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An interview on The Hatter and life in the real world with The Marble

September 13, 2014 Leave a comment

       
The Hatter onstage in Regina - Photo by Shelby Lyn LoweBefore The Hatter hangs up his hat later today (perhaps forever?) with a show at 8:15pm, I wanted to add here my emailed responses to a rather well thought-out email interview/preview I had with Matthew at The Marble.

The preview can be found here: http://marblevictoria.com/post/95353607472/the-hatter-preview-matts-interview
       
1. Well it’s been a while since The University of Victoria’s Phoenix Theatre Department. What have you been up to since then?

I have been off in the great wide world! By which I mean, in the past three years, I have moved to the mainland, performed in 26 different productions for at least 16 different companies, taken three self-written one man shows (William vs The World, The Hatter, and The Most Honest Man In The World) to fringe festivals across the country (Victoria, Vancouver, London, Ottawa, Toronto, Saskatoon (x2), Port Alberni, and Regina), directed a talent show and a new fringe musical, got nominated for an Ovation Award, was picked as one of Richmond’s ‘30 under 30’, stage managed or ASMed for five productions, had a story make it onto CBC Radio’s Definitely Not The Opera DNTO, acted in a couple of no-budget films, and learned the true meaning of Christmas. Okay, maybe not that last one. Oh, and I have a half-dozen or so part-time jobs that pay my rent and let me disappear whenever I get a theatre gig. Phew!
       
2. That Hatter’s been following your around a lot in the last few years (or at least that’s how it’s looked whenever I’ve had a chance to peak into what you’re doing.) How did the two of your first cross paths?

The Hatter and I actually first met at The Phoenix at UVic! A directing student, Rene Linares, asked myself, then a mere writing student, and Marynia Bienkowska-Gibbs (another writer), if we could write for him a play about Alice returning to Wonderland as a professional woman. This became a SATCo production. So we did! And as we wrote it, I found myself really connecting to The Mad Hatter, really enjoying writing for him.

So when it came next to write a new one man show, there was a satisfying hook there.
       
The Hatter in Port Alberni - photo by Cara Baldwin 023. I was tickled pink at the mention in your press release that you’ll be exploring the character’s, “serious emotional problems,” which could neatly sum up several personalities in the Alice series. Tell me, how much have you taken from the source material and what did you expand on?

When I was looking to write that new play to try and tour in Fringe festivals across the country, I also wanted to explore anger and what it means to lose control of oneself. If you’ve ever read or watched Alice in Wonderland, you know it can be succinctly summarised as ‘A whole bunch of characters yell at an innocent girl.’

In the story, Alice is rejected by many of the characters in Wonderland, and does all she can to escape it in turn. But what if someone landed in Wonderland, and never wanted to leave? And what if they were forced to go?

My writing philosophy also points me towards whatever scares me, and I remember one moment in high school where, without any thought or decision, I instinctively grabbed someone who was bullying me by the throat and shoved them into a chair. I was the most shaken up person about the whole moment, because… aye… it was like it wasn’t me, doing it. (Note: That’s the only time this has happened to me.)

But what about a character who has moments like that occurring throughout his life?
       
4. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered in your developing of the character, the most frustrating and, finally, the most fun?

The most surprising thing about the character of The Hatter, for me, is how desperately he wants everyone to be happy and jovial and delighted and wonderful. Figuring that out turned the show from a variety act into a story of a man trying his hardest to host a silly, happy party, but everything keeps going sideways.

The most frustrating part has been trying to connect this character with a wider audience. He looks like his should be a show for kids. But it’s not. Out of the first four performances I had in the London Fringe, the first time I really got the show on its feet… only one of those four performances had any purchased tickets. The tour picked up from there, but aye, a somewhat terrifying start. How can people know how good this show is, if no one comes?

The most fun part of developing this character, for me, is that he dives into everything, 100%, be that leading a singalong, telling a poem, summoning a Jabberwock, or trying to improvise a silly song on his own. Nothing quite works out the way he wants it to, but it is so much fun to give it a go. Also, I love those moments – such as when they have to step over broken plastic cutlery to get to their tea – when audience members realize that this isn’t a show like anything they’ve seen before.
       
