguson, Will has a keen analytical eye with just enough romance in his soul to be able to grapple with questions of patriotism, nationalism, and nature. This book WAS published in ye olden 1997, however. I would love to hear how he and his opinions on this country have shifted and changed with the collapse of the separatist movement and rise of the NDP. In the book, Will says, “The question is not whether Quebec will separate, but whether she will ever finally join us.” Have we now seen the next step toward that finally happening?

 

The second reason I’m drawn to writing this introspective post is, well, I was just rejected from the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Well, okay, not rejected, per say; it’s a lottery system, and my name wasn’t drawn out of the hat. So, rejected in the same way Nicole Rempel rejected me in grade six by way of us ending up in separate school districts.

 

But yes. I feel it’s time I explored more of this country, and not just to get the foul taste of my first experience with Toronto out of my mouth, not just because I one day would like to be an elected public servant in this country, not just because to be a working actor in this country means needing to move about and work in different cities… but because I want to step into different cultures with different ideals and motivations, all while keeping that olive branch of Canadian-ness. I may be eight thousand kilometres from Newfoundlanders, but we share enough in common to sit down and have a pint. And one way for me to explore this country is through the Fringe theatre circuit, travelling from city to city, performing.

 

But I need to get into the festivals to do that. So far, in this, the Fringe-entry drawing season, I am in for Regina and London, Ontario. Out for Saskatoon, Montreal, and Ottawa. I’ll need a few more cities to make the tour not potentially financially crippling. Here’s hoping.

 

Here’s to finally meeting more of this country I call home.

 

And then... THE WORLD! MUAHAHAHAHAAAA!

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Welcome to Chilliwack – UFV Directors’ Festival, Friday

April 30, 2011 2 comments

This is not a rebuttal of my prior post, but… take it as another view on my time here at the UFV Directors’ Festival thus far.

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Stuart McLean. Happy, as per usual.

Welcome to Chilliwack!

As someone who has not travelled much myself, and rarely ever been involved in anything that might remotely be considered a road trip, I have often wondered just how CBC Radio‘s Stuart McLean could find such wonderful things to say about every city he visited. Surely some places just aren’t too memorable or interesting, right?

Well, I’m happy to say that Chilliwack is not one of them. Welcome to Chilliwack, where the local pub cheekily advertises “washrooms complimentary with the beer”, where the local university has a parking lot exclusively for female drivers after hours, and where the apparently only surviving club in town (the Echo Room) plays dance-ified Mario Bros and Zelda tunes. Yes, this is a city where every after-hours gathering takes place on the same short stretch of one main road, all of which happen to fortunately be a mere five minutes walk from my hostel.

Then there is my hostel, the delightful Song of Ruth House, so named, I’m sure, because every inch of it certainly sings the soul of the owner, Ruth. It is a house (perhaps acting illegally has a hostel * edit: see Ruth’s comment below) crowded to the brim with an endless assortment of interesting, intriguing, and overwhelming stuff, ranging from a delightful infestation of faeries and dolphins in the bathroom, to a retro CD player, at least a dozen lamps, a half-dozen electric heaters, and false walls cobbled together from spare wood, plastic sheeting, chicken wire, and whatever else was available, to create the different rooms for tenants to stay in. Every room, of course, is given a Hawaiian name. It all fits. And the whole house maintains a strict shoes-on policy, aside from the fenced off ‘private’ rooms, as the half-dozen cats are known to pee around the house – particularly the blind one. (But the floors are mopped every day.)

Poster for the Song of Ruth House

But be it the impressive and wild garden blocking the way to the front door, or the perhaps five dozen mugs in the house, it is a place with soul. While it may cost a mere 30$ a night to rent a room, Ruth – a self-confessed ‘vampire’ when I mentioned not being able to check in, on the first night, until midnight – made this place far superior to the fanciest hotel room I could have booked, when she greeted me with a hug and an assured “Welcome home.”

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The festival itelf today was also a delight. Yesterday, we were given the opportunity in the opening ceremonies for the festival to do a one minute promo of the show. I bounded down to the stage area, and said something like this:

“If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s running over a puppy with my bike. If there’s a second thing I can’t stand, it’s previews that give away the show.

