“Theatre is not archaeology. The text remains intact for those who want to read it at home for personal pleasure; those who want to enjoy themselves will go to the theatre, where the text will be presented cleansed of withered parts and unfashionable terms, and adapted to contemporary taste. The work of art in the theatre is no longer the work of a writer… but an act of life to be created moment by moment on the stage and together with the spectators.” – Luigi Pirandello
Performed theatre always exists in the present moment, for a present audience, for a present purpose. Adaptations of old works aren’t heresy; they are new inhalations of breath made by a revived or growing story.
On a somewhat related note, it will be interesting to see Joss Whedon’s take on an ancient text.
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.
“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.
This show was a wild ride to finally put together. I had the original idea five years ago, after working on a separate show, Alice From Wonderland, as a SATCo performance (Student Alternative Theatre Company at UVic). A director asked myself and another writer to put together a show with multiple endings and music, based on Alice returning to Wonderland as a professional woman.
Not THAT kind of professional woman.
Anyway, after working on that, I saw how much fun the Mad Hatter could be, as a character. As evidently Johnny Depp agrees. That said, for such a long genesis, I can’t say I had much of a script until… three days ago?
Yeah, this show was put together slowly and quickly. Props, costume pieces, and ideas accumulated over the past few months, but the actual words and depth, I hadn’t had time for during the Victoria Fringe crunch of performing William vs The World, directing BFA: The Musical!, and stage managing Sonnets for an Old Century.
So, we came to tonight, to the first ever performance of The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. A show designed to be an experiment with everything I’ve ever wanted to put into a show – audience interaction, a fight sequence, sing-along songs, an improvised song, friendly semi-forcing-the-audience-to-be-involved-in-the-show… silliness abounds! And all with a heart to it. A core.
A core I discovered at about noon today. The show went up at 10:15pm. Yeah, it was tight. Oh, and we finished making the large hat timeline backdrop prop half an hour before the show began. Wow.
Admittedly, the show is highly improvised and includes a lot of audience interaction, so I can’t guarantee all performances will go as swimmingly as tonight’s did. But it was well attended, the audience dove in and got involved without resentment, and I had two strangers make a point of seeking me out on facebook afterwards to say how much they liked it, saying:
I saw “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”, this evening and just wanted to say thank-you for the great show, and that you’re an incredible performer.
Wicked show – loved it from start to finish. And I had two cups and they were delicious.
Well, doesn’t that just make me all peachy inside!
If you would like to come, I have five more performances! Free tea and a chance to BE the Jabberwocky!
Fri, Sept 09 – 10:15pm – Portion of ticket sales go to the Food Bank
Sat, Sept 10 – 4:30pm
Sun, Sept 11 – 1:00pm – Half Price Show
Mon, Sept 12 – 6:45pm
Thu, Sept 15 – 8:30pm
Sat, Sept 17 – 8:00pm
With a future move to Vancouver on the horizon (without a job or a place to stay yet in place), my needing to leave the house I’m currently living in right in the middle of Victoria Fringe, my pushing to spend valuable time with people in Victoria before my soft exit, and all my many theatrical ventures, life is full and busy and excellent.
Here’s what I have on my plate:
BFA: The Musical! – I am directing this show as part of the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival. It is a fun, silly musical surrounding graduates with shiny new Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees coming to terms with the fact that having a degree does not make you immediately a ‘local celebrity’. The show comes complete with a brilliant seven person cast, a fine tech crew, original and local music, dancing, large props, and much silliness. It is a blast to work on.
William vs. The World is a hilarious, geeky adventure surrounding that narcissistic guy at the hobbies store who knows the world revolves around him. With Chuck, his trusty cactus, at his side, William is happy… until – to his horror – a woman falls for him, the All-Spark fails him, his life falls apart, and William loses himself in Bat Country. Through it all, he may become a better person. Maybe.
Previously work-shopped through UVic‘s Festival for Innovative and New Drama (FIND) and performed at this year’s UFV Director’s Festival, William vs. The World layers references to He-Man, Transformers, Spider-man, Serenity, The Ghost-busters, and pop culture with a frantic, manic character study of a man desperately clinging on to a life that may not be as grand as he suggests it is.
Venue:Venue 12 – Canadian College of Performing Arts (CCPA) – 1701 Elgin Road, Victoria, BC
Sonnets for an Old Century – Completing my triumvirate of Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival shows, as of a few days ago, I am Stage Managing this show, written by José Rivera, a two-time Obie Award-winning playwright and Academy Award-nominated screenplay writer. Which is pretty darn sweet.
I am delighted to get to work again with so many great people in Victoria’s acting community, from Holly Jonson, to Mily Mumford, to Shaan Rahman, to Bill Nance, to Alan Penty (who also features in BFA: The Musical!).
The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – Come drink tea with the Mad Hatter!
