Self Portrait

I hate having my picture taken.  I can’t remember when I started hating it, but the impulse to cringe every time I see a lens is muscle memory now.  And in a sort of delicious circular irony, my self-loathing is evident on film and makes each picture worse than the last.  There’s a feedback loop that follows – feeling bad, looking bad.  And someone always makes the comment: “Aren’t actors supposed to love the camera?”

I think we all know now what young women (and people of all kinds, but I can only speak about what I know) are up against when it comes to self image.  Women are given a million things to be, and only allowed a tiny space to do it in.  And sometimes I feel like being an actor means jumping straight into the fire – until we add to and change the canon of Western theatre and drama, we’re often expected to embody the tropes that are part of this damaging system we grew up in.  The more I look for it, the more I see it – women in plays whose beauty (or lack thereof) is as crucial a demonstration of their character as their words and actions.  It strikes me that even in the medium that I love and trust, being beautiful is still an utterly essential thing to be.

And if you set yourself on the outside of that thing – for whatever reason – you wonder where your place is.   I think about every time I ignored someone who said I was smart because all I wanted to be was beautiful.  It’s hard to admit that, because beauty is political and frivolous and important all at the same time.  It’s everything and it’s nothing, and it’s tied to history and privilege and capitalism and a million things that are hard to understand all at once.  It’s also hard to talk about, because comparison is a weapon that is used to scare us all into silence.  When someone speaks their personal shame, I may swallow it along with them because in my eyes they’re closer to some unattainable standard – if she’s not beautiful, then what am I?

We live in a shallow culture that deplores vanity.  It’s this contradiction that makes me fascinated with the rise of the selfie.  Egotistical, perhaps, but also a celebration of one’s own (personally vetted) beauty?  Or is it the feedback loop again – seek approval to feel approved of?  I want to participate somehow, but it doesn’t work for me.  Every time – snap, cringe, delete.  The only selfies I’ve kept were a hilarious series of ‘exhaustion selfies’ I took this summer when I was working too hard and looked like hell.  The series culminated in a hospital selfie following a surgery resulting from a ridiculous (but minor) bike accident.  I don’t know why I took them.  I guess it’s because they were not beautiful at all, but they were the real thing.

I hate having my picture taken, but I love taking pictures.  I decided to challenge myself to take a self portrait (I suppose it’s a selfie if it’s on an iPhone and a ‘self portrait’ on a DSLR, no? That’s what I’ll go with).  I think, maybe with complete agency, I can do this – I set the lights, I pick the lens, I make my mirror face until I realize how dumb it really looks.  I will set up the shot and then set the timer and snap away at myself until I find my perfect face.  A beautiful face.

I only liked three photos, which were taken before I was ready.  They are a portrait of myself in a moment where I am not concerned if I am beautiful or not.  In these photos I see myself starting to slowly unclench, finger by finger, letting go of the bullshit I’ve held onto for so long.  I see myself not giving a fuck if I’ll ever be a leading lady or not.  I see myself existing just for myself.  And for once, I see myself as beautiful.


Swimming Alone

I expected it to be quiet at Joe Creek.  I’m here at The Only Animal‘s beautiful artist retreat thanks to Playwrights Theatre Centre, who gave me a week here to work.  It’s a beautiful, bright cottage nestled between forest and ocean.  It’s a perfect place to be creative, and I have the place to myself.

photo 1

But I brought the noise with me.

I came here knowing I would do rewrites on a couple plays already well into their development, scheduled for production and with a host of other people involved.  However I mostly came here to work on a new piece, a quiet little voice that’s been whispering to me.

When I was younger, I was a total romantic.  The list of my favourite movies and plays reads like an index of tragic romance.  I can’t seem to help it.  The thing is, I’m also a brutal pragmatist.  Since romantics aren’t known for their survival skills, I’ve found myself leaning more and more to that side of myself, hearing the violins and proclamations of love fading farther and farther away.  But this little voice insists there’s a story to tell – a love story about everything I know now.

That damn pragmatist is being too loud.  Every time I start to write, I hear a barrage of is it produceable?  Is that trite?  Don’t you think that’s a bit derivative?  And so I frequently storm out of the cottage into the outdoors, looking for quiet.  There’s a beautiful forest right on the property – due to my almost compulsive refusal to do things the way I’m supposed to, I immediately forget the paths that Kendra showed me, crashing through the forest, carefully leaping over saplings and ferns.  How can I start without structure, what’s the action of this scene, what’s the thematic- SHUT UP SHUT UP and the forest loses this time.  I take a few gulps of air and I head back.

