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.
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
I’m learning already that a great deal of an aspiring professional actor’s time is spent waiting. Waiting to get an audition time, waiting to hear about callbacks, or casting. Lots, and lots of waiting. I’m of two minds about this. Generally I have been good at the old “set it and forget it” mentality – the audition or submission is done and out of your hands, and no amount of energy you spend worrying about it will change the outcome, which is already in motion. However, that was a lot easier to say inside of the cozy womb of theatre school, during which time one is always somehow ‘busy’. Remove constant stimulus and long hours spent in sweatpants, and one might find themselves with a little more time on ones hands. More time to obsess, catastrophize, or build up hopes that may or may not be dashed. And so, dear readers, I put forth a list of things that I and my fellow novice actors have done to fill the void, and to avoid circular logic and entirely wearing out one’s roommate with constant speculation on the state of one’s artistic career.
I’ve developed this ‘theory’ regarding auditions – when faced with the stress of the audition room, the body tends to react from a place of animal fear, the place that tells you that you are being chased or hunted, and are in imminent danger of being eaten. If I were to, say, eat some sort of fatty food after every audition, could I rewire those neurons to see auditions as the precursor to a tasty snack? Would those animal fears give way to delicious anticipation?
Okay, no. I really just got into the habit of eating my feelings after stressful auditions. I learned how to make s’mores using a broiler. The other day after reading my email I ‘couldn’t relax’ until I ate mexifries. This is mental conditioning in the worst form…
Get a Haircut
During our 3 years of guidance and repeated requests from our instructors to ‘get your hair out of your face’, the ladies of BFA Acting 2011 at UBC obediently trimmed, clipped, pinned and hairsprayed our locks into submission. The minute we graduated, we all went out and got bangs. Eyeball-poking, eyebrow-grazing, face-obscuring bangs. Sorry, Stephen.
One of my favorite parts of post-school life is all of the non-theatre related reading I’ve gotten to do. Right now I am reading The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (just a good old, dystopian beach read). I am currently spreading the gospel of Goodreads, which I describe as Facebook for books. Join up, add me as a friend, and let’s share our favorite reads! Books are awesome!
Make New Friends
As much as I joke about the anxiety of post-school life, it has been immensely comforting to be welcomed into the vibrant and friendly community of young actors that work in this city. I met so many fantastic folks doing Bridge Mix, and continue to be inspired by projects like The Verona Project, bash, and Party This Weekend – young artists going out there and making the kind of work they want to be part of, and gathering on the resources of the independent theatre scene to do it. I can see already how discouraging this business can be, and how easy it would be to develop a chip on ones shoulder, but here is a generation of positive, empowered young artists who do incredible work and have a great time doing it. I’ve met so many wonderful people who I am so excited for and by, and I look forward to spending more time in their company.
This is the generation that doesn’t want to wait for permission to make the kind of theatre they believe in. They remind me that if you want to be an artist, you don’t have to wait. You just have to go.
Tonight is opening night of my lastest project, Bridge Mix! Just a few short weeks ago I received an email from the amazing Chelsea Haberlin from Itsazoo Productions inviting my company Delinquent Theatre to be part of Bridge Mix, an interactive site specific evening of theatre presented by Itsazoo and Enlightenment Theatre. I had heard amazing things about last year’s Bridge Mix and was eager to get started on something creative right out of school, so I jumped on the opportunity.
My dear colleague Mishelle Cuttler and I, with help from cast members Ira Cooper, Brian Cochrane, Alexander Keurvorst, Britt MacLeod and Meaghan Chenosky created a 10 minute musical titled Parked: An Indie Rock Musical with Novelty Instruments as our contribution. Delinquent Theatre is one of 9 indie theatre companies with an entry in Bridge Mix, and they are all fantastic! I hope you will consider coming out. For more details, head over to Delinquent Theatre’s website. It’s been a blast, and I’d love to see you there!
