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What I’ve Learned – The First 9 Months

So, I’ve been bad with this  blog.

Like, really bad.  Like not updating since August bad.  But as it turns out, I’ve had a lot of very fun things to do since August, and I’m finally ready to process it all and get back on the blog-wagon.  In a tribute to Stephen Heatley’s famous ‘samplers’ (UBC kids will know what I mean here), here are a few of the valuable lessons I’ve learned in my first 9 months out of theatre school.

GOOD ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH – Vancouver Fringe Festival

I spent a lot of time running around the campus of the Vancouver International Fringe Festival this year, seeing as many shows as possible and flyering my tired butt off for Oh My God with Delinquent Theatre.  I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of artists, both local and visiting, national and international.  I saw a lot of amazing theatre, and a few disappointments.  The common thread between the best shows?  Attention to detail.  Without fail, the shows I enjoyed the most were created by artists who integrated storytelling, design, and atmosphere without sacrificing any quality due to lack of resources, or simply letting something be “good enough”.  From the international Fringe vets to the first-timers and wild Onsite shows, my favorite theatrical creations showed evidence of great care and vigilant creative standards in every aspect of the show. It reminded me to always look at my own work and think – could it be better?  What can I do to keep moving forward?

A CAREER IN THE THEATRE IS NOT LINEAR – Making a Scene Conference

In November I attended the Making A Scene Conference, presented by the GVPTA.  If you have never attended the conference before, I strongly, strongly recommend you do.  The short form explanation of MAS is a gathering of the best minds in the BC theatre scene gathered in a room to discuss, debate, and dissect the state of affairs in our local theatre scene, and what we can do to serve it better.  Check out the 2011 MAS report for some highlights – I left leaving, well… engaged and empowered, which was the title of the event.  One of the many things that have stayed with me was the remark made that “a career in theatre is not linear”.  This struck a chord with me and continues to do so.  Looking back on my time out of school so far, I can clearly see that every dream gig I didn’t land ended up freeing me to do something else different and exciting.  There’s no such thing as ‘lost time’, unless you make it so.  In this career, there’s no standard path to follow – it’s all up to you.  After 3 years of regimented theatre school where your time is not your own, it’s thrilling and terrifying to know you’re now holding the reins.  Talking with more established theatre artists helped me understand there’s no right or wrong path – just the one you choose for yourself.

THEATRE IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN – Wizard of Oz at Carousel Theatre

It’s a simple lesson, but perhaps the easiest to forget.  After months of auditions, callbacks, anxiety and planning, I finally got to settle in and do my first post-school Equity contract.  And what a dream – The Wizard of Oz with Carole Higgins and Carousel Theatre!  With multiple character tracks, 10 costume changes, and wonderful choreography, Oz was one of the most personally challenging shows I’ve done to date, and I wouldn’t have survived it if it weren’t for the warm, fun and funny group at Carousel.  Whether it was through inventive and inspired choices on stage or MadLibs and fart machines backstage, they always kept me laughing and reminded me that – oh yeah, this is supposed to be fun. There is plenty to be anxious about in this career path, but it won’t be worth it if you can’t relax and enjoy the moment, and I am grateful to the wonderful folks I worked with on Oz who reminded me of that.

IT’S NEVER THE RIGHT TIME/IT’S ALWAYS THE RIGHT TIME – Delinquent Theatre

On January 9th, 2012, my friend and theatre partner Laura McLean and I got the news that our fledgling company Delinquent Theatre was officially incorporated as a non-profit society.  This brings us into a new and complicated era of AGMs, boards, grants, licenses and more.  It’s a little overwhelming, but it’s so very worth it.  We’re mounting 2 original musicals within the first 6 months of our incorporation, and doing everything on our own.  We’ve got ambitious plans for the next year and a bit for Delinquent Theatre, and you know what?  We’re ready for it.  There will never be a ‘right time’ to take a leap of faith – you can keep waiting for the time when you have a little more money, a little more time, and a little more experience – or you can jump in with both feet, open eyes, and an open heart and see what you learn.  We’ve opted for the latter, and I look forward to all the lessons I haven’t yet learned, but am about to.  Bring it on.

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Voter Turnout and the Olympic Legacy

I have been waiting to write this for over a year.

I remember the Olympics.  I remember opposing the original bid, opposing the constant mismanagement, the sacrifices made in budget cut after budget cuts to things I felt were more lasting than an international 10 day party.  But they came, and what’s done is done.  I remember the smiles, the sunshine, and the spirit of it all.  I remember high-fiving police officers and hugging strangers, I remember street parties.  I remember Canadians surprising themselves and the world with their sudden, positive, infectious nationalism.  We bragged about our mountains and water, our liberal ways, and our ‘free health care’.  We made Americans wish they were us.  I remember the pride in our humble nation bubbling off the lips of every drunken young person wearing a Canadian flag as a cape.  “This is the best place on Earth!  I love Canada!”  It was amazing.

I hope they wear these outfits to the polls. (Photo by Matthew Little for the Epoch Times)

And I remember then thinking, I hope it sticks.  I hope they take that newfound love for their country and they go volunteer.  Or clean up their neighborhoods after the party is over.  Just get out there and contribute to the nation they love so much.  And frankly, I doubt they did.  I doubt the nationalist fervour lasted beyond the last drunken street party.  But I hope I’m wrong.  And of course it’s easy to love your country when the world is watching, when the miraculous weather made our lovely city shine like a West Coast paradise.  When magical political Photoshop made the Downtown East Side all but disappear from consciousness.  When we forgot the cost, literally and figuratively of the whole ordeal.  But now, more than ever, we need to remember that feeling.