Seriously, when I go to a movie theatre, when the previews are playing I’m going like this (sticks fingers in ears, closes eyes): LALALALALALALALA. So I’m not going to do that. So here’s something that isn’t in the show.

Ladies and gentlemen, standing in the… erm… green corner (the curtain was green), weighing in at 140 poun- okay, 155 pounds… WILLIAM! YAAAAAAAHHHHH! And in the, erm… other corner with a tall and somewhat intimidating man (one of the opening ceremony hosts, who must be close to seven feet tall), with a gravitational force of 9.83 Gs…. THE WORLD! BOOOOOOOOOO. (the audience joined in.) William Fights The World is a show about a narcissistic jerk of a man who thinks he lives an ideal life… and how that life gets torn apart.”

Okay, so I stumbled on the first line and said “If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s running over a puppy with my dog. Bike. Running over a puppy with my bike.” But other than that, it went well.

William ___s the World? (No, not that word.)

Today, I performed William Fights The World (formerly William Vs. The World, as many people still entirely unrelatedly mistakenly called it, and probably soon to be retitled ‘William wrestles the World’ as one festivaler recommended for alliteration) for the first time. My first time carrying a one-man-show, speaking to an audience and holding their attention for 45 minutes, all the while figuring out better blocking on the fly, coming up with new and awesome jokes mid-show (none of which, tragically, I was able to remember, post-show), reacting with the audience, sharing in a story and a character with them, growing, and living, dagnammit, living in the space. The additions (a cactus, a few lines here and there), felt a necessary partof the show (and not just grafted on). The fantastic techies helped me build the lighting and sound cues hours before the first performance, and intelligently covered when I missed one of their cue lines.

And the audience laughed! And they laughed their hardest at the parts I wasn’t sure would be understood, at obscure-ish references and tragic lines, at William’s lack of self-awareness. I’m quickly learning that the more obscure or niche the reference, the more an audience adores you for putting it in a show (if they get it). Builds such a sense of connection with the performer.

I don’t know if the ending was understood, but I hope it sparked a few conversations.

And the other shows in the festival, mostly professionally written, but with a fully student conceived creations, were inspiring, with fantastic performances. In particular, so far, The Russian Play, by Hannah Moscovitch and performed by SFU students, an original piece called ‘What Daggers Before Me’ by Darcy J. Knopp and Tinman Productions at UFV, and ‘Afterglow’, a well-written two-hander by Peter Boychuk whose name I can’t remember about a meteor, a dead mother, and a failed attempt at romance from Thompson Rivers University.

A lot of the plays seem to focus on sex, coarse language, sex, and more sex, but these are university students, after all. It’s a significant subject to approach. (besides, goodness knows my own show features at least two-dozen f-bombs.)

Good day. Good day indeed.

A teacup on a saucer.

Image via Wikipedia

Oh, and I also had a tea party with British accents in the green room (in honour of the royal wedding), played dutch blitz, and last night, in the pub, had an indepth discussion of Doctor Who, Neil Gaiman, and DC superheroes. Sure, these may have been even better times with a fellow UVic compatriot travelling beside me (though I did run into Graeme Thompson here, who performed as Hullaboo in a show I wrote (of the same name) for the IGNITE! Theatre Festival in Vancouver, and, briefly, a UVic first year named Frankie), but even still, even while known by most people here as ‘the only guy from UVic’ (with inflections indicating they are either impressed, worried, or wondering if I’m a control freak), this has been a great day.

Thank you, Chilliwack, and thank you, UFV Directors’ Festival.

Cheers,
Andrew Wade

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Twelfth Night Post-mortem – Gratitude vs. Ego

March 20, 2011 Leave a comment

 

Photo by David Lowes

Photo by David Lowes

It has been two weeks since our theatre went dark on Twelfth Night. Two weeks since the last audience cheered and clapped and sang All You Need Is Love alongside us. Two weeks since that eye-sparking performance-high that comes with a job well done and well received.

