Well it has been almost I year, I realize, since I’ve last posted. Wow. Last March. So crazy. It’s been a pretty amazing year. So much has happened. So much continues to happen. When last I wrote, I was about to head off to the Banff Centre to be one of the 6 actors available to workshop with participants of the Playwrights’ Colony. Well let me tell you all, people, it was the best time I’ve had in a long time. Now for those of you who don’t know what the Banff Centre is, it was created . . . I don’t know how many years ago – what am I, an archivist?- … but it was created as a haven for creative enterprise; for playwrights, actors, dancers, directors, writers, dramaturgs, etc. Artists of all kinds are brought there or can go there and work . . . in fact, get paid to work on their art in some cases. It’s amazing. So the Playwrights’ Colony happens for 2 weeks (well there are some satellite programs for playwrights as well but I will only deal with the version that I was a part of). And in those two weeks, a handful of playwrights are brought to the Banff Centre based on some example of the work they are working on. Then the head of the colony also asks 6 actors, 3 male and 3 female, to come for the two weeks and be tools for the playwright. This means the actors may be asked to read, improvise, discuss, basically whatever the playwright needs to go the next step in whatever their play needs.
So I was one of the 6 actors last year – in April to be exact. It was amazing. First of all, Banff is gorgeous.
I didn’t get a picture of all of the complexes that make up the centre. It’s really big, let’s just say that. These are from the first day. When you first get there, you check in, go to your room and then the rest of the day is yours to get settled, wander, etc. After I dropped my bags in my room, I wanted to walk around and see the place. Within the first half an hour, I saw this guy…..
Can’t quite see him?, . . . oh let me get a little closer…
Yeah . . . just walking around the grounds. That told me what a lovely experience this was going to be.
So let’s start with the fact that the other 5 actors were the greatest people and we all got along and hung out and had such a good time with each other, it made the experience even more magical. These people, aside from being the nicest ever, they are all wonderful actors in all kinds of different ways. Cara Ricketts, Christopher Hunt, Nadien Chu, Keith Barker, and Quelemia Sparrow.
Below is a shot of myself, with (clockwise from me) playwright/actor/artistic director Marjorie Chan, actor/writer/director Keith Barker, associate dramaturg Jenna Rodgers, then I forget the young man’s name beside her, then finally beside me, my wonderful new pal, actress,Nadien Chu.
And below we have (clockwise from the top) Cara Ricketts, Nadien Chu, Quelemia Sparrow, Jenna Rodgers and, viola, myself. We had too many laughs that day . . . . aaaand every day.
Below are some shots of some get togethers with some of the playwrights and the head of the playwrights colony and someone I have collaborated with on some projects, Brian Quirt (2nd gentleman from the right with the glasses). An amazing man. So funny and creative and supportive and smart.
And what was truly heaven was when I had the time off to do my own work, the library has an added bonus of places to sit and work that have this tiny little views….
Just as a side note. They have these specialty cottages that were each designed by a different designer with different themes. They were given to artist to work it – write, write music, etc. I forget who built this particular one but apparently in it, Yann Martel wrote the novel The Life of Pi.
AAAAANDD… now there are no pics because as good Canadians, we want to respect privacy but… you see, the food is covered for us and there is a lovely cafeteria with buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner (delish, BTW) and everyone goes there to eat . . at different times – whatever. Well the first night, we are all meeting for the first time and as we are sitting there, I’m chatting with one of the actors and suddenly he goes white. Then he says, “look over by the buffet”. So I do but I don’t see anyone who looks out of the ordinary, just a person getting some food, . . . then she turns around and it’s ….. k.d. lang. I almost poop my pants. She was there working on something new and was there most of the time we were. I saw her about 3 more times. She was all shy and cordial but I was a bit star-struck I have to admit.
Anyway, so that was my time in Banff. I would welcome the chance to go back in a second. That was two weeks in April. Then in May I was director and dance captain (please no comments) of an amazing show called STAND BY ME: The Music Of The Brill Building which was doing a mini tour of Ontario. It featured the great music of the 50’s and 60’s. And it starred former members of the international singing group, The Nylons – Micah Barnes and Billy Newton Davis, as well as a current member of The Nylons, Gavin Hope, and amazing Canadian singer/performer Jeremiah Sparks. Here’s a pic of all of us, plus our musical director, Michael Shand.
I had such a great time with these boys. We did the show May through August. (Okay they DID it, I directed and then gave notes and judged. Shhhh it’s my job!) And the show did really well, so there will be more of these.
What was thrilling was I mostly had the summer off which hasn’t happened in well over 10 years. I got to do some traveling. The best trip was a few days in Montreal. For those of you who have never been, it’s as close as Canadians get to being in Europe while being in Canada. (Except for some places on the east coast) See for yourself.
Then September started and all hell broke loose. In a wonderful way. I did a new cabaret . . . well, I guess I did a re-vamped version of an old cabaret. All Sondheim – telling the story of my life. 28 Sondheim songs in 90 minutes. WHAT WAS I THINKING???!!!!! Jesus Murphy, that almost killed me. But it was amazing, experiencing all of the worlds of Sondheim in one evening. Here is a little taste.
It was an Autumn filled with fundraising cabarets and concerts. I love doing those. People ask you to sing and you show up and sing a song or two here or there. One of the highlights was the 50th Anniversary Gala for Young People’s Theatre in Toronto. It’s the foremost children’s theatre in Ontario. I did the opening number as a mixture of the Cat in the Hat and the Wizard of Oz with the wonderful Steffi Didomenicantonio as Dorothy (yes that is her real and actual stage name)
And I also got to do some film and TV too in the fall. (Lord the fall got busy, y’all. I was like I was being punished with too many wonderful things, for actually taking time off.) A couple of highlights include a movie where I played a transexual hooker…. if I had a nickel….. here is the audition look (that I had to put together myself … “I’m sorry, are you giving me a pantyhose budget????!!!!” Luckily I got the gig. P.S. They loved and used my wig and shoes.)
Yes, I did my own make-up. Take that, Oprah! And here she was, final product. (I did NOT do my own make-up. The chick who did it as amazing.)
