The Big, Big, Mary Poppins.

This is such a big show!!!!! I love doing shows at WTC, the team is always really good and our leadership makes me want to work harder. What a cool story Mary Poppins is. Hopeful. Redeeming. Tech for this show was especially complicated. There is magic, massive sets, flying, huge dance numbers, big songs an immence amount of costumes… it just goes on and on.  I get to tap dance, fly and play a character that is just so special. I feel very lucky to be one of the Canadian Berts (not that my accent is Canadian, don’t worry). Whenever I am here in Kamloops, I’m always challenged, always excieted. I just feel very lucky to have that kind of support. WTC is very lucky to have such a good AD. The material is always interesting and the team he creates is nothing short of inspiring. I will come back.

So, I have been away from my family for 4 weeks so far. It will be 5.5 weeks total. I know it is not a very long time, but I miss my little family. Sawyer is growing, and trying out some singing, and well I want to kiss her little neck. KJ has been taking over all things while I’m away. Hard I know. Well, I love FaceTime, and calling everyday, and great sitters on Pender. They are all making this time away, that much easier. See you soon KJ and S.

Here’s to our crazy lives.

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I’ve been a busy boy

These days are crazy it seems. I have just spent the last 4 months working a lot, and preparing to move across the country.

I’ll start with my shows. I had the great privilege to perform “The Last 5 Years” in Regina. It is a piece that I, and many others, have wanted to try ever since it debuted in 2002. With an intensely rich and difficult score, this piece requires a deep study, a marathon endurance, and most importantly the acting chops to tell a very personal devastating story clearly. Well, I had a few people doubt me, and maybe to this day, don’t really believe I did it. I DID do it, and I did it well. It was produced by a company called Golden Apple Theatre in Regina. The production was beautiful devastating and very human. I am so glad I was able to challenge myself in that way and rise to the challenge. In the end, this two handed show had great reviews, and the people whom I respect in the industry, connected with my storytelling. People loved it, and that is perfect.

Next I did these 2 commercials. It is funny, but sometimes a simple commercial can reach so many people. I love doing film and TV. I was able to be kind of goofy funny on this one, so that had the crew laughing. It is a little piece of family connection that resulted in the “Ford commercial”. My grandfather is a retired Ford guy, my uncle is a ford guy currently, and Ford has been a part of my family, since I was little in my dads Mustang. I of course have no real ability to control what commercials are offered me, but the connection was neat. The other one was an “elections Canada” one, you know “vote, everyone’s doing it” kind of thing.

Then, I was in my hometown of Moose Jaw doing a great play. “Girl In A Goldfish Bowl” is about a little girl remembering the last days of her childhood, and the circumstances around those last few days. I played a fantastic charactor named Mr Lawrence. Mr L. is a man without a clear past, and has been found washed up on the beach, just as little “Iris” was saying her last goodbyes to her goldfish. She is convinced he is the reincarnation of her fish. It is a dark and twisty play by Morris Panych. I love his writing and his voice as a playwright. Again a huge privilege to play Mr. Lawrence. It was produced by RuBarb Productions at the beautiful Mae Wilson Theatre. People in Moose Jaw didn’t know what hit them, Strange, beautiful, funny and sad. It was a great piece of theatre with a great cast.

Then, I was off to Saskatoon to create a play/musical from the ground up. Crazy. I have never worked this way before, or to this degree I should say. We spent our hours in a Jewish synagogue, talking myths, and “blue skying” every idea. Then, as we went on in the process, we refined; specified. I loved it. It is really hard to be a leader, and follow, or be a leader when you are unsure. I again, worked with some amazing people. I really wanted to be involved with this project because of this collective creation aspect. Our story that we ended up creating is going to be Sum Theatre’s newest show in the summer. With a cast of 6 + two musicians we will be taking over parks in Saskatoon. Everyone who want to see us, can for free. This will be a new experience for me. I love all these new challenges. I’ll tell you the show title later.