My name is Christine Quintana and we may have already met but I am terrified to assume you know who I am already or remember me from the one or two times we’ve spoken but then on the other hand I might end up looking like an idiot introducing myself again, but here it is, my name! on this letter! whether we’ve met or not I’m just going to provide my name, dammit, and I am a recent graduate of the UBC BFA Acting Program, and I really really want an audition am so in love with this script that I can’t stop thinking about it will do your dishes for a month just to get in the room and audition for you am worried I will never get to meet you am a really nice person! really! would very much like to be considered for an audition for your upcoming production, (Fabulous Show that I’ve Loved for Years). I am especially interested in any role at all, really! I love ensemble and would never turn my nose up at anything you’d like to offer me! I’ll even accept the role of box office attendant! If I’m not already working in your box office anyway, ha-ha! HA! just kidding I am an actor and I’m on the market, fresh and shiny and ready to be an artist in any role you are willing to cast me in the role of (Ingenue or Troubled Teen).
Thank you very much for your consideration and I totally understand if I never hear from you, I mean I’m sure it’s hard to choose who to see among the hundreds of talented young women in this city and I can totally see how you might be full and not able to fit me in, but maybe I’ll meekly try to crash your auditions if I don’t get a slot but actually end up sitting outside the building working up the courage to approach the audition monitor and then going home after an hour of deliberation but maybe you’ll have time for me and that would be great! and I look forward to hearing from you.
Enclosed is my headshot and resume and I wondered if I should give you my smiley ingenue headshot or the somewhat more seductive ones because I look like I’m 17 in the one I sent you and I can look older, really, if that’s what you want but of course I don’t know what you want so I just sent this one but if you need me to look older I can totally wear eyeliner or something just tell me what to do but here’s a picture of me looking hopeful and youthful in the meantime.
PS. I am just new at all this and I hope this cover letter is okay – should I have given more details? Less? Do I sound needy or presumptuous? I proofread it like 50 times, I swear, and if there’s any typos or incorrect information I will die of shame so I hope it’s all good and does anyone even read cover letters? I am fresh out of school and just doing my best and I hope my cover letter conveys my youthful enthusiasm because I really do love your company and the work you do and would love to be part of it and how do I possibly express that in a cover letter? I am going to now dump this into a mailbox like it’s on fire and then try to forget about everything I’ve just painstakingly written but please know that all this anxiety just comes from wanting to be a part of your show! I am totally normal, professional and well-adjusted, I promise!
In the first term of our first year of the BFA Acting Program at UBC, our teacher Stephen Heatley made us do an exercise. We sat along the wall of the studio, and one by one we were to walk in the door, stop in the middle of the room, spread our arms out, say our name with confidence and clarity, and walk out. Easy, right? Not exactly. We were at the beginning of our training, many of my classmates had just moved to Vancouver or moved out for the first time, and we were scared. Really scared. As we went up one by one, our movements told the story of our defence mechanisms. Some people used comedy, taking up a funny walk, a smirk to cover up the nervousness. Some people seemed aggressive, daring you to question them. Some people shook, looking at the floor, mumbling their name. Me? I ended up in hysterics (first laughing, then crying) and Stephen had to literally hold my hand to get me in the door and across the room. How is it that people who want to make a living performing in front of hundreds of people couldn’t simply introduce themselves in front of a dozen of their peers?
The lesson for the day was “You Are Enough” – one of Stephen’s famous ‘samplers’ for the first year BFA Actors. The idea behind the exercise was to trust ourselves to be enough – no need for showboating, for nerves, or for an attack – just to walk in, breathe, say your name and leave and trust that simply being everything you are, just as you are, is enough. That day revealed to everyone their ways of protecting themselves from revealing that truth, and started us on the road to uncovering the root of that deep-seated feeling we all have – that we are somehow inadequate. In our chosen profession, we are forced to confront these feelings virtually on a daily basis, and finding security in oneself is vital to producing vulnerable, truthful work. In the three years since we did that exercise all of us, as actors and just as twenty-somethings, have come a long way to sorting out that puzzle, to saying our names with confidence and bringing that sense of self to our work. “You Are Enough” has become a favorite phrase in our group – sometimes as a punchline when someone does something dumb (“Aww, don’t worry, you are enough”) or as a frantic mantra when facing a stressful situation. That nerve-wracking day in the studio feels far, far away now, and the lesson just a memory.