Either I know nothing about how to write a play, or the things that I do know are making it impossible.  My heart and my brain are at war.  So I pack my bag and run down to the beach.  I want to swim in the ocean.  I want it.  My heart wants it.  But the beaches here are rocky and hard to walk, the water thick with seaweed.  Beautiful to look at and so hard to tackle.  I remember the warnings in the artist’s handbook.  I remember the repeated warnings of my mom and boyfriend to be careful.  I’m on a mission though.  When I get to the beach I looked, awed, at the shimmering blue of the water, the immaculate clear sky.  I drop my bag, pull off my shoes. My feet sizzle on the rocks so I keep moving.

I hit the water and wow, it’s cold.  This seemed like a nice idea but the pragmatist guarantees it will not end well.  I push on.  I can no longer see my feet and they slip on seaweed then catch on sharp barnacles – I fall and slice my hand on something sharp below the surface.  It looks nasty and deep but while it’s bleeding hard it doesn’t hurt much and is clearly not fatal.  On I go – how, I saw some teenagers swimming here yesterday, how did they do that?  Are they born with callused feet or what?  Quietly, I hear so get off your feet.  Right.  I launch into a doggy paddle, just deep enough not to kick the bottom.  My breasts immediately fall out of my fashionable but inefficient bikini dammit dammit dammit but I realize there’s no need to be mortified because there’s no one around to see.  And despite there being no one around, I am not suddenly pulled under by some invisible current, not dragged below by a patch of seaweed.  I am awkwardly flopping along the water but I am still alive.  Please, please, I beg.  Don’t make me feel stupid for wanting this.  Let me have this.  And then years of community centre swim lessons come back to me and I roll onto my back, a starfish on the surface of the water.  The ocean’s invisible hands buoy me up and I am floating, the sun winking above.  Now it’s still, and the only sounds are the water lapping against my ears and my breathing slowing down.

Every act is an act of courage.  You need your heart to push you on and  your brain to keep you safe.  One without the other, and you’ll drown for sure.  I did it. There it is, the quiet.

I can hear it now.  My story.

photo 4

Thank You for Coming

For the first time in 5 years, I’m not working at a theatre box office.  Before I started university, I decided I’d rather my day job be in the theatre – in any capacity – rather than not related to the arts at all. Eventually, I ended up working for 3 different box offices.  I feel like I’ve sold thousands of tickets – and I probably have.  For the first time since getting that job five years ago, my artistic pursuits now take up my entire schedule.  I’ve said goodbye to the box office.  It’s extremely exciting, a little bit scary, and most surprisingly, it’s a little sad.

Because for as much as I have been driven insane with typical customer service absurdity (there’s a tumblr for it) I have also had the pleasure of meeting countless wonderful people and been privy to some pretty special stories about how the theatre has touched people’s lives.  There are too many to tell of.  The awkward first dates.  The middle-aged man who decided to perform the balcony scene to me from my box office window at Bard in front of his mortified family (obviously I joined in).  The group of old friends – now elderly – who come to the theatre together each month, even as their numbers dwindle as the years go by.  These are the people that fill the seats of our theatres, and they are in so many ways the heartbeat of a professional theatre.

I’ve learned a lot about theatre audiences over the last five years, and I want to write down a few things so that I never forget them.


Honestly, there’s nothing I hate more than hearing artists or administrators express contempt for their audiences and their taste.  Yes – I absolutely agree that as artists, we have a responsibility to uphold the standards of the work in our community, and to always be improving and exploring our practice.  And we can do just that by executing populist programming with the same care and rigor with which we approach all other work.  But how dare we say that audiences enjoy shows we deem ‘unworthy’ because they don’t know any better?  Ridiculous.  Theatre audiences have TV, they have Netflix, they have a billion movies to see.  They have plenty of choices.  But they put the money down and come to certain shows because they like them.  And they come back because they want to share the experience again.  And if it’s crap?  They will not return.  I would love to stop dismissing these audiences and shows, and rather see them as the beginning of a love affair between patron and theatre.  Maybe it took a blockbuster show to get them in the door, but if we treat them well, invite them back with care and consideration – they just might come to your Butoh-inspired post-modern Hamlet with lots of projections you want them to see.