Now, lets talk about my big move. So my wife KJ, who is awesome, has been offered an Artistic Directorship on Pender Island BC. She will become the new AD of Ptarmigan Music and Theatre society, an arts charity on the island. We had talked about this possibility for some time, as we were getting a little anxious to move to a different spot. I think this is a great move for Krista and my daughter Sawyer. We have a place set up on the island, that we are renting for the first year. We of course are in the process of selling our beautiful home here in MJ.  I am a little nervous about connecting/reconnecting with the theatre and film scene over there , but I’m hopeful that a Victoria/Vancouver Island relationship will blossom. I will of course will still be working in Saskatchewan and Ontario again, as well as, other parts of BC. This will be a new chapter for all of us. Wish us luck.

I am so confused????

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I seem to be missing a few blogs. Where to start….
I had a child! An amazing Daughter at the beginning of last summer. Her name is Sawyer : ) I am sure I have pics up all over the place but here is one for now. She is my pride and joy so I don’t quite know what to say.

My wife KJ is amazing and we were able to take the summer off together just to be parents and a family before I had to get back to doing shows. Our summer was spent in Saskatchewan around friends and family, but mostly just us. When I am stressed out or really busy I think of those times and it calms me.

I then came out to do a lot of filming around the country for the Documentary I’ve been working on. It is exciting piecing together all the stories of Al Capone in Moose Jaw, with the thriving legal or illegal liquor trade that was happening in the 1920/30s.

Then, I moved on to work with some heavy hitters out of Toronto in a Music Review called Closer Than Ever. We did it at Western Canada Theatre and we will also re-mount it at the 1000 Islands Playhouse in Ontario in the Spring. I was lucky that my little family was able to spend some time with me while I was at WTC.

Finally, I’m now back in Kamloops BC doing the Canadian Premier of a wonderfully imaginative play called Peter and the Starcatcher. Again I am working with some of Canada’s best. We open in just 11 days. Crazy.

Spanning 1/3 Of Our Country

I’ve had this really great opportunity to work with a non-profit called Ptarmigan Music and Theatre Society. They are situated on Pender Island in BC. My beautiful wife KJ has been working with them for a few years now, doing social media marketing, teaching arts workshops, ect. This past February I had a chance to teach a musical theatre workshop, as well as a collaboration with Live Out Loud Theatre, and Sask Association For Community Living, on an arts workshop for kids with Autism. The really neat part was I had a chance to visit Pender Island, then help an existing Autism group in Moose Jaw, my home town. It can get complicated working across provinces and with 3 different groups. We split the time very well.

The work involved with the Pender Island workshop was straight forward. I had 7 girls involved in my class, they were all very good and eager to perform. I have to say it’s so lovely teaching groups of people who really want to be there. We did a scene and a number from the musical White Christmas called “Sisters”. I had three days, and then they performed it for their community school performance evening. I split the scene into a group of girls with different characters, and split the song so that they all had solos. I had a harder time with the choreography, and that’s when my wife KJ helped out. I had it mostly down, but I needed that little extra pop that only she could advise. I have to say that they did really well, and the audience loved it. I was really happy with their work, and the performance was great.

IMG_4081So proud.

 

Coming back home to Moose Jaw we had a bit of time for last-minute changes to our Autism workshop. KJ had been auditing the group for the month while I was away on contract in Kamloops. Previously, we had initial meetings with groups from Regina and Moose Jaw. As well, we had to do a lot of research regarding Autism and arts facilitation for groups with Autism. There are groups in the US doing great work with similar goals. This is a new frontier for us and Live Out Loud Theatre, and we worked really hard coming up with a workshop that we hoped would go over well. We had 2 groups of kids, with an equal number of mentors. The age range between the groups were between 8 -14.

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It was very scary. I think we did really well. The same group in Moose Jaw has expressed interest in bringing us back to do some similar arts facilitation this summer at their Autism camp. Needless to say, Ptarmigan is pleased:)

I love teaching kids, it’s something I’m passionate about, and I’m good at it as well. I can think like kids…maybe because I am just a big kid. Or maybe it’s because they are all very honest and curious and I connect with that type of energy.

