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Welcome to Chilliwack – UFV Directors’ Festival, Friday

April 30, 2011 2 comments

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

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Stuart McLean. Happy, as per usual.

Welcome to Chilliwack!

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

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

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

Poster for the Song of Ruth House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good day. Good day indeed.

A teacup on a saucer.

Image via Wikipedia

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

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

Cheers,
Andrew Wade

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The dangers of a working summer for an actor.

May 2, 2010 4 comments

Perseid Night at The Centre of the Universe

Perseid Night - by Erika Joubert

The Problem

I am walking down a dangerous path — that of the full-time, not-so-acting-related summer job.

From Tuesday through September, I shall be back at the Centre of the Universe giving tours of what was the world’s largest optical telescope (93 years ago), running planetarium shows, holding summer camps, and teaching school groups. I genuinely enjoy working there; the staff are great people, the job doesn’t impose undue amounts of stress, and I get paid to learn more about the universe. But it isn’t acting. It pays for my tuition for the year, and forces me to exercise by requiring an hour-long bike ride to and from work (including a few kilometres up a mountain). But it isn’t acting, and, being an observatory, I need to, well, work in the nighttime. Go figure.

And night shifts mean no acting. No Shakespeare in the Park, no Fringe Festival, limited time with The Impromaniacs… and a tiring, long-commute, full-time job to boot.

A Little History

Over four prior co-op work terms, I haven’t a good track record at keeping up my passions. As a Granville Island Ambassador, Telus World of Science Science Facilitator, TRIUMF Tour Guide, and CU Astronomy Interpreter,  I wrote perhaps three short stories and half a play in total, and acted in a limited fashion with the Impromaniacs last summer, unnecessarily understudied for a Fringe Show, and competed in a monologue competition. That’s about all.

This used to worry me, that I could effectively live a life without writing or acting, a real-world life with a rent-paying, 9-5 (mostly) job and all that comes with it. But the truth is? My summers are rarely ever nearly as satisfying as what I do for the rest of my year at UVic, learning through workshops, plays, acting classes, movement pieces, voice techniques… my summers feel like something away from myself, outside of the stream of my life. Like I go on hiatus until September.

The Questions

But how can I keep up a hard dedication to my crafts when I’m waking up at 7am and getting home at 6pm, tired to my bones and soaking wet from the rain and muddy streets? How can I focus on movement and voice warm-ups, on honing my body through training programs and work-outs, when I’m losing sleep week by week and already biking for a couple of hours every day as part of my commute? When, rather than being encircled by a fleet of eagerly encouraging classmates, I’m surrounded instead by my collection of video games and television shows; when I’m all ‘socialed out’ by the time I get home, and don’t feel a desire to go out and interact with my lovely theatre community?

I’m not saying this to go all boo hoo hoo, poor artist me… I’m genuinely asking. Because my past summers have been all about doing professional work and living a home-life hermitry. About being the average working stiff who earns his keep, then ‘relaxes’ his brief evenings away. Granted, that keep includes a year’s tuition and rent and such to help hold me through the school year (when I also work 15-20 hours a week), but still.

I’ve been trying to solve this problem for years now.

My mind shouts to me to reach out to my community, to use my community’s positive pressures, like Graeme and his excellently thought-out work-out routine, like Impromaniacs shows, and like weekly writing groups. To corner myself into ensuring that I enter my final year at UVic armed with more than paid tuition, four unrelated months, and mostly-unrelated skills.

My sanity questions whether I can handle imposing more obligations on my schedule for a four-month-long stretch.

My dreams demand that I do better.

The Plea

I don’t have a tidy answer; no little epigram of wisdom to carry me through. So I’m asking: Any advice? What do you do to stay connected to your crafts in a full-time-job world?

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Why I finally got myself a cellphone.

February 22, 2010 1 comment
A Motorola DynaTAC 8000X from 1984. This phone...
Image via Wikipedia

I have held off getting a cellphone for all my life, until today.

Why? Well, a few reasons, really. Financially, I feel really averse to monthly subscriptions – instances where money is leaving my account without me having made a conscious decision to do so. Pay-as-you-go plans seemed to be a possibility, but I resisted.

Socially, the inconveniences haven’t been too inconvenient. Sure, a few times people have missed busses and I’ve been left waiting for them, but I figured that just meant people were learning to be punctual. 😛

Besides, there are negative social costs to cellphones, not the least of which is when they go off in the middle of a class, rehearsal, or show. (I work in theatre). And goodness knows, my days are jam-packed – I don’t need to sit around, waiting for someone to call in order to have places to be pretty much every evening. Also, up until this past year, my roommates had a landline which I paid a little into to use as my phone as well. But I’ve been off the grid since last April, aside from being able to phone out with Skype.

But, professionally, not having a phone is downright unprofessional. Not having a number people can contact me at is a serious issue, and I understood that. But still I resisted with some internal stubbornness, some gut-heavy nervous reaction that I still don’t really understand. Maybe I enjoyed being different to the people around me. Maybe I’m worried about any step that pushes me into living a less simple life.

So what brought me around? What made me finally go to the nearby 7-11 (their ‘Speak Out! Wireless‘ has the best pay-as-you-go plan around these parts) and purchase my cellphone? My morals.

Last week, I realized that if I have a phone, people can contact me if they need someone to talk to. If I don’t have a phone, they can’t do that. So, for that greater chance that I might help someone in need, that pushed me over the edge of my indecision.

I discovered that it would be against my ethics NOT to have a phone. Andrew Wade, welcome to the 1990’s.

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