Something is happening here.  On May 2nd we have the chance to show our country how much we really love it.  The world has watched as the young people of Libya and Egypt stood up for their rights.  Consider Tunisia, where the whole movement began – where 20% of adults are illiterate, where citizens receive an average of 6.5 years of education (compared to our 11.5), where 14.2% of the population is unemployed despite their best efforts to seek employment.  Where Muhammad Bouazizi chose to light himself on fire after government officials violated his human rights and refused to listen to him, sparking a massive anti-government uprising.

We have something here people would die for, and it’s not a mountain view.  It’s a vote, and a voice.  The chance to influence the future of our dear nation.  And if voter turnout remains as low as it has in the past, it will prove to me that the Olympic legacy is as shallow as I always feared it would be.  If you were old enough to be drunk and wearing a flag as a cape a year ago, you are old enough to vote.  And if you love your country now as much as we all did during those 10 incredible days, you will get yourself to the polls on Monday.

Check out these links for more information:

Elections Canada – for information on how and where to vote

UN Human Development Index – where the statistics from this post came from, and where you can find more startling information on the state of education, health care, and equality across the globe

Reporters Without Borders – an organization that collects data on freedom of press internationally (note the downward trend in Canada’s ranking since the Harper government took over)

Future, Inspiration

The Kids Are Alright

Anyone who’s been to theatre school knows what a unique bond you forge with your classmates. Over these three years we’ve seen each other at our best and our absolute worst, spent 12 hour days together, laughed, cried and partied together. It’s so personal to watch someone work in class, and I feel so lucky to have seen my 14 incredible classmates grow as artists and as people through our time together. I have never been part of a group as amazing as this. 14 people from all different backgrounds and diverse personalities have become some of the best friends I’ve ever had. We have so much fun together whether we’re slaving over bookwork or celebrating an opening night, and I know that these guys will be my lifelong friends.

Our class photo from last year - we're obviously a very mature group.

 

As the Theatre at UBC season starts to come to an end, one by one my classmates are taking their final bows on the UBC stage. It’s an emotional thing, to say goodbye to the stages and the company that we’ve grown with through our time at UBC. It’s emotional too to sit in the audience and watch my dear friends on stage and see the beautiful artists they’ve become, and imagine what the future holds for them.

Sarah Goodwill, Andy Cohen, Claire Hesselgrave, Joanna Williams, and David Kaye in Dead Man's Cellphone

On Thursday I went to the opening night of Dead Man’s Cellphone, Sarah Ruhls bizzare and lovely play about a woman who answers a strangers cell phone and enters a twisted and poignant family drama. This is the first show this season that I haven’t been in, and so I was super nervous to see my classmates at work – you know that feeling? All of a sudden I understand what it must have been like for my parents all these years, sitting in the audience feeling nervous for this person you love, excited to see them shine and hoping they have a fantastic show. Of course, they were wonderful! The show is funny and dark, and totally quirky. I was just so damn proud of my friends, and it was a great show to boot! I was kind of verklempt watching them take their bows knowing how far they’ve come and what wonderful things await them. I hope you’ll go see Dead Man’s Cellphone and see for yourself!

Fitness, Future, Practice

Discipline

There’s something deeply ironic about having a job that requires us to be fit, attractive and in peak physical condition, and a lifestyle that sees us capping off a long day of rehearsals with several beers and greasy pub food.  This irony is not lost on my final year class as we start to consider seeking film and television work after graduation, and facing the competitive theatre industry.  We left off the last week of classes in December with a Hanukkah party that left us too full to move and began our new semester with an afternoon at Koerners pub.  It’s time to get off the bar stool and back into shape!

We ate so many latkes. So many!

Generally, I am a disciplined person – since closing Seussical I’ve continued to warm up and stretch every day, have started eating more fruits and veggies, cutting back on caffeine.  But when it comes to exercise, I am the worst.  As my classmates sail out the door to the gym, I don’t even dignify my non-participation with an excuse – I simply don’t want to.  This needs to change!  Here at UBC we have so many options for staying fit, and I plan to tackle my extreme dislike for exercise and get in shape.  Here are a few ways my classmates and I intend to shape up this semester:

The Gym

This is how the Bird Coop makes me feel. Like a doughy, sleepy hamster running on a wheel.

UBC is host to a variety of different gyms, but our gym of choice is usually the Bird Coop.  Just a stones throw from the SUB, membership to the Bird Coop is a sweet $25 per term, afer which you can just swipe your student card and go.  While it’s insanely busy at the start of the term (gee, I wonder why) there are tons of cardio machines and every weight-lifty-thing imaginable.  The Bird Coop comes with a certain vibe though – the guys are beefy and self-assured and the ladies dress to impress even while sweating it out on the treadmill, so unless you thrive on competition it may be too intimidating.

The Pool

UBC students get free access to the Aquatics Center (again a close neighbor to the SUB).  It’s open most of the day for swimming laps, has a sauna and steam room and a small gym that is significantly less busy than the Bird Coop.  Last year we even had a ballet barre class in the pool – very cool!  Lots of the girls work out at the pool to develop long, lean muscles and avoid stress on joints.

Yoga

Yoga is great exercise for stretching and strengthening muscles and much of the philosophy behind it reinforces the voice and movement work we do in class.  I would practice yoga more often if it were more affordable – I was pleased to find the classes at the UBC Rec Center are affordable and conveniently timed, so I will definitely be registering with them.  Other favorite studios include Semperviva and Moksha Yoga.

That’s my list for now – hopefully I can join my classmates in “getting jacked”, as the guys like to say.  For now, I’m curious – how do you get in shape?  Please comment if you have a favorite gym, studio, or activity that keeps you feeling great!

Anxiety, Beginnings, Future

Surviving the Wicked Stage

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.

Photo by Steph Meine
Us in class. Not pictured: sweat, blood, tears.

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.

Here goes nothing.