5. The last time I saw you at the Victoria Fringe (2011) you were directing one show, acting in another and assisting in another. You looked savaged by the time it was over, but (other than the merits of organization) I’d like to hear what you took away from the experience and how you feel about your return to Vic Fringe?

I am SO looking forward to coming back! I consider this whole summer my home-coming tour in many ways; I’m returning to Saskatoon (where I had a 4.5 star review last summer), heading back to Victoria (my home for seven years), and then back to the mainland. And as for the mad experience of directing, stage managing, and writing/performing three different fringe shows at the same time, all I can say is, when I graduated, I was sorely worried that I wouldn’t get chances to work on theatre in the real world, so I made certain to say yes to every opportunity that came my way.

I still, mostly, live that way, and I don’t regret that decision in the slightest. Gotta be at the edge of your abilities to really grow and improve and evolve.
       
6. Tell me more about the actual show, what’s in store for the Mad Hatter?

After Alice left Wonderland, The Hatter found himself troubled by little sparks of memories rushing back at him, triggered by his his interactions with this small girl… and it isn’t long after that, that he wakes up one day and finds himself in the real world, in Victoria, and not in Wonderland at all. So he decides to host a Tea Party, the silliest, happiest tea party ever, a shard of Wonderland, to try and find a way back home. (And you’re invited!)
       
7. Now that’s you’re several years out of theatre school, I’d really like to hear your retrospective as well as any advice to young people starting up there or about to graduate and go into the big wide theatre world?

Be rabidly ambitious, endlessly cooperative, and calmly patient. Very few careers in this world happen right out of school, regardless of the field. Never mind in such a frivolous and amazing arena as theatre. But know that the theatre communities out there are full of people who want to help you, who want to support you, and who would love some support in turn. Find those rent-paying jobs that offer up the flexibility to let you keep pursuing what drives you, excites you, fills your boots with glee. And ask the elders… pick the brains of the theatre people around you and find out where they get their opportunities, where they want to go next.
       
8. So as a performer, is there anyone you’d say you took inspiration from more than others?

Oh, inspiration comes from all over. Sometimes, the reassuring kind, where older actors tell me how much easier it is to find work when you’re one of the four 70+-year-old actors in town, rather than one of a million 20-somethings. At other times, the blistering heat of coming across someone who is so pumped up to get to be doing what they’re doing. Or the reasonable kind, seeing how actors pay the bills and getting that calming feeling of ‘I could do that’.

Honestly, the most inspiring thing is just being able to look back at the last three years and see a slight progression towards doing more and more paying acting, writing, and other theatre work. Slowly expanding that portion of the income pie, until hopefully someday it can reach right around. (Or at least do its very best Pacman impression.)
       
9. Distilling it all down, why should folks come and see The Hatter?

Come to see a 4.5 star reviewed show that has been described as ‘like nothing you’ve ever seen before’. Come to have a free cup of tea, meet a man, have fun, and be moved. Come to help out a fellow trying madly to get home. Come because the best of Fringe Theatre is all about walking into a room, engaging in an experience, and then walking out, saying, ‘I don’t know how anyone in their right mind came up with that, but I am so glad I got to see it.’
       
10. Finally, what tea can patrons expect to be served?

It’s The Mad Hatter’s tea party! You’ll have dozens of options to choose from, and even some mustard and relish if you want to add a condiment or two.

See you at the tea party!

Cheers,
Andrew Wade,
The Hatter
   
(Their resultant review can be found here: http://marblevictoria.com/post/95810700942/the-hatter-charming-stranger-review )
       
The Hatter in Port Alberni - photo by Cara Baldwin 01

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The Road To Kelowna (or, Merritt Musings)

June 28, 2012 2 comments

The Road To Kelowna (or, Merritt Musings)

(Note: this was written while en route to Kelowna, where I’ll be performing and assistant stage-managing for the next six weeks on my first paid-weekly theatre opportunity.)

Greyhound racing Français : Lévrier durant une...