The Saskatchewan Association for Community Living was impressed, and so was the Ptarmigan Music and Theatre Society. Two provinces helping each other, united by art. Good times had by all.

Working in Silence

It’s a scary thing to take my tools away.

I have always lived with a motto that says, “my art should be a little scary”. What I mean, when I say that, is that when I take on roles as an actor, I’ve tried to avoid unchallenging work. This of course means that sometimes I suck. Sometimes it means I am brilliant. Obviously, I would like to be brilliant more often than not, but the thrill comes from pushing what I can do into places I fear I can’t. This is the craft I enjoy.

This show, Silent Chap, is a new piece, original, evocative, and funny. It is also completely silent.

I have been fortunate to be given the opportunity to try these roles on for size. Sometimes the challenge comes in the form of material given. Like in this case, a iconic character that almost everyone in the world recognizes. Someone who lives entirely on film. Someone who communicates without uttering a sound. Let alone the physical challenge of being constantly in second position. Have you ever ran in second position?

This is one of the new challenges I have decided to take on this year. After completing this play, or maybe we can call it a silent opera :), I will go to Pender island BC to teach a musical theatre workshop. Im looking forward to doing this too. I hear the kids are talented and a quick study. Then, Ill head back to Moose Jaw to teach an artist workshop for Autistic children. This is scary as well, because I have no idea how it will go. I have hopes that they will like what I do, and that I can share my love of theatre.

Les Miserables in BC

I’m here!

I can’t believe I get to do Les Miz. I remember singing this score, or parts of it, at the top of my lungs in the West End of Vancouver. I am sure it irritated the thousands that were forced to listen to my booming voice at all hours of the night. Sorry about that.

This time around though, I have earned the right to sing out. I have been singing all the songs in my head, regardless of who’s solo it is. This score is so triumphant, so epic, that I just can’t help it. You see, for me this was the first show that introduced me to musical theatre, and what it could be. Thus the constant serenade.

I remember walking through the West End, after rehearsal in the park, and talking wildly about musical theatre and all the newest shows. I was someone who really didn’t know the composers or all the playwrights by heart. I was a newbie to this world, and wasn’t really all that excited about musical theatre specifically. I loved plays, film, Shakespearian insights on life, and improv. That is where my learning was focused. Musicals were fluffy, or pedantic, and at the time, I didn’t see the true art inside the genre. I remember going to parties, and people would put on a musical, everyone would start singing, showing off, and I thought, how lame, lets dance, lets flirt, lets talk about life. I was always more interested in human relationships that were real. The musicals that I knew at the time were like children’s fairy tales, lovely and sweet, but not based in any authenticity. That all changed when I heard Les Miserables. Here was a show that was about love, passion, sacrifice, family, loyalty, human rights, responsibility, duty, integrity, and revolution. Holy shit.  Yes, the music is dramatic, yes, the story is sweeping and epic, I love it. This show and its ear worm score was the light that I needed to explore the genre. I wanted more.

I have to go now and rehearse. Start a revolution. Die with my comrades with freedom in our hearts. Ha. Awesome.

More later.

Home, home on the range.

Aaah, I’m home in Moose Jaw again. After 15 weeks on Vancouver Island doing “Singin In The Rain” KJ and I are back.
What a great time we had.  I ended up seeing a lot of friends and family that I never expected to see and most rarely my dad. Now I’m quickly working on 2 projects to fill my time at home while getting back into house routines. I’ll get into that in a second, first let me tell you about the drama that was our drive back to the flat lands.