Share his journey into Wonderland – and his descent into madness – in an overly, underly, and aroundly eager show full of storytelling, songs, audience participation, improv, silliness, gravitas, and grins. Whether it’s your unbirthday or your actual one, this is one show it would be mad to miss!
Tea is provided, but if you can, please bring your own cup.
Show Dates: The first episode should go up by the end of the year.
PirateAdventures.ca – Acting and improvising as a pirate, leading children and adults on a pirate adventure based out of Fisherman’s Wharf. Currently only for one or two days per week.
Venue: Fisherman’s Wharf
Show Dates: Intermittent shifts until I leave town in early September.
Unsound Innocence – Acting as a lawyer in a shortish film by HTVBC– excellent and crazy Hungarians who run a non-profit film company in their spare time. We wrap shooting on Saturday, hopefully.
Venue: Film Festivals
Show Dates: Unknown!
Steinway Grand – Also with HTVBC, this one will be a huge and exciting acting challenge for me – acting in a two-hander film.
Venue: Film Festivals
Show Dates: Should start filming whenever I can jump back to Victoria in Sept/October, I assume!
Vancouver Young Playwrights Competiton / IGNITE! 2012, for The Romantics – I won 1st prize with my play, The Romantics. The prize comes with mentorship by a Vancouver playwright from November through March, and a performance in the festival come May.
Venue: Probably The Cultch.
Show Dates: Performs in May of 2012.
Auditions, auditions, auditions! – Auditioning throughout Vancouver and Victoria. Many ferry rides, trying to secure something, acting-wise, for beyond September. No luck thus far. Which is to be expected. I need to work more on my auditioning prowess.
Venue: Mostly Vancouver.
Show Dates: Never ends. NEVER, EVER, EVER.
The future beyond September is a blank slate, but the next month and a half will be a wild, exciting adventure! Writing, acting, directing, and stage managing for Victoria Fringe (spread over three shows)! Performing a DIFFERENT show for Vancouver Fringe (why, Andrew, why?)! Looking for work and a place to live in Vancouver!
Through a contact I made being a Student Caller for UVic (calling prospective UVic students and asking them if they had any questions about campus or their departments), I was asked to answer a few questions for a Student Profile piece of publicity. I thought it might be worthwhile to share my answers here as well.
1. Why did you choose UVic for your studies?
Wanting to stay in BC and pursue a BFA, my choice came down to UBC and UVic. UBC’s campus was a large sprawl, and with my family living in Richmond, I would have been commuting for an hour each way, to and from school, every day. I didn’t want my university education to feel like a job, with a long bus trip every time I wanted to reach campus.
When I visited UVic, the size of the campus felt right. I liked the feel of the campus, both in the layout and in the intangible sense of place that it has. I’m fond of describing Victoria as a city that pretends its a small town – people walk slower here, in less of a hurry, with less stress. It’s nurturing.
Coming to UVic gave me the independence from my family that I needed to grow as a person, the institution gave me confidence in what they would teach me, and I felt free to explore a wide variety of interests, taking electives all across the campus.
1B. What topics/areas of your academic program are you passionate about?
I came to UVic uncertain whether to pursue a Writing degree, or an Acting degree. I chose Writing, and a year and a half later, realized I had made a mistake – I missed acting dearly, while still enjoying my writing. So I enrolled in the theatre department as well, engaging in concurrent degrees.
I am passionate about creating memorable characters that audiences can breathe with, can understand. Potent characters that audiences relate to in a way that sparks insight. Self-knowledge. I once had someone break down into tears over a play I wrote about letting go of one’s childhood, told from the perspective of the imaginary friend. Those tears, that emotional release, is the biggest compliment I have ever received.
So I’m passionate about helping people with my art, any way I can.
2. If you travelled from outside British Columbia, what made you choose BC? Was the West Coast environment a factor in your decision?
I came from within BC. That said, not being entrenched in Ontario snow, or melting under the sun of the American South, is quite the benefit.
3. What has been the best part of studying at UVic so far?
Engaging in the campus communities, be they the marvelously tight-knit theatre department, or the more reserved writing department, or the compassionate Peer Helpers, or the positive Students for Literacy, or the ambitious political slates, or even the university senate itself – a community comprised mostly of faculty that I was privileged to be a part of for three years.
Within the acting stream, it’s hard to choose a specific class, as most courses build off each other, with acting, voice, and movement classes through the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years of the program. So I’ll cheat a little and choose the performance credit I received for acting in Twelfth Night in the department. The show was an amazing collaboration between dozens of individuals, creating a passionately fun production that sold out every night, with line-ups an hour before each show, and was critically acclaimed. It was professionally, socially, academically, emotionally, and personally so satisfying. I was gifted with an incredible role, Malvolio, and the final emotional moment of the play. I won’t ever forget the experience.