Greyhound racing (Wikipedia)

I am currently traveling by Greyhound to the Kelowna Summer Theatre Festival. That’s traveling by Greyhound, not be greyhound, though if you attached enough of them to a sled with wheels, I suppose that would work, though perhaps not safe for highway sledding. Or maybe they’d all run in a big loop and I’d never make it out of the first city block.

Merritt qualifies as the furthest into BC I’ve ever been. (Which means that a lot of the award-winning short story I wrote here was based entirely off google and wiki searches). About half an hour before we pulled into this place, I noticed a shift in the landscape, with the earth looking more and more parched, littered with shrubgrass rather than with, well, grass, and the mountains looking less of a uniform wash of pine-green trees and more of a patchy, motley mix, like old socks thinning to the point where holes might break out at any moment. I dub thee, The Lintless Mountain Range. It’s odd to think of such waves of grass having their length kept in check by nature, and not by an over-funded university, city, or townhouse maintenance crew.

English: Dryer screen containing accumulated lint.

Dryer screen containing accumulated lint. (Wikipedia)

On the bus ride there, I was peached to receive possibly the greatest accomplishment a person can ever receive: a young woman asked if she could sit next to me. Now, granted, this was partly because an older woman had stolen her seat while the young woman stepped out to stretch her legs, and I happened to be sitting just one row back of her former seat, but still, she chose to travel alongside me and not next to the twitchy fellows who were searched over twice by security.

I also happened to be on a bus with not one, but four beautiful women, which has made me immediately reconsider my utility approach of wearing comfortable but scrubby clothes on a bus: in this case, my Phoenix Theatre t-shirt publically misquoting our theatre manager with the line “Please do not remove this shirt” on the back. The lack of gel in my thin hair, doesn’t help. I look like I’m balding or suffering from some form of mange.

Next time I travel by bus, I’m wearing a three piece suit.

When we stopped in Merritt for a fifteen minute sketch, I found myself taken aback by the sheer viewing distance from the bus depot. I’ve lived in coastal cities all my life, so the farthest vistas I’ve ever seen are from hiking up a mountain on an island somewhere, or from staring out at the ocean (other than the odd plane ride). Either way, to stand on firm ground and see nothing but land for such a distance is somehow shocking to my senses, like when you’re looking at an optical illusion of an elephant with an impossible number of legs and your eyes tell you one thing but your brain is going ‘”Hold on, woah there eyes, now I know you’re doing your best, and I appreciate all your hard work, but maybe you aught to let ol’ wrinkle-ridges here take over from now on”, followed by giving the eyes a patronizing pat on their retinas.

I think if I ever visit the prairies, I might go insane: an endless vista that will either induce a seizure or turn me into a timelord.

Staring into the Untempered Schism.

Bus depot rest points are odd locations in and of themselves. I know how my fellow greyhounders (sorry, Greyhounders) arrived, finally dragging themselves into this cigarette oasis in the desert of long distance public transportation, or unnecessarily forcing themselves into using the washrooms as part of a clever stratagem to avoid the potential rollercoaster waterpark fun that is using a toilet in the rear of a moving bus as it navigates its way over great potholes and around screeching traffic.

But the others… There is a man cradling a backpack a little too close to his chest. He sits alone in a field of empty chairs and stares blankly out the window, the window that stares out toward the side of our bus, and not, were he to turn, at the vista of rolling mountains and hills. It feels like a sort of purgatory for those not awaiting heaven, but perhaps sitting around in lack of anticipation for another place just like this one. Bleak.

The foodstuffs they sell here are as stale and processed as the motor oil and carparts they are shelved with. The prices on everything have been hiked up because, hey, people pay more for antiques, right?

No fruit, no vegetables, and the only meats are those kinds that last so long they make you wonder why there aren’t any 200-year-old pigs waddling about the world.

On the doors to the few refrigerated, pre-made items is a sign reading, “Pay for food at the counter BEFORE heating.” Reasonable enough. But the sign reading “Pay for magazines at the counter BEFORE reading” is just being snarky.

When I think about it, though, maybe that’s what these places need. Purgatory is purgatory because it is formless, shapeless, endless, full and empty of nothing. Maybe some personality would a good first step to reviving that man with his backpack, the man who has given up on waiting and entered a state of dejected mere existence.