Our Ford Focus was getting into its 165024th km when we started to feel something was off. At first the drive from Chemainus was going fine. Trips to see last-minute friends in Vancouver, lunches out at some of our favorite restaurants, random surprise run-ins, and new friends with couches in need of balletic maneuvering up stairs and on sidewalks. In fact our journey was dramaless until we reached the great valley between the mountains. Kamloops. The first event was strange but ignorable. I was driving in cruise, when all of a sudden, the car popped out of cruise and refused to go any faster that 80km. It only lasted until I reached the top of this particular hill, then it regained itself, ceased being obstinate, and returned controls back over to me. Oh well, our car was loaded to the max, so maybe it felt a little tired. After switching drivers KJ and I continued on our journey home, this time, just outside of Revelstoke BC, we hit a long weekend traffic jam. Sitting in our car surrounded by the majesty of the mountains, the fact that we were only going 10km/hour did not even phase us. Then the car stopped working. The check battery red light came on, and then the car just died. So, we pulled over and let it sit for a second, compared notes on these two incidents, and decided to take it to a mechanic in Revelstoke. Revelstoke as you may not know, has a reputation of being where cars go when they break down. It is the last stop before a 150km national park, and the second half of the steep, winding rocky mountains we all love to look at. However, this being the end of a long weekend, the maintenance shops were all booked until some time in the future. As well,  the fact that we limped into town at around 4:30 pm meant we were stuck. We did eventually find a mechanic to work on our car the next morning. He was the only one in town that wasn’t as crazy busy. We spent 3 days in Revelstoke exploring, worrying, sightseeing, and spending money. I have to say it is a beautiful town with really friendly people. It is a winter oriented community, with its major draw being the surrounding Ski/Snowboarding mountains. Being at the mercy of this mechanic we had no choice but to wait for our car to be fixed and hope that the bill was not going to be ridiculous. Realizing we would have to pay whatever the bill would be, we were just concerned that the mechanic would come back to us and say sorry your car is unfixable. By the second day we were going through the strategies of how to escape Revelstoke. The biggest problem was not the money necessarily, though spending cash on hotels for 3 nights was not cheap, let alone the hourly rate of a mechanic. Our concern came from the fact that we had all our stuff with us, and I mean all. About 10 bags. We had rented our house out to a family for the summer, so I brought our valuables, as well as all our clothing to Vancouver Island for the contract. It’s funny, there are not very many options when needing to escape Revelstoke. Can’t rent a vehicle one way. Can’t fly. Cant really walk. Can’t bike. Can’t hitch with all that luggage. Can’t ditch all our stuff. Some options were: freight plus bus into Moose Jaw at a cost of 500 dollars (a 26 hour ride), renting a car and driving back to Salmon Arm to rent a car one way to Moose Jaw at a cost of 1000 dollars, buying a sexy run down sedan in Revelstoke at another prohibitive cost, or moving to Revelstoke. After 3 days, we finally got a call from our master mechanic. He told us that after a new 380 dollar battery, a 240 dollar alternator, 9 hours of labour our car is fixed. Please pay 1340 dollars, have a nice day. Blah. We are free!!! So we drive, and drive, and drive. It’s like a dream. The car is running like a new vehicle. We pause in Calgary, to pick up more stuff, and then hit the road. We got into Saskatchewan just as the light was disappearing. The prairie sky was big and welcoming. Then just outside of Swift Current, the car started to give into its tired feelings once more. The battery light started to come on intermittently, then stayed on. We couldn’t believe it. The issue was not the alternator, or the battery, it had something to do with a wiring issue. We hoped our car could make it to Moose Jaw. I was busy looking up how long a battery can go without power feeding it. Not long. So we turned everything off that was drawing power and held off on turning on the headlights for as long as we could. One thing we learned as we were trying to escape Revelstoke, was that CAA won’t tow us home to Moose Jaw until we are within 100 km. So that was our goal. Come on car! I know you’re tired, but come on car! Amazingly our car held steady at 120km/h all the way home. It was an interesting drive to say the least. Our dials would shut down to zero, then come back on at max until finally reading correctly again. Our lights would constantly dim really low, then pop back up. All the while our car was steady. Exciting. Once home KJ and I realized that we could not afford to spend any more money on the car. So we finally sold it to a friend that is gambling on that fact he can figure it out. He hasn’t figured it out yet.