4. What advice would you give others who are considering studying in at UVic or in British Columbia?
Connect with campus communities. Go join clubs, get into politics if that’s your thing, volunteer, audition, whatever’s your bag, make the effort to connect in every way you can. My first couple of years on campus, I didn’t, and I found myself somewhat lonely. But when I became engaged with everything happening around me, that’s when the campus came alive, blossomed into a vibrant, spirited entity that I shall miss dearly.
4B. Is there anything you wish you had known when you were thinking about UVic in your grade 12 year?
I wish I had known how easy it would have been to really explore the campus… I wish I had gone during a school day and just wandered around, maybe snuck into one of the larger classrooms, asked students and professors what they thought of the place.
5. Have you gotten involved in any on-campus extracurricular activities (clubs, volunteering, employment) while at UVic?
I have! My two degrees took seven years – plenty of time for on-campus extracurriculars. I played a few collaborative storytelling sessions with the Games Club; I volunteered with Students for Literacy, reading with elementary school children on campus for one year, and at their elementary school another year; I volunteered with Peer Helping for three years, providing one-on-one counselling and learning skills support for students on campus, while also being paid during that final year, as a Peer Helping Student Coordinator.
I twice ran to be a director at large for the UVSS, but wasn’t elected either time. On the flip side I ran three times – and was elected or acclaimed each time – as the Fine Arts Student Senator for the University’s Senate. I worked 7-15 hours per week on campus for six years as a lab supervisor for the Studios for Integrated Media – a workstudy position in the Fine Arts computer lab. I also, for five years, served as an editor for the Writing Student Union publication, This Side of West.
I acted in over a dozen shows on campus both with the theatre department and through groups like the Big Ideas Club. For one year I worked as a Study Leader for PEAK UVic, leading study groups for first year students. I also spent a couple of weeks phoning prospective students, answering any questions they had about UVic.
So yes, I became involved. 🙂
6. Have you gotten involved in any off-campus extracurricular activities (clubs, volunteering, employment) while at UVic?
Through UVic’s co-op program, I was able to find full-time employment through five summers of my degree. I worked first as a Granville Island Ambassador in Vancouver, directing lost tourists. The next summer, I got a co-op job as a Science Facilitator at the Telus World of Science in Vancouver, encouraging curiosity in children and performing a Grossology centre stage show which included making fake snot and putting a fake wound on a child’s arm, before feeding fake ‘poop’ (really just cocoa powder, oats, and water) to a professor character.
After that, my next summer sent me to TRIUMF, a laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, where I served as a tour guide. Quite the learning curve for a Fine Arts student, but I enjoyed it.
My following two summers were then spent at the Centre of the Universe, a public outreach centre at the Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics. So I went from exploring the insides of atoms to explaining the outer reaches of space. Glorious.
I have also done a fair bit of acting off campus, including currently acting in Sin City Improv, a weekly, improvised soap opera.
7. What do you like to do when you’re not studying?
The same things I was doing while studying – act and write! Though as I am now graduating, I may finally find the time to do some reading, perhaps attempt to paint something.
8. Do you intend to stay in BC or Canada after you have graduated?
I do. I mean, if Los Angeles wants to fly me down to film a movie, I suppose I’ll let’em, but I’m coming back. 😛
9. What do you think you would miss most if you left?
For Victoria, specifically, I’ll miss the nurturing atmosphere, the environmental awareness, and the temperate weather. But to be honest, what I’d miss most are the warm, loving, talented people. My friends, my colleagues, my communities.
10. Do you have any other comments or experiences you’d like to share about your time in Canada, in Victoria or at UVic?
The heart of any place is its people. No matter where you are, if you can find a warm, positive, nurturing group of people who push you to become better, then that place can become a community, can become a home. I found this at UVic, and I’ll be sad to finally cross that stage, accept my degrees, and walk away.
This past weekend (well, four days) has been incredible. Inspiring. I have learned so much from these people, not just about theatre, but about life off the coast, about why people are drawn to the stage.
The UFV theatre department is a strange creature. Students can’t get a degree in the subject – which leads to more than a few ‘English’ students (quotation marks highly emphasized by those involved). Even for a major in theatre requires traversing the two UFV campuses in Abbotsford and Chilliwack, as Abbotsford holds the theatre history courses, while Chilliwack attempts to contain the theatre itself. There is so much talent, desire, and drive here.
From the other schools as well. My second-hand thoughts about SFU’s theatre department must be sorely out of date, because they put on amazing performances. Same with Capilano. Same with the the lone alumni from VIU. Same with the marvelous people from TRU. Everyone put their hearts and souls into these performances.
It’s amazing the difference between chatting with someone in the lobby before a show, and chatting with them after you’ve seen them act. We see so much of a person’s soul onstage, it seems.
Once I’ve seen you perform, and you’ve seen me perform, there’s no need to work for a connection – it’s already there. A mutual respect. A view into each other. These festivals weave us together far better than simple conversations ever could.
