Reflections on connections

Hello, Internet, today is Monday, March 23rd. I intended to write this tying-up-the-project blog entry two weeks ago… but, then, the world completely turned upside down.

So I’m only getting to it now. But as I try, along with everyone else, to wrap my head around this new pandemic-time reality, it’s been great for me to look back at this tour and reflect on it. I’ve come to the conclusion that, even in a time when we are being asked to stay apart, the way that we are connected to each other is more beautiful than it is scary.

Original is founded on the links between the mythologies at the root of our society, and each of the characters defines herself by the way she is connected to the rest of humanity and to the world. And stories exist to connect us: to each other, to our past, to ourselves.

Here are some touring highlights:

St. John’s

What can I say about The Hall? About that gorgeous space and the people that make her run? The most constant part of my life in St. John’s, where I have been working – casually, and off-and-on – for more than a decade, where my community meets (used to meet; will meet again) to share their sorrows and their triumphs?

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If you don’t mirror selfie, are you even IN a dressing room?

This is me, scared shitless, but held up by the people who prepared me for that moment: the designers who conceived of and made this costume that makes me feel like a warrior; the designer who made me a freaking rainstorm on a beach that I can pack up and bring thousands of kilometers with me on a flash drive; the director who believed in my writing and performance enough to strip away almost everything else; the stage manager who, about 5 minutes after the taking of this photo, came in to give me the time with her rare brand of professional kindness; the graphic designer who made the perfect image for the new edition of the piece; and the administrative staff at the Hall, who worked around everything they’ve ever done before to allow a ticketed choose-your-price pay structure with a very low bottom end, helped me with promotion, and then PAID to see the show even though seeing theatre for free is arguably the best reason to work in that building.

Chelsea & Ottawa

First of all, this stretch of the tour was only possible because of kind actions by the producers of Between Breaths – a beautiful show on which I get to work and which was playing in Ontario in February/March – who booked my flight back to Newfoundland several days later than my contract ended, from a different city. This act of kindness let me bring Original to my “other home,” and is emblematic of the support that becomes run-of-the-mill when you work for Artistic Fraud for long enough.

OK, now let’s talk about Eleanor.

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Eleanor (right) and me on a show-day snowshoe

I grew up in Ottawa. I’m about as connected to it as I am to any place, on an emotional level. But on a practical, producing-theatre-in-the-area level, Eleanor is my bridge.

Eleanor is my Theatre Mom. I think most of us who work in theatre have one of these – a teacher or mentor who was there during a formative period of our lives and provided knowledge and encouragement as we dove into this thrilling, unpredictable, unstable, beautiful industry. Well, she’s mine. She’s also one half of the team that makes up Bear & Co. In 2018, she brought their production of Vern Theissen’s Shakespeare’s Will to Newfoundland and we toured it together. (I also directed their summer production of Cymbeline that year.) So working together on Original was a no-brainer.

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Pre-show at Pressed, where, in the absence of a dressing room, I sat with my two of my oldest friends and took this picture.

Bear & Co set me up with 3 shows in 3 days and I got to tell this little story to about 75 people. One of the beautiful things about the new storytelling format of this piece is that the connections are direct and immediate. I got to look into these people’s eyes. I got to speak with them afterwards. I got to have so many conversations, right after the performances and in the days afterward, about feminism, about politics, climate change, pipelines, about the place that stories and myth have in our lives and in our collective psyche. I met people I didn’t know. I reconnected with people I hadn’t seen in years (decades?). Members of my family saw a part of my life they’d only heard about before. My root-bowl grew a little wider.

And nature and I got to reconnect as well.

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It’s not hard to tap in to Embla when you get to spend an afternoon like this.

Corner Brook

I went to university in Corner Brook. It holds a massive part of my heart. There is a ski hill and everything, and sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that I actually like winter.

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I spent so many days staring at this view between 2003 and 2007…

The Rotary Arts Centre is a new venue – by which I mean that it opened after I finished my BFA almost thirteen years ago – and I had only ever poked my nose in there before. It’s perfect for this kind of show, though: 90 seats, intimate, and 3/4 thrust. Fabulous.

And now I must introduce you to Pig and Giraffe.

Pig is often astonished. Giraffe sometimes finds that their neck gets cold.

These little pals are always in rehearsal, and they watch every show. They’re Jaimie (stage manager)’s assistants and they are very diligent. And here is their view of the RAC stage.

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Hitting the stage in Corner Brook for the first time in nearly thirteen years was an honestly incredible experience. Again, reconnecting with some old friends, making new connections, having lots of exciting and energizing conversations. AND, while I was there, I got to see Grenfell‘s production of Macbeth, so that was pretty darn cool.

Clarenville

In the fall I did a little acting with New Curtain Theatre Company, and they were kind enough to present Original. Like so many small theatres, New Curtain doesn’t currently have a building – they rent venues based on the needs of the production – and for this little show, we asked Bare Mountain Coffee House to have us. They did, and folks? It. Was. Beautiful.

After the show there, one of the audience members told me that while I was speaking as Embla, the wind was blowing in the trees behind me. And I think that’s just excellent.

This is what it looks like when you store a storytelling show.

So, friends, that was the tour. I got home – healthy – before the understanding of what was to come really set in. I connected, briefly but meaningfully, with so many people, and while we are all inside our homes for the time being, trying to keep our interpersonal contact to our phone lines and WiFi, I’m finding comfort in my understanding that we – humans – are intrinsically connected to each other, and to the world that we live in.