I also did a kids show with the fabulous Starr Domingue as the sassy villainess and me as a singing chef…
Then just before Killjoys started filming Season 2 – yes Season 2 and I’ll get to that after – I did a couple of days as a guest star on Jason Priestly’s new series and had the best time. He and his co-star, Cindy Sampson are the nicest and funniest. We laughed our asses off for two days. Caught us all in a bit of love with Pascal Langdale and our director and writer. We were literally having this much fun….
Like I said, it was a very busy fall. Oh, plus I brought back my Christmas cabaret/concert, SHUT UP, IT’S CHRISTMAS. I play Mrs. Claus in the first act and play myself in concert singing Christmas songs in the second act. Did two shows of that and it was so great to be doing it again. In fact, I may have some news about that show very soon. But here is a little look at Mrs. Claus – when I say, I was her, I mean, I WAS HER!
Which brings us to the biggest part of the year. My very first TV series aired, Killjoys. It launched in June of 2015. And you may or may not know but it was the highest rated original TV series Space Channel has ever had. And it went well enough that we are filming the second season right now. I was totally giddy when I first saw one of these in Toronto last summer.
Here’s a little look at my character, Pree.
His look changes constantly. He’s been a real hoot to play. And really well received. It was very unique being on TV every week. My Twitter followers increased exponentially, which was wild but the most intriguing experience was getting to know the fans on social media. Sci-fi fans are so lovely and committed and warm. Everyone has been so friendly and supportive. It’s been such a pleasure to get to know them and have them walk this journey with us.
Here are some amazing online offerings from our sweet fans. The first are two collages done by one of our superfans.
Another did some super-imposing of my character’s face onto some chocolate (if only it were real …. mmmm chocolate)
And the last one actually drew my character (as well as the doctor).
These people are amazing.
And there is the last “almost” year since I wrote in my blog. I’m going to promise right here to start writing more. I’ve missed keeping up with what’s going on. I like checking in with everyone. I feel like there is so much happening professionally that I can’t mention, that it stops me from talking, but there is more than that to life. So much more.
Speaking of more, that’s exactly what I’ve been feeling like I need lately. I’ve already mentioned I’m ready to make changes in my life. I want to see what else I’ve got in me cause I feel like I haven’t been living up to my potential. I’m starting to explore other ways of being in the world and thinking about the world and my place in it. Starting to do some yoga, meditation – gently. I want to start opening new doors. Trying something new, if not every day, every 2 or 3 days. I want to have different experiences. I’ve really been pulled toward the coaching lately as well as directing. I love working with actors and I don’t know how much more I need to be on stage or in front of the camera.
I have not fallen away from writing. There is something very fulfilling about getting thoughts down where you can clarify and arrange. I often feel I think so fast I trip over my own mind . . . . of course that may be because my mind is too slack like the worn-out band of a pair of overused underpants but let’s try to stay positive, shall we?! I’m going to stay connected to this blog and see where it wants to go.
That may be all for now. This is a travelogue of my year away from you. There are kinds of other bits but I can’t get them all in here.
I’m happy to be back and if you’re reading this, I’m happy you’re back too. Let’s go on a journey together.
It’s an interesting time right now, my sweets. What do you do with yourself when you are between the “knowing what you’re doing” ‘s? It’s an interesting time. I feel torn. There are things I want to say but I don’t think it’s time to say them. I will but it has to be later . . . . to protect the indigent . . . insolent . . . whatever…
But what I can say is, what a ride this is. Here I am, trying to discover what I’m doing next. And in the meantime, I’m playing around with everything. I’m learning how to sew – slowly. LOL I am taking some online courses of interest. I’m starting to do some writing. Actually, what has made me think of doing some writing has been the response to my blogs. So thank you to all of you who read and commented. I really like writing, I just don’t do it often.
In fact, that makes me think – I would love it if any or all of you who are reading this might consider jotting down to me what you like – if you like anything – about my blogs. I don’t mean that to stroke my ego. I mean that it would be helpful to know where my strengths are so I can develop them. Please don’t include the negative, I will have enough of that in my own head about it. 😛 But any little insight into what, if anything, I have to offer as a writer would be hugely appreciated. Thank you in advance.
Anyway, when I talk to people about this place I’m in these days, this place of exploration and expansion, they talk about how brave I am. But I have to say, I don’t really feel brave. I love change, I’ve always loved change. What is getting to me is the waiting. I’m not waiting idly, as I’ve made clear above. But the waiting to see where I feel the fire that directs my passion for the next phase. And so some days, I feel elated and giddy and excited. And other days (well, moments rather than days), I feel a little sad and lost. That doesn’t alarm me, even though I occasionally feel like a socialite, off her meds. I know it’s just growing pains. The only thing is it does end up being a bit of an emotional ride.
There are moments where I feel lazy or dumb or incompetent. Then there are moments I feel energized and brilliant and I’ve figured out the world. Yes, I know, you’re saying, “Thom, you boob, we all feel like that sometimes.” Well first of all, how dare you call me boob, that is reserved for my close friends. And second of all, I know that. What is kooky is that the diaposing (terrible bastardization of that word) of the different feelings will be within minutes of each other. Again, growing pains.
So, I work and wait but I don’t wallow. I’m really enjoying the ride. It a constant fascination.
In the meantime, I’m doing little things that make me happy. If I feel a warm openness in my solar plexus when I’m asked to do something, I’ll do it. If I feel a tightening or closed feeling, I say “no”. No matter how great it sounds on paper. I’m determined to follow my instincts to glory, this round.
To that end, I’m doing little gigs for the time being. The most immediate, and in many ways the most exciting, is that I’ll be one of the six actors at the Banff Centre for the Playwrights Colony this April. I’m very excited.
For two weeks I will be in Banff and available to read the works-in-progress of 10 Canadian playwrights along with international writers and composers and directors. My pal, Steven Gallagher, was a part of the acting company last year and had a wonderful time. I love the idea of being in the mecca that is Banff. Perhaps I’ll do some writing of my own with my free time. Get inspired by the energy there. It’s all part of this new journey.