There’s a special place in my heart for the patrons who overcome significant physical, circumstantial or financial difficulty to come to the theatre.  There are a lot of them, and our work means more to them than I think we understand.  And sometimes I wonder about how these are the folks who tend to end up with the worst seats, with the bumpiest audience experience.  Accessibility is an essential word – what is the experience like for someone with mobility issues?  Someone with vision or hearing impairment?  Every person’s budget for entertainment is different, but why should someone for whom a theatre ticket is 50% of their monthly budget have a different experience than someone for whom it’s 10%?  These are tricky questions, and I think our audience services practices in Vancouver have moved closer to tackling this in some ways, and much farther away in others.

Regardless, spending endless hours on the phone with patrons has revealed to me the stakes involved in coming to see a show.  Buying a ticket has more than monetary value – it’s what someone has chosen to do with their one evening off, what they choose to show their aunt from out-of-town, the special treat they’ve given a spouse or child.  There is value there far beyond what they paid for their ticket.  And sure, for us sometimes it’s just another night of work, another show in and out, another house count.  But for most patrons it’s the highlight of their week or month and a highly anticipated event.  How can we support that value in the way we treat our patrons before and after the show?


My wish is that everyone reading this says the word “target audience” three times out loud and then never again.  STOP saying that you are targeting an audience.  It sounds like you are going to shoot them, and I honestly believe the thinking behind it is as mean as its imagery.  Non-profit theatre is desperate to “engage” audiences, and to find those eagerly sought-after demographics.  To rip them from their homes and strap them to a theatre seat, shouting “THIS IS FOR YOU!  DO YOU LIKE IT?!”  Kay, that might be a bit dramatic, but that’s what it feels like sometimes.  But I will say this – to me, art is all about embracing both the oneness and diversity of the human experience.  Every story is a unique snapshot of a critical moment in time – and guess what?  So are our real lives.  When you create and market a show assuming or hoping that all “middle class women between 45-65” (or my favorite cryptic demographic, “young people”) will enjoy it, the work is likely to be as generic and non-specific as the people you’re targeting.

The people sitting in the house each night have lived.  They’ve met people, loved them, married them, lost them, buried them or are sitting next to them.  They’ve traveled, made mistakes, made families, had killer careers or did drugs in a basement suite for 3 years before moving to Montreal.  Stop assuming that their age, gender or income is going to tell you what kind of show they’re going to like.  An example – when selling tickets to a highly lauded new American play, we warned audiences (as of course, I believe we should) about the content and language.  The assumption was that the older people would be turned off by that.  The number one response I got from elderly ticket buyers?  “Sweetheart, I’ve heard it all.”

The plays people love the most are fiercely original, bravely vulnerable and honest to the last word.  It doesn’t matter what the show is – I’ve seen hot sell-out shows that were musicals, puppet shows, character dramas or solo shows.  Those shows have nothing in common except the ferocity of the work on stage, something no ‘targeted’ marketing can create.  And nothing touches me more than to have patrons see a show, and call back the next day to buy more tickets because they must share the experience with the people they love.  That is how the job is supposed to be done.  We tell stories of critical importance that make those watching feel known, that bring us together.  That’s the gig, guys.


It’s not as if we are not all always trying to be better at bringing in audiences.  But if anything, writing this out is a way to purge my many long-held beliefs about audience services before I bid it adieu.  But I can’t do something for 5 years without learning from it and wanting to share those things.  So in brief, some thoughts:

ARTISTS – I honestly believe that every theatre practitioner should work with audiences (Front of House or Box Office) as much as they can, especially early in their careers.  You will learn things about our work that you’d never think of on your own.  It will change your perception of the value of theatre, and it will change the rigour with which you tend to your craft.  And when you go back to work, don’t forget the people putting on the show on the other side of the curtain – y’all have a lot in common.

LEADERS – EDs, ADs, GMs, APs or whatever you are calling yourself – if you run a theatre, take one day during every run to get out of the office and come to your theatre instead.  Come early.  Watch who shows up first.  Where do they sit while they wait?  Who is taking care of them?  Talk to them.  Find out why they come to your theatre.  Watch the front door.  Can people with mobility issues easily access your facility?  Do your staff have the resources they need to help them?  How does the lobby feel?  Can you hear people complaining about your ticket prices?  Can they take drinks into the theatre?  Do your staff have the resources they need to make things go well?  Talk to the people who are there alone.  Talk to the people who never miss a show.  They will tell you a lot.  Treat your front-line staff well, make sure they don’t burn out, and LISTEN to them.  The people who talk to your patrons every single day can tell you a lot about programming and marketing.