The post-show crash is well known among theatre folk – that time of feeling down after closing night. For weeks, we were filled with the energy of hundreds (thousands, even) of people filling us with their eager desire to be entertained, to be empathic, to feel, to understand, to believe.

Photo by David Lowes

My own post-show crash resulted in a fairly significant case of sniffles, but I chalk that up more to a closing night party with much alcohol, followed by a somewhat cold 5am walk home. 🙂

I find it hard to leave an amazing show, and a great role, behind. I did with The Wiz, I did with Iago, and I do now. I still want to stand up and be Malvolio, night in, night out, for months longer, but I don’t have that opportunity. Today, I need to inhabit other characters. With two weeks left in the school year, I have characters in a directing scene, in a vocal masque, in my own written plays, in movement pieces (group and solo), in a karaoke musical project, in a dance piece alongside a chorus, orchestra, and singers… all these individuals need to breathe and flow through me now, so here I am, writing a post to say goodbye to my dear friend, Twelfth Night. There will never be another production like it; such is the ephemeral state of theatre.

Photo by David Lowes

I honestly haven’t known quite how to deal with the success of the show. I try to focus on gratitude in my life, on being grateful for what is offered to me, and with this role, wow! Such extremes, such choices, such comedy, and to be given the final scene of the play, to be made a focus in the final moments… I am so blessed. Really, I am.

I’ve had a woman walking her dog stop me in the street to tell me how much she liked my performance. I’ve had strangers at parties, after I introduce myself, sheepishly say “I know; I saw you in Twelfth Night, you were great”. Heck, I’ve had CBC Radio say I was ‘A Malvolio for the ages’. I must say, all these compliments, they’re flowing right over the top of my gratitude reservoir… I don’t know how to hold them properly.

Photo by David Lowes

As an actor, I am self-employed and always looking for new employment, always needing to prove my abilities to others. Which is an interesting challenge. So with the reaction from his show, I’ve also been dealing with the careful balance between letting people know about these accolades and not bragging too much. I admit, I have occasionally gone too far.

Contrary perhaps to popular opinion, actors don’t tend to have great senses of self-respect or healthy egos. I am also a writer. We certainly don’t. It’s easy to get down on oneself in theatre, because every performance, once done, cannot happen again, and there is always that doubt of whether or not the next performance will work. With writing, it’s much the same way – who knows whether I’ll be able to write another half-decent thing again? So when compliments come along, it’s important, in my mind, to hold on to them. To really listen to them. So I write down a few of the best compliments I’ve received. I keep them to look at in my darker moments. And I keep a wall of thank-you cards and warm fuzzies.

There’s a balance between celebrating compliments – being grateful – and being egotistical. And the necessary act of promoting oneself honestly, as an actor or as a writer, may sit somewhere in the middle. I find this a hard balance to keep. That said, I don’t put much stock in a fear of my becoming that egotistical actor with a superiority-complex, because already I can feel the doubts settling in, especially as I graduate, on whether or not I’ll ever get to play such an amazing, sparkling, fantastic role again, with such a delightful, supportive cast.

Photo by David Lowes

Fortunately, I’m also a playwright, so I have a bit of power in what roles are possible for me. But this show will never happen again. Not with these people, not with this amazing cast and crew, this fantastic direction, this artistic style, this music.

Twelfth Night, I’ll miss you. And while I don’t need to forget you, I can’t dwell on you, either.
New adventures need my full attention.

Photo by David Lowes

Prior Twelfth Night posts:

Twelfth Night – Losing the Stage Business
Twelfth Night – Finding the Fun

Twelfth Night – The Art of Comedy

Twelfth Night – Review Recap

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Twelfth Night – Review Recap

Here’s a recap on some of the reviews of our Phoenix Theatre (UVic) production of Twelfth Night. I fully admit to picking out the quotes that spoke about my performance. 🙂

CBC Radio (Dave Lennon):