Though I’m sure Merritt is a lovely town.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers,
Andrew Wade

How to be labeled a Renaissance Man by your University

April 8, 2012 1 comment

How to be labeled a Renaissance Man? Follow every opportunity, and then agree to be profiled for University publicity, apparently.

Let’s pick up a copy of the University of Victoria’s 2012-2013 Canadian Viewbook and see what’s inside!

No, those aren't my feet.

 

 

Aaand… head over to page 10…

In the infamous open-all-the-way-down-the-sides Twelfth Night yellow leather pants.

Or for a closer look…

Well, gee.

Here’s the text (based on my responses to their questions):

A Renaissance man in the purest sense, Andrew is a little bit of everything. He’s an actor, writer, director, student senator, peer helper, faux physicist, editor, study group leader, part-time lab supervisor and rare sleeper. And he’s been to enough cast parties to fill up three memory cards with photos. Spy him volunteering in every nook and cranny of campus when he’s not churning out yet another five-star performance on the main stage of UVic’s Phoenix Theatre.

“Go join clubs, get into politics, volunteer, audition if that’s your thing; make an effort to connect in every way you can. When I became engaged with everything happening around me, that’s when campus came alive.”

They even included a link to this blog! How kind.

And now that I have graduated, and have since been an actor, science facilitator, playwright, stage manager, tutor, director, pirate, extra, web assistant, improv workshop leader and more (as can be seen on my photographic wrap-up of 2011, found here), I’m happy to not be proving them wrong.

Life is full and rich and fine indeed.

Cheers,
Andrew Wade

My Theatrical 2011 in Pictures

January 19, 2012 1 comment

So, most end of year wrap-ups happen… at the end of the year. But with my Christmas Panto not ending until last Saturday and my next show (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) starting rehearsals last last Monday, on top of work and auditions… let’s just say that 2012 is hopefully proving to be just as busy. 🙂

So! Onto the performances, in approximate order. (I don’t have a photo for all of them.)

Improviser, The Impromaniacs, Theatresports/Theatreshorts (Jonathan Argue for The Impromaniacs, and Dave Morris for Theatresports/Theatreshorts) (VEC) – With the advent of Sin City Improv, small audiences, and Jonathan Argue finally stepping away from the helm after perhaps twenty years, The Impromaniacs disappeared into the aether. But the revived Theatreshorts provided a good place for improvisers to get their feet wet and grow as performers. (still on every 4th Sunday of every month at the VEC!)

Photo by David Lowes

Malvolio, Twelfth Night (Phoenix Theatre)

Wow. What a role. What a cast. What a production. What pants. A perfect storm of awesome.

Workshop Leader, UVic Improv. – I received four separate requests from four different people, asking me to bring back UVic Improv (which hadn’t been around for over a year). How could I say no? Thank you to Amy Culliford and Blair Moro for keeping it alive this year.

Playwright, Mannequin Men (Phoenix Theatre directing project directed by Christine Johnson, and also directed by Sarah Crowell as part of the Acadia Theatre Company’s Minifest 2011 in Nova Scotia)

Playwright, What I’d Be Without You (Acadia Theatre Company, Minifest 2011). – I really, REALLY wish they had filmed this so I could have seen how it was performed. It’s a short piece I would love to see up on its feet some day. As you can see, the pictures they sent over look amazing.

Willy Beach, the poor boy, Sin City Improv, Season One (ten episodes of a weekly improvised soap opera) – Possibly the most fun I have ever had onstage. And I have A LOT of fun onstage. 🙂

Pischin/Gaev, The Cherry Orchard (directing scene) (UVic – directed by Joelle Haney)

Improv Actor/Dancer, Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons) (UVic Chorus and Orchestra) – possibly the strangest opportunity I’ve ever had. Improvise dance-ish stuff next to opera singers and an orchestra for the third quarter of a performance? Sure, why not! (Thanks to Hayley Feigs for sharing in the experience with me.)