BO/FOH/BAR – Stay patient, stay nice, and stay fun.  Sometimes putting shows in feels like hosting a party every night.  Sometimes it feels like a war zone.  Fight for the resources you need to do your job properly, and speak up if you feel your company is treating its patrons badly with policy or practice. And never, never stop sneaking snacks into the box office.

AUDIENCES – Keep coming to the theatre.  Bring a friend.  Buy a ticket, come with an open mind.  Talk about it after, and tell the theatre what you like or don’t care for.  Write down your order number and for God’s sake, show up on time, okay?

And thank you, thank you for coming.

Death of a Genius

Philip Seymour Hoffman died yesterday.  An overdose.  He was, without a doubt, a brilliant artist whose work touched many.  He was also a father of three children.  He was also living with addiction.

As someone who loves a person who lives with addiction, I never know how to feel about these stories.  When a high profile addict dies, they are eulogized a million times over.  While all of them are heartfelt, none of them feel right to me.  The impulse, being the thoughtful beings we are, is to make sense of the senseless.  To assign some kind of order, to find an answer to why these brilliant young people leave us so soon and so suddenly.  To answer the unanswerable.

When I read some of the angriest and least compassionate responses, I wonder if those are the words of the ignorant, or the overly knowing.  Anger is inevitable in the proximity of someone who eats themselves alive.   I know that anger well.  But the words in those tirades use the language of stigma, the stigma that erodes the public support desperately needed to rescue these people from chemical cannibalism.  I also wonder about the responses that somehow connect his addiction with his artistic practice.  Romanticizing addiction in the context of the “tortured artist” elevates the tragedy to something other than what it is – a man who died.  Like the many people who die anonymously, leaving behind no brilliant body of work.  And what of those who walk through the fire and recover?

The loss is, of course, inconceivable.  The work he will never do.  The family he leaves behind.  But when you love someone with addiction, you don’t lose them all at once. You’re forever chasing them in and out of the void, dragging them back and forth across the threshold of forgiveness.  You lose them piece by piece, always hoping one day they will return to you whole again.  But now, it’s final.  His children will bear the weight of his lost genius, rather than bearing the weight of his arm helping him up the stairs at the old age he should have left them at.  They will bear the weight of knowing that their father had a certain amount of agency in his own death.

I only read one thing yesterday that really made sense to me.  Someone said “I wish he could have read all this before his final moments.”  I do, too.  I wish every person who struggles with addiction could hear the roar of the universe every time they pick up a needle, a bottle, a pill – a war cry against destruction; a cry of hope.  The roar that beckons them to step away from the void and to grace the earth with their personal genius for another day.  The love of another person desperately trying to claim them back from darkness.  That they might find the strength to struggle just a bit longer.  But maybe they do hear it, and certainly we do say it.  But sometimes it isn’t enough.  Instead, we are left with nothing.  Not a “selfish” person who chose to self-immolate at the hands of their vice.  Not a tortured soul whose sensitivities made the world too much to bear.  Just a person who died.  A bit of genius that will now be unknown to the world.  A million eulogies will soon follow him into the void; when we find at last that there is nothing left to say, the rest is silence.

#CdnCult Times

Some supremely cool folks (Praxis Theatre’s Michael Wheeler, the NAC’s Sarah Garton Stanley, and Neworld’s own Adrienne Wong) have started up a lovely little corner of the web called the SpiderWebShow.  As they describe it:  “A theatrical space where Canada, the Internet and performance minds intersect.”  Basically, they’re the coolest kids in school.  They kindly asked me to contribute an article for their webzine #CdnCult Times.  The week’s theme was Barriers, and I’ve written about the struggle to balance career and craft as an early-career artist.  I’ve been quite touched by how many people have shared the article – the hardships of being an artist can sometimes be really isolating, even when many of your friends are in the “biz”.  I’m glad to know so many others out there feel the same way.  You can read it HERE.

Perfect Harmony

I talk about it often, but (to me) it’s never enough.  I love my colleagues, and there’s a super special place in my heart for the artists I do STATIONARY with.  And not only because they happen to be most of my closest friends.  One special thing we share is music – we are the orchestra and ensemble of STATIONARY and have spent a lot of time playing together.  However, this summer some of my favorite musical moments happened offstage.  So here are two videos – one of us making some sweet music on the BC Ferry on our way to the Gabriola Theatre Festival, and one of us rocking out at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival.  Thanks, amigos.