But now, facing the ‘real world’, I am suddenly keenly aware of its value. I’ve been looking at the amazing season announcements and seeing the parts I dream of playing, and thinking “why would they ever choose me?” It’s a terrifying prospect, knowing you are a little, nervous fish in a big pond now. It’s time to start pursuing those dream gigs, and I just spent a few hours preparing my submissions, packing glossy photos of me looking oh-so-happy and chipper into envelopes, imagining them lost in a stack of hundreds of photos of happy-looking people all hoping for the same thing as me. The only thing I can do is hang on to that lesson from first year – I am enough. There are many talented actors out there, but I remind myself that I am unique in my experiences, my point of view, my humor and my life. And that’s just the thing – whether you have more experience or less, look the part or not, none of us have an equal in our ability to tell a story. Whether you’re up against stiff competition, whether you get the part or not, whether the doors open up for you or slam in your face, you must know deep down that you are enough. Somehow, as an artist, you must believe that your voice is worth hearing. As my class prepares to join the ‘real world’, I feel like we’re all back to being those shaky kids in the studio again. I’m grateful though, to have a mantra to keep in my heart as we walk out and introduce ourselves. Thank you, Stephen.
Tonight is the closing night of Wild Honey, and for the final years in the cast, it’s our last performance as part of the UBC Theatre season. That’s it – next season has been announced, but we will be there only as loving audience members. This is our last time to be on stage together as classmates. I’m not going to pretend I’m not emotional – I was welling up last night at curtain call thinking about tonight’s final performance. Wild Honey has been a truly wonderful time – we’ve had warm, receptive houses and a great time on and off stage as a company. We have a fantastic cast and a truly kickass crew, led by Brian Cochrane and stage manager Emily Griffiths who have kept things lighthearted and efficient. It’s a wonderful show to end our time at UBC with, and it’s with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to the sexy, wistful Wild Honey.
The Frederic Wood was the site of our callbacks for our admission into the acting program, our first studio show (The Dining Room), our first mainstage show, directed by Nicola Cavendish (The Laramie Project) and now our last mainstage performance. This venue holds a lot of memories for us, and for the decades of students who came before us, too. There’s a white wall on the stage left side that every graduate signs – it’s an amazing thing to see. Among the hundreds of signatures I recognize dozens of names, many of whom have gone on to be artists of national significance, and certainly names of people who have inspired me personally. Every night as I stand backstage awaiting my entrance, I take a look at that wall knowing I’ll be signing it in just two weeks. Tonight marks the end of our time on the Frederic Wood Stage, but with any luck, it’s only the beginning for us.
After a fun and playful rehearsal period, a blissfully easy tech and a great preview run, Wild Honey opened last night. Wild Honey is a Chekhovian farce – the play is Michael Frayne’s adaptation of a Chekhov manuscript discovered from his earliest works. Originally Wild Honey was six hours in length, a sprawling epic with too many characters and stories. Frayne took the meat of it and trimmed it down to a funny and poignant farce. Rehearsing this show and then opening it up to an audience has probably presented the greatest change I’ve ever experienced on a show from dress to preview. In true Chekhov style, the stakes are high, the drama is tense, and characters spout lines like “is this ruin, or is this happiness?” And then Frayne takes over – doors slam, identities are mistaken, and the show runs at breakneck speed! Now with an audience, the moment when they’re laughing the hardest is usually the moment when someone’s life just got ruined. It takes a lot of focus and control to negotiate emotional honesty and comic timing all at once, but our company is more than up to it. I’m so proud of my castmates, and I know it’s gonna be a great run.
Did I mention we love our director, Brian Cochrane? Here’s an outtake from our photo shoot with Tim Matheson.
So, are you sold yet? Please come see Wild Honey! Tickets and details can be found here.
As I write this I am scurrying around my kitchen packing my bag for tech weekend for Wild Honey – it’s been a fun few weeks of rehearsal, and now we put all the pieces together to see what we’ve got. We had our photo shoot with Tim Matheson this week, as you can see by the fabulous photo to the right, we’ve seen the brilliant set by Amanda Larder coming together in the Freddy, and now it’s time to tech, dress, preview and off we go! I’ll be updating this page throughout the day (10AM-10PM baby!) so check back to see what the Wild Honey cast and crew are up to. Here goes!
11:14 AM: First thing up was the safety talk: our Stage Manager extraordinaire Emily
Griffiths told us what not to walk on, fall off of, break, or play with. ASM Hayley Peterson
brought us a buffet of snacks so the green room is full of chocolate, candy, chips, bread,
cheese and peanut butter. They may need to let out our costumes after this weekend!