Then I’ll be one of the guest performers for an amazing event called the Heart and Vision Awards Concert on May 11. It’s the 7th year where they honour two amazing people who have contributed significantly to social justice initiatives in Canada and internationally. I performed last year where the honourees were Jackie Richardson and Shirley Douglas. This year the honourees are Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire and Mary Jo Leddy (I’ll let you look them up) and it’s always a wonderful evening.
Then I’m going to be part of an evening for Jewish Music Week. No jokes please. I’m not sure I can talk about it yet but it’s going to amazing. It will be on May 14 and I will make sure to spread the word but you can also keep tabs here:
And then a couple of things out of town. OH, plus. I will keep you abreast. My TV show, KILLJOYS, will start airing in the summer. Not sure when but I will be all over that. You can see a little onset teaser here:
And yes, you can see me several times, behind my bar in the clip. It looks cool. And there are different planets so ours is just one. No aliens though, just humans.
Not sure I have much else to say.
I think I will document the Banff experience. I did that with my move to NYC and it was really fun to have the ongoing explorating/documentary thing going on. We’ll see. And when I say, “we’ll see”, I don’t mean like when your mother said that and it meant, “no”!!
If any of you are new, I had a problem with my login on the old blog so it’s still up but I can’t get to it anymore but if you want to go and enjoy the journey, the link is on the right but I will put it below in case there’s a problem:
Okay well that’s all for now, I guess. I’ll try to write more consistantly.
Once again, it’s been so long since I wrote my blog. I always feel there is something I can’t say that I want to say so instead of talking about any of the other things I could say, I say nothing. Ummm . . . stupid. Okay that is a bit harsh, Thom. Let’s just say, . . dumb.
Aaaaanyway. It’s been an incredible year. OH MY GOD. I just peeked at my blog to see what the last thing was that was happening to me. We were in the middle of the run of Peter Pan in June. That literally feels like it was years ago. It’s been a funny year of piggybacking. On the day of our ﬁrst performance of Elegies, I was offered Peter Pan. Then a week before the end of the ﬁrst leg of Peter Pan in June, I got a call to ﬁll in for the role of Javert in Les Miserables for Drayton. Then the day before we closed Les Miserable in Drayton and I was about about to go back to the second leg of the run for Peter Pan, I got some other news.
So whoever is reading this blog, (and since I may post this link to Facebook and Twitter, that could be . . . well, . . . 5 – 5o,ooo people . . . or just 12) you will be some of the ﬁrst to publicly hear about about this. I can’t believe I kept it this quiet. I spent 4 months this summer and fall, ﬁlming a brand new Sci-Fi show. It’s produced by the same people who produce Orphan Black (“what?”, “Orphan Black?”, “That’s a hugely popular show”) I know, right? I’m very excited. I play a recurring role but having said that, I’m in most episodes of the ﬁrst season. It was a great experience working on it. The cast, crew, directors, producers, everyone was such fun. There was a great feeling among the cast and the guest stars. It’s a co-pro and will be aired on/by Syfy Network (U.S) and Bell Media/Space Channel (CAN) sometime this year. And it’s called . . . KILLJOYS.
I can’t say more about it but you’ll have to keep an eye out for it. I’m sure that more info will be coming out about it soon.
Who do I play? What’s it all about? What do I wear? Well, you’ll just have to keep your eyes and ears pealed (peeled?) and see. Its created by Michelle Lovretta, the cool and amazing chick who created the hit TV show, Lost Girl, which I started watching this summer to get a feel for her sensibility and got completely hooked. Michelle has such a creative mind and kick-ass point of view. And she is really pushing the envelope of strong, young, female leads. The lead character of both shows is a crazy-strong-willed young woman (different actresses). It’s pretty awesome.
Well there it is. And I just came back from an amazing vacation. A Caribbean cruise. What??!!
The ship lets you off in old San Juan and I don’t know why you’d go anywhere else. So gorgeous. Such character. And we ended up seeing a fantastic ceremony of the Three Wise Men bringing gifts to the baby Jesus. A live procession from down by the water that went up the street right to steps of the church. This is the inside of the church.
Then St. Thomas which I only saw from the ship since it was late when we got up and the ship was so empty, we decided to lounge like it was the last day of lounging – ever. Then the next day was St. Maarten and that was amazing. (Yes, that is a mansion built into side of mountain. You’re welcome!)
I would go there again in a second. Caribbean island meets European sensibility. Half the island is Dutch and half is French. Red Beans and rice, a crepe and tulips – all in one place? Something for everyone. We found this area where the beach was so lovely and small and the water sooooo blue and sooooo beautiful. It was heaven. We rented a car and drove around the perimeter of the island. It’s a small island but you can literally ﬁnd every kind of landscape for a vacation. Lush, green mountains; blue waters; beaches; piers. We didn’t want to leave.
Then we had two days at sea. Well three actually as we had one day at the beginning. But the last two days were such heaven. There is a point on a cruise where your psyche actually realizes it doesn’t have to do anything and it tells your brain to drain anything extraneous out of itself. I actually lost language that two days. I would just point at food or drink and have it thrown down my throat. I didn’t want to come home. Luckily, to make it a pleasant home-coming, we went from +27 to -16.
So here I sit catching up with myself and you guys (you guys being whoever is sweet or bored enough to be reading my ramblings). I had lots of time to think on the cruise. I’m ready for another life ride. One of the gifts I was given for my last birthday (Nov. 2, in case anyone wants to write that down and act accordingly next year) was a psychic reading. Now let me be clear, I don’t believe in living one’s life by a psychic but having information from all possible sources is always helpful. But she clocked a couple of rather signiﬁcant life events from my past and she said most people have one rather large life shift in a lifetime but that I will have two. One has happened and the other is about to happen. About to, as in, starting this year. It resonated. That’s very much how I feel right now. Actually I’ve been feeling like everyone is going to have a good year in 2015 but I, personally, feel like a big shift is about to happen for me. There is something in the air and more importantly, I’ve been feeling professionally restless.