With a one man show, I don’t travel with a blank slate. Well, not after the first performance. Because after that performance, you’ve seen enough of me to feel comfortable saying hello, perhaps establishing a conversation with a compliment.
And once I’ve seen you perform, I’m not that fellow sitting across from the woman with violet hair on the bus – that first step of a connection has already been made. I already have respect for you and the passion you bring to your art.
I am so… proud… of the connections I have made this weekend, be they the married woman I held deeply enjoyable conversations with, the married couple (Christine and Sharkie) who remind me of all the best elements of PAX, the reflected kudos with countless fellow theatre practitioners (including the somewhat intimidating tall man from the opening ceremony), the possibility of a collaboration with my talented doppleganger (Adam), the producer who is setting up a festival in Nanaimo (Jeremy), the excited blossoming young actor who has just decided this is what he wants to pursue in his life (Ben), and the charming and eager people who promised me they’d get in touch if they happened to be in the same town I was in the future (and vis-versa).
I don’t regret coming at all – instead, I regret leaving. I want to play with these amazing people for years to come. But I can’t. From rise to (far too little) sleep, for four days, I have lived and breathed theatre in this city. And now I go. There is a twinge of tragedy to it all.
Is this what Fringe is like, in every city? So many beginnings, so quick to die out unless facebook and travel plans feed them?
But I don’t want to mope like Charlie Brown about this experience.(Oh, and by the way? UFV’s Dog Sees God – second best show of the festival, and the capstone of my weekend. I’ll give top marks to UFV’s completely self-created ‘The Play’s The Thing’, which begins as a fake technical rehearsal for an awful Hamlet production, then splits the audience into two separate groups that tour around the whole building, listening in on interweaving subplots between the actors and crew during a ‘break’… subplots that resemble Othello and Romeo and Juliet for one group, and As You Like It (or Twelfth Night?) and Macbeth for the half of the audience (the side I missed, sadly)… brilliant stuff. Even the actors were amazed they pulled it off, with side-characters quietly conversing on cellphones to keep everyone cued up and on target to ‘happen’ to walk past each group at the right moments in time.)
That was far too many words to go into tangential parentheses.
As for my show? I don’t know if I have ever had to wait on so many laughs in a performance I’ve done. And with so many people asking me where I’m taking this show next… that’s something I should seriously consider.
I originally chose to bring William Fights The World here because it was what I had in my back pocket, and it was a show I was excited to put together. Well, I love this show now, more than ever, and I want to perform it again. And again. And again.
And that is why you should create a one man show. Because with most shows, there is a bittersweet closing night when you know you and your cast of a dozen other actors, or perhaps only four… will never be able to put this show on again.
But I don’t need to say goodbye to William. Hell, I could put the show on right now, in this room, if I had a drizzle of coffee and an energy drink (the consumable props). Twelfth Night will never happen again, but William can rant and rave for years to come.
(Hrmm… I said ‘Hell’ there, instead of ‘Heck’. William is causing my language to falter somewhat when it comes to swear words.)
Well, I can’t make exactly the same show. I’ll never have quite this audience (incredibly supportive as they were), and I’ll need to use a new Chuck the cactus.
Sadly, in our third and final performance at the Festival, his shake-fall to the ground became fatal. Rest in peace, Chuck.
Fortunately, I bought an understudy. And epoxy, in case Chuck broke apart every show. I like to be prepared.
So yes, write a one man show, so you can travel to festivals and build mutual respect for all these amazing artists and audience members. Write a one man show so that the show never needs to die due to cast members moving away.
But know that travelling to a city for a few scant days means creating a whole lot of beginnings, and hoping, wishing, praying that perhaps one or two of those beginnings will grow and prosper. It means planting a whole field of seeds in every city, and hoping for one – even just one – tree to emerge. But the soil is rich, and if I could stick around to water those seeds, who knows what would come of all of them.
As I alluded to in an earlier post, I ran into Graeme Thompson at this weekend – he was filling in for an ill actor from Capilano University. Well, he found me. A few years ago, he had performed as Hullaboo, and found it a difficult task, to try and act a show with so much direct address to the audience. Well, he saw my show, and came up to me afterwards, with kind words: “So that’s how it’s supposed to be done. All your words, everything, just flowed so naturally, like you were really just talking with the audience.” I really appreciated that. An old seed, an old beginning that happened to grow into a meeting this weekend.
Someone compared me to my doppleganger by saying we were “both a level above with our talent.”
When I performed tonight, I was sure I had missed something somewhere, because the 45 minutes between me and my audience flew by so fast.
This post is me celebrating my time at this wonderful festival.
But tomorrow morning I have to leave town, and hope God is a good gardener in my absence, hope that some local farmer will take pity on my field and water it in my stead. And there’s always facebook.
