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.
First rehearsal for Floyd Collins today.
A number of other actors told me how perfectly cast I am for my role. “And because he doesn’t need to be any age, you can keep playing him for a long time to come.”
For whatever reason, that comment stuck in me. Came from a Toronto actor, and he’s right, in his world, you can stick with a show, find it wherever it resurfaces and keep with it. Find runs that go on for as long as people buy tickets. And there are unicorns and magical space robots too, I imagine. But I’m still a young BC pup – such notions don’t really occur to me. Shows last a few weeks, then they’re done, followed by a month or two of part-time low wage work until the next show comes along. I’ve only once ever returned to perform in something I’d been in before; that was a production of Henry V that took me back to Victoria for a week at Fringe. My squirmy, powerless, irish-sounding French King.
My own show counts too, I suppose. But that’s different – that show keeps coming back because I’m the one bringing it back. But to be hired to a new production of an old show? That some producer somewhere might want me more thanks to my prior experience?
What an obvious and strange concept.
Coming into the first rehearsal here for Floyd, I had two options for how to present myself to the group. One, I could own the fact that I was cast for this show same as all them others, and swagger about with the best of them, confident in my career as an actor and in my equal worth with anyone else in the show. Decided that we were all picked evenhandedly and excitedly by Peter, and trust that we are going to make something brilliant because we are all gen-u-ine pro-fessionals, income-tax-form Actors who know what we’re doing.
Or two, I could own up to my ’emerging’ actor status. Point out Science World just out the window and let them know that I worked three different day-jobs last week. Shake my head at the director apologizing at length for paying us far less than we’re worth, far less than we’re warranted, and far less than we’d be making elsewhere, when this equity scale sum is far more than I’ve ever earned before from theatre work. Tell’em how I live an hour and a river away, in an office building, sandwiched between pot fumes and an abandoned gym. Let them know how grateful I am for all of this, and tell’em how doggone hard I’m going to work to reach the level all these others are already at.
We’ve got impressive specimens of charisma like Daren Herbert and Michael Torontow. Krystin Pellerin from The Tudors and Republic of Doyle. The talent in the room is so impressive.
And I’m in there with them. One of them.
So, which approach did I take? Well, truth be told, as I do, I didn’t make a firm choice, so what shone through were my defaults of TOO MUCH INFORMATION, GRATITUDE, and CONFIDENCE. Because can I bring Skeets Miller to life? Heck yes! Am I just plum grateful to be in the room? You betcha! Do I earn most of my living performing on the stage or screen? Definitely not. Yet.
The ol’ puff up pull down ying-yang that makes me just neurotic enough for these loveable squirmy outsider little-guy roles.
I don’t really have a blog post to go along with this, other than to say that for all we artists aren’t supposed to listen to reviews, it is SO validating to see the work I’ve put into this show over the past couple of months take it from a three star show in London to 4.5/5 stars here in Saskatoon!
Actor Andrew Wade shows fantastic range, flipping a switch between wackiness and depression.
“Why can’t we let fantastic things be,” he asks in tears.
Perhaps because they weren’t meant to last, is the silent reply.
In short, you’d be mad to miss this play. – The StarPhoenix
I would like to contrast this with the first review I ever received for a fringe show, back in 2011, when I performed William vs. The World at Victoria Fringe, and my only review said that “Even sympathetic narcissists should avoid this show.” Why do I want to contrast it in this way? Because I love the feeling of progress, I suppose.
The Hatter began as a cobbled together series of experiments in Vancouver, two years ago, and then went on to London Fringe, where for three of its first four performances, THERE WASN’T A SINGLE PAYING AUDIENCE MEMBER IN THE HOUSE. That’s right, three of my first four performances this summer went to tiny houses of strictly media/volunteers/other-performers, all of whom were watching it for free. And since then I have worked on the show, refined elements of it, added in a scene previously cut, and through Ottawa and Toronto, figured out just what its emotional core, its soul, really is. Financially, in both cities I didn’t quite break even, but the show was progressing. I could feel it. And my pitches on the street were also improving.
Not going to lie, I am loving it here in Saskatoon right now. The street festival atmosphere is fantastic, people yell things at me left and right on the street (due to my costume), the locals are lovely, I’ve had many people ask to take photos with me, people are enjoying my show, and now a review that just blows me out of the water.
Well played, Saskatoon. Well played. I shall certainly come here again. And I get to enjoy your company for four more performances and seven more days!
The old season is ending. Long live the new season.
I often consider my life in the metaphor of a television series. (I like structure.)
Lately I’ve been looking at each year as a season. And since I’m not yet too far removed from 20 years of education, each year begins in September. Now, with any good episodic television show, there are individual stories and arcs that last over a few episodes, two-parters and the like, but there are also season arcs, overarching stories and themes that have their feet in every minor story that year. An arc could be a career path, a relationship status, a focus, a series of coincidences, health, friendships, projects… anything, really. What makes a season arc what it is is that pervasive nature with which they are progressed (or obviously stagnate) throughout the whole season. It’s these arcs I’d like to pontificate over.
