13 April 2017
A past MyTheatre Award winner (in 2012 for Humber River Shakespeare’s touring Macbeth) and three-time nominee (this year for Outstanding Actor in Brave New World), Eli Ham is unquestionably one of my favourite performers in the city. He’s also one of my favourite interview subjects. In our third Nominee Interview Series conversation (read his first HERE and his second HERE), he once again comes armed with lots of thoughtful opinions and refreshing candor.
We last interviewed you for the 2013 Nominee Interview Series. Catch us up on how you’ve been since then, what you’ve been up to.
Oh my God, that’s a long time ago. I guess there’s been a lot that has happened since then, because that would have been before I went up to Blyth for a couple of years- the whole family, all of us, we lived in a farm house right next to my dad’s garlic farm, for a large chunk of it, and I had a great couple of seasons there. It’s sort of a hometown theatre for me, because I’m a farm kid from south-western Ontario. A place like that that tells rural stories, or Canadian stories – I’d been banging on that door for a lot of years. It was nice to finally get in and then meet Gil [Garratt, artistic director], because I was part of Gil’s first season, and he’s such- in the best possible sense of the word- he’s such an incendiary artist. And he says the same thing about his idols and the people he loves. So he does sort of give you [a choice], you can either choose to be ignited or you get burned. I did a collective creation with he and Paul Thompson and some other younger actors, this past winter, and Paul was the same way, times 107. You can either choose to get burned by him or choose to get ignited by him, and I do believe that it is a choice when you’re an old enough artist. When you’ve been kicking around long enough, you choose how you’re going to interact with that person.
I spent a lot of time out in the country, which was lovely, because I’m a country boy. And then I’ve been in BC a couple of times since then. I was Prince George last winter as well, and then I just got back from a tour out West, with Theatre Smith-Gilmour. We were in Calgary at the High Performance Rodeo, and then we were at the Push Festival and the Arts Club in Vancouver, for just over a month.
But mostly I think that the most important thing I’ve been doing is being a dad, since you interviewed me last. Really, in that really cheesy and doting, sentimental way that I have, it’s the best thing. It’s the best thing. Selfishly, even as an artist, getting to watch her experience things and the newness with which she approaches each moment, and each new thing, is a great reminder as an actor. So that’s been inspirational and fantastic and challenging and difficult and all of those things.
Have you done any work that she’s been able to see?
She came to see Theatre Smith Gilmour’s As I Lay Dying twice. Which is a 2-and-a-half-hour physical theatre [piece], no props, no set, nothing. This dark odyssey, and that’s the first full thing she’s ever seen me in. She watched from the booth. Our lovely British stage manager Heather let her sit in the booth. I said, “oh, Heather, she’ll be asleep in 5 minutes. She hasn’t had a nap this morning. Don’t worry about it. It’ll be easiest” – and she watched on the glass of the booth the whole show, and had conversations and dialogues with the characters, apparently. There’s a fire at one point that happens and it’s a good thing she was in the booth, because apparently when the fire started she’s like “NO! No! Fire! Dad, get out!” because it’s my barn that’s on fire. That’s the first thing she’s seen me in, and she watched the whole thing. 2 and a half hours, talked all the way through intermission. I was at once jaw-dropped surprised and secretly very proud of that. Because we had a decent amount of people who didn’t stay for the second half of the show. This isn’t an aspersion on Vancouver audiences, but it’s maybe not something that they’re used to, or certainly maybe the Arts Club subscriber base is not used to this sort of experimental… I don’t even think it’s that experimental. It’s a story. They think of the famous novel, and they’ve turned what I thought was a terrible book into an engaging – maybe albeit a bit long – but an engaging 2 and a half hours. And that’s a feat, whether you like what they do or not. That book is really hard to read, and that play, at least, is followable from a story/conflict standpoint. I think it’s a really excellent job with a difficult piece and text. So I don’t know. I just sort of ramble all over the place.