I’ll miss you, Chilliwack.
I hope to see you again next year. If Ian lets me back in. 🙂
(forenote: I wrote this on the ride into Chilliwack. I have actually had a most excellent day with all these fine people. But my comments still stand.)
(addendum: at the end of the weekend, I wrote a companion article: Why you should write a One Man Show. Oh, and the violet haired woman? Amazingly, as we didn’t even get off the bus in the same city… she was on the greyhound bus on the ride back. I asked her to be certain she was the same person. I then had a lovely chat with a middle-aged woman from Nanaimo.)
Why not to do a One Man Show.
I used to daydream about one day getting on a bus, and travelling to a new city (Portland sprang to mind, or any small rural town) where no one knew who I was. Of starting fresh, behaving and being an ideal me, untethered from all the prior instances of who I’d been. It wasn’t a positive daydream, persay. Just a recurring thought. I wanted to know if this new community of strangers would embrace me, or if it all would just be a lonely experience.
A test of who I am as a person, I suppose.
Coming to UVic almost fit this bill, but a good eight or nine members of my high school’s graduating class came along with me, and for those first two years as a Writing student, outside of the Theatre department, I mostly hung out with some of those same students, or people they had introduced me to. I never really integrated with my res building’s crowd.
The Phoenix Theatre Department was another close fit to the daydream, but by then, I had enough roots elsewhere on campus (and I was still engaged in the Writing degree) that I felt firmly grounded. And the lives of theatre folk revolve around forming communities and collaborations, so some of those connections happen easier, there.
The daydream – travelling to somewhere where I knew no one, and trying to start a life – arose out of fear. Everything is transitory in this world, including elementary school, high school, university. Heck, even family members move away. I felt I needed to be prepared to be able to step out, alone, and find communities, support, friends, loved ones, wherever I ended up. Because if change happened around me and I wasn’t prepared, that might just break me. No one can live completely alone.
Well, I’m travelling now on a bus to Chilliwack, to a town where I know no one, to perform a one-man-show (William Fights The World) for a few days at the UFV Directors’ Festival. And I’m realizing that if I end up deciding to attempt the Fringe circuit, I want it to be a show with two characters, because… well… while that old worry would be a great challenge for me, it’s not one I want to face. I don’t want to travel alone, to start with a blank slate in every city I come to. I don’t want to be a faceless man in the crowd. I want someone to share in these experiences with me.
And I could have had that, but I shoved it away because I didn’t feel I cared enough about her. Digression.
One of the most courageous moments in my life – if not the most courageous – was on the first day of grade 6, where I committed to starting my life fresh, to becoming a better person. In an attempt to flee from my miserable self, I had joined Late French Immersion. So when I stepped into that grade 6 classroom, it was a new school, a new class, and I knew no one.
The most courageous thing I have ever done was to scan the classroom, see one person not talking to anyone, and to sit down next to him and say hello.
It took every fibre of my backbone to do it.
He became my best friend for two years.
And I’d like to think I’ve grown from that small boy, but sometimes, like now, I could switch seats on this bus and say hello to the young woman with violet hair, sitting across from me. I could. But I don’t.
But I’m only on this bus for another hour. When I introduced myself to Sam Fenn in that classroom, it was necessary – I was to be in that class, with those students, for two years. But if I tour the Fringe circuit, I’ll only be in town for a few short days. Each town. Every city. Is that enough time to connect with people? Is that just enough time to feel miserable about letting them go and moving on?
My time at UVic is done, and much of my community, my class, are already moving on. And I feel like I have already decided that my place isn’t here, in this city, anymore, even though I’m here for at least another four months. But that old worry of a daydream comes back and…
and perhaps because my instinct is not to say hello to the gal with violet hair…
and perhaps because the idea of really connecting with people only for a day or two, and then saying goodbye, makes me sad…
and perhaps because moments seem far more worth living when they are shared…
and perhaps because, unlike in years past, I don’t want to reinvent myself, because I’m beginning to like who I am…
I think I’ll write that Fringe show so that it has someone be there with me.
It has been two weeks since our theatre went dark on Twelfth Night. 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 superiority-complex, 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.
I’m a big fan of discovery-driven essays – a free-form flow of thoughts and ideas, a winding – but driven – stream of thought, trickling at first, then pushing through the rapids, only to find a great body of water at the end. Or sometimes, the river dries up, or pours forth into a bog.
I’m not sure what the bog would represent. I do so love my imagery.
Anyway, this is one of those, and it was spurred on by a simple question: “What are your phobias or peeves?”
This question came to me as I was staffing the Peer Helping office in the learning commons of the library. The asker was an international student who needed to get responses for an English language assignment. And after attempting to explain that fears and annoyances very different ideas, I tried to tackle the main question.
And I came up blank. At first.