THIS SEASON’S ARCS
This past year (September 2011 to September 2012), significant arcs I can identify that have made their way into almost every day of my life are (A) my career goal to connect with the Vancouver theatre scene and find paying work doing theatre, (B) reconnecting with my family (as last September included a move close to home), and (C) Being single without letting myself be single. (Like I said, stagnation can be an arc as well.)
As for (A), as with good TV, it started with a BANG (four days to write and learn and build a Fringe show for Vancouver Fringe?), then fell into a rhythm of better paced growth experiences throughout (A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Great American Trailerpark Musical, The Boys In The Band, IGNITE! and The You Show with The Romantics, Shpadoinkle Day, and the National Voice Intensive), and showed a strong arc build, with my recent paid work at the Kelowna Summer Theatre Festival. This arc emerged from last year’s season finale (Stage manage, direct, and write/act in three different shows for Victoria Fringe?), and this year’s finale features an echo of last season with a return to Henry V with KeepItSimple, and an unexpected call from Bard on the Beach, asking if I could audition for them – a call I did not receive last year. The finale of this month also helpfully points toward plotpoints for next year, with auditions for paid work and opening hints of Dracula: The Musical.
For (B), seeing my parents and siblings every few days has been a blessing, giving me a sense of roots and the resolve to stay on the mainland and follow my path, rather than find somewhere to hide. An anchor.
And with (C), well… all I’ll say is I went on a total of three dates all year, and that while this year’s season finale won’t be what I’d hoped for, it might be what I need. As with many real television shows, this season will end with a meeting at a party. (Part of the reason I think in arcs is an act of hope and will that there will indeed be a great shift ahead.)
NEXT YEAR’S ARCS?
While I’m no clairevoyant, here are my predictions for possible arcs:
(A) Film and TV. I want to make a big career push in film and TV. I expect a slow build-up with student films, extra-work and the like, but I’ll happily accept a break if it comes. 🙂
(B) The Move Into The City, Proper. Not only does my family look like they may finally move out of Richmond after many years of pondering doing so, but the building I am currently living in is due to be demolished at some undetermined point – most likely in a year’s time. Just in time for the big finale. 😛
(C) Breaking The Social Isolation. Tied to the former arc, perhaps living with other people again, but more importantly, cultivating strong friendships and accepting new beginnings on the relationship front. More evenings spent with people, and not just for the purpose of rehearsing.
(D) Income Boost. Be it a successful passive income project, a lucky opportunity to act in a commercial, or something else, I expect growth from last season’s 10k income figure.
Other possible arcs include: Writing regularly / getting published (though I’m not sure I have the discipline for this in me, quite yet – through perhaps writing/running a D20 game could be a step), bouts of depression, a brilliant romance (apparently there’s still a hopeful romantic in me), connecting to political spheres, and connecting to nature (a highly rare experience throughout all of my life).
Now I head off to Victoria for the season finale – a step into my old world to see what experiences, which people, I’ll get to take from it into next season’s arcs, and what will get left behind.
I don’t know what will happen, but I plan on following the metaphor through. I want a big finale, with this season’s arcs resolved or transformed into something new. Next year’s arcs set-up. Surprises. A cliff-hanger. When I return to the mainland, I want my life to have been inexorably changed.
So if you want to help write the next season of me, or become a regular, now’s the best time to make a guest-starring appearance.
I need something big to happen so I can begin next year feeling renewed.
It has been close to a month since I served my last cup of tea as The Mad Hatter. Feels like yesterday. When it comes to continuing creative work, I follow John August’s advice, that a piece isn’t finished until you cease to be excited by it. I’m still excited by the Hatter.
The soul of the play is in his fight with forgiveness, with guilt; a battle I hadn’t found until the day of the first performance (and thus improvised into the script, from thereon in). I want to take this script and imbue it with more heartfelt pain, fear, grasping, gaining, hope. Take a page or two from Little Orange Man, performed by my friend Ingrid Hansen, which combined audience interaction, humour, character, and story in a poetic and beautiful way. For all the silly set-pieces like the epic fight with the (audience-filled) Jabberwocky, most people told me at the end of the day that their favourite moment was that frantic final five minutes where I worked in the Hatter’s emotional collapse (occasionally at frenetic speed to fit within my time limit). The soul of the show should pervade the whole script throughout. So, that’s my next step.
Only one review emerged, but a positive one: http://www.plankmagazine.com/review/mad-hatters-tea-party-tumble-fun
“Playwright and actor Andrew Wade manages to assemble components of the original story into a cohesive tale of the Mad Hatter, whose personal demons drive him to take refuge in the rabbit hole… I really enjoyed the enthusiasm and joy that he brought to his performance.”
I have applied for the CAFF lottery, which, if I win it (about a 10% chance), would automatically place me in eight different fringe festivals across Canada for next summer, with the next iteration of this show. If that falls through, I’ll apply to each one individually. This character still has so much farther to fly. 🙂
A few things I learned at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival:
– Volunteers LOVED the show, but audiences were small, otherwise. I need to up my advertising/flyering, especially in the first few days of the festival.
