Sunday, June 30, 2013

Work it Out.


I am sitting here watching the opening to Beyoncé's I Am...World Tour and am just speechless. One because I am going to be seeing The Mrs. Carter World Tour in less than a month and two I am continually in awe of the dedication to her work. Over the past few months, I have watched her HBO special Life is but a Dream a few times and was continually blown away by her work ethic and sheer perfectionism in her performances.

Now, some of you are probably wondering; "Whoa whats with the Beyoncé kick?"

I am gettin' to it.

She gives herself over to everything that she does, every fibre of her being is left out on that stage after she does a show. You may be saying, "Uh...Yeah, that's her job isn't it. To entertain?" And I would reply, "Yes. It is." In my opinion she is one of the best performers of our generation, lyrically her songs aren't the deepest, and are usually about having sex with Jay Z, but it is her showmanship that makes her tours and live performances what they are. She will spend hours in the studio perfecting every dance move to the point where she outdoes her own dancers, and I know she is no skipper on the vocal side either. When she locks into Sasha Fierce, she just is.

I know my enthusiasm is probably freaking some of you out, but there is a point to this fangirl-ing.

The reason I am prattling on about Beyoncé is rather anecdotal. I have been thinking a lot, as I tend to do, and have started to pin point the issues I have with my work. And as I have talked about before, this year for me is about unlocking and putting into practice the things that I suck at, which to me is this "work" I have identified.

I pride myself in my ability to connect with people, both socially and via social networking. I try to go to as many shows/events as possible in an attempt to foster professional relationships with my fellow artists. I like meeting new people who are in the same boat as I am, we can help each other, teach each other. I find it is an invaluable skill to be able to connect with people in a way that isn't aggressive or invasive but complimentary.  I am also a very curious person, so I ask a lot of questions (sometimes to a fault). This natural curiosity that I have enables me to find enjoyment in researching a new script, finding different takes on the story, bringing in evidence, comparing, discussing, learning, and ultimately building a character from the ground up, which is my passion and what I have been doing for as long as I can remember.

I am good at it, they are the things that I love about acting, why I got into this gig in the first place.

What needs an overhaul is my ability to dedicate myself to simple things like reading the script and memorizing it. I find I will distract myself with trivial actions, like continued research or checking facebook for the millionth time that I don't spend time with the words and the story. I tend to brush it off by telling myself that I will memorize in rehearsal, or after simply reading the script once "I get the story". This attitude is so crippling to any performer and something that will ruin me if I can't integrate it into my rather stiff process.

Another example: I saw a show at the Ottawa Fringe the other day that was