I sat there, going, “Well, I… Hmm… Huh…”, making for a very poor language-based conversation. This prompted my interviewer to try to help me out.
“No, not really. It’s more… uh… well…”
I wasn’t making this easy on her. I couldn’t think of the easy answers. I’m not afraid of creepy crawlies or snakes – I used to pick giant millipedes out of cages and put them on children’s arms at the Telus World of Science. I’m not afraid of public speaking (clearly), and I haven’t really grappled enough with death at all to be calm or afraid about it. Heights. Heights? Well, not really. I’m fine with a tall height so long as I’m secure – so long as there’s a guardrail, a pane of glass, some layer of protection. If there isn’t though…
So I tried to explain to a novice English speaker what vertigo meant. This involved a perhaps too lengthy visual elaboration of me finger-walking to the edge of the table, looking down, and having my hand gyrate (as if dizzy), then fall to its untimely demise. She didn’t understand the word dizzy, so I put my hands to my temples and swam my head around like a dancing drunk. The demonstration was perhaps less than effective communication.
I tried again. I thought about feverish nightmares from years and years ago – of blowing the big hockey game and letting everyone down, of a brick locker-room building o
ozing with acrid yellow-orange slime. But they weren’t as immediate as the fear I spoke without even thinking about it:
I’m afraid people will think I’m a bad person.
People are driven by their hopes and their fears, and right when I thought I had confronted and extinguished many of my own phobias, something like that shows up. Though it has always been there; I just haven’t framed it as being a fear before.
It’s not the same as I want to be a good person, because I’m afraid people will think I’m a bad person is all about other people’s impressions – it’s an external appearance. It’s what made me feel so precarious and uneasy after the kissing-the-drunk-girl-at-the-party incident. It’s what often holds me back (more-so in previous years) from complimenting women on how they look on a given day – don’t want to be seen as a sleaze. It contributes to being less of a risk-taker than I’d like, of leaning toward my Woody Allen character and away from Adventure Man.
If people see me as a bad person, as someone less than moral, they’re less likely to talk to me when they need someone to listen to them. They’re less likely to trust me, to want to work with me. And heck, I’m a representative for Christianity in a city that is apparently one of the least religious places in North America.
Fears aren’t meant to be rational. I know I’m a decent individual who still has a long way to grow and improve, but who wants to become better. Who wants to love more deeply and broadly. And I’m happy to have a conscience, that little feeling warning me if what I’m doing feels… like I’m stepping onto the wrong path. And I’m grateful to be involved in theatre, where I can explore those wrong paths and learn about them, in character, in safe and interesting ways, without needing to live them in my own life.
But it’s true, as much as I also worry that I am too bland or timid or plaid or what-have-you, I do worry that people will think I’m a bad person. This isn’t vanity, I don’ t think… it feels more like a desire to communicate myself as accurately as I can. I don’t think I’m a bad person. Most of the time. Do I screw up sometimes? Yes. Have I hurt people? Of course. There are ongoing situations right now that I’m concerned I am being a negative party to.
(‘Being a negative party to.’ Wow. Come, join me in the bushes as we watch the Spotted Andrew resort to legalize in his attempts to avoid his predators.)
Discovery essays are also prone to tangents.
Anyway, I don’t have a great resolving statement for you; it’s something I’m working through. But I can see where this phobia – heck, I’ll call it a peeve as well – can steer me away from where I want to go. So it’s worth keeping an eye on.
After I answered her question, the international student surprised me with beautiful, eloquent English:
I have several blog articles in the works, but until then, I wanted to share with you my very first published piece of fiction, my short story, ‘A Journey of Barren Landscapes’.
To prepare this story (originally written for a workshop a couple of years ago) for submission, I had to edit it down from 3200+ words to under 2000, which I did… shockingly easily, mostly just with line edits and the elimination of ineffective description. I did drop two half-scenes, one for not being very good, and the other, for being a darling that I loved, but that didn’t push the plot forward in any real way.
It has been printed in the August 2010 edition of The Martlet, my university’s school newspaper, as the winner of their annual fiction competition. The paper version has some excellent art to go alongside it, but the text can also be found in EASY-2-READ WEB FORMAT here:
The speaker in a poem is rarely ever the author themself. Poems are spoken by characters formed by the author, often exaggerations of some element within the author, who often share the same soul as the author, but they are set apart.
And good thing too, for poets are not nearly as articulate as their characters.
Why we’re not together
I envisioned love at first glance:
a daylight dazzle
of truth and beauty and expanse and awe,
so that if our first moment was not perfect,
I could dismiss
the chance of any future flirtation.
I composed courtly love
so I could pursue women like you
as one would pursue the moon, the sun
and the stars,
without any danger
of catching them.
I birthed loving like a brother
to make you my sister,
to surround myself with incestous impossibility.
I chose a career that travels
and breaks us apart with oceans,
that severs us with uncertain years.