– Take a day to go over the blurb before submitting it! At the last minute, I panicked about thinking about how I was going to wash all those teacups, and included ‘please, bring your own cup’ in the blurb. Then I just bought a bunch of disposable styrofoam cups from Zellers when I came to my senses. Who knows how many people decided not to see the show because of that little tag.
– While I’d much rather have a Dormouse help serve tea, when I take the show on the road, it won’t be a backbreaker to need to serve the tea myself as the audience comes in.
– I now have near total confidence that if I really want to create something, I will be able to find the resources to bring it all together in time. Feels like God giving me a leg-up, sometimes.
– It’s okay to get upstaged by a skunk when performing outside.
– For Jacqueline Irvine to tell me right at the right time that she wanted to get involved in theatre stuff again… for her to be willing to commit her time to sewing together the gigantic hat timeline backdrop, for all her last minute work (we finished that hat in the half-hour before the first performance), I am SO GRATEFUL for her help. Why try fight through it all alone with so many wonderful friends and collaborators around?
– I’m a decent judge of who in audiences is willing to play along and take a part in the show.
– Theatre tech people are just generally awesome, awesome, awesome.
– It IS possible to make friends with fellow theatre practitioners, even if you only see them after hours every day for a week or so. Especially if you see each other’s performances. You learn so much about a person from seeing them perform a piece they wrote themselves. So very revealing.
– Warming up a crowd, improv style, is a lot of fun.
– While I certainly can improvise my way through a play with a bare-bones script, finding the right physicality and voices for each character within that piece take a lot longer to figure out. Wasn’t happy with my Cheshire Cat or Flowers. Something to work on.
– Vocal warm-ups are NECESSARY when doing a 50 minute long show by yourself with three songs and much shouting and screaming. And some hidden water (or tea!) is not a bad idea as a safety net for if the voice goes.
– People want to help. I had a hot water urn donated by a church, tea from friends, Jacqueline’s amazing contributions… fantastic.
– Fight music and dramatic flashing red lighting make ANYTHING awesome.
– Every audience is different. I already knew this, but it’s even more evident when said audience is pretending to be a giant monster attacking you in an epic battle scene.
– Plug your fellow actors and their shows (especially if you liked them)!
– Let the audience see the real you at the end of the show. Build a relationship that way. Thank them as they leave. Every little moment to make them want to see you again, or make them connect with you and want you to do well.
– I can do this.
- The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party! (adewade.wordpress.com)
- State of the Person Address – August 2011 (adewade.wordpress.com)
I am feeling the appeal of being a director.
This summer, I have been blessed with the opportunity to direct a show for the Victoria Fringe. And not just any show. A seven-person show. And not just that – it’s a musical. An original musical. What. A. Treat.
I am, of course, talking about BFA: The Musical! Cue blurb:
Phil has the tools to become a novelist; he has a freshly awarded Bachelor of Fine Arts from UVic, an artist girlfriend, and a penchant for boxed wine. Under family pressures to attend law school, he questions what BFA really stands for – through the majesty of song. Features music by local artists, including The Chris Ho Show and Immaculate Machine!
It is proving to be quite the marvelous adventure.
First, some background: I was not a directing student at UVic. I wanted to take the class, but I couldn’t fit it in with the two degrees I was already pursuing (and just this April, finished – a BFA in Acting and a BA in Writing).
The last show I directed happened two years ago, at my church. 30+ children from age 3 to 14 or so in a self-written play based on stories from the book of Luke. With that play, I learned the importance of identifying and highlighting what parts of the script the actors will really enjoy: Ten year old boys love to yell at their parents while pretending to be possessed by demons. Five year olds have great fun pretending to be pigs, then squealing, running offstage, and making whatever adorable noises they think drowning pigs would make. Oh, and everyone can enjoy the meditative edge of a good group storm-making scene with claps and slaps and snapping fingers. I learned I could manage a large group by trusting my instincts, which in this case meant dealing with large groups of children as though they were individual characters (so that a group of actors became a ‘crowd’ character for several scenes, as well as the storm, and so forth). Blocking them as a single character meant visualizing them like they were a school of fish.
Before that, my last directorial stint came in grade 12 when I directed a show called ‘Opening Night’. In retrospect, casting a nervous, uncertain-of-her-own-abilities actor as the starring role character, who happened to be a nervous, uncertain-of-her-own-abilities actor, was perhaps compounding problems upon problems, but I thought the end result went well enough for high school theatre. Well, for one performance, anyway. And we only had two. For the second, well… our high school theatre shared a wall with the gym, and there happened to be a basketball game that evening. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. I don’t know how so many basketballs can bounce off one wall throughout a single game, and the buzzer was none too friendly. And the sound kid used the wrong CD, so we had birds chirping in the living room instead of a doorbell. Several times. Oh, and part of the set fell down. A large part. And I believe a prop broke. And people came in rather late, through doors very visible (and blinding) to the audience.
Okay, so that performance was a gongshow.