Mark, When We Were Awesome: A Karaoke Musical (UVic Directing Auteur Project – directed by Jesse Cooper)

Presentation Day – Movement Pieces

Presentation Day – Acting/Vocal Masque

Rowan, How Socrates Bought The Farm (Dan Hogg / Jeremy Lutter / UVic)

Stephen Harper at 8 and 18 years old, Wrecking Ball 2 (VEC)

William, William vs The World (UFV Director’s Festival)

Improviser, Good Night Harold! (Intrepid Theatre Club) – arranged by the lovely Kirsten Van Ritzen for some Sin City alumni to play for a night. A reunion of sorts. 🙂

Zacchaeus, (youth event), Adam, Elijah, Peter, Pandamania (Lambrick Park Church)

Monologuist, Monobrow IV (Intrepid Theatre Club)

Bilge Rat, Pirate Adventures (Victoria Harbour)

The King of France, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Soldier, Henry V (KeepItSimple Productions)

Vincent Scott (lawyer), Unsound Innocence (Hungarian TV of BC Foundation)

Stage Manager, Sonnets for an Old Century (Victoria Fringe – Langham Court Theatre)

Director, BFA: The Musical! (Victoria Fringe – Langham Court Theatre)

William, William vs The World (Victoria Fringe – CCPA)

Alvin, Please Print Clearly (short film by Liam Sherriff) (yes, that’s me living in a filing cabinet.)

Photo Credit Lachlan McAdam

The Mad Hatter, The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (Vancouver Fringe – Studio 1398, Granville Island)

Erronius, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Fighting Chance Productions, Jericho Arts Centre)

Green Gear, 4Villains.org

Wakey Faker, Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves (Metro Theatre)

 

And for fun, here’s a list of the day jobs I worked over the course of 2011 (in rough order):

  • Lab Supervisor – Studios for Integrated Media, University of Victoria
  • Peer Helping Student Coordinator -Counseling Services, University of Victoria
  • Student Caller – Student Marketing and Communications, University of Victoria
  • Compost and Recycling Supervisor – at a convention once.
  • SAT/LSAT Exam Proctor
  • Playwright – The Romantics, Vancouver Young Playwright’s Competition (1st place came with a financial prize)
  • Actor/Playwright – William vs The World, at the UFV Director’s Festival
  • Actor – Slixer Entertainment (murder mystery dinner and a corporate event – both thanks to the lovely Kirsten Van Ritzen)
  • Pirate (Actor/Improviser) – www.pirateadventures.ca
  • Director – BFA: The Musical! (hey, I earned money on it. I’ll count it. Thanks to the marvelous Meghan Bell.)
  • Background Performer/Extra – Big Time Movie
  • Improv Workshop Leader – for a birthday party.
  • Assistant – Ursa Technologies Ltd.
  • Science Facilitator – Telus World of Science

If you’re curious about any of these projects, don’t hesitate to ask!

See you all this year. 🙂

Cheers,
Andrew Wade

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How I came to terms with the Ephemeral Nature of Theatre

August 7, 2011 Leave a comment
Melting ice cream on a bridge

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“Meaningless! Meaningless!”, says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” – Ecclesiastes, New International Version.

In the New International Version of the Bible, the Hebrew word ‘Hebel’ translates as ‘meaningless’, but the Hebrew word – admittedly being poetically employed – literally meant ‘vapour’, ‘breath’, or ‘absurd’. Or, to use a more theatrical term, ephemeral.

“Ephemeral! Ephemeral!”, says the Teacher. “Utterly ephemeral! Everything is ephemeral.”

It can be too easy for us theatre artists to develop inferiority complexes. Paintings survive for centuries. Musical scores play on. Films and television shows rise again on DVDs and stream on Netflix. But a theatrical performance happens once, and then is gone.

Charity show

Image via Wikipedia

We theatre artists wrestle with the question of whether or not what we are creating is important; after all, what perseveres? Do we really contribute to society if the creation ends the moment the final curtain falls? If there are no monuments standing at the end of our resumés?

Do we deserve that allotment of charity funding that could go to another non-profit society?

But we are not the only ephemeral creators out there, flitting about in an ocean of solid substance. Everything is ephemeral. The permanence of other mediums is an illusion. We all create works that move the hearts, minds, and spirits of both our audiences and our collaborators, and then our works disappear.

