Every Two Weeks.
Partly, I use the fringe circuit as a way to live different lives.
To test out different parallel universe Andrews, if you will.
For most of the year, there is a routine. Living in the suburb I grew up in. I have my day jobs. The occasional play. Family members to visit, old friends to chat with. My solitary home to go back to, maybe watch a show on my computer. Most of the year is caked, coated, overgrown with my personal history. That isn’t a bad thing, per say. It’s what I have made of my life.
But then there’s Fringe. Every two weeks, a new location, a new living situation, a new family, if you will. From seeing what life would be like were I the child of a retired military family who dine on exotic meats and wine in Regina, to sharing a living space with a nineteen-year-old drag queen in Toronto. And I get to be different, too. I have never been a bar hopper, but what the hey, why not head to the beer tents every night this time? Or use this free time to become a bookworm for a few days. Or struggle dearly to be a streetside salesman, pitching my fringey wares. To be the kind of fellow who has a one night stand, or the kind of person who shares in a week-long relationship, seeing a person you care for every single day.
Those aren’t the Andrews I am back in Richmond. I’m not that guy. But on the road, I am. And I am. And I am.
I dubbed this season, ‘the summer Andrew sorts out his stuff’. With a hashtag. And it’s not just the shows I’m performing. In The Most Honest Man In The World, I really am onstage trying to sort through the neuroses I held four years ago about relationships. Every performance, I want that epiphany, that moment, that ‘aha’ that spurs me forward in my personal growth. The show doesn’t work unless it’s equal parts hope and regret.
As The Most Honest Man In The World, I have to face the truth. Who am I? Well, when it comes to relationships, in Richmond, I am a 28 year old man who lives alone with a minifridge and a single bed who doesn’t know how to offer up enough of his life to make a relationship work. He knows what he knows and he is who he is. That man, The Most Honest Man In The World from the play, me at 24, I’m still mostly him. Less neurotic, less nervous, far more centred, but still mostly him. I’m just used to how I life my life.
But this summer, each summer, every two weeks, I get a glimpse of what it would be like if I lived differently. If I were someone else. Or someone else. Or someone else. Or someone else. Every ‘else’ as someone almost me, but in different circumstances, a different city, with different people.
Adulthood is partly the realization that you don’t get to be someone ‘when you grow up’. You are what you choose to focus on. In Richmond, there is an inertia to where I devote my focus. But on the road, with Fringe festivals and non-fringe stops inbetween, every two weeks I get to adopt a new and different focus. And a new and different focus. And a new and different focus. What would it be like if I DID devote more attention to this, or that, or this, or that? From Toronto to Ann Arbor to Saskatoon to Nanaimo to Victoria to Vancouver, with everything I own – the artifacts that describe who I am – packed up into boxes, crates, bags, and a lone travelling suitcase.
I don’t know which me is going to come home in the end. But I hope that he’s…
I don’t know. I don’t know what I hope for.
I hope that he learns how to focus.
How to focus better on what’s important in life.
Once he figures out what actually is important in life. For him. For me. Once I do. If I do.
Or I don’t.
There is so much left in this summer.
Saskatoon Fringe: https://www.facebook.com/events/1102726283074871/
Nanaimo Fringe: https://www.facebook.com/events/1597063170563617/
Victoria Fringe: https://www.facebook.com/events/1193881917293983/
Vancouver Fringe: https://www.facebook.com/events/1633245323584144/
There are so many things that have happened in the past month which deserve their own full blog post write-ups, but as is evident on my front page here, I just haven’t been able to squirrel away enough time and mental energy to do them justice. SO, I figure, why not give a brief summary of the amazingness that has been the past month of my life, and ask you what you would like me to expand upon!
Leave a message in the comments here (or on the facebook link, or via a twitter message, whatever) if there is anything below that you’d like me to focus a post on. 🙂
– One of the last words of advice our dear Floyd Collins director, Peter Jorgensen, gave us, was to adopt the philosophy of ‘instant forgiveness’. If something goes wrong onstage, AND THINGS WILL GO WRONG ONSTAGE, instant forgiveness, move on with the show. This is far from the first time I’ve heard these words, but it is a piece of advice I really do need to continue working at taking to heart.
– Balancing momentary opportunities to work in my career field (such as this amazing 2.5 month contract with Floyd Collins!) with stringing along dayjob employers with the odd shift here and there, whenever I can, so that I can still pay rent when the contract ends.
– Working with people who have found a way to drop their day-jobs and do this full-time. How they live. How they’re not necessarily as dayjob-free as I first assumed.