But I learned more than a few things from that rehearsal process. First, I learned how crucial it is for actors to have confidence in their work. Or at least in the production. And I learned how dear and darling and valuable it is to cast actors who put their all into making a show work. I also learned the importance of casting wisely, and with some caution – I like to give an actor a challenge, but I need to make sure it’s one I know I can help them conquer. And my wonderful drama teacher, Ms. JudyAnn McCarthy, showed me how to read a comedic text and find the physical comedy that may not be immediately apparent on the stage. (The show had a bumbling maid.)
Then, this January, came the day of submissions for the Victoria Fringe Festival. The Vic Fringe, while mostly sticking to a lottery draw as all Fringe Festivals do (where the performing companies are chosen, essentially, out of a hat from all the submitters), also features an early bird draw, where the first 10 people to show up at their door on the final day of submissions get in automatically.
I wanted to perform a one man show of my own, for the first time ever. So I planned. I set an early, early alarm clock so I could get on my bike and ride over there, to arrive at around 5:30am. Their doors open at 10am. I figured that would be early enough. But as I slept, it snowed. One of the three snowfalls Victoria experienced all winter. My bike isn’t equipped for snow, and I don’t have another vehicle, so I was stuck waiting for the first bus of the morning, and when I arrived at 6:30am… there were at least 15 people already in line. My hopes were seemingly dashed. But hey, it’s a line of dedicated theatre practitioners, so I decided to network, to say hello to old friends, and to meet new ones, and as I was doing so, two fellow writing students, Meghan Bell and Natalie North, shouted out to me. They were seventh in line. They had an idea for an as-of-yet unwritten show. A musical. Built around characters newly graduating with potentially useless BFA degrees (as we were). They knew I was in the theatre department. They needed a director. They asked.
How could I say no? Why would I?
So from one closed door (not arriving early enough), another opened, and I was given the opportunity to cast, co-design, and direct a bright, fun, silly, vibrant musical. Heck, and even that other door opened up, when new Fringe spots became available, so I now have a one-man-show, William Vs The World, performing in Fringe at CCPA. 🙂
But back to BFA. This is the first opportunity I have had to direct trained actors (from both CCPA and from UVic’s theatre program). My first chance to really work with a production team, including Jess Shead, who is an excellent choreographer and actress. And the experience has been SO intellectually rewarding, figuring out how to use my repertoire of acting tricks and improv games to help my cast understand and build their characters, how to use my own prior acting experiences as fodder for successfully staging certain scenes and for keeping the audience’s attention trained in the right locations… and I love it. I truly do. It is a truly collaborative atmosphere, and I treasure it dearly. But what I’ve enjoyed most, are the epiphanies.
The moments where the right idea seems to just happen, to conjure itself in the mind. I can see where I’ve learned this or that from prior experiences, and it’s rewarding and satisfying in its own way to put my training and gained knowledge into practice, but that satisfaction grows to a new level when those sparks of inspiration just seem to happen of their own accord.
It can be as simple as adding a character into a scene or switching a prop, to as grand as demanding a specific scene be added, that seem to make all the difference. Why I’m so struck by these moments is because I can’t identify why I thought to try these things. And THAT is what is so exhilarating, because if I can help build this play with inspired thoughts whose roots I can’t determine, then that gives me a renewed confidence in myself, that I can trust I WILL have the right solution to whatever hiccup we come across.
I believe in this show. It will be funny, fantastic, marvelous, and unlike anything I have ever been a part of. And though my directing resume may be slight, I know I can be up for the task.
And that kind of confidence is priceless.
BFA: The Musical has six performances throughout the Victoria Fringe Festival, and an upcoming music-filled fundraiser on July 23rd at Logan’ Pub.
- State of the Person Address – May 2011 (adewade.wordpress.com)
- UVic – An Exit Interview (adewade.wordpress.com)
I currently perform in a weekly improvised soap opera: Sin City Improv. The show itself is a delight to be a part of, filled with the best improvisers in town; I feel I’m absorbing so much from working with them. I’m also seeing a side benefit in my dreamworld.
Almost every actor is familiar with The Actor’s Nightmare. It’s that dream of being backstage when someone comes up to you and says you’re late for your cue and need to get onstage, NOW! And you step onstage and the audience looks expectantly at you, judging your every move, and the lights beam bright and hot and sweat pours down and the bottom of your stomach sinks away suddenly as you realize you have no idea what your line is… no idea what to do onstage…
And that’s normally when the actor wakes up in a cold sweat with a deep-seated ache of irresponsibility, insecurity, and guilt filling their throat, their gut, their head.
Well, for the past few weeks, in the midst of a huge transition period for me as I finally exit my life as a professional student and try to become a professional, I have been having different variations on this dream. But they’ve taken a different turn.
I’ve been performing improv, on and off, for the past two years. Perhaps two dozen performances in total in that timespan. And it has been rubbing off, I suppose, because when I have the dream, I’m thrust on that stage, and my mind goes blank, and I… well… I make stuff up. I roll with it. I take control of the stage and say the first thing off the top of my head, and make it work.
