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Is it Career Death to Act in a Panto?

December 22, 2011 3 comments

Is it Career Death to Act in a Panto?

I was speaking with a friend yesterday about the Christmas Panto I am performing in, and she replied,

“I have never seen or done Panto because people say where I am from that it is the death of your acting career.”

 

Photo by Ariel Diaz.

I found that an odd statement.

I still feel like a fresh, naive face in the landscape, only graduating a short six months ago, so I don’t speak with any experience. Now, granted, I admit that the vast majority of Christmas Pantos out there are community theatre productions and there can be a stigma toward actors who partake in unpaid community theatre as perhaps being less than professional. Technically, this is absolutely true – that actors who aren’t getting paid aren’t doing professional work. If we define ‘professional’ as ‘getting paid for it’.

That an actor whose resume is filled with Arts Club shows will get a closer look than one topped with Fighting Chance and Panto performances is a given. That said, I would much rather work three community theatre shows (as I am midway through doing) than not act at all in that time frame. I hope that consistent performing work counts for something.

But whether or not a Panto on the resume helps me… it’s a very different situation to suggest that having such a show on my record would count against me.

I won’t deny that acting in a panto is stars apart from Chekhov, but every script has its own style. For Pantos, that happens to be in the vein of TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) shows – big, broad, out to the audience, sharing every moment with the audience. And let’s not forget the best part of Pantos – the improvising between cast and audience when a child pipes up with something adorable, or when something goes wrong onstage. There is a skill in making those side comments while still keeping the show moving; talented performers have a lot to work with in Pantos.

 

Peter Sellers

Heck, Pantos never hurt Peter Sellers, and Mickey Rooney  seems to get a kick out of them. Alright, yes, this is me cherry-picking celebrities – doesn’t prove a thing. But they make me feel better. 🙂

Again, I have no experience in this area; since graduating in June, I’m still looking for my first paying run in a theatre (outside of Fringe). No time at all in the scheme of things. But I do hope this show isn’t a mark against me, because Ali Baba is genuinely a fun show that delights hundreds and hundreds of children and adults, and while it is in some ways a long step away from how to act in a serious drama, this opportunity to play with an audience in such a direct fashion has been invaluable, the choreography a helpful challenge, and the experience thus far, a pleasure.

 

What do you think? (leave a comment!)

 

We run until January 7th if you want to check us out. Here’s the information again:

Photo by Ariel Diaz

  • Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves – A Christmas Pantomime! – I play Wakey Faker in this silly, funny, family-friendly funtimes pantomime, complete with Dame, singalongs, Oh-No-You-Don’ts, much musical choreography, and an audience encouraged to heckle the actors. Plus, with British parents, I needed to be in at least ONE Panto. Just had to happen. And I get to play a romantic lead! Sort of.
  • Venue: The Metro Theatre.
    The Metro’s Website.
  • Show Dates:
    Evening shows at 7.00 p.m. – Dec 22 ,23 ,26, 27 , 29 , 30 January 2,5,6,7
    Matinee shows at 2.00 p.m. – Dec 26, 27. January 1, 2, 7

Don’t be a stranger,
Andrew Wade

 

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My First Play.

January 17, 2011 2 comments

Me, in grade three.

My first word was ‘no’.

As a toddler, I wouldn’t let me mother hug me – I would squirm and squeal and try to get away, to the point where she could use a hug as a sort of ridiculous form of punishment. I was a difficult child.

Come elementary school, not too much had changed. I was miserable, with a childhood belief that everyone was out to get me, everyone a potential threat. I would wander around the school at recess, dreaming up scenarios of ‘if that person picks a fight with me, I can do this, and run there.’ Not that I was actually bullied much, but I believed I was, and imagined a grand social ladder with me and a couple of other people right at the bottom of it. And I felt it was better for people to know me and dislike me, than not to know me at all (my ‘rep’, as I would say).

Well, one innocent day in grade three, the opportunity came up to audition for the school play, The Littlest Christmas Tree. To this day, I still don’t know why, but I felt an urge to go audition. So I did. The audition consisted of going into a classroom where music was playing, and to dance to the music.