I’ve been doing a lot of things, I guess, trying to stay afloat, as we all do in this business on both sides of the table. You know? Like, parts of me, on every angle of the table, I think like everybody who is connected to this business that is very freelance. I’ve been doing a lot of teaching for Stratford Festival as well, which I really enjoy. I got to do Shakespeare on Wheels for the first time in a long time, which is a great programme when you go into the school and you get a class in the morning, and you work with them all day, and then that afternoon they do a 10-20 minute version of a Shakespeare play you’ve chosen that has different components in it, and it’s always so amazing as a former misfit and loser to be able to offer the opportunity to those kids.
How did you get involved with Brave New World?
Probably through Look Back in Anger. Adriano [Sobretodo Jr.] runs Litmus with Matthew [Thomas Walker] and Claire [Wynveen], and so I think Zoe [Sweet] and I were both brought along from that. And I knew Litmus before, I knew their work, and liked it, and I have a lot of respect for Matt as a director, and Claire as a performer and sort of arts administrator/virtuoso; she does a lot of different things, which I really appreciate. But I think it was probably through the work on Look Back in Anger. And I think also one of the reasons that we got kept as one of the people throughout is – Zoe and I have, I think, a relatively unique stage chemistry together. We’re able to speak each other’s language relatively easily. There’s a way that Zoe works, or a rhythm that she works in that I feel very comfortable in. And I wouldn’t speak for her, whether it’s the same thing, but we always seem to get along pretty well onstage.
Did you join fairly early in the workshopping process?
Right at the beginning, yeah.
So how did the work change and grow throughout that very long development process?
Well, thankfully it got a lot shorter. I think the first script that we read probably clocked in well over 3 hours. And I was really skeptical when they even told me they were doing it– because I love that book. I loved that book in high school. It was one of my favourite novels, and I thought, “that’s a great book. I don’t know if it’s a play.” Because nothing happens, right? The first 40, 50, 60 pages of the book, there’s so much world-building, and so much – not even just the social world, but the physical world that they are inhabiting. These hatcheries, and – to do it like Litmus does, without a budget… not to say that you have to have a budget to make good art, but there’s a portion of that story that would be difficult to tell. If there’s anybody that’s gonna do it, it’s those guys; in the city, they’d be one of the first companies you would think of being able to do it. But I was pretty skeptical, admittedly, at first. But I do think that they were able to pull out – that Matt and Claire were able to pull out some of the more interesting conflicts, and then bring it to the modern audience in an interesting and digestible [way]. Not to say that we didn’t, over the course of the thing, disagree. As you know. [Laughs]
Every interview, it’s a new set of “fights I had with the director” stories!
That’s how I roll. But I don’t think I do it disrespectfully, and it’s how I’m able to continue to work. Matt and I had a really good way of describing for each other those disagreements, or those times where we would not see eye-to-eye on something, that it’s really nice to have collaborators who care enough to disagree with you. Right? Because Matt knows, and I know that Matt is trying to make the play better, and I’m trying to make my part of the story better and support the play. I don’t think any of our fights came into, like – “you’re cutting too many of my lines and I don’t like it.” Like, that wasn’t what it was about. It was, “I don’t understand how is this going to continue if we don’t have this base here.” And it was an absolutely Herculean task.
How did it change? It got shorter, for sure, and the vision got clearer, and then muddier, and then clearer, and then muddier, and I thought that systemic of what that story is. There’s so much in there, and there’s so many echoes in our world, and in our society, that it’s hard to choose which ripples you want to follow. Which sort of pathways you want to go “oh, that connects to this, that connects to this” – but if you try to pull all of those in, you end up losing all of them. And so I think that that was something, certainly, in the last round, that ended with that production of rehearsals that was my focus as a performer. And I think it was the company’s focus as well – which of these threads are we going to choose to knit our story out of, so that it’s not just this multi-coloured monstrosity that nobody understands, but it is something that somebody can look at and go “I see this is a commentary on” or “this is the story of” or that it doesn’t become too round. So I do think that they were able to specify more.
When it was your favourite book in high school, was it John that you connected with?
Why is that?