Now that I am back into the rhythm of my house and home, I have to get into my next projects. This Saturday I am heading south to continue filming the Finding Al -A Documentary I have been working on. We are on the road filming in Southern Saskatchewan following the Soo Line down to Chicago. Then we are heading to Ottawa to interview a genealogist. Meanwhile KJ will be sending out all the invites to the teachers for our Who Is Mrs Wilson? show this October. I am looking forward to this because when I return KJ and I will write a new script for the show concentrating on the legacy of Mrs Wilson and her life here in Moose Jaw.

It really is nice to be back in the swing of Moose Jaw again. I have such good memories of my time on Vancouver Island, tapping and singing in the rain. It really rained on stage! I have to say that seeing my family during the summer was a highlight for me. My mother-in-law stayed for a week, my bother-in-law and nieces were able to stay for a couple of days,  and my mom visited from Sechelt, my brother Jake come out for a day, I even had my dad come out to see the show. My dad has not seen me perform in 10 years plus, and because of how hard I worked on this role, it meant the world to me.

Now back to work.

I’m Singin In The Rain

I guess I’ll start at the beginning. I first learned about this role from a Director/Actor friend of mine named Tracey Power. She had contacted me and asked if I would be interested in being considered for the role of Don Lockwood.

Don Lockwood was famously created by Gene Kelly.

I said to Tracey that I would love to do this role and would be really excited to work with her again, but I said “I really don’t think I have the tapping chops to pull it off”. I have tapped before in my career, and have taken a few classes, but nowhere near the level of a master like Gene Kelly. In my wildest dreams, I would be able to work hard and kick ass as Don, but that, I figured, would be all it would be, a dream. Tracey however had other ideas. She asked me to put down what I knew and send in an audition video. I chose the title song and my wife choreographed a dance routine for me to learn. The songs of Singin In The Rain are all in my baritone wheel well, and the character seemed to fit me like a glove as well. The biggest hurdle was going to be the dance.

I sent my audition video into Tracey and I thought, well here goes. Meanwhile I was talking to my wife Krista, who is an advanced tap dancer, and she was being very encouraging. Krista was saying to me “look if you land this role, you will have to work your ass off and I will help you, we will tap every day and you can do it!” Now neither KJ or I were disillusioned into thinking I could somehow learn to be an advanced tap dancer in 4 months, but as long as i was honest about my ability to Tracey, and Tracey still wanted me , than I would work to be the best I could be.

I had received one more request from Tracey asking for a video of me tapping as fast as I could. At this point I thought for sure there was no way I could do it. I was having doubts as well, thinking if I got this role who am I kidding I can’t be Gene Kelly. Again my beautiful wife said to me “Just send it in, Tracey knows what she’s doing.  She will see your ability. You are not fooling anyone…this video shows how much you can, or can’t tap, and she will see your ability and cast you if she wants.”

I hadn’t heard for a while, and in the meantime my grandmother had died. So I flew to Vancouver to be with the family. I was worried about my grandfather most of all. He is a romantic soul, and she was the love of his life. After the funeral I was over spending some time with my Dad, and I got an email. This time it was not from Tracey, but from the musical Director Steven Greenfield. He wanted me to sing Broadway Melody. It is the song with the most range, so I suppose he wanted to make sure the tone and my range could handle the role. I only had my iPhone with me so I learned the song, and just hand-held the phone, singing into it with as much enthusiasm as I could muster given the circumstances.

I guess he liked it.

I got the message from Tracey a few days later and I landed the role. Now I was excited and determined and terrified. I immediately started taking lessons at our local dance school. When I say I took lessons I really mean it. There I was at Doris Sitter School of Dance in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, in a class of 10 year olds, learning. Getting my butt kicked I might add. These kids are fierce and much better than I was. They eventually got used to me and I became a project for them to reassure me and to teach me the sounds that I was missing. The thing is, you can’t fake tap. That’s why you don’t see it on So You Think You Can Dance, you either have the sounds or you don’t. So I practiced and practiced. I had privates from my wife in our kitchen, at the studio, anywhere I could learn.