Under Your Skin

Today for the first time I got soaked to the skin.

This morning I rode my bike to work, drinking in the sun and carefree in canvas sneakers, an airy skirt and a light sweater. I am scared of riding my bike. I clench my hands hard on the handles, eyes darting left to right, ears listening for angry drivers revving their engines behind my slowly turning feet. I looked out the box office window all day, walked about in the sun for a pathetic 10 minutes. Rode hard and fast after work to some important meeting for one of those important things that I seem to do all the time. The minute we adjourned the meeting the first specks of rain mottled the windshields of parked cars. Then the rain came harder, faster, making the bell on my handlebars sing. The moment I swung my leg over my bike a flash of lightning lit up the pavement. By the time I was on my way I was in the midst of one of those monsoons, those rebellious moments of weather where we are reminded we live in a rainforest.

I squinted and grumbled as I pedaled. I have been raised like a little porcelain egg, packaged and protected. Keep between 15 and 25 degrees celsius. Fragile. Keep away from water. But when you are cycling home in a rainstorm, you have no choice but to get wet. It soaked through my skirt first, splashing up onto my frozen thighs. Then my shoes went, first one, then the other, shoe then sock down to my soggy toes. My light grey sweater turned black and then plastered to my skin, just like my skirt. I felt almost naked. The rain hurt at first, like pins and needles. Soon my skin was numb and I felt warm all over, warm from within, somehow. More lightning. More thunder, just seconds apart from one another. I blazed through stop signs and flew down hills. My brakes barely work on a good day but on wet pavement they were simply an afterthought. I should have been smashed to pieces by a truck, skidded sideways on sharp turns, but I didn’t. I simply glided, uninterrupted through intersections and negotiated turns like I was one with the bike. I intentionally hit the puddles and leaped the curbs.

I would have screamed out loud to the cozy Kitsilano streets if I could take a breath that didn’t burn. I would have thrown my arms in the air if I could pry my frozen fingers from the handlebars. So I didn’t. I just splashed through the soggy streets with a smile stuck on my face, laughing at the people running from car to front door, dodging fat raindrops that bounced off the pavement. Today something happened that I’ve carefully prevented all my life because it happened to me. I got soaked to the skin. And I let it happen because when you do that, the rain can’t get you wet. It’s under your skin.


 recycled from a diary entry in 2010, cause sometimes you write it right the first time.  I also now have a bike with proper brakes, don’t worry.

Goodbye, Walter

Christmas Walter

This is a picture of Walter’s first Christmas with my family (yes, that’s my 5-year-old handwriting at the bottom).  We got his picture taken at the SPCA where we had adopted him earlier that year, a bouncy, loud but beloved mystery mutt.  This Christmas turned out to be his last one with us, and today we said goodbye.  Walter lived an incredible 20 years.

Sometimes it’s really hard for people to understand what it means to lose a pet.  We live in a society where animals are treated as commodities, exploited and neglected.  But anyone who has loved an animal knows their heart, their humor, and their undeniable ability to shape your family.  Walter was there from the time I was a little girl, long before I knew I wanted to be an actor, before I met any of the people who are my friends today.  He saw my family through 3 homes, me through 4 schools.  He was there when we left our home suddenly in the middle of the night when our house caught fire.  He was there when I cried for days over my first breakup.  He’s the reason why our backyard fence is 8 feet tall (in his day, he could jump high enough to look over the fence and bark at the trash collectors).  He’s the last of our motley crew of pets that we got on purpose – my mom said it was love at first sight when she saw him in the shelter, our mystery mutt.  Even a DNA test last Christmas failed to solve the mystery of what possible dog heritage could make a dog with black, wiry hair a curly tail, and those crooked ears.  Proud of our newest family member, we took him to get his photo taken with Santa.  Tonight, these photos sit on an empty bed.

I find comfort in the symmetry of celebration and sadness.  There aren’t always ways of making sense of how time passes, things come and go in our lives.  The life I had when Walter came into my family is so different from the life I have now.  So much joy, so much sadness passed since then.  Watching my mom care tirelessly for him in his old age.  Remembering his too-loud bark, his mysterious tail, remembering his other four-legged friends who left us first.  It hurts in all the beauty of remembering days gone by, of love that lasts.  What do you say when it’s time to part with one who gave you years of love, who was a part of almost two decades of your life?