Because I was a bit of an outsider on all fronts. Not that I didn’t have friends, but I was on the basketball team, and so everyone in the drama club thought that I was a jock. And I also was in the drama club, so everyone on the basketball team thought I was a “theatre fag,” I think was the term that they used, as if it was supposed to be some kind of insult to me. And I was also on the Academic Decathlon team, but they all thought I was a jock, so they didn’t like me either. And I had really long hair. I went to Catholic school, and my parents were divorced and not Catholic, and politically not aligned with the school. I always sort of felt like I was pulled in a different direction than people. So I read that book pretty early on in high school. Maybe the end of grade 9, or grade 10 – even though it was a later book. My brother read it, and I had the benefit of having a way older brother.
I really connect to John because he – and I think everybody is, to a greater or lesser degree in the play – doing their best to get what it is that they want out of the world. The difference that I think John presents at the beginning of his story, that you don’t see from the other characters, from the other world, is that John lives and exists in his world in a real and present way, whereas the main characters and the main focus that we follow is about changing or shaping, or tearing down something that already exists, trying to make sure that everything stays inside. And I think that I connected to the idea that life is a lot messier than that, and deserves to have any number of things. It’s a hard book because that last scene between Mustapha and John is so loaded with punches on either side. And that was maybe one thing that we lost a little bit in our version. In our version of the show, John doesn’t land as many body punches as he does in the book. He doesn’t give Mustapha as much pause for thought as Mustapha does.
I always connected to John. It ws interesting- I had a friend who brought her teenagers to the play, and one of her boys is autistic, and he’s 15. I went and met them at the lobby and said “do you want to come and meet anybody? Anybody you want to see backstage?” and he said “no, I want to talk to John.” I think that was probably the biggest compliment I got during the entire run of that show. That this young boy connected so deeply to the story that we had chosen to tell, that this young man – so we had a conversation in the lobby, and my voice is not much different in affectation in that show, in terms of the way that I pitch my voice, so it was pretty easy to go like “okay, well, do you want me to put the costume back on?” and he said “the shirt, you need the shirt.” That’s my old hemp shirt from high school. I wore that in like the 10th grade, the shirt that I wear in the play. So it was a lot of things happening, and it was a really interesting conversation. His mom said “he sort of made commentaries about the way that he values the world, that he doesn’t really talk about with us. And we’re his family,” and I think she was both hurt and touched at the same time that we were able to- but it was a wonderful reminder about what art is capable of, in these moments.
For a lot of the reasons you touched on a little bit earlier, Brave New World, though very iconic, hasn’t been adapted to performance texts very often. There aren’t very many films, or very many plays, so John hasn’t been played by very many people. What are some of the ways that somebody who’s read the book might have been surprised? How did your performance differ from what they might have had in their head, had they just read the book, and never seen it played before?
Well, I think that one of the main things that we didn’t have necessarily in ours is the cultural aspect of where he’s coming from. Because in the book, it’s very specific; it’s a native reservation. In the book, there’s this really memorable paragraph about why he falls in love with Lenina. It’s somebody who looks like him. Right? Literally, “look, there’s another white person that looks like me who isn’t my mom.” And so that’s something that is completely missing from both his backstory and the overarching story in this version of the play. I’m not overly criticizing that aspect, it would be really difficult to do. Well, no, it wouldn’t be really difficult to do, but they wanted to tell a different story. They wanted to tell more of the omni, multi-cultural, that this was a melting pot of a bunch of different diasporas. Apparently that’s what this reservation was.
I think that our John probably read as older than he would have been in the book – maybe that’s just due to the way that I look and the way that I tend to play. I also think that something that wasn’t as overtly stated or overtly showed is his learned behaviour of violence. We skip over the part in the book where he savagely beats Lenina; there’s all sorts of violent outbursts that I don’t think that we dialled up as high as they were in the book.
Why do you think those parts were left out?