I’ve already decided I will no longer do any shows that don’t make me feel open and receptive on hearing about them. Whenever I’ve ignored that, I’ve had a terrible . . . well, I guess in most cases, a not-very-good time. So that is the criteria for doing shows. But beyond that, it may be time to re-focus. Perhaps more concert and cabaret work? I’m taking steps to explore that more and see if I really want that or think it’s just a natural progression from what I’ve done. Other possibilities: hmmm not sure. Directing? Writing? Producing? Or something I haven’t thought of yet???……
I’ve been reading a couple of (or seeing TV specials of) bios about people in the entertainment business. And what I realized they have in common, in terms of their success, was that at some point, they honed in on what gave them the most joy as a kid and ﬁgured out how to be able to do that all the time . . . and get paid for it. Not long ago, on Facebook, I think, I posted a note or whatever the positive version of a rant would be, about how the people that we call “nerds” for “geeking out” on some particular topic, can often become successful in a ﬁeld where they put that PASSION – yes, I say PASSION and I stand behind it. Computers, comedy, fashion – well I guess we don’t call fashion nerds “nerds”; it’s weird to call someone a nerd who dresses better than you.
Anyway, it got me thinking . . . on the cruise . . . did I mention I just went on a cruise??? . . . aaaaaanyway, I’ve been trying to think of the things I like to do and how to make that into a life/ career. And I suddenly got this feeling that whatever I’m good at is right in front of me and I’ve been looking around it, trying to see “what I’m good at”. And I suddenly felt that very soon, it’s going to drop on my head like a water balloon from the universe and I shall ﬁnally be drenched in my own destiny.
I know, deep shit, right? But there it is. That is where I am. I’m staying open to what the universe has in mind. I’m ready to play.
Interesting times, my people. I’m here in Penetanguishene in the middle of our run of Peter Pan. It’s been a great and incredibly exhausting experience. A great cast and great director/choreographer, David Connolly. Who, incidentally, will be choreographing the upcoming Broadway premiere of First Wives Club in 2015. He’s great. We only had two weeks but what he did in those two weeks was astonishing. A cast of 14 (including the boys playing Michael and John Darling) plus two groups of 18 kids that play a multitudes of roles and alternate shows. Lots to gather but he did an amazing job. Fantastic Stage Management team and super musical director, Michael Barber, as well as a sweet, fun stage crew. It’s been a hoot. But my God, I didn’t think I’d be expending this much energy as Captain Hook. The sweat is streaming down my face and I’m drenched after the first scene as Hook.
The good news is the audience is loving it and we’re a hit.
Here is a taste of the good Captain.
And Penetanguishene is beautiful. It’s been lovely here. Right on the water of Georgian Bay. The King’s Wharf Theatre is right on the water. It’s breathtaking.
What else. Well, in other news, I guess I can announce it now. This Christmas I’ll be playing Donkey in SHREK at the Grand Theatre in London, ON. Very excited about that. I won’t say who is playing Shrek as that’s his news to tell. But it’s a good friend and I’m so excited. It’s a part I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. Performance start on Nov. 19 and it runs until Dec. 28 Get your tickets now cause it will probably sell out. Woohoo. It’ll be directed by the Grand Theatre’s Artistic Director Susan Ferley, choreographed by Kerry Gage and musically directed by Ryan DeSouza. All of whom I love and can’t wait to work with. Though I’ve known her for years and love her, I’ve never worked with Susan before but heard wonderful things. And I’ve worked with and known Kerry and Ryan for years and love them both as people and professionals so I’m very much looking forward to the whole experience. Plus, The Grand is one of my favourite theatres to work. Everyone is so nice and great at their jobs. It’s always a great time.
I’ve been sort of talking about opening up different possibilities for my future. I think I’ve already said it’s time for a change. I think I’m heading for a semi-retirement from performing in theatre. I think it will be projects I really want to do but otherwise it’s time to try other things. I’ve always known I would direct at some point. I directed shows at Ryerson when I was going there for theatre school but then my career on stage took off. But I feel that getting closer. There is certainly cabaret and concert work – I love telling stories in song. And coaching which I think is going to start in July. I think I’ll try some writing too but I feel like there is something else out there for me too that I don’t know about yet. I’m excited about it though. I will always love theatre but I’ve been doing this for 32 years and I want a taste of something else. And I don’t really have lots of roles on my list anymore. I’ll tell you what they are . . . in case anyone is reading this who runs or has pull with theatre. LOL . . . . but I’m serious . . . anyone?!
Bobby in COMPANY
Witch in INTO THE WOODS
Mr. Applegate in DAMN YANKEES
Guido in NINE
Mame in MAME (yes, Mame. This is the ones I want to play most right now – not campy but seriously)
George in SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE
Ursula in THE LITTLE MERMAID
And you’ll notice there is a real mix of male and female-ish. That’s sort of been my career and I like the theatrical gender play. And I’m good at it. Anyway, as far as the list goes, that is almost it. Maybe the odd one I’m not remembering right now but that is about it. I don’t feel the burn to play lots of roles anymore. That’s how I know it’s time to explore other options. Now that’s not to say that there are roles I’ve never imagined myself playing that I’m always happy to consider if someone I trust thinks I can do it and my gut tells me it’s a good idea.
Oh there’s another idea that has become clearer to me as I get older. It’s really become clear to me that whenever I’ve not listened to my gut, I’ve not had a good time. I’m learning that if it feels right in my gut, it’s right. I’m going to start listening to it ALL THE TIME or at the very least, I will strive to.
What else? Well, I’ve been fascinated by the “experience” of Facebook. I’ve been loving finding things that I share. And what’s been interesting is seeing who responds to what. Some things barely get a reaction and other things get a huge reaction. It’s really kind of cool. Seeing what people find inspirational or humourous or humourously horrifying. What I love the most is when I get a message on a post from someone saying how they really needed that or that something spoke to them or saved their day or that it simply made them laugh out loud. It makes me realize how rarely we say or “publish” something positive or kind or encouraging. I find myself more and more often telling a stranger that I like their coat or shoes or they have a great smile or hair. And it’s so fascinating to see their reaction. I can feel how I’ve just changed their day.