Now we’re running through the scene changes – one includes two moving trucks, all the fly rails, and the entire cast.
12:35 AM: Cue to cue begins! As an actor, this means time to be quiet and stay out of trouble.
Clearly we have our work cut out for us. The girls are pleased because we got the big dressing room
at the Freddy Wood, and we’ve started to set up our makeup stations.
1:39 PM: Many of us have long breaks in the play, and cue to cue makes this even more evident – so we’ve developed a bit of a card game obsession. You can count on seeing us going nuts, yelling and pounding the
table playing Slap-Jack, Speed, Nerts and Solitaire. It keeps us entertained and out of trouble, even if we’re shouting and bruising each other as we do it!
4:35 PM: Still cue-to-cueing. Food is almost gone. Many rounds of cards have been played. I have my slippers on!
6:17 PM: The costumes have arrived in the dressing rooms. I can’t wait for the dress rehearsal tomorrow. I am not on for about an hours worth of stage time which translates to many hours in tech time. More card games for me!
8:11 PM: The boys have rigged up a massive projector screen to play the Canucks game while we wait for our cues. Awesome!
9:31 PM: Cue to cue is almost done – we’re just putting together a complicated special effects sequence. Curious? You’ll have to come see the show to find out. But it’s pretty much badass.
The month of January was a four week long break from shows for me, and I spent most of it looking for something to do. Isn’t that always the way these things go? Knowing that February would be crazy, I chose to relax and enjoy my time off and bemoan my lack of “something to do” instead of getting a head start on all that awaited me. Even though I’m totally swamped now, it was fun to take some down time. And when it rains, it pours…
On January 31st we started rehearsals for our last show at UBC, Michael Frayne’s Wild Honey directed by MFA Candidate Brian Cochrane. We’ve only done table work so far, but already it’s been a blast. Wild Honey is a play adapted from a huge, unfinished manuscript written by Chekhov in his younger days – it has the woeful, emotional transparency of Chekhov but with the pace and wit of a Frayne farce. It’s a brilliant show, and I for one do a lot of ‘weeping’, ‘sobbing’ and ‘fleeing’. It’s so much fun to go to rehearsal every day.
Solo shows are coming up this Friday and Saturday – after blogging about it three weeks ago I completely scrapped the almost-finished show I had written by that time in favor of a new, more challenging piece. I’m doing a sort of bouffon-inspired clown piece that I find extremely scary to perform, which will hopefully pay off – I figure we have so few chances once we emerge from school to try and completely fail, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to either sink or swim… I’ll let you know how it goes!
Finally, my show Our Time opens in just over a week at the Dorothy Somerset Studio. I am so, so excited for people to see my writing and the work that director Brendan Albano, stage manager Hersie-Nina Init, and performer Pippa Mackie (who I’m quite certain will soon take over the world) have done. I sure hope you will come out to see it! Pop over to the Delinquent Theatre website for more information. I will have more to say about Our Time next week, but please do mark your calendars!
Last night I had the pleasure of joining Heidi Taylor of Playwrights Theatre Center and Corbin Murdoch of the Cultch for a reading of the winning plays from last year’s Ignite Youth Week Festival Young Playwrights competition. Corbin meets with a panel of young artists every Monday through the year to put together a weeklong festival of theatre, dance, drag, visual art, music and film – the Ignite Youth Week Festival! Every year the panel holds a Young Playwrights competition and select 3 new scripts, which are produced the follow year as part of Ignite. It’s extremely exciting to be part of Ignite as an audience member or participant – for a week, the Cultch’s beautiful facilities teem with youth artists who put together a stellar week of programming. If you’ve never been to Ignite, I hope you’ll make an effort this year – the vibe is like Hive, Fringe, and PuSh rolled into one and bounding on a sugar high. The energy is invigorating, the work is great, and it’s so inspiring to see kids as young as 13 working their butts off to make this festival sing.