Then, feeling pretty chuffed (1st definition) with myself, I step offstage, and find somewhat annoyed co-actors who accuse me of speaking far more than I should have, and of going off on a bit of a ramble, which, in each case, I did.
What do I take from this? Well, it shows that my internal level of confidence is building; if the actor’s nightmare occurs, I know I can handle the situation. That said, I don’t seem to have enough confidence quite yet to believe I can handle the situation very well. But still… improvement!
Even in those nightmarish moments when all the lines fade away, I take stock in the fact that I still have a toolbox of skills at my disposal. And above and beyond that, I still feel comfortable. Beyond comfortable, even. When I am standing on a stage in front of a crowd, with their expectant energies directed toward me, well, that’s when I feel more at home than anywhere else. More free to express myself. More free to go big and be home.
Even on those days when everything else around the craft feels like work, the moment I step onto that stage and create, I know I’m meant to be an actor. Which is why I love improv so much. I’m not the funniest man in the room, but I will gleefully seize onto the opportunity, every time, to just get up and be a character.
The air is so crisp and clear, crackling with electricity, up on that stage. What a beautiful vista.
Today was my graduation day at the Phoenix Theatre at UVic. For 4th year students, that means a whole lot of performing, a ceremony, and a celebration. For me, this meant:
- performed a ~30 minute karaoke musical play (including singing ‘Grace Kelly’ by Mika);
- performed in a collaboratively-written group movement piece with kerosened chickens, magical pills with potential side-effects that include kermit-the-frog-arms and the plague, and the Child Liberation Program (where, as an emaciated, liberated child, I got to be a lawnmower and a kite, before getting shot down);
- performed a self-written/choreographed solo movement piece where I did a blindfolded roll, grew wings, and stepped off a tower to my death;
- performed ‘I Don’t Care Much’ from Cabaret’
- performed a monologue from Lovers, by Brian Friel, where I spoke of my love for my fiancee and hatred for my father, in an Irish accent;
- performed a triumphant monologue as Mozart in Peter Shaeffer’s Amadeus;
- and performed my self-written masque – a trek through my non-relationship misadventures, portraying 10 characters in eight minutes, including a riff off The Phantom of The Opera that went something like this:
It is true that, you’re a swearing smoker,
but there’s, something, there that makes me wonder,
your boyfriend’s not too smart,
though you deal drugs, you stir my heart…
is there any chance that you two may just part?
No, nothing between us will ever start…”
All that followed by a celebration ceremony with balloons falling from the catwalk and many, many hugs.
I deal with endings by launching headfirst into new beginnings, new projects, new works. This week, I also performed Theatreshorts and my second week as part of Sin City Improv, and applied for a couple of jobs, confirmed my involvement in a small theatre festival at the end of April… I’m doing that. Heck, after the graduation ceremony, I went to a rehearsal for an orchestra/choir performance I’m dancing for, tomorrow. I’ll keep moving, keep trying to get involved.
But these other engagements aren’t replacements. They’re new, but they’re not the way of life that being a student is, going to classes with the same people, day in, day out.
I’ve been at UVic for seven years. Both of my degrees end this month. SEVEN YEARS. I’m only 24. That’s almost a third of my life. That I’m letting go of.
This is going to take some time.
It has been two weeks since our theatre went dark on . 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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
Prior Twelfth Night posts:
In theatre, it’s always a good idea to let go of your fears. Heck, in life too.
Malvolio is a bold, emotionally honest role to play. When he tries to grasp control over a situation, his commands are direct and terse. When he luxuriates in his own pompous sense of self-worth, he luxuriates. When he loves, BY GUM, DOES HE LOVE. When he is persecuted, his anguish resonates throughout the theatre, and when his heart is broken, he shatters. He is not a character for the wishy-washy actor.
(The rather-open yellow costume makes quite a statement as well. Come see the show for a rather visual explanation on THAT.)
When we last left our intrepid hero, he was discussing the difficulty of working through uncomfortable stage business in an important scene, and how honesty was lost. After a couple more weeks of rehearsal, both have been regained.
This past Saturday, we had our 11am-10pm Tech/Dress day for Twelfth Night. We worked scenes and ran the show twice – once in full costume and tech, and once without our amazing garb (well, okay, we wore our street clothes), so that our lovely dressers could have a break from laundry. A good, long day, and a real confidence booster.
I admit, I’d been a little worried over the past week, over my own performance. I’d never quite found a quick enough pacing in the letter scene (which is pretty much a lengthy monologue / read-a-letter-onstage), my advances toward Olivia weren’t quite reaching the bawdy levels they needed to, and I would get distracted by these directory things, which caused me to call line a couple of times in each rehearsal. At this stage in the game, that shouldn’t happen. And at the heart of it, I was worried because I didn’t want to let down all the fantastic cast and crew and design team and everyone else who are putting together this incredible show. It really is quite something.
I don’t get nightmares very often – typically, only when I’m feverish. I remember one from, oh, ten years ago, where I was playing hockey, and I missed an easy shot at the end of a game, and everyone, my team, my family, the fans, were all so very, very disappointed in me. So letting people down is a fear that is ingrained in me, and something I need to continue to conquer.