Different mediums have different strengths and weaknesses (which I have even attempted to chart at one time), but permanence? Everything is ephemeral. Just like theatre. Just like life.

Cheers,
Andrew Wade

Melting Down

Image by Yogendra174 via Flickr

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Predicting Future Careers

Arabic Question mark

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Predicting Future Careers

It is said that people of my generation will have more careers than ever before – the world moves too quickly, too insecurely, too excitingly, for many of us latch on to one profession and hold it for 40 years before retiring. That in mind, I thought it might be a good thought exercise to try some long term planning/predicting on my own career threads as they weave through my life.

Essentially, I have just highlighted certain areas that excite me, and am extrapolating somewhat from there to guess at when each thread might assume some degree of prominence.

Note: The year I designate as the year the career starts suggests that it becomes more of a focus in that year – not that the new career eliminates prior careers (I take them as cumulative). For example, I plan on acting all my life – the subsequent careers don’t exclude doing so.

This is far from an exhaustive list.

PAST:

1986 – Born in Lansing, Michigan, USA
1987 (eight months old?) – Moved to Richmond, BC, Canada
1990 (age 4) – FIRST CAREER – STUDENT – entered kindergarten.
1993 (age 8) – First acting role as the title character in The Littlest Christmas Tree.
1996 (age 10) – Entered Late French Immersion.
1998 (age 12) – Entered Hugh McRoberts Secondary School. Performed in over a dozen theatrical productions while in high school.
2004 (age 17) – Directed Opening Night.
2004 (age 17) – Awarded the Outstanding Theatre Performance Award from Hugh McRoberts Secondary.
2004 (age 17) – My first venture as a playwright – Teenspeak performed Pinecone Wars, an exaggerated, autobiographical story from my elementary school days. Brilliant to experience.
2004 (age 17) – Entered the University of Victoria, in the Writing program.
2006 (age 19) – Missed acting too much. Joined the theatre department as well.
2006 (age 19) – Auditioned for the acting stream. Did not get in.
2007 (age 19) – Assistant stage managed (props) for Wind In The Willows. 31 actors and almost 400 props in the show.
2007 (age 20) – Auditioned for the acting stream. Got in.
2007 (age 20) – SECOND CAREER – SCIENCE FACILITATOR – Second summer co-op work term, as a Science Facilitator at the Telus World of Science. Included designing a puppet show book.

Question mark in Armenian

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2008 (age 21) – THIRD CAREER – WRITER – Won second place and honourable mention in the Vancouver Young Playwrights Competition – Hullaboo and High School Noir were performed the next summer at IGNITE! 2009. Had script chosen for the CineVic Film Slam – “The Just The Facts Ma’am Show”; the subsequent (really well done) video can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN0ZEJmpIJM .
2008 (age 21) – Acclaimed to UVic Senate as the Fine Arts Student Senator.
2008 (age 21) – Third summer co-op work term, as an Outreach / Tour Assistant at TRIUMF, Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics. Included designing tour signs.
2008 (age 21) – Awarded the Keith Provost Memorial Scholarship in Theatre for possessing Keith’s special qualities such as dedication, a love for acting and playwriting, a humble gratefulness for opportunities, a positive and upbeat nature, a free−spirited and somewhat rebellious side, and an unselfish and modest attitude.
2008 (age 22) – Joined the Impromaniacs.
2009 (age 22) – Elected to UVic Senate as the Fine Arts Student Senator (had to defeat someone else in the election this time).
2009 (age 22) – Fourth summer co-op work term, as an Astronomy Interpreter at the Centre of the Universe / Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics (HIA-NRC). Included making posters.
2010 (age 23) – Acclaimed to UVic Senate as Fine Arts Student Senator.
2010 (age 23) – Fifth summer co-op work term, again as an Astronomy Interpreter at the Centre of the Universe / Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics (HIA-NRC). Included making posters for guest speaker events.
2010 (age 23) – Won the Martlet Short Fiction Competition for A Journey of Barren Landscapes.
2010 (age 23) – Won the Keith and Shirley Wagner Prize for Writing – Most outstanding achievement in the field of dramatic writing, stage play, radio play, or script.
2011 (age 24) – Won 1
st Prize in the Vancouver Young Playwright’s Competition for The Romantics, to be workshopped, then performed in May 2012.
2011 (age 24) – Performed with Sin City Improv. Huge highlight.
2011 (age 24) – Won UVic’s Humanities, Fine Arts, and Professional Writing Co-op Student of the Year award.
2011 (age 24) – Graduation from the University of Victoria with a BA in Writing.
2011 (age 24) – Graduation from the University of Victoria with a BFA in Acting.
2011 (age 24) – Performed self-written William vs. The World (then William Fights The World) at the UFV Director’s Festival in Chilliwack. First time ever performing a longer piece of my own writing.
2011 (age 24) – Act in the film Unsound Innocence with Hungarian Television – my second project with them.