– Our culture’s unhealthy phobia surrounding talking about our salaries and what we make, where.
– Original RENT cast member Jesse L. Martin came to see Floyd Collins. Yep. What it means to me to get seen by a celebrity, and the strangeness of fandom celebrity worship.
– So, in my week off, I MAY have performed, erm, a burlesque routine as the Eighth Doctor at a Doctor Who burlesque show put on by my dear friends at Geekenders. In this routine, I MAY have written up a parody of Mister Cellophane, and stripped down to my underwear. I have also never, prior to this, ever even taken my shirt off, onstage. I am always looking for performance opportunities that challenge me! Geekenders/Fairlith/et all, thank you so much for having enough faith in me to risk letting me out up there. Oh, and my sister may have heard about the show somewhere and attended it. (awkward?)
– Burlesque audiences are perhaps the best audiences. I mean, I had just been performing in an amazing musical for three weeks with a stunning amount of talent onstage, but the sheer energy and boisterousness of those three hundred people in the Rio, all loudly cheering and whooping and loving life, the feeling off all that delight just shocking joy into my system as I stood onstage, there… Wow. That is somethin’ else.
– It’s amazing what audience expectations will do. A proper hoity-toity theatre musical theatre audience expects strong choreography, brilliant singing, good acting, and at least a passable script. Exceed those expectations, and they will love the show. That burlesque audience, on the other hand, expected to see from its performers a love of Doctor Who, a solid costume, sexy dancing, and someone stripping down to pasties and underwear through the course of their performance. It was a wondrous thing to see the shock and delight they had to see me actually sing something onstage! With character acting! Something I’d written myself! Wow! Expectations exceeded. (Which is great, because it also allowed me to get away with only a passable costume and less-than-experienced, erm, sexy moves.)
– What am I willing to do onstage, and what am I not willing to do?
– Fringe festival preparations for this summer, or, How I am managing to make the exact same mistakes and good choices as last year.
– How does someone write a show called ‘The Most Honest Man In The World’? Has Andrew developed an ego?
– I am consistently surprised at how clearly I regress as a person when in a state of desperately-needing-sleep. It’s almost like it’s a direct regression through the years — I start feeling emotional pangs for old flames, take on old physical quirks like holding one arm behind my back… there may be more truth than I know to the old adage that we are everyone we once were.
– I fly somewhere, and promptly am sick. Just like what happened last year with London, Ontario. What’s up with that?
– Billeting. What it means, and my experiences staying with people volunteering their homes, across the country.
– And finally, this is a thing that happened: http://www.tift.ca/floyd-collins-goes-ahead-without-sets-costumes-or-props-press-release-april-7-2014/ . Essentially, a moving company, Midland Van Lines, picked up our set and costumes and promised us a delivery time of 5-7 days to get those items from Vancouver to Barrie, Ontario, in time for our second leg of our tour. Those items were not delivered, and now we are reblocking the show in a fashion that really is quite reminiscent to the old SATCo black box theatre days as a student at UVic. The show must go on!
So aye, there’s a good summary of what I’ve been up to, this past month. Back into tech in an our or so. Anything you’d like me to expand on in a full post?
And now, a look behind Andrew’s furrowed brow.
Why am I still looking at job postings? Why do I still have an active RSS feed section devoted to new possible job opportunities, combing and scanning through craigslist, Alliance for Arts, and others, for me to glance through every few days?
I worked for eleven different employers last year. I am currently on the payroll for four organizations, with two others occasionally bringing me in every other month or so.
Oh, and these are the non-theatre-companies. Those are separate. Workshopping a play with one right now, and performing with another company for the next two months.
That’s right! I’m finally finding work as an actor! Fantastic! For two months. Then I’m back. Time to look for another job.
Why? Don’t you have enough?
But there are more opportunities out there! Ones you don’t know of, if you aren’t looking!
An actor always looks for auditions. Always hunts for opportunities. Never ending. Heading to auditions while rehearsing for something else. Endless job interviews. Endless rejections and successes.
I’ve been trained this way.
I’ve been trained to approach my work-for-hire life this way.
I don’t have enough time now to offer my employers.
I’m spending too much time at work. I could take more time off.
I could miss out on more opportunities.
Maybe I should check my RSS feeds one more time.
Oh. Right. I’m doing Fringe Festivals this summer. Who’s going to hire a guy who disappears for several weeks at a time, over and over again?
Right. My lovely, current employers. Who I enjoy working for! Not as much as I enjoy working on shows and being a theatre creator and performer, of course. But I appreciate and enjoy them.
But I could appreciate and enjoy something else!