Anyway, our first run was much like this. I didn’t need to call line, but I flubbed the first part of when I pick up the letter (as my mind was on stage business soon to come), and had a few distracting issues with my costume items (which was to be expected, admittedly, as this was our first run wearing them). I didn’t feel on top of things, and left the run feeling like it was good enough, but I wasn’t overjoyed.
Our second run that day, however, was primarily for the tech crew, so they could get their lighting, audio, and revolve (we have a revolve) cues right, make sure props were where they should be, and so forth. Great for the actors to get another run in, sure, but to do a run in street clothes after just performing it in all our wonderful costumes… there was a… lack of weight of importance to it. And it was a long day. We were getting fairly silly.
This run, I decided to just have fun. As a worthy experiment, partially, but also, just because I wanted to, and if I was going to misbehave, this was the run to do it. So I was silently singing and dancing along in the wings to whatever was going on onstage, pretending to be a Hari Krishna alongside the others (but just offstage, so as not to be seen by anyone but them)… and it wasn’t just me who was being a bit daffy.
There’s one scene where Sir Toby and his company are convincing Viola, disguised as Cesario, that a knight has sworn to fight her. Viola exits the scene, and the conspirators giggle over their little prank, before leaving in turn. In the next scene, Viola’s twin brother, Sebastian, is being pursued by the fool, in the street. Well, in our second run, Sebastian accidentally stepped onstage, stage left, to start his scene a bit early… right after Viola had gone off, stage right, so that the effect (as they are identically dressed twins), was that of Cesario walking offstage one way, and then immediately coming on the other side. Sebastian quickly realized his error and walked right through, but myself in the Vomitorium and the actors onstage couldn’t stop laughing. I am still surprised it wasn’t on purpose – such great timing. (in his defence, it had been a loooong day.)
Well, I, thinking this was intentional funny business, became even more set in my goofy mood. I still played the part, but I made the decision to deeply enjoy every moment of it, both on and offstage. In a scene where I’m locked in a cellar, with only my hand poking out, I even flipped someone the bird – which the director missed seeing, perhaps fortunately.
And with all that energy and vivacity, you know what? It was my best run so far. I really hit the pacing in that difficult letter scene. I went all-in on the silly riding-crop enticements. I nailed every line. Because there was no pressure.
I didn’t need to get it right, so long as I hit my cues for the tech crew, and that gave me so much freedom to go all out, bold, extravagant, while my enjoyment of it all kept my performance honest. Heck, one of our two directors even then asked me, in notes afterwards, to flip the other character the English bird in the very scene I had done it in, unaware of what I had done in the run! Hah!
When I stopped worrying about not doing the best I could for my fellow cast members… my best came through.
Please, do come and share in this great show with me, my final mainstage at the Phoenix Theatre at UVic. We have 6$ previews on Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb. 22 and 23), and then the run from Feb.24th to March 5th. Click here for tickets.
- In praise of … Twelfth Night (guardian.co.uk)
- Twelfth Night, National Theatre, review (telegraph.co.uk)
- Stratford could film Twelfth Night with Dennehy (cbc.ca)
Found out tonight from my Vancouverite friend Jullian Kolstee that I have been picked by lottery to perform in this upcoming year’s Vancouver International Fringe Festival.
My immediate reaction? Practical. Okay, now I need a script, I need to actively look for costume pieces – to make costume choices – and set pieces. And to decide whether I am using a second actor, or trying to pull off this show on my own. I’ve never performed by myself for more than five minutes – to do so for an entire Fringe show…
In a reaction that startles me, I’m oddly confident. No dread, no fear, but rather, a strange mix of eagerness, apprehensiveness, ambition, power, and hope. I believe, I FIRMLY believe, in my ability to pull this off and put on a good show people will talk about with their friends. Maybe even make them really feel. I believe.
What is the show, you ask? Well, I submitted an idea I’ve had for a while, but never put to paper in my concentration on acting over the past couple of years – The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. The Hatter, chronicling his life, from a regular person to his getting stuck in Wonderland, to his decision to turn to madness as a way of coping, or possibly as a way of finally finding happiness. I seem to have a preoccupation with people who choose the imaginary over the real, the absurd over the concrete. Perhaps because I have been doing so much of that in my own life.
I could have been a mildly successful, highly rational scientist. But I’ve chosen something different. I’m an actor. And a writer. And an improviser. And a man who hopes. Who believes.
And while I’ve been working on this aspect of myself for the past five years at least, it’s only in the past little while that I’ve felt the confidence, the assuredness, that what I hope for, what I believe in, I can achieve.
I recently stood up before the majority of the theatre department at UVic and did something I’d never done for an audience before – I improvised a song. Asked for a song title, then belted it, lived in the moment, came up with each line as I went. And I may have been quivering a little beforehand, but when the song started, I just went for it, because I knew I could hit the right mark.