Everyone wants to feel special in some way. It makes me think I may start a Facebook page for people to simply drop a line about something or someone that is positive. Even if you’ve found a product you like or you saw someone’s show and thought they were great or you met up with someone you haven’t seen for a while and they look wonderful. But whether I do that or not, do it in your own life. If you think something good about someone, say it to them. It doesn’t cost you anything but what it gives you and them is immeasurable. It fills the giver and receiver with such light and warmth. No one loses.
I think that’s it for now. You are all wonderful for riding my thought waves here on my blog. I will try to report more of my adventures in the coming months.
I just posted this on Facebook based on an article I just read, but I thought it also warranted a blog. So here it is:
I don’t understand, people of Toronto who are voting for and/or support Rob Ford. You can’t tell me that what this man seems to represent – racism, intolerance, bullying, alcohol abuse, drug abuse – certainly in the eyes of the world, is worth whatever good you think he’s doing for you.
Is it really just money you care about? What he’s “saving” you? Is that really good enough for you? Ladies, his blatent sexism is really okay with you? Shame on any gay people who are in his corner – then you deserve whatever shame he brings you. People of any ethnicity – you can’t really be putting your trust in this man and have any self respect.
If you don’t like any of the other candidates, then let’s demand better candidates. Let’s demand that our politicians step up. Let’s let them know we aren’t willing to settle for the disrespect and horror that’s been crammed down our throats, as is being represented by our mayor’s behaviour, which is being revealed to us again and again.
As Oprah once famously quoted, “When someone tells you who they are, believe them.” Let’s believe and elevate our Toronto to the place where it should be – a beautiful, world-class city where people of all nationalities, and backgrounds and lovestyles (yes, I mean lovestyles) can come together to make an existence of respect, inclusion, and harmony.
Well, Elegies finished yesterday afternoon. It was beautifully attended by many from the theatre community and I have to say, the love that came us really made us feel like it IS a community. So warm, and they were really listening and going on the journey with us. Elegies has really been an incredible experience a second time around. There were moments of great joy as well as deep frustration for me but what an interesting time observing the audience and how they “felt” us. Literally every show was a different adventure in how they would hear it. A real test of an artist’s ability to be simple and present and be in the moment with commitment because there were definitely moments that could have thrown one off.
But as for a cast . . . . I could not have been more blessed. So wonderful and loving and open and fun and dedicated. I love every one of the people I got to play with every show – including our amazing pianist John Hughes and our fantastic stage manager Lisa Humber. I wouldn’t take that time back for anything. But a break will be nice now.
Then last night, I went to the launch of Micah Barnes new single, New York Story at Jazz Bistro. It was a packed house, my people . . . he sang his ass off. He sounded like a dream and the audience truly lost their minds. It was great.
And now the single is available for download. Have a listen here:
Great night of music.
And now a day off – for real. And then I start to get ready for the upcoming concert bits I’m doing.
And I’ve been having some other thoughts to share with my reading peeps. As I’m trying to think of what to do next, I realized that part of what I would like to do it start helping other people. I’ve had such generous teachers and coaches and learned so much from them and I started thinking about how, as actors, we get so much from pros who have been around and pass on their info to new generations. Over the last several years, I’ve been doing a lot more coaching and masterclasses. With my cabarets, for years I never believed anyone would want to watch or listen to just me alone; well I’ve realized I have felt the same thing about coaching – like people wouldn’t want to hear what I think about performing. But what I’ve realized is I really like taking people through material and how to dig deeper into text and make it jump off the page as living thought. And what’s better, the people I’ve been coaching have really been making big leaps. I guess I don’t have to be Meryl Streep to have something valuable to offer. I’ve realized I love taking actors through the work; connecting the actor indelibly to the material; digging into ideas, music; exploring the use of rhetoric, rhythm – everything is a story-telling tool.
I think it’s time to give whatever I can back to the business that has given, and continues to give, so much to me. Time to pay it forward, if you will. So I’m going to start coaching more and if people come to me, great. If they don’t, I guess I’m shitty and I should do something else but at least I’ll know I gave it a crack. LOL I’ll be in and out of Toronto for the next bit but if you y’all know someone who wants coaching, catch me on Facebook or they can e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, I guess I’ve launched that for real now. Heehee.
More things to come as time goes on.
And thanks for coming to hang here with me everyone.
The immortal question. I want some answers soon. I know I need something new but what. Well in the immediate future, I’ll be going to the launch of Lilly Barnes’ new amazing book of poetry on April 30, 2014. Which I’m very excited about. I have to say a little bit about the newest addition to my life. Lilly Barnes is truly one of the most incredible human beings I’ve ever met. At an age where most people are slowing down, she is so full of curiosity and creativity. She was the head writer for Mister Dress-Up for the entire run of the show. She was a freelance documentary producer and interviewer, a writer of children’s books and short stories, a novelist (I met her for the first time at the launch of her novel, Mara), and now a published poet. I’m sort of in awe. But I have rarely met someone so accomplished who has such love of human life and experience – in all it’s good, bad and in between. She observes mankind and translates it into emotional works of art. I’ve spent many hours in her company where I can’t believe she is talking to me because she’s so extraordinary. Then on top of that, so loving and giving of her time, energy, affection, intellect and her delicious, raucous, joyful sense of humour.
Pluuuuus her stories of growing up during wartime are shocking and fantastic. Which is also why her poetry is so beautiful. (As are her other works I’ve had the honor and privilege to read.) Anyway, the launch is on Apr. 30, 2014 between 6 and 8:30pm at The Supermarket on 268 Augusta Ave. in Toronto. Her book is called JOURNEY and what a journey she’s had. 3 other ladies will also launch books that day but this blog is not about them so I’ll let you look them up if you are so interested. LOL Hey, it’s my blog, I get to talk about whatever I want to talk about. And if you can’t make it to the launch, you can still by the book.