Apparently I had quite the moves (which I don’t), or the teachers just liked me (which they did), or I was the shortest kid there (which I was), but regardless of their reasoning, I got cast as the lead, title character. I became The Littlest Christmas Tree.

In the play, the older, larger trees taunt and tease The Littlest Christmas Tree, tell him how worthless he is, how he can’t do anything for anyone. Then, of course, the Littlest Christmas Tree gets picked. It wasn’t much of a stretch to act as though I felt persecuted. My only memory of actually performing the piece is the older trees walking in a ring around me, singing an insulting song about how mediocre I am, with me sitting in the centre of the stage, looking up at them with a mixture of grief, fear, and dejection.

What came at the end of the show was the biggest surprise of my young life. See, I hadn’t even thought about it – about how the play might be received. So I was taken aback when it ended… and the whole school, hundreds of students cramped into a small gymnasium, applauded. And cheered. All the way up to the grade sevens in my elementary school, WHO GOT TO SIT ON BENCHES AND CHAIRS. Yes, those ancient gods.

And as I stepped off the stage, they held out their hands, these BIG KIDS, like a row of welcome branches to either side of me, lining the walkway to the gym’s exit. So as I jogged out of that gym, I high-fived dozens of strangers, all so much cooler and more notable than I was. For that one moment, I was known, I was liked, I was… better than I thought I was.

Reflection? This means my theatrical ambitions grew partly from a desire for fame and recognition, which is not an ideal reason to be an actor. That said, it also came from that inexplicable urge to audition, to act.

And I am grateful.

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Paintings #2 and #3 – the power of giving gifts

January 9, 2011 1 comment

Illustrious acts high raptures do infuse, And every conqueror creates a muse.
Edmund Waller

 

It took me 15 years to paint once more (see this post for details). What would it take for me to paint again?

When it comes to art (be that writing, or building, or painting, and so forth), I have a fickle sense of motivation. For the most part, I readily find distractions and other priorities to keep me from my own special projects. But when that project becomes for someone else, perhaps a play written with a specific actress in mind, or a sculpture for a parent, or a collage for a dear friend… then I find myself spurred onward into nights of little sleep, seeking to finish the grand idea and see the smile (of gratitude, love, or puzzlement, or all of the above) of the one who is to receive it.

So, my second and third paintings were gifts, Christmas gifts, to be exact. And I thought I’d share them. I apologize for the image quality, but at the time, I had only an ancient digital camera more than a decade old, and the paintings are no longer in my possession (obviously), so I can’t take any better stills.

My second painting in 15 years was for a trekkie friend who once commented on how much she likes receiving paintings from friends, I decided to go with something fairly simple:

Star Trek: A Simple Logo.

Star Trek: The Simple Painting.

I actually rather made a mess of this one, at first, and had to do a fair bit of repainting. Eh, I’m still a beginner. I’m proud of the yellow lining around the inside, and I think she still appreciated receiving a painting out of the blue, even if it isn’t perfect.  🙂

 

For my third painting… well, this was for someone special to me.  Without going into details, she holds the Hunger Games book series in very high regard, and the books played a role in our connecting with each other, so I wanted to take my time and play homage to that marvelous meet-up/series-of-events as best I could:

The Mockingjay

 

The Mockingjay, painted

As her favourite colour is purple, I changed the background colour to match, and covered the canvas in a few layers of purple. I then used old yoghurt and margarine lids to give me the shape of the ring shape, which I then painted in. After that dried, I did my best to sketch out the bird, and painted the bird with with a different mixture of yellow and gold paints. Once THAT dried, I mixed the paints together with a heavier emphasis on the gold, worked on the details and shadowed areas, and then made a slighly darker/more-gold batch to accentuate the more heavily shadowed flicks and feathers, followed by a bit of pure yellow on the arrow and eyes. I splurged on this one and bought paintbrushes from somewhere OTHER than the dollar store, which really helped when trying to get those details accurate.

It’s not a perfect replica, but one I’m darn proud of, and it was received rather well.

And I don’t know if I should be sharing this, really, but you seem like a nice person, so… her gift to me? A real-life replica of the image from this post.

Needless to say, I’ve found a pretty good source for inspiration.   🙂

 

Cheers,
Andrew Wade

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