This school term, I acted in a SATCo (Three Angry Pigs), in a directing scene (Picnic), in a directed study (This Property is Condemned), in classwork, in Theatresports, in improv shows with the Impromaniacs, and in Titus Andronicus. I chose to do EVERYTHING because I knew I could.
I recently auditioned for a weekly improv show. In the audition, I performed alongside nine others, including many with decades more experience than I have. But I knew I could get the callback, and I did. We’ll see how that goes on Monday.
I signed up for the Vancouver Fringe Festival because, for whatever reason, I believed I could pull it off on the unlikely chance I was chosen. And I can.
Reflecting back on all this, I feel like one of Dorothy’s friends at the end of the film, finally getting my confidence not through a magic bestowal from a phony wizard, but from years of personal growth, from hard work and positive thinking. That’s not to say I’ve not got a long ways to go… the great challenge of this Fringe show aside, I’m still not confident enough when it comes to my own physical body (thinking of doing a handstand makes me squirm for some reason, and I know I can be in better shape) or when it comes to relationships (though that area in my life is just sparkling right now). But when it comes to the act of creation… I’ve never felt so able.
Possible one-man-show, in the big city, built from scratch? Bring it on. From now until my birthday at the end of Fringe, September 18th, there’ll be a spark of Madness in my eye. Can hardly wait. 🙂
I’ll warn you now – this post involves some navel gazing.
I just came back from seeing Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre‘s strong production of A Streetcar Named Desire, and while I’m up in six and a half hours and really aught to get some sleep, I left the theatre with the play’s two (developed) male characters – Stanley Kowalski and Mitch – pacing about in my head, and with an uneasy feeling rippling through my bones. Stanley and Mitch are two very different people, the passionate, primal animal, and the meek momma’s boy. My reaction to Mitch wasn’t surprising – I found myself relating to him, to the quiet soul who gets his hopes torn by Blanche’s desperate lies. How I connected to Stanley, though, now that made me scratch my head a little – I envied the man.
If you know me in life, you know it’s no stretch to say that I am typically a more reserved sort of man. I can be prone to outbursts of theatricality, but catch me on any given moment, and I’m probably content in a silence with a ponderous look on my face. I am a man who does not swear, who volunteers at church, who hasn’t broken any hearts or had his own crushed much in return. I feel awkward even typing ‘I am a man’; there is a lot of Mitch in me. As for Stanley…
Well, I can only think of one moment in my life when I have been a Stanley Kowalski, and that was the most terrifying half-second I have ever experienced. Ask me in person and I’ll tell you.
Some days, some moments, I do get that urge to throw a dish across a room, to shout the truth to a liar’s face, to grab a woman by the shoulders and just kiss her, dagnammit (without asking five times for permission first). But I can’t do it. I’m trying to think of reasons why I can’t, like that I don’t want to be that kind of man or some other noble reason like that, but honestly? Allowing myself moments like that would scare me beyond what I know. It takes a great, deliberate relaxing of my safeguards just to let myself punch a pillow (on the couple of nights a year when I choose to do so). Don’t get me wrong – I’m no powderkeg fervently shouting ‘Serenity Now’ to myself just to stay sane – I just choose not to get angry when difficult situations arise.
But when I’m onstage, I can explore these other sides of the human condition. My performer’s thrill doesn’t come from a nerve-racked adrenaline of stepping onto a stage in front of hundreds of strange eyes; nowadays, if I’m nervous before a show, it’s because I don’t feel confident with my lines or I’m about to use a prop or setpiece I’ve never rehearsed with before. No, my thrill, my energy, my high, comes from seizing onto a chance to take on those characteristics I don’t let bleed into my own personality, be they the absurd flamboyances of an over-the-top gay Le Beau, the malice of an Iago, or the passionate cry of a Stanley Kowalski.
This is not the only reason why I act, but it’s the one that came to the forefront tonight.
Right, now I’m up in less than six hours, and I have 28 kids to make astronomy crafts with in the morning. Thanks for reading.
Why did I join The Impromaniacs and why do I do Improv?
For selfish reasons, initially, I suppose. As a developing actor, I wanted more time in front of audiences to help myself be as comfortable as possible on stage. I wanted the opportunity to have fun playing a wide variety of characters. I wanted the challenge of being ingenious and imaginative on the spot – to better not just my acting ability but my conversational skills, my charisma. I wanted the chance to take part in the theatre community of Victoria, pushing beyond the walls of UVic. And I feel I’ve found these things. So there’s the selfish side out of the way.
But what I’ve found most enjoyable about performing improv is how we share a sense of fun, and a sense of power, not just with fellow scene partners, but with the audience as well. I know we haven’t had too many people in the crowd lately, but there is such a delight in making someone laugh, in making a person go “Awwww…”, in collaboratively creating characters on stage and between the stage and the audience.
That kind of communal creation is very difficult to achieve in a proscenium arch with a set script, set blocking, and an opaque fourth wall.
Confidence is a concept I have grappled with, my whole life long. That ability to believe that yes, gosh darnit, I am good enough for the task, able to slay that dragon, to win that audition, to write that story. To know that, if I don’t currently have the knowledge set, that I can learn it, train it, become it.