What else is happening? Well we have 4 more show left of Elegies. Amazing! I have now revisited a show 7 years apart – twice. Songs For A New World and now Elegies. Both with mostly the same people. A very unique experience. I love this cast. The show is deceptively exhausting be very rewarding. It’s amazing what changes in how you hear the piece. How it emotionally hits you. The audiences have really gone on the ride with us. We’ve had one or two that seemed reserved but on the whole really taking us in. Thank God.
On other performing fronts, I have sung for this charity a couple of times before and it’s always an amazing time and star-studded event. It’s called Heart and Soul and every year they honour 2 or 3 individuals who have made a difference in the world around them in some way. This year, the honorees are Shirley Douglas and Jackie Richardson. I’m so honoured to be singing for these amazing women. It takes place on Monday, May 12 at Metropolitan United Church at 56 Queen St. and it starts at 7:30. It’s a great line-up of folks.
And then I guess the other news which seems to be happening enough now that word is out. I’m going to get to cross a role off of my bucket list. I’ll be playing Captain Hook in Peter Pan for Drayton Entertainment this summer. It’s a panto which I’ve never done and always wanted to. And it’s the perfect length of contract, split in two. We start rehearsals on May 19, then start performances on June 5 and finish June 21 at King’s Wharf Theatre in Pentetanguishene (I don’t know when I’ll be able to spell that without looking it up.).
Then we have 5 weeks off (hello, New York) and then back into rehearsals July 28 to perform Aug. 7 – 30 at the Huron Country Playhouse II ( the smaller theatre up in Grand Bend).
Very excited, actually, for a few reasons. One – AJ Bridel who was one of the three finalists for the role of Dorothy on Over The Rainbow. Talented cookie. And secondly, my buddy Melanie Phillipson is playing Mrs. Darling/Tiger Lilly. Thirdly, a summer with chunks where I hang by a lake or two is just what I need right now.
Which brings me back to my title. What the hell am I supposed to be doing? I know it’s time for a change but I’m not getting the clearest of pictures as to what that should be. I know I want to really pick and choose the acting roles I want to play from here on in. (Not that I have the luxury of money to make such decisions but if you make decisions based solely on money, you are doomed to repeat the same things that make you unhappy over and over again). I also know I want to do more reality TV – I’m working on that. But beyond that. I’m not sure. Write? well I do feel a bit of that but I’ve been tentative – perhaps that’s what the summers by the lake are to introduce me to. Directing? I’ve always known I would one day but I thought it would be a little later. Maybe it’s time to start testing the waters. Coaching? Interesting. I never thought I would coach until a few years ago. I’ve really started to like it and for the first time in 32 years, I really feel like I have something to share. So that could very well (and probably) be on the near horizon for me.
But is that all? Is there something else. I feel like I’d be working like a bastard if I only knew what to be working on. I feel like the universe still has a secret for me that it’s waiting to reveal. That is exciting and a little exhausting . . . but mostly exciting. I want to really use whatever I have to use while I still have it . . . I’m just not sure I know what IT is yet. LOL I am in a state of discovery.
What I do know is that I feel myself getting into a state of discovery. Last year was very hard emotionally for me and I ended up gaining a large chunk of weight. Hey, it happens! There was no shame attached to it but I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes. It worked for Nicely-Nicely at Shaw and I think knowing that I could, allowed me to rely on food to feel better. But then that ended and it was time to get things back on track. I’ve always been able to alter my body depending on the upcoming “role” and I felt in my soul that I have things to accomplish that involve me not being that size. So when I went back to NYC in January, I started my own personal campaign of body transformation. Happy to say that I’ve lost 40 lbs. Thanks to the Wheat Belly Cookbooks – I kid you not; they are my new food bibles (I stay away from the higher fat options) and my amaze-balls trainer, CRAIG RAMSAY. He’s a genius and unbelievably informed and sweet and relentless. A few more pounds then I’ll see where I am. But I already feel like I’m creating, healthily, with the universe again. I just need a few more signs as to where the hell I’m going.
In the meantime, I keep breathing and striving to make healthy choices in my life, physically, mentally, spiritually, etc. I want to be as ready as I can for whatever is coming. I do love surprises. And I feel really ready for a big life change.
I do wonder if something is in the air. I know a handful of people who seem to be in a similar state of mind, though not necessarily as acute as I’m feeling it. Change is fun. infinite possibilities.
Okay now I’m just rambling. It’s 12:47 and I should go to bed now. I may have to wait to post this until the morning just so I can make sure I wasn’t writing gibberish. Well, it’s probably gibberish but what the hell; as I said earlier, it’s my blog so I can do what I want.
Hmmm as I wrote the above title, I accidentally wrote “A NEW EAR” first and it made me think, “actually that is not inappropriate”. I’m in New York, ready to start a new experience. Well, many new experiences. And I like the idea of a new ear, a new way to hear things, a better way of picking up signals. Like an ear in music. Hearing the natural way a melody should go. I want to “hear” what the universe is actually telling me. I feel a bit like I’ve been living the life beside my life for the last 32 years (how long I’ve been acting – in case anyone thought I was trying to pretend I’m 32). I’ve had an amazing career. Truly exciting and thrilling and filled with opportunities. But I’ve always felt like I’ve been on a parallel path with my real life and its like the real life is on the other side of a very thin wall of rice paper – I can see the shadows, glimmers of the light but I don’t quite know what I’m looking at.
Well I feel so much closer to knowing now. And being here in New York, I want some new adventures. I want to make some things happen. I’ve been an actor for 32 years and a singer for about 26. I want more than that now. I want to write – what, I don’t know but I’ve felt for years that I might have something to say. Whether I’m good or not or whether what I have to write is readable, no longer matters to me. I used to write a lot as a young person but somewhere along the way, I convinced myself or let myself be convinced that I don’t have right to do that. I’m claiming that back. I don’t know what I’m going to write. Perhaps it’s just this blog. But that’s not a bad thing. One of the things that has made me realize I want to write is doing this blog. It’s fun. I like that I can write here and if someone wants to read it, they can. If they don’t, c’est la vie, they don’t have to.