Or maybe I should be dropping everything for a few months and see if this whole ‘actor and writer’ career thing can sustain itself!
That seems somewhat foolish and unnecessary. And maybe I’ll find out I don’t enjoy living only that way, very much! That could shatter me. A lot of sunken cost time into this theatre acting thing. Or maybe I’d get lazy. If I give myself too much free time, maybe I’d just squander it by hiding in books and games. Besides, my employers are happy to trade me 80$ for my day. I can’t turn that down!
Well, I could, I suppose. Technically.
And I guess I have! Sorta. For this and the next two months, living the life of the working actor.
This’ll be a grand experiment. I’m thrilled. I’m just so thrilled. Really. I am. Just peached to the extreme. Don’t lose that, Andrew! That excitement! Those butterflies! Hee!
And then it’s done, and I’m back to the dayjobs until Fringe festivals. Where I’ll likely lose money again, when considering travel costs.
I should check those job postings. Or accept more shifts in the couple days I have off before the theatre contract.
No! I’m not superhuman… I need some time to recharge. Groceries, laundry, as well, I suppose.
No, Andrew, people aren’t going to laden you down unreasonably. They expect you to need some time to yourself each day. Most people only work five shifts a week.
But I could pick up shifts on those other weeks? Or find someone willing to pay me to do something new!
I should check those feeds again. After all, as a pay-for-hire, I’m really contracting out my time to organizations. Makes sense to continually look for new clients, right? Diversification. Allows me to stick with my favourites and perhaps others fall to the wayside. Or find you unreliable because you’re never free and always gallivanting off to to theatre stuff.
Theatre stuff! I get to do theatre stuff this year! Yay! And maybe next year?
I don’t think I can take on any more than I’m doing.
But maybe there’s something better out there!
But I can’t get trapped in single full-time job life! Right? Right? That’s where people stop pursuing crazy things like acting, isn’t it? Where people get complacent?
I think I’m afraid of becoming complacent.
Or is that contentment? Is that what those people have?
I feel like I’m planning my life so that whenever I want to, I can leave everything and go pursue something else. Keeping one foot out the door. Or at least, holding the door open. Like an actor does, always on the hunt for the next opportunity.
Do I have a problem, or am I doing this right?
These are a number of little thoughts and phrases I jotted down throughout my tour. The emotions of being on tour.
I literally collapsed within my first few days on the tour. Stress, sickness, low blood pressure, and a particularly poorly chosen hot bath.
“Damn you for making me cry.”
Someone in Toronto told me they loved me. In that way. They meant it, with all the power of sincerity.
Two starred reviews. 3 stars in London, 4.5 stars in Saskatoon. The first, other artists apologize to you for, for some reason. The second, they cheer you on, all day long.
That giddy grin for no reason whatsoever.
That giddy grin for oh so many reasons.
Laughing home on a borrowed bicycle at 3am.
Performing for three people (two performers and a volunteer) in London. Performing for 45 people in Saskatoon. Getting the standing ovation.
I don’t care if standing ovations don’t mean what they used to. They still mean a lot to me.
Getting teary-eyed onstage. Having your story honestly hit yourself in the feels.
For the past decade, I have been asking myself, ‘where is home’? This summer, I felt kisses of it all across the country. Let me tell you stories. Lead me into your home. Let’s be together, and if it’s only for a short time, then we’ll make that time mean something. Home is a loving invitation.
“If you haven’t seen The Hatter, GO SEE THE HATTER! It’s incredible.”
A guy came to see my show. Throughout the week, he was staffing a street store as a favour to a merchant friend of his. After the show, this man went out of his way to track me down and get a stack of handbills from me, so he could pitch my show to people who came to buy things from him.
He later told me he used to work in a prison. The job took its toll on him, including him finding a number of suicides, which traumatized him quite severely, to the point where he didn’t leave his house for years. Eventually, slowly, with many tiny steps, he began to reintegrate with the rest of the world, a process he is still working through. The street crowds intimidated him, but to be out in the sun left him gloriously shouting joy to the heavens. He told me he could really relate to Earnest and The Hatter, to the idea of hiding down a rabbithole. That my show really touched him.
“Oh yeah, that actress told me she might hook up with you.”
“Why didn’t she tell ME?”
“My last bus comes in twenty minutes. Am I taking the last bus home?”
The Hatter is the story of a man trying to get home. Desperately, desperately trying to get back home.
In hindsight, I would’ve thought that taking such a show on tour would have made me more homesick.