The first time I auditioned for UVic’s acting stream, in my interview they asked me what my biggest weakness was. I told them, confidence. That I had been out of the theatre world for a couple of years and I wasn’t certain I would cut the mustard.
I didn’t get in. That time. Fortunately, a trait I did have at the time was the stubborn persistence to try again.
But that failure made me question how I approached life. My former outlook was to look at each possible interaction (auditioning for a show, submitting to a contest, applying for a job), to examine my current abilities, and to see if I matched what was needed for the task. I was confident in my decisions, but shied away from the larger challenges.
Then came the failed audition, and I saw how this mindset made me avoid activities that excited me, but that I wasn’t sure I could do.
“Screw you, confidence.”
So now I take the antagonistic approach and ignore the intellectual conversation of whether or not I think I have the appropriate skillset to do something. Nowadays, I say yes to every opportunity that comes my way that excites me, with two exceptions:
- If I am unable to schedule it around all my other awesomeness.
- If I have a really, really, REALLY good reason to say no.
As a result? I am a Peer Helping Coordinator, Fine Arts Senator, Impromaniac, finishing up both a BA in Writing and a BFA in Acting, PEAK Study Leader, Astronomy Interpreter, Red Hat Lab Supervisor, ESL Study Centre Volunteer, Children’s Ministry Volunteer, and a number of other titles. I haven’t fit all the requirements for a single job I have landed. And I am learning so much.
Which brings me to The Letter. Ever since my second year in the Writing department, we students have been pushed to submit our works to literary journals. This was seen as something writers did. As a way to get our work known. As a way to motivate us. As a way to get published!
But my own pieces weren’t good enough, surely not.
A couple of years ago when I joined 43Things.com – a site where you list your goals, track your progress, and other people cheer you on – a few of the goals I included were seemingly simple little projects, items to be accomplished in a day. Like submitting already completed works to a literary journal. But my own pieces weren’t good enough, surely not.
Somehow, my just-go-for-it attitude has not carried over to my writing.
Well, today I bundled up three poems, added a contest fee, and sent them off to The Malahat Review. Just like that. And are my poems good enough? Doesn’t matter. The importance is in the doing.
In becoming a confident writer.
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- Don’t save the best for last. (condalmo.wordpress.com)
To be honest, 2009 wasn’t a great year for me. Summed up in a sentence, 2009 was the year I relearned what I had already known, but not taken to heart.
I’m a smart fellow. I figure things out – like what I need to work on as an actor and as a writer, like what I want from a relationship and the right way to pursue one, like what I need to do each week, each day, to stay happy and perky and committed and feeling awesome, like how to eat right, like what I shouldn’t be spending my time on, like how to be who I want to be – like who I am, sometimes. But only sometimes.
And I can think of ways this past year I have disregarded everything in that paragraph. I still jumped into acting roles without taking the time and effort to really turn the words on the page into a living person – to be these characters as full-angled people, with all the subtlety that involves. I didn’t write a single thing of note, all calendar year. Seriously. I didn’t focus enough on why I want to spend time with the people I want to spend time with. I didn’t exercise enough, outside of the summer of hour-long bike rides to and from work. I lost sleep, I didn’t take the time to… well… meditate and pray, and I ate A LOT of free bread. I mean, I cut out the dried banana chips once I found out they were deep fried, but with what we’ve been up to in movement class, etcetera, there is no reason why I shouldn’t be moving toward a body image I’m happier with. Instead, I’m nigh-identical to a year ago. I spent a lot of time completing tasks for the sake of competing them, losing out on why I wanted to accomplish them in the first place.
So yeah, I’m kicking myself.
The year also had its positives. Movement class has been a great challenge for me, and one I knew I needed if I was to gain the confidence to be a strong actor. I have a fantastic, supportive group of people around me and I’ve had the joy of fostering some of those friendships further. I’ve helped people – through peer helping, through roommate-ship, through dramaturgy, through making gifts for no reason whatsoever other than that I got the idea to make them. I’ve had the opportunity to act with some wonderful people, to bring delight to children’s faces and, through Voice class and other opportunities, to internally explore. I got to work with a fantastic group up at The Centre Of The Universe. I’ve performed Improv for audiences on numerous occasions – something I’ve wanted to do since high school. I’ve seen just how much some people care about me. Most of the time, I was happy. And when I needed to be sad, I could darn well be sad. As someone who really worries about how to access deeper, stronger, fiercer emotion, I feel I made some progress there. Still a ways to go.
2010 will be the last full calendar year I’m in school (at least, unless I decide to go back for a teaching certificate), and I still have so much more to learn. I know I’ll be learning all my life, but I need to stop ignoring what I already know. To intelligently live as a whole being, all the time, soul, body, mind, heart, as one ineffably connected being, uncompartmentalized. Unboxed.
This year, any time you see me falling back, please do me a favour and pull me up, set me straight – I’m always up for a pep talk, my friends. I will always appreciate your support.
I wasn’t going to write one of these year-wrap-ups. Thank you for reading this.