I, as somebody who really loves the book, at a certain point, I had to put the book down. I know that Jesse [Dwyre, Bernard] was the exact opposite, but I had to put the book down, and I had to dance with the girl that I had to dance with, because I was too often running to a place where I was getting frustrated as an artist, going “why can’t we – ” because we can’t have everything. We can’t have everything. And so that might be a question that is probably more suited for Matt. I think that maybe there was a desire to have him as more of a sympathetic character, and by showing that, it may have taken some of that away. I don’t know. I don’t want to speak to what Matt’s reasons are. That was something that made the playing of him a little bit more approachable for me, as a hippie crossed with a Mennonite. Violence isn’t something that I turn to, it’s not something that I have a history with, so that would have been not something I would have been able to bring immediate or intimate truth to. I mean, there’s all sorts of key and transfer that you can do, everyone’s been angry, everyone’s wanted to break something somehow, whether it’s physically or not. But I did appreciate how that gave John even more innocence, it dialled up his innocence a little bit more. I do think that we then miss some of the bite. Again, we miss some of the bite or the menace of that last conversation, because I think if you had seen John do that, even if you had put in little snippets of it when they tried to subdue him, when they come out with the thing, and they put down Bernard and Helmholtz, and John tossed somebody, then there’s a little bit more danger in that last scene, when Mustapha says “no no no no, I’m going to talk to him alone, everyone can leave,” I think you would have had something in the back of the audience’s mind that we didn’t have. And who knows whether that’s worth it given in how dense that last scene is, and how much is actually explored, even in our short version of it, how much is explored in that scene. Because it’s interesting. That last scene is so interesting because John wins. In my mind, John wins that scene no matter what, because when we come together, what Mustafa wants is an unconditioned human to pick their world. And what John wants is to just be left alone. What he wants is to be released from this society, and Mustapha, despite holding all the cards, and all of the power- we know what happens after that meeting, but she doesn’t get what she wants. John doesn’t choose her society, and John gets to leave. So there was an interesting thing for me in the playing of it.
Tell us about working with Matt to develop your interpretation of the character.
Matt is a great collaborator. He likes gesture. He likes movement as well, and so we did a lot of stuff early on in rehearsal. And it was stuff that had echoed in the older processes, where we would work with a gesture – we do this thing called corridors, where 4 of us would stand up onstage, and we’d have our own corridor, and we’d walk up and down, and every time Matt would add something else to what it is that we could do, or what it is that he wanted us to interpret, and so… for somebody who is a big book nerd, and loves the book, it was a good way for me to get rid of some of that baggage, to sort of find him a little bit from the outside in, and not get caught up in all of the text or the verbiage that there is available because it’s a novel. And so that was where I found John first, was in my body, with Matt. Finding gestures, finding his reaction physically to things, because it’s so true. I know I’ve talked about this in interviews with you before, but when you change your body posture, the way that the world sees you and the way that you see the world changes immediately. It just changes immediately, the way that you even breathe changes, so to go through something like that so many times over a long stretch of time was really effective for me to find how this guy moves. And not that the final product, maybe even people would have gone “oh, he doesn’t move that much differently than you”. You know, I’d challenge them to come and watch me in my everyday life overall, I guess. Although I do have some of the same nervous tics that he did. But that’s again, that came from an honest exploration in bringing yourself to a part of the role. So I think that was one of the ways that I found my way in with Matt. We had a lot of really long discussions over the 3 or 4-year period that I’ve sort of been with the project. And so by the time we came into this rehearsal process, I had a pretty decent sense of what the story was that Matt wanted to tell, so I had a real good bull’s eye to aim at in terms of what my intention needed to be, or what my function was in the overall arc of telling the story.
And then there was a point in rehearsal where I admittedly felt – and in hindsight, it was great – but I felt that there were scenes of mine that we would run once and then never touch, and then we’d work on other scenes in the play 5 or 6 times. And I’m sure that that was on purpose, on some level, not because I got the scene, not because it was all “oh well, that scene’s way better than this scene”. But Matt, maybe from his long-term dealings with me, I maybe just needed some more brain space and more time to have it live, and then we’d come back to it, but it would still be fresh. Because John is a character that you – I certainly didn’t want to over-rehearse. You can’t – he walks that fine line even more so than I think Jimmy did [in Look Back in Anger]. Jimmy’s a much more sentient and purposeful being, and John is not. John is, like, “this is happening? Oh, look at – ” He’s a bit more ADHD- I don’t want to use the term ADHD because it’s not – but he’s a lot more present and welcoming of the instant rather than trying to play or manipulate each moment. And so that was something that I think also maybe showed in the production, some of those scenes were a bit more raw maybe.