Photo: David Lowes

“This production of Twelfth Night, I’ve gotta say right off the bat, one of the best I have ever seen… it has got high energy, the cast is eminently likeable… and most importantly, it is memorable… Everyone speaks perfectly, enunciates clearly, and they’re kind of grooving to the text; they know what they’re saying. ”

Andrew Wade’s nasally prudish, stick-in-the-mud Malvolio is one for the ages. He is a suit among amongst a stage of puffy shirts, flared pants, and velvet jackets. He is the one character who just doesn’t get it… He is the guy you want to give a ginch pole to in the schoolyard, but at the same time you just want to hug him and say everything is going to be alright. Wade turns him into the most sympathetic prig I have ever seen

Kesinee Haney, she was so good, the way she quipped her whip-smart banter with her superiors, gently mocking them, and the way she sang the lead on a whole lot of songs, she’s a commanding presence out there.

“It’s trippy, it’s moving, it’s funny… You know, the final scene almost brought me to tears, even though it had this sort of triple wedding thing going on. When the hurrahs subside, there’s poor Malvolio, he’s centrestage, ringed by joyous lovers and wellwishers, he’s a beaten man, Gregor, he’s a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and he’s crying real tears, and while he’s crying, the whole cast bursts out into ‘All You Need Is Love’, joined by the audience, the night I was there. You can’t take your eyes off Malvolio in the middle of all this. It’s beautiful and awesome.

Times Colonist

Photo: David Lowes

“During Wednesday’s preview performance, the obvious standouts were Cobi Dayan as Sir Toby and Andrew Wade as Malvolio — both amusing and lively.”

“Twelfth Night wasn’t ever intended to be taken too seriously. Hardy’s direction is witty and slightly irreverent, and seems to encourage a welcome genial warmth from the cast.”

“As the boozing, cavorting (and sometimes dope-smoking) Sir Toby, Dayan exhibits welcome comic chops. He captures the character’s blend of the dissolute and the fun-loving, making him the irresistible rascal he needs to be. And Wade does well as Malvolio, who’s Sir Toby’s opposite. The actor carried himself with a certain stiffness in posture and gesture — he provides the “dignity” that must be present, in order for us to enjoy his fall.

 

Photo: David Lowes

Monday Magazine:

Koury’s Cesario is well-balanced, with his (or her) affection for Orsino occasionally bubbling to the surface but being quickly subdued, with Edmundson and Volke also delivering quality to their leads. But some of the best moments arguably came from the supporting characters and sub-plots. Cobi Dayan as the booze-soaked Sir Toby and Andrew Wade as Olivia’s stuck-up servant Malvolio provide much comic relief.

Victoria News:

Photo: David Lowes. (though I had spikier hair in our actual shows.)

The University of Victoria Phoenix Theatre’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will most certainly is fantastic.”

“…rows of smiling faces revealed each time the dreamy, psychedelic lights swept across the sold-out opening night crowd…”

“Fencing duels with golf clubs; backflips, somersaults, chase scenes across a revolving stage – there was enough energy bounding about the set to make even the laziest ex-hippy want to get up and smile on their brother. With court musician Andrew Gillot churning out musical punch lines – in the form of a well-timed riff here, or opening bars to “Day Tripper” there – barely a moment in the show wasn’t used to its fullest.

Following Koury’s wholly convincing (and rather charming) final moments as Viola and Andrew Wade’s hilarious unravelling as the love-duped Malvolio, the lively cast proved themselves worthy of filling seats for the last nights of Twelfth Night.”

Culture Vulture:

Photo: David Lowes

“It was a great performance across the board…”

“At that level, which is, you know, sort of pre-professional level, you can really start to see and recognize the  students, the actors, who are going to be the stars of the future… I thought the guy that played Malvolio, it was Andrew Wade, and Sarah Koury, who played Viola, you just watched their eyes, they never broke, they never looked nervous, it was just so comfortable for them… the guy who played Fabian, Mik… people who belong onstage.”

Well, shucks.

Cheers,
Andrew Wade

Prior Twelfth Night posts:

Twelfth Night – Losing the Stage Business
Twelfth Night – Finding the Fun

Twelfth Night – The Art of Comedy

Photo: David Lowes