“You have so much talent, and it would be a shame for you to miss out on even one opportunity to hear that. You are a brilliant actor, but also a positively amazing writer. Your show made me feel something, and that’s what good theatre should do. Thank you for that. I hope you know how much your art matters.”
My show gets emotional. I imagined it, I wrote it, and I’m performing it. Which means that through all of it are real emotions, which, when shared through the art of storytelling, create a sort of lopsided level of intimacy between myself and each person in the audience. Which is an odd way to kickstart a relationship.
I say kickstart, because after the show is over, these lovely audience members already now know enough about me to know whether or not they want to have a conversation with me, before I’ve even met them. I don’t need to go through the other half of ‘here’s who I am’. They’re strangers to me, while I am now someone ‘known’ to them. This means I can keep the first conversation I have with them, about them. It was really quite refreshing to jump into conversations with complete strangers with an eager curiosity, knowing that that they’ve already seen much of what makes me, me.
They’ve already seen my heart.
Two days ago I shaved off my facial hair. It’s amazing what seeing a different face in the mirror can do.
A couple of weeks ago, I was telling someone my criteria for respect: I respect anyone who actively tries to better themselves. We talked about different ‘ages’ people go through, eras of the self, where we can say ‘I was different then’.
To some people, the idea of such eras is a terrifying thought, for who are we if we are not who we were? But I wear my ages as badges of pride, blazoned on me as reminders that perhaps, just possibly, I am making forward progress into becoming a better me, a quest which I know only ends with my death. Possibly.
But as we discussed, I could feel a weight of stagnation. Or worse. I looked at the now-me and who I was a couple of years ago, and saw a man whose greatest changes were semi-independence and a pool of guilt for a selfish act which I refuse to believe was wrong.
In grade five, in that church, I looked at myself and didn’t like what I saw. I decided on the kind of person I wanted to be, and made a firm commitment to continually change who I was into someone better. My definition of self-respect denies anything less.
This past while, I haven’t had any focus on the man I wanted to be. Or I’ve been too anxious to search him out. Or I have cast judgement and sentenced myself to floating in the pool, just deep and flat enough.
So I am making a concerted effort to discover who that next-me should be. What beliefs I need to discard, and which ones I need to build. What I need to do to improve. My definition of self-respect denies anything less.
My self-respect requires nothing less.
I haven’t been a baby-face in perhaps two years. And now, when I look at myself in the mirror, it doesn’t quite look like me. I am staring at someone slightly different. A new face.
Someone I might aspire to become.
How to Forgive a Thief
As an unexpected follow-up to my post earlier this week, while I was chatting with an old friend at a coffeehouse in Victoria, my bike’s odometer – which I had forgotten to remove from my bike in the midst of hello-hug-greetings – was stolen.
(sidenote: Always in Victoria! I’ve had bike lights stolen three times, a helmet once, and now an odometer. Never lost anything in Vancouver or Kelowna – bigger crime capitals – oddly enough.)
That moment when I realize something of mine has been stolen, sucks. No way around it. It frustrates and angers me. It makes me suspicious and mistrustful of the people immediately around me.
Fortunately, as I mentioned before, I have a coping mechanism in the way of tithing. I can’t get rid of the frustration so easily, but the last thing I want to do is compound these frustrations by adding the financial replacement cost of buying a NEW odometer. I also need to find a way to forgive the thief. So here’s what I’ll do.
Right now, due to my blessed time working the Kelowna Summer Theatre Festival, I have in my budget an August tithing balance of -150.58$. That’s money strictly earmarked towards tithing actions – using the money for a good cause, for gifts, and the like.
First I need to decide upon a replacement cost. The odometer that I purchased cost about 25$, but that was due to a dramatic sale at a Zellers going out of business. I was unable to find a similar odometer at the Zellers here in Victoria, so I can’t expect that amount to cover a new odometer. So I’ll put my replacement cost at the amount for a similar odometer from MECC, which, including taxes, comes to about 45$.
So, emotionally, I offer my odometer as a gift, so I can get over the feeling of being a victim, and be willing to forgive. Financially, I subtract 45$ from my tithing budget, reducing it to -105.58$, and the only hassle for me is the act of going out and buying another odometer, and the time I am currently without one. It could even make sense to put a dollar figure to that time cost, if I found it overly frustrating.
All that said, every incident has its own personality. Today is particularly frustrating because they took the odometer, but not the sensors attached to the wheel… which means that rather than a homeless person taking a bike-light that can be used as a flashlight… today’s voleur has walked away with a piece of useless electronic junk. Which makes forgiveness harder. But without my tithing system it’d be so much worse.
Thanks for reading.