I compared you to my failures,
my never-weres, never-to-bes,
shot you with pessimism,
let you down
led you away
turned my head
turned my heart
Hello. I figured I might as well post my five-minute monologue as Marvin Heemeyer, builder of the Killdozer, that I performed at Intrepid Theatre’s Bring Out Your Dead, and blogged about on a couple of occasions. The performed ending went a little different, as I decided to improvise the last few lines to match the feeling of the piece on the night. I also risked staying seated for much of it, to give you a sense of the staging.
Lights up. A defeated Heemeyer looks up and laughs from inside his homemade tank.
Pick-axes. Pick-axes. See, this is why all law enforcement officers should at least go through basic army training, give them a brain and a pair of balls. Should’ve called in an air strike from the get-go.
My name is Marvin Heemeyer, and this is the inside of Granby, Colorado’s very own homemade tank, roadside attraction. I got beverages in the cooler if you want one, or you can use the cameras to enjoy the view – what you can see through the smoke of the damn carburator. Won’t be long now.
Still, you reasonably ask, what drives a God-fearing, responsible man to modify a Komatsu D355-A bulldozer with 12 inches of concrete, steel armor and gunports? Why, that’d take the whole world caving in, that’d take the damn devil moving in next door and taking over city hall, corruption the likes of Jesus throwing the money lenders out of the holy temple.
I was Marv the Muffler Man, they tell you that? Ran my own shop, ads on the TV station. “Come to Marv the Muffler Man, and I’ll change yer muffler, single-handed, 20 minutes flat, guaranteed.” I was about to get married, buy a dog, American dream and all that. Then that son of a bitch Cody Docheff, devil himself, paid off City Hall to rezone the acres right next to my shop, built his cement plant right on top of the only road to me.
I went to the mayor. “My customers need a way to access my tax-paying business, sir!”
He told me to “Quit whining”; what the city had done was all perfectly legal. I fought for years. They trumped up fines against me.
So I took out a loan and bought myself a bulldozer, told city council I’d build myself and all the town a road around the plant. They wouldn’t let me. Newspapers called me unreasonable.
I was always willing to be reasonable until I had to be unreasonable.
I worked for a year and a half, nights, putting this beauty together. Inspector came by and the damn thing was hiding under a tarp! Thirteen feet tall! I thought, this is it, they’ll haul me off. But something holy clouded his vision.
Darla, my fiancee, cheated, left. Dad died. Left me with no one to leave behind – just a purpose. God blessed me for this task.
I sealed myself in, drove straight for the cement plant.
Or should I say, straight through the cement plant. It snapped and crumbled as I tore through its walls. The unstoppable force of truth. Beautiful. Employees streamed out the exits like rats at a fire.
As I left, you know who was waiting for me? That son of a bitch Cody, in his front loader, blocking the way. I fired a few. He drove away… Coward.
Town Hall, ‘Liberty’ Bank, fire station – every corrupted power of the government’s tyranny, demolished. Sky-Hi Newspaper folded. Took out the mayor’s house, brick by brick.
And all along the way, police officers walking alongside, SWAT teams, unloading clips into my baby, PING! PING! PING! Bouncin’ bullets. Crushed three cop cars.
Then the damn carburator blew, tread got stuck in a basement, and here we are.
Just because they’re the government doesn’t mean they’re safe. We, the people, are the real authority. Always.
I sacrifice my life, my miserable future that you gave me, to show you what you did is wrong.
And the destruction I have wreaked upon you, I did in the name of God, justice, and revenge.
Previously on Andrew Wade’s blog, our intrepid adventurer set out to make this summer far more theatrical and career-useful than summers past, by sending out a plea for aid, advice, and assistance to help him on his way.
I was fortunate enough to meet up with him in his humble rented room and ask him a few questions:
So, what are the biggest realizations you’ve made, now that you’ve spent a month on the job?
Two things: Responsibility/Leadership and Balance.
I have discovered just how important it is to me, personally, to give my absolute all in whatever I’m doing. On the week I spent writing, memorizing, and rehearsing Heemeyer and the Killdozer, for example, I tried to see if I could squirrel away time at the Centre of the Universe to work on the piece, but, mentally, morally, I couldn’t. Felt like I was betraying the promise I made when I signed back on at the CU, hiding behind closed office doors, setting a bad example for the (younger) co-op students.
I am not fond of half-assing anything (pardon my English).
This isn’t to say that every work hour I have is productive – unfortunately, certainly not – but that actively trying to do non-work-related activities felt dishonest, because there really were projects (such as building clocks for the different planets) to spend time on.
So I resigned myself to the knowledge that I would be spending my few after hours researching, writing, editing, and memorizing away. Which was actually a good deal of satisfying fun. And needless to say, the performing of the piece was a downright blast, a huge ego-boost, and led to marvellous conversations afterwards.