Brave New World is one of our most-nominated productions this year with three individual acting nominations plus Outstanding Ensemble. Tell us a little bit about working with the cast.
So many artists have touched that show over the years, and so I was always really excited when a new energy was in the room. It’s always really interesting to see “oh, what are you going to do?” For example, Ryan Hollyman, who ended up playing the director in the hatcheries, I think every time I’d done it, it had been Viktor Lukawski– Viktor is Brilliant, so brilliant- and Bernard had been Adam Paolozza, and the two of them together are just, like, almost impossible to be in a scene with when they’re playing their jazz, right? They play off each other so well. And interestingly enough, the pairing of Ryan and Jesse, despite them not knowing each other as well, I felt like whether it was on purpose or a happy accident, they are not the same, but they have another sort of similar approach to the work that I think ended up making that relationship really, really crunchy and interesting. So I think that it was an informed ensemble from previous ensembles, so there was something interesting in watching Matt negotiate a moment that you knew he really liked, that so-and-so had done before, and then being surprised by what this new person had brought.
Everyone was always willing to play, everyone was always- for better or for worse- on breaks, if you wanted to just talk about the play for 15 minutes, you could always find one of these ensemble members who would talk to you about the play. So I think that that was certainly something that we all realized pretty early with a play like this. We all needed to – not like each other, but we all needed to start speaking the same language and be on the same page. Because it’s so big, and there are so many nooks and crannies to that world – and again, this isn’t an aspersion on Matt, but if Matt ever missed anything, if there was even a nano-moment that we felt had been left by the wayside, you could always count on somebody to go “hey, that 2 and a half seconds in this corner when this has just happened, what are we doing to support the play?” There was always somebody willing to do that, and I think that was one of the biggest strengths and one of the most fun things as a performer to experience, was to be in a place where everyone was holding everyone accountable in not a directive or prescriptive way, but in an exciting and challenging way. It wasn’t, like, “well, you’re not doing your job.” It was like, “let’s do our job better.” And there wasn’t ever any big fighting in the cast- everyone came to the table as an equal, and had those discussions as an equal.
Scene by scene, even. It was really interesting to do that last scene with Nehassaiu [deGannes]. Nehassaiu is so smart- just personally, she’s a very intelligent actor- and then Matt would sort of give us the room and the space to talk, but often people who weren’t in scenes, like when we were doing tablework, people who weren’t in the scene would come and listen to the tablework, and talk about how it affected them, or how it played, or how they saw the scene, and at a certain point, that had to slow down a little bit because we had to start all pulling in Matt’s direction. And sometimes these discussions would pull us out of that direction, but it did ultimately inform both Nehassaiu and I, both for that scene and in other scenes. And I hope that we were able to do that for other scenes for other people, because that was a really juicy thing, to have somebody have a take on something that the 3 of us- Matt and Nehassaiu and I- had never talked about. So I think that that was my favourite part of working with that ensemble, that everyone just wanted to be in a really good show. That’s not always the case. But people were really committed every day when they came to work doing that.
How has Brave New World and John’s role within it been altered by the 85 years that have passed since it was written?
I think that unfortunately, so much of that book came true on a certain level. So reading it 85 years later, or reading it 75 years later, or reading it 65 years later- I guess I read it almost 20 years ago, for the first time- there’s a different perspective. Because in the 1930’s, when people were reading that book, for so many reasons, it was a laughable way of looking at the future. It was total science fiction, and now less of it is science fiction. You can’t un-know stuff, even if you try to go just like “oh well, that shouldn’t affect how I play this.” Sure, it shouldn’t. but it might, because you can’t just completely shut a piece of knowledge like that, or shut 85 years of history out. So I think that the story changes because it becomes something that we collectively have partially lived through, and so sharing it with somebody – sharing it with an audience or adapting it for an audience is no longer like a joyful romp through somebody’s imagination, or a absurd prediction of what might happen. It’s an examination of, with a couple of different left and right-hand turns, that our society could have been really, really similar to this already, by now. And I think that there are certain members or corners of our world that are probably still angling for a version of that, a version of the world state. So I think that that’s the main thing. It’s almost more intimate to share it with an audience now, and to read it now, because you go “Holy… that’s not far off from the way that we do things!” or “oh, wow.” The presentation of the book changes.