In the middle of all this I did a whole other show. Fiddler on The Roof. Songs, choreo, lines, blocking, shows, the whole thing. After rehearsals and before shows I would come to the spare rehearsal hall and tap. It was hard work. In fact I was working a little too hard.

I had worked my body so consistently, that my right knee finally just gave out. I was unable to walk on it, let alone tap. I was panicked.

When I returned home from Fiddler I went to see as many healing modalities as I could think of. Sports Therapy twice a week, Massage, Chiropractic, I bought pain killers, anti-inflammatory , braces, wraps, and even a pair of core shorts. I eventually went to an Acupuncturist. All of these things slowly started to mend me. It was frightening to feel so incapable, and worried that people would think that I just couldn’t do it and had to give up.

I arrived onto Vancouver Island after doing a documentary film and a Playwrights Festival as well as renting my home to a doctor from South Africa , with a heart full of worry. I was injured and had to take things slower that I had wanted.  I had been working already on the music and the script, and I was pretty much off book so I could devote almost all my energy into creating the world and learning the choreography.

My wife became the Dance Captain, and so she was able to really help me learn things quickly after rehearsals, and or during some spare time. It’s funny though because being the lead in a show generally means I am in practically every scene and number so spare time doesn’t really exist. I am sure the cast was impressed with my determination and hard work, but also a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it. My Cosmo Brown, Jon Purvis, and my Kathy Seldon, Rachel Harrison, were amazingly supportive and willing to go over things a million times so I could get it. I tell you all, the cast really rallied behind me.

Needless to say, I did do it. Miraculously, amazingly, the show opened, and though I had to spend the first couple of weeks on pain killers, my dream had come true. The show as a hit.

I have to say that being able to sing and dance for real, as Don Lockwood in Singin In The Rain, is the most amazing feeling of accomplishment I’ve had in a long time. I feel so fortunate to have such genuine joy playing this role.

Playwrights Fest 2013

I just finished doing the Playwrights Festival in Saskatoon. I love doing this festival, it is filled with playwrights and directors, actors and dramaturgs. Now, I understand that for some this could be their idea of a nightmare, but it really isn’t. The thing about these kinds of festivals is that the work being discussed, or worked on is new, fragile, innocent as it were. It can be easily crushed by ego or criticism, so to the best of everyone’s ability, that is kept out of this process.

I worked on two pieces. The pieces were called Popcorn Elder by Curtis Peeteetuce and the other, Text Match by Jason Heit. Both were read, discussed, analyzed, and then discussed some more, finally culminating in a public reading. The purpose, is to give the writer a chance to hear their piece through the eyes of actors and directors, without the pressure of having to be a finished work. The showcase in front of the audience also gives a chance for the writer to listen for an audience reaction. This can be invaluable because, even though us artists may love a piece of new work, it does not always mean the general ticket buying public does.

At any rate it was a fun time, with great people, and I hope to do it again if my schedule permits.

Kamloops and Tap

I am in Kamloops, just opened Fiddler On The Roof with the Kamloops Symphony. We had a fantastic opening night with a packed house and a reception in the lobby. Afterwards we all came down to the rehearsal hall for a bit of an after hours party. This has been an amazing trip to the BC Interior. This is a huge cast, and we are all working really hard. The designers have created a really stunning show that tells a beautiful story. I haven’t seen the show of course, as I am back stage in the dark blue hue of stage left. KJ says it is beautiful, and she cried throughout Act 2. We are all in good hands.

It is funny how much I have been tap dancing, everyday if I can. I love to do it. I really am getting much better. As I gear up for Singing In The Rain, I am working on little, combos, and some really challenging steps. It is all very exciting. I have taken classes in Moose Jaw, Kamloops, and when I get there, Vancouver. My biggest influence is my wife Krista, luckily she is a very good tap dancer, and many of the people in our biz respect her as a great tap dancer. I am getting better, stronger, and getting the grace of it all.

I have to get to Vancouver in a couple of weeks. I hope to see some of my family and friends. I am looking forward to tapping in Van with Jen Bishop as well. I will then get back to Moose Jaw for a few weeks. Hope everyone’s spring is Great one.