Last year my play Our Time was mounted at the Vancity Culture Lab as part of Ignite – this year I had the chance to help the current batch of young playwrights develop their work. Under the guidance of Heidi and Corbin and the playwright’s mentors Ami Gladstone, Michele Riml and Dave Deveau, we read the three plays for this years festival. I was joined by Pippa Mackie, Sebastien Archibald and Kholby Wardell to read Onomatopoeia by Sigal Samuel, The Living Situation by James Elliot, and Hide and Go Sell by Chris Nyarady who attended the reading all the way from Halifax via Skype! I was so impressed with these fantastic scripts by emerging young playwrights. I love love love play readings and we all had a grand old time reading these funny and very smart new shows. The playwrights will work with their mentors to further develop these scripts having heard them read by actors, and then they’ll turn them over to the directors. If you’re interested in directing or acting in this festival, head on over to the Ignite Mentorship Blog and check out the details – it’s a great opportunity to work in a beautiful venue. I had a blast reading with Sebastien, Pippa and Kholby and can’t wait to see how these shows take shape!
Even though I’ve known about this assignment since before I started the BFA Acting program, I’m still losing sleep over it; Like as in many conservatory-style acting programs, UBC’s final year class is instructed to create and perform a solo show to be presented in the final term. Normally they are presented in April – this year we’ll be performing them in mid-February. No pressure.
I’ve seen so many solo shows over the years and have fallen in and out of love with the form over and over. I remember being absolutely floored by Caroline Cave in The Syringa Tree at the Playhouse. After a few Fringe seasons I swore up and down this year that I would avoid solo shows at all costs, then had my mind absolutely changed by Jeff McMahan of Asylum Theatre in The Boy Who Had a Mother and Chris Craddock in Moving Along. I’ve had the chance to perform in one (Spunk’d by Ella Simon in the Walking Fish Festival) and write one (Our Time at the Ignite Youth Week Festival) but I’ve never done both at once. Scary stuff.
In trying to write my own solo show I am haunted by two beautiful performances that have stayed with me long after I left the theatre. I had the pleasure of seeing Daniel MacIvor perform Cul-de-Sac at the Vancouver East Cultural Center. It was such a tour-de-force performance with rapid-fire conversations between characters, gorgeous synthesis of design and delivery and a compelling story. The audience brought him out for two encores at curtain call and remained in their seats afterwards, totally floored. Years later back at the Cultch I was lucky enough to catch Joey Tremblay’s Elephant Wake. I’ve never been to a show like that before, one that made me laugh out loud as if I were in the company of a good friend and sob like a child in the space of an evening. Tender, funny and extraordinarily beautiful, I left wondering if I’d ever see a show that moving again.
So with these experiences behind me and a 15 minute long self-penned solo show in front of me, I’m wondering what elements of those memorable shows I can find in my own work. Ultimately all the performer has is the audience, and all they have is the performer – there’s no room for indulgence on the part of the performer or lack of clarity in the storytelling. The most successful solo shows I’ve seen had a generous, charismatic performer (like Cave, MacIvor, and Tremblay) reaching out to the audience to share a story worth telling. Which is, ultimately, the name of the game if you’ve got a cast of 100 or just 1. The 15 of us have the task of taking our own story and heading out there alone to tell it (and fill the rather formidable Telus Studio Theatre while we do so).
So I’d like to know: what elements do you think are key to a great solo show? Have you seen a show that made the most of the form and if so, what made it great?
It’s January 4th and I’m deep in the throes of the new years resolution thing. I am somewhat of a goal setter no matter what, but this year I’m in it with a vengeance. There’s a few reasons: Firstly, it’s just natural to feel the need for change after the over indulgence of the holiday season. As well, 2010 was good to me and I’m hoping to keep the ball rolling, strike while the iron is hot, hit the ground running and all of those cliches.
Of course, the main reason for this sudden rush of self-improvement is the fact that I will graduate from theatre school this May. I’ve dreamed of the day “when I graduate from theatre school” since I was 13 years old, with visions of national tours dancing through my head. The reality is a much sweatier, queasier kind of future, but that’s okay. Despite feeling like I might abruptly vomit whenever I remember my time as a student is coming to an end, I’m feeling excited and optimistic. And I feel like blogging about it.
Back when I was a little younger, I used to love all those clichés and romanticized images of the theatre, and one of my favorite phrases was “life upon the wicked stage”. I chose this for the name of my blog because of its other meaning to me: I’m about to enter that wicked stage of life, fresh out of the nurturing womb of theatre school and hoping to make my mark in the big bad ‘real world’. Exciting times and disappointment both await, and while rough at times, I bet it will be wonderful too. So here I am, surviving that wicked stage.