Thank you, thank you.

I love you, I love you.


The Quiet Place

People say a lot of things about life in “show business”.  There’s the romantic, vaudeville-throwback imagery; the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd.  There’s the coked-up Hollywood version, all flashbulbs and magazine covers.  Then there’s the self-aware, self-deprecating cracks: “I’m a classically trained server.”  Each contains a grain of truth but nothing close to the vivid, awful, invigorating reality.  In the last few weeks I’ve been really wondering what the hell I’ve gotten myself into.

The show opens tonight.  In terms of theatrical gestations, it’s been a short one.  We wrote the seed of this show 1 year and 2 months ago.  We wrote the script and music over the last 6 months.  We rehearsed over the last 6 weeks.  We teched just 48 hours ago.  And it will be all over in 10 days.  But in a grander sense, I don’t think any performance is ever just the sum of those little increments of time. Each aspect represents the grand total of a life in the theatre, years of training, years of living and breathing and creating.

The show has been the center of my personal little universe.  As the playwright, I spent weeks pondering, writing, stopping and starting (for much of it with one broken hand) and stressing.  As an actor I spent time decoding what I wrote and lifting it into playable actions.  As producer it filled my inbox and voicemail daily.  As publicist it’s all I’ve talked about.  I rang up my credit card and phone bill, didn’t sleep or eat much.  My boyfriend and my roommate are both in the show.  My best friends are the composer and director.  There was no escape from it.  We are young, own no property, are still the children of our families instead of having children of our own.  We can afford to be single-minded and dedicated wholly to our art. We throw ourselves in all the way because nothing else seems quite as important.

And then sometimes you step outside, feel the sun on your face and the pavement under your shoes and come to the phenomenal realization that something so consuming, so special and with so strong a pull that it can turn your whole world around has absolutely no effect on the people you see walking next to you on the sidewalk.  And that, not to put too fine a point on it, is fucked up.  I haven’t been able to eat a full meal or sleep through the night for weeks, but here are people riding bikes, eating brunch with their kids, driving cars.  Walking around.  Breathing.  Umm, you guys?  Did you know my show opens tonight?

That is the ecstasy and pain of passion.  That something can be everything and nothing all at once.  And my guess is anyone who has found their way to these words here ‘gets it’.  You get that the passion of creation is worth any amount of nausea and insomnia.  That the all-consuming drive to dedicate oneself wholly to a show is essential to fulfilling its infinite (and yet completely intangible) potential.  And you can probably understand why after months of hard work, knowing that some of the most influential people in our community and the media will be watching the fruits of our labors unfold on stage tonight, I (and I think all of us involved in the show) are feeling a little out of our minds right now.  I feel grateful to have a passion that can leave room for little else, but at the same time it all feels insurmountable, too big to handle.

This is just the beginning.  And if I’m going to survive this stage of my life in the theatre, I need to find the quiet place.  Somewhere where I’m free of the anxiety and perfectionism, the high stakes and the squeezy feeling in my chest.  I think I’ve found it.  It feels like sitting in the house before the audience comes in.  It feels like a comfortable silence with the person who knows you best.  Like early mornings when the world is quiet.  It’s a place that remembers that the center of your universe simply spins you around within the greater rush of time and life – that without sunlight and pavement and friends and family and life, there would be no stories to tell or music to write.  And in that quiet, at last, I am ready to begin.

Writing for the Blank Generation

When I was 17 and in my final year of high school, I saw something written on the wall of the bathroom that stayed with me.  “I belong to the blank generation”.  A quick google search revealed it was a snippet of lyrics from a Richard Hell song, which begins “I was sayin’ let me out of here before I was even born”.  Though the “blank generation” referred to a specific breed of angry punk-rockers, at the time I felt it had an awful lot of resonance with my own.  At the time I was bussing across town from East Van to a West Side public high school, and as we approached graduation the message was clear: You’d better go to school, and you’d better start planning your career.  And if you don’t know what to do, you’d better figure it out soon if you don’t want to end up flipping burgers.