I realize as I say this that the blog has been very quiet for a while. Well, I don’t know how to explain that. Part of me feels like I want to say things that I perhaps shouldn’t say. Part of me has felt like I couldn’t say what was really in my heart. Perhaps part of me felt like if I started I’d never stop and that is a little daunting. Now I feel like I need to just start telling a story and let it become what it becomes. We’ll see. I don’t what to limit it so I won’t decide what that is at this point. I will just start writing and I feel like this blog is the beginning so if you are reading this, you may have just become a part of my history. So I’ll say right here, “thank you for joining me on my journey because as of this moment, you become part of it as a reader.”
As for other things…. I think I said it in my last blog, I want another TV show. I loved doing Over The Rainbow and I want to explore what else can happen when I’m being me in front of a camera. So if anyone knows someone who needs a host or judge or whatever, hook a brother up. (Notice there is no “LOL” because I’m not kidding – Papa want a TV show). I’m going to explore those options a lot and figure out where I fit into all of that.
I guess I should catch you all up on my stuff. Hmmm where to begin? Guys and Dolls finished and was a mixed time. In the name of good taste, I won’t go into the details but I will say I LOVE working at the Shaw Festival. You won’t find a more generous group of people in the arts world. Caring, fun, helpful, hard-working. I loved my cast. Our choreographer, Parker Esse, was a god-send. Such style and skill combined with such warmth and caring. He really gave the show a wonderful feel with his choreography. The show had a great look. But there was something involved in the production that was a challenge. One that was overcome in many ways though not totally. But I’m very happy to say it lead me to some life-altering decisions and clarifications about what I want to do which is a big part of what I was talking about in the above paragraphs.
I don’t like thinking about experiences as bad, only opportunities to grow. If you CHOOSE to. It’s all about choosing to clarify what you want in your life based on that experience. Well I got very clear as I was walking around Niagara-on-the-Lake near the end of the season. I have these walk/talks with the universe. I just go out walking and chat – sometimes in my head, sometimes out loud – to the universe, asking for signs, using the universe as a sounding board to become clear about what I want. I guess it’s a form of … ambulatory meditation. ( hahahahahaha Okay that made me laugh but I like it. If anyone uses that phrase from here on, I want royalties.) I want more control of my destiny. I’m no longer content to have most of the decisions about my life left in the hands of someone else – re: auditions. It’s not enough. I want to have more of a creative hand in what happens to me and how I choose to express myself. So, A New Ear really suits me fine. I like it.
Anyway, after Shaw, I moved my stuff back to NYC and had a little NYC vacation. Saw some shows. AFTER MIDNIGHT – amazing. It’s a review, stylistically evoking the Cotton Club. Fantastic singing, dancing and character acting. And some other great shows I can’t remember right now. Then back to Toronto to do two concerts. One was the Sting concert, Uncovered: Sting & The Police, the fundraiser for Acting Up Stage. Ten musical theatre performers interpreting the songs of Sting and the Police theatrically. It was a crazy night. I sang Seven Days (funny and manic) and Mad About You (dark and brooding). I may have gone a bit too theatrical. When I finished my second number, the audience seemed too stunned to clap for a second. hahaha ah well, go big or go home, right?! . . .. .. . . right…? I was also thrilled and proud to be asked to be the guest performer at the first Toronto memorial for Harvey Milk, where I sang “Make Them Hear You” from Ragtime. I was deeply honoured to be asked.
Then I did my big solo Christmas concert, SHUT UP, IT’S CHRISTMAS! at Metropolitan Community Church. It was an amazing night. It’s the 3rd time I’ve done the show and each time I refine it and make it better, more cohesive. I’m very happy and shocked to say it was an amazing turn out. A really full-ish house (the church holds about 5-600) and there were about 3-400 there. And it went really well. I started developing the show about 5 years ago. The first act is me doing some of my favourite Christmas songs, then I have a guest who does about 20 minutes of whatever they’d like (Christmas themed of course). The second act is me as Lola Cruikshank, better known as Mrs. Claus. And she tells the story of her relationship with Santa from before they met until the present. It’s been great fun and people seem to really enjoy it. It’s sort of becoming an annual show which I’d like to continue. Here are a couple of shots so you can see Lola. The first one is Lola (she usually has her hair up under the cap and her little old lady glasses on but this was after the show.
And at a certain point, Lola goes back in time and becomes her young self in her physical heyday.
Except I’ve now realized that even though I love the second act surprise of Lola, if I switch the acts, I don’t need a guest to give me time to change. I can do Lola first, then take all the make up off and be me in the second act – just adding songs. Anyway, it’s time to shop it around as a holiday show.
Then it was back to NYC where I had a December packed with people and Christmas and laughter and good times. Lots of visitors. Including my friend, Hannah from London. Hannah is always game for some kookiness. We were walking along the High Line when we spotted this interesting looking store. It’s called STORY. Check it out. STORY It’s this great store that is like a magazine but it’s a store, they change the merchandise frequently, there are themes. It’s so cool. I got a great gift in here and, as you can see, Hannah and I had a very mature time.
One of the great things I saw before I went back for Christmas is an amazing Christmas concert. Though it was not just Christmas songs.
These three ladies really re-iterated what I believe great singing storytelling should be. Each so different individually but each thrilling to watch and heavenly to listen to. Marilyn Maye was first and had such a great voice – like burnished copper – warm and familiar with such power . . . and she’s in her 80’s. What?!?! Then Christine Andreas giving you this crystalline voice, tinkling like a chandelier and the complicated musical sensibility of a singer of French art songs. Then the second act was the great Leslie Uggams. 70 years old and her voice completely, and I mean completely, unchanged from when she was 24. So easy, and comfortable. That ringing vibrato, telling us with every skyward spin that to dream is to live. It was a night of inspiration and magic that sent everyone out into the winter night with joy in their hearts and a smile on their lips.
Back to Toronto for a wonderful Christmas filled with soooo much food (I think I need to go on a cleanse) and friends and laughter and warmth and music and great love. It could not have been more wonderful.
Which brings us back to here and now. In my New York apartment, writing some thoughts and hopes and dreams. Hoping to be guided to the next part of my path. Want to be still finally and listen to what my heart is saying. A new ear indeed.