 

The Question Is What Is the Question?

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POSSIBLE FUTURE:

2011 (age 24) – FOURTH CAREER – ACTOR
2011 (age 24) – Audition for Bard on the Beach.
2011 (age 24) – Directing BFA: The Musical! for the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival.
2011 (age 24) – Performing self-written William vs. The World at the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival.
2011 (age 24) – Learn how to drive.
2011 (age 24) – Move to Vancouver area.
2011 (age 24) – Performing self-written The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival.
2011 (age 24) – Return to the Telus World of Science? (Hopefully? I need to contact them this week about seeing if that’s a possibility).
2011 (age 24) – Otherwise, work to pay my rent partly through extra / background performer work.
2011 (age 25) – I make my plays easily accessible online for cheaply licensing performances.
2011 (age 25) – Act in film Steinway Grand with Hungarian Television, in Victoria.
2011 (age 25) – Physically strengthen myself, so I can better remind people somewhat of a young Marlon Brando. 🙂
2012 (age 25) – Find a film and TV agent.
2012 (age 25) – Audition for Stratford.
2012 (age 25) – Take singing lessons.
2012 (age 25) – Perform at additional Fringe Festivals. Perhaps for several years.
2012 (age 25) – The Romantics is performed as part of IGNITE! 2012.
2012 (age 25) – National Voice Intensive in Vancouver
2012 (age 25) – Perform with Bard on the Beach (Hey, I can dream! And I have performed in six productions of Shakepeare’s plays in the past three years).
2013 (age 26) – Either joins a long-form improv group, or creates one.
2013 (age 26) – Get a short story printed in a well-respected literary journal.
2014 (age 27) – Go down to the States for the TV pilot season.

Opening (inverted) and closing question marks ...

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2014 (age 27) – FIFTH CAREER – STAGE MANAGEMENT – I would love to do more of this. So long as I can act and write elsewhere as well. 🙂
2015 (age 28) – become financially self-sustaining off theatre, film, TV,internet, and writing work.
2017 (age 30) – either get my masters (in acting? Playwriting? Directing?), or enter a conservatory?
2018 (age 31) – First published novel.
2025 (age 38) – If unmarried, may choose to adopt.
2029 (age 42) – SIXTH CAREER – DIRECTOR
2035 (age 48) – SEVENTH CAREER – POLITICIAN – Run for some form of elected office.
2048 (age 61) – EIGHTH CAREER – VISUAL ARTIST
2052 (age 65) – I defeat cancer in hand-to-hand combat.
2063 (age 76) – Canada secedes from Quebec. I have little to do with this.
2084 (age 97) – Final stage appearance.
2085 (age 98) – Witty and wise, die a serene death.

 

Any thoughts? Do you think this is a valuable exercise?

Question mark

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The Director’s Epiphany

July 11, 2011 1 comment

BFA: The Musical!

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:

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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!

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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.

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Hearts Are Thumps

Image via Wikipedia

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.)

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Fringe (TV series)

Image via Wikipedia

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?

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Director

Image by MightyBoyBrian via Flickr

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 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.

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BFA: The Musical has six performances throughout the Victoria Fringe Festival, and an upcoming music-filled fundraiser on July 23rd at Logan’ Pub.

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