And for balance?
Life balance, specifically. I’m in my best mental mindset when I have a mix of socializing and alone-time every day, some physical exercise, good nutrition, some performance (which, I’ll admit, includes putting on 45 minute planetarium shows and telescope tours), and some mental creation work (I’ll include both writing and book-reading in this category). On a weekly basis, some God time (typically church) and time spent with children are pretty darn necessary too.
This means that, say, going to the gym each day as I had eagerly discussed with friends, is legitimately tough, because I’m already biking for two hours. (Sorry Graeme, though I really do appreciate all your help, and I am taking your fashion advice to heart.) That said, I am now (as of yesterday) making an effort to use my free-weights every day according to a routine he showed me. Bulk up those arm muscles. GRR. MANLY.
Honestly, my life right now is surprisingly balanced! I go to church on Sundays, teach children about astronomy at my job, and have the occasional great opportunity (thanks Janet Munsil!) and Impromaniacs to tie me into the outside theatre world. Even the bike commute isn’t so tough, though I do wish it would stop raining quite so often. (For the record, busses aren’t an option – they wouldn’t get me to work on time.) (gee, I’m really loving parentheses today.)
True, I may not be honing my craft as intensely as I do during the rest of the year, but I’m not avoiding it. And I am doing some writing, be it in this blog, or hand-written letters to friends, or a monologue about a homemade tank. I should really get on editing my plays and putting them online, mind.
So life is all hunky-dory, then? Perfect and idealized?
Well, of course not – there are always ways to improve. I still spend too much time reading the internet in my few off hours, don’t write quite enough, and spend far too much time at work dithering about. But I ain’t perfect, and I don’t expect my life to be so, either.
There’s also the looming potential that I won’t be able to finish my writing degree this year, as the one course I need to graduate conflicts with my acting classes in both terms. I’ve written an email to the chair of the department to see if we can make a deal somehow, though. So the prayer of serenity will tide me over there for the next few days:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
I would like to add, “God grant me clarity and self-awareness, so I can know how to create fulfilling days.”
You might want to work on your method of writing convincing fake interviews, too.
Before I get into the nitty gritty of this post, thank you so much Melissa and Janet for your kind and well-thought-out comments on my last post. A full reply deserves a post of its own that I’ll deliver sometime later this month.
How does a pacifistic Christian accurately write from the viewpoint of, and portray, a man who feels compelled by God to build himself a homemade tank and destroy half a town?
This Friday, Intrepid Theatre is holding their third Bring Out Your Dead event, where I am performing a monologue as Marvin Heemeyer, builder of the 75 ton Killdozer that tore through the buildings of his enemies in the small town of Granby, Colorado, in 2004. This shall also be (as I only just realized this morning), the first time I have ever been paid to act (other than as a film extra). I have been paid for my writing, – for performances of Hullaboo and High School Noir – but never before for acting. Well, if you discount Grossology centre stage shows and running around like a supervillain at Science World. 🙂
So this milestone comes with its own pressures, including that unfortunte fear of success that seems so counter-intuitive an idea. Why a fear of success? Because actually getting paid for my crafts really does put me in a career trajectory of potentially doing acting and writing as a living… which, admittedly, is scary, as much as it is also challenging and wonderful and excellent.
This man is who I am dramatizing – a desperate man who, when faced with corrupt authority figures and injustice in society, went on a crusade to confront the evils of the world. His name is… BATMAN.
Okay, maybe not.
But he is a compelling figure, nonetheless. His aggressors did nothing technically illegal, yet they pushed him out of business and left him without options other than to sell and get the heck out of Dodge. Out of all this (and his fiancee cheating on him and leaving him), he felt inspired by God to build a tank, equip it with guns, and destroy City Hall, the concrete plant, and other buildings (with, oddly enough, a Catholic Church near the end of his list of targets).
As a Christian believer, do I think this was a course of action God really directed him to take? Well, no. But as a Christian, I can really identify with that desire to see a pattern in the world and identify it as a God-given purpose in life. Because we do look for how the higher power may have steered our lives, for what opportunities and challenges may have been deliberately set before us by the Great Almighty.
I know, personally, some options presented before me just seem to ‘click’, like when I signed up for Students for Literacy, or when I acted with David Perry at ThePlace, or put my hat in the ring to be one of next year’s Peer Helping Coordinators. Or auditioned for UVic’s theatre department.
Challenges? Certainly. But they felt like the right stepping stones. So I suppose that I, like Marvin, do feel that sensation that my life has an ideal way it can progress, if I make the right choices, if I follow my gut instincts and trust in the Great Shepherd to take me through the fields.
And whether I agree or disagree with his actions, I feel, as I write this piece, that it’s important to find the overall certainty within Marvin that he felt what he was doing was the right way, was justice… and then introduce little glimmers of uncertainty.
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.
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.
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.
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?