Wow, everyone. I’ve been away from you for such a long time. I don’t have any excuse really. I had this period where I wasn’t sure I had lots to say. But I feel like I want to reach out and let you know that I’m still here. So where to begin.
Well, both of my shows have opened here at the Shaw Festival. Guys and Dolls and Major Barbara. It’s nice to not be rehearsing anymore. A very interesting rehearsal period and wonderful to have two such different shows and such different positions within each. In Guys and Dolls, I was playing Nicely-Nicely Johnson, a role that not many people would instantly think of me for but it’s really more where I imagine myself in my mind. Because I grew up heavy, I always think of myself as a character actor, even when I’m playing a leading man.
For Major Barbara, I was the assistant director. I also play a small part at the end of the show. I’ve been asked why I’m doing this small role but it was worth it to get to work with Jackie Maxwell on the other side of the table and learn from her. I had such a great time working with her on Ragtime. She was so intelligent and generous and constantly searching for the truth of any and every moment that occurs onstage. I wanted to walk through a production with her from the other side and it just worked out this way that I could.
Guys and Dolls was a different experience. A bit mixed, I won’t lie. (I won’t go into detail) But the cast is a wonderful, fun, loving, generous group of people. Our designers created a great world for us and our choreographer, Parker Esse was a marvel – so joyful and creative and positive; I cannot wait to work with him again. And, as always, Paul Sportelli is one of the finest musical directors I’ve ever worked with.
I was nervous about being shitty in the show after last year’s success with Ragtime. Also because I knew it would be my last season here for a while. Yes, folks, I don’t think I’ve said it officially but it’s time to get back to NYC. So once I’m done here, I’m off. Back to my apartment in New York to really set up shop. I will be back for a concert on Nov. 30. Yeessssss a concert. It’s part of a series at the Metropolitan Community Church – TWO OF A KIND. It’s going to be me and Lola Cruikshank. Now for those of you who saw my Christmas Cabaret last year, you met Lola. Well she was such a hit, we are getting together again. After all, it is her time of year. Tickets are available now so pick up that phone and write it in your calendar.
And then I’m very happy to say I’ll be coming back to do Acting Up Stage’s revival of the sold-out acclaimed production of ELEGIES: A SONG CYCLE in March/April of 2014. I do have a special affinity for the show because it’s a show that surprised even the cast at how much the audience responded on such a visceral level and it was also my second Dora-nomination. I know it’s cheesy to mention my own Dora nomination but screw it, it’s my blog …. Anyway, I’m thrilled to be getting together my castmates – Barbara Barsky, Steve Gallagher, Eliza-Jane Scott – along with our director, Lezlie Wade and our musical director, Wayne Gwillim to re-explore this wonderful piece. I’ll keep you posted as more details are available.
Beyond that, well, we’ll see what New York and the rest of the world has to offer. A topic that keeps coming up in conversations a lot these days is the idea of living in the “I don’t know”. Allow me to explain. We, as human beings (and no, don’t roll you eyes, thinking I’m going to get all metaphysical on you . . . or maybe I am… I promise nothing) anyway, as human beings, we get very preoccupied with working on knowing what we’re doing, where we’re going and how we’re gonna get there. And yes, we must work our asses off – while still finding balance for peace of mind; and yes, we have to have goals and aspirations while still leaving room for the altering of those visions of ourselves, still keeping a trajectory of intention. But the how in particular is a nebulous and potentially dangerous thing to “think” is in your hands directly. But here’s the thing … there is so much involved in the how that you can’t know about; things that can take hours, weeks, years to come to fruition that you can’t even conceive of until they land. Yes, we can absolutely do the work on our ends – on whatever it is. Work, self, personal relationships. But the universe has a whole slew of incidents it is cooking up that are impossible for us to know.
I’ll give you a for-instance. Over The Rainbow, the TV show I was a judge on last year. How did that happen? Okay so I’ve worked my ass off to become a somewhat liked and moderately well-known musical theatre performer in Canada but I didn’t seek out a TV show. I got a call last June “out of the blue”. Hmm not so much. I found out eventually that one of the lead producers on the show at CBC was an usher at the Princess of Wales theatre during Miss Saigon in, what? 1994/95 (I was in the original Canadian company) and she remembered me being really nice to her. She also new I had gained some notoriety in the business … so when someone mentioned me as a possible judge . . . . she thought it was a good idea. Miss Saigon was 19 years ago!!! That’s a lot of brewing. I couldn’t have known all of the “how” was going to happen but I did what I could on my end. I tried to be a good singing story-teller, and a good person. And almost 20 years later, there was a big payoff. One that may keep paying off. I think it’s important to make friends with the “I don’t know”. It means that anything can happen, anytime.
I have to be honest, I loved being on TV. I don’t know if I talked about that in the last blog. My God, what a trip. But people were soooo nice and there were lots of laughs. And it takes a lot of people to make that stuff go. Wonderful, hardworking people at the CBC and Temple Street Productions. The biggest thing I realized is I WANT TO BE ON TV. And as me. I will gladly be on a sitcom or something but it never occurred to me that me on TV would make good TV and now I want to BE fun TV watching. (That was the weirdest sentence but I like it… it tickles) So that is one of my new goals. Just putting it out there. And whoever gets me on TV again first, gets the credit. 🙂
How much “I don’t know” is going on out there in your life. Welcome it with open arms, my people. The beauty of the moment after this one is . . . anything can happen. Let this be the summer of “I DON’T KNOW”.
I finally was able to get a clip together of my Nov. 30 solo concert, BROADWAY, MY WAY, in Toronto. It was at the Metropolitan Community Church and it was pretty thrilling night for me. I will try to get a couple more just to give a taste and eventually some of my Christmas cabaret SHUT UP, IT’S CHRISTMAS!
But for now, here is People from Funny Girl. It’s an arrangement that I created with Wayne Gwillim that I love. What he did is exquisite, in my opinion . . . and it’s my blog so my opinion is what counts. 😛 Diane Leah, my wonderful musical director, played it so beautifully. It was a very happy moment for me. I hope you guys enjoy.