And in terms of John, it’s really interesting because 85 years later, you’re pulling a protagonist out of a different culture but he’s still a white man. And I don’t think that that can be ignored, but that’s something that wasn’t part of our story. It certainly wasn’t part of what we wanted to tell about the book, or one of the things that we wanted to point out. But it’s still a white male protagonist who is hard-done by a bunch of other – well, in the book, I’m sure Huxley imagined them as white. Or maybe he didn’t. I don’t know how else to sort of speak to that John issue, that John is different but still the same. But it certainly does explore our ever-going struggle with other, and otherness.
Do you think there’s some sort of subtextual commentary on that thread considering that in your production, the leader of this authoritarian world was played by a black woman?
It wasn’t coincidental casting. I know that they did that on purpose, and I think that that was probably Matt and/or Claire trying to… because, you know, for all the criticisms that you could lay at the foot of that book, there are even little tiny granules of progressiveness that [Huxley] threw in. Even just the idea that women could be proud of being promiscuous, just like men could, would have been a huge deal in 1930. And now it isn’t. For us, to a certain generation of us, and certainly most of the section of the population that I tend to spend my life with, it’s like “yeah, whatever; that shouldn’t even be an issue”. I think that the reason that casting choice was made- though I don’t want to speak for Matt and Claire- was partially that Nehassaiu is very well-suited for that part, but it had always been a woman of colour that had been in that position, and I think that that was a way for us, again, to just break the mold and 85 years down the line say “if this happens, it should be just as likely that the World controller is a black woman.” I mean, in the book, it is an old white man, with a grey beard, it’s so classically that patriarchal white leader thing. And so I think that, by breaking that down, I think it’s interesting. I don’t know that I ever felt that John was being oppressed by Mustapha. I think that maybe she was experimenting or toying with him. But because she does eventually partly give him what he wants, the oppression is a merit. Maybe that was a commentary that Matt wanted to make, like, look, if a black lady ran the world, people would be nicer to each other. I don’t know. I don’t think that was in the vernacular in the room.
What were you hoping the audience would take away from the production?
Oh, geez. This is probably one of the things that Matt and I disagreed on the most, One of the larger points that I probably disagreed with Matt on that I just shut my mouth about was the epilogue, Lenina’s monologue at the end, because I think I never understood what it was that we wanted at the end, what it was that we wanted people to walk away with- like, why is she speaking to those babies? Is she telling them this as a cautionary tale? Is she saying “don’t be the nail that sticks out because you might get hammered down”, or is she saying “don’t be like everybody else because people like this existed, and they were exciting”? Because Lenina has a very unique experience of John. And so I’m still not sure the way that the play ended – what people thought she was doing. Personally. And that’s a personal taste thing. There were lots of people that really loved it. And I know lots of people who really loved it, so it wasn’t that I didn’t like it. I have so much respect and I think that Zoe is such a vibrant performer that she filled that last bit of stage right to the end, absolutely. But I think that had I been watching it, that might have been one of the parts of the play that I, as an audience member, would have gone “what does that mean?” And maybe that’s what it was- “what did I just watch, and why did I just watch it?” Because it’s so much of people not connecting that.
My hope on an individual level was that people would notice the [lack of] moments of real connection, and understand how far and few between they are, in our world, and appreciate them and seek them out more. Because it just doesn’t happen in that play. Even when people become friends, or become close, like the courting scene between John and Lenina, at no point are they ever talking about the same thing. And it’s two people that love each other. But they never actually find a moment of real connection in that scene- there’s that tiny moment that Adriano and I had, as Helmholtz and John, when he reads Shakespeare to Helmholtz for the first time and Helmholtz is like “what is that?” But there’s so little of that with that story that I would hope that the audience members, personally, on a political level, that that was a mirror for the people to go, like, “this is really close to the way that the world is. We are so into this that very often this is just not available.” I wouldn’t even say not valued, just not available. You can’t look people in the eye and say good morning anymore, in the street, which is different, even, when I moved to Toronto 15, 16, 17 years ago. Still a lot of people would think you were crazy, or would brush you off, but they weren’t buried in something else, or somewhere else. And so that’s something that I think personally that I wanted people to take away from it.