5 years later, my “blank generation” is flipping burgers with one hand and finishing degrees with the other.  And it’s not looking like it’s going to get better any time soon.  For them, that “blank” spot might be in their savings account, their employment prospects or their property ownership.  Young adults are leaving their twenties still crippled by student loan debt and paralysed by a job market left scarce by the recession, and the dream of owning a home is more of a punchline then a plan.  Something went wrong.  Post-Secondary Education had been touted as the only way to make a career worth having – except that in reality, a bachelor’s degree can’t get you a job that can help you pay for it.  I’ve been talking to friends, co-workers, reading messages from twitter and Facebook, comments on articles and I’m hearing the message loud and clear.  Things aren’t looking good.

Right now I’m writing a show called STATIONARY: a recession-era musical.  I didn’t set out to write a political show.  But in writing a story about people my own age, I didn’t see any other way to do it.  I don’t know what other story to tell than someone battling against huge obstacles in pursuit of the life they dream of (and I don’t think any other writer ever did).  Those obstacles have looked different in generations, in centuries gone by, but at this moments, they look a lot like the battle between following “the plan” and paying the bills.  The “Plan” would be checking off those boxes that have been laid out as the “5 Milestones of Adulthood”: Completing Education, Leaving the Family Home, Becoming Financially Independent, Marriage, and Parenthood.  According to an article in, in 1960 “77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had passed all five milestones by the age of 30. By 2000, fewer than 50 percent of the women and 33 percent of the men had done so”.  Does this sound like anyone you know?

In trying to put the plight of my peers on stage I’m constantly catching myself listening the comments section in my brain (never a good idea).  To look at it one way, we are a generation whose elders failed to protect us from skyrocketing tuition rates and have consistently taken political action that ensures a living wage is far out of reach.  On the other, we’re labeled as entitled whiners who supposedly expect success without having to work for it.  I can see both sides in a theoretical sense, but here’s the thing – I know lots of young people, non-artists included who work hard and have almost nothing to show for it.  To succeed in today’s job market, candidates are supposed to be highly experienced, have tons of extra skills acquired outside of school, be bright, energetic, charismatic, persistent – so what about those who lack any one of these qualities?  Too bad for them?  Then what?  I don’t have the answer to that.

Life happens.  We get caught along the way by our family situations, our environments, or ourselves.  So I’m writing a story about 6 young people that one way or another have found themselves stuck.  Stationary, if you will (if you didn’t get the pun before, now I’ve laid it right out for you, just in case I’m not as witty as I’d hoped).  Aren’t we all deserving of happiness?  I sure think so.  And I hope these folks make it there, even with the considerable odds stacked against them.  It’s been a struggle to process what I want to say and bring it to life in story form, and I would love to hear your comments about what you think those struggles are.  And you can judge for yourself if I am successful in doing just that when STATIONARY: a recession-era musical goes up at the Cultch with the Neanderthal Festival in July.  For now, some reading material:

Two Articles by Rob Carrick from the Globe and Mail:

“What Is It About Twenty-Somethings?”  From the New York Times:

LEAP Playwrighting Intensive for Youth Writers Reading Series

Through the month of March, I’ll have the great pleasure in taking part in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s LEAP Playwrighting Intensive, facilitated by the amazing Shawn Macdonald.  Through LEAP (Learning Early About Playwrighting), 3 groups of high school and early post-secondary students have the opportunity to workshop their original plays under Shawn’s guidance, culminating in a public reading on an Arts Club stage with a cast of professional actors.  I am very excited to be joining Bob Frazer, Dawn Petten, Aslam Husain, Dmitry Chepovetsky and Meghan Gardiner for the reading series.

The Level 1 Reading took place on March 4th

At this stage in LEAP, each student gets a chance to have their script read and to receive feedback from the acting company, Shawn, and Shawn’s fabulous assistant Stacey Sherlock.  They have the opportunity to do one last edit based on that feedback before the public reading, where their works are presented in a staged reading.  It’s been an absolute joy so far – the young writers are extraordinary thinkers and passionate artists, and it’s inspiring to be around such talent!  With one reading down, we’ve covered the beginning of time, holographic  human beings, a cafe in a desert and much more.  The next two readings promise more excellence – the Level Two reading on March 11 features excerpts from 5 excellent one-acts, and the Level Three on March 25 will see us read a full-length play titled The Hunger Room, written by my dear friend Scott Button.  These readings are absolutely FREE and there is food after.  What could be better?  I urge you to come out and support these amazing budding writers – I promise an inspiring and entertaining night at the theatre!

The LEAP Playwriting Intensive for Young Writers Reading Series
Sunday, March 11 and Sunday, March 25
7 pm at the Revue Stage