From the overarching story, I would hope that people were able to see, also, what some of the directions that we are heading, or could be heading, if we continued to be so- I feel that we now live politically, systemically in the world of just hyperbolic partisanship. Everybody is so partisan. Like, I grew up in a very staunchly left-wing household. And I am still, from a value standpoint, I’m still pretty far left, but I have friends who voted for Stephen Harper, and I feel very fortunate that we are able to have dialogue. And I feel that that is so rare, because we often don’t look at each other as people anymore. We don’t have any amount of that personal connection that when we decide that one way is right, and the other way is wrong, that this is what you end up with, you end up with a story like that. Sure, who knows what happens to the World State afterwards, it’s never told, whatever, but we know what happens to one side of the argument, and that seems to be the way that we’re heading more and more. I hate to even – I won’t bring up his name, but the current president, right? There is going to be one way of doing things, and if you’re not going to be on board with that way of doing things, we’re going to get rid of you, we’re going to mock you to the point that you are no longer credible. I think that’s probably the closest thing I’ve had to a direct answer to one of your questions. Finally.
What are you doing now? What’s your next project?
What am I doing now? I am consciously spending a lot of time with my daughter right now, because I’ve been away- I wouldn’t say a lot, maybe some people would- but on Skype, she said “I wanna give you a real hug, I don’t wanna give you a Skype hug.” I said “well, Dad’s in Kincardine right now”, and… “Why are you there?” “Because I work here”. “Why are you working?” I said “well, as somebody who loves his job and thinks that it’s an important thing to be a part of…” I just sort of stopped and admittedly got weepy, as I’m wont to do sometimes, and I said, “Because, honey, everywhere deserves to have art. And everyone deserves to have art that’s made for them. And so Dad is in Kincardine right now making art for people in Kincardine, because they don’t always get people coming to make art for them.” And she got that, I think, on a certain level.
I might be doing Tartan Lady again in the fall with Sundown and directing Cow Over Moon. And a little bit of teaching. I was gonna try to do a little bit more film and television this summer, if I can do it. I purposely hadn’t taken a couple of summer contracts because anything out of town, it just would have been another one of those slamming, busy summers, and truthfully, I do wanna work a little bit more on my directing craft. I directed a show, as you know, at SummerWorks, and I think I would like to shift my career in a direction where that becomes a little bit more of my artistic practice. I don’t mean that it becomes the dominant force, maybe, but it becomes a 50:50 thing, or a 60:40 thing. And you never know. Cause I still am not ready to give up performing. I sound like a drug addict, but there isn’t really anything like being able to play for that period of time. And the way that theatre is set up in North America, you don’t do that as a director. You have to let go at a certain point. I have some other personal things in the pipeline that I would like to do next year, that are sort of on the table for next year if funding can come through and timing can line up for people, and for me. But because I do want to examine that process, the way that we work on theatre in this country. I think that there are certainly lots of models all over the world that we can learn from, and try out here, that we haven’t on a regular basis. It’s one of those funny things I learned from trying to teach my 3-year-old this morning. I’m pretty big on independence, and so this morning, we’re trying to get her to make her lunch with me every morning. She does it. I don’t just make it, and she shows up, and she’s like “oh, this is in my lunch.” I’m like “we’re going to collaborate, we’re going to do it together. You can cut, I’m standing here with you, push down on the knife.” But if it doesn’t work the first time, she gets really frustrated, and I know that I do that. I know that we all do that with certain things, and it’s good to remember that – the first 100 times that you fail at doing something doesn’t mean that it’s not an effective way to do it. It just means that you haven’t completely figured it out yet, which is fine, because that’s what we’re all doing. I feel very fortunate – that’s one of the things that I feel very fortunate in my life was learning really young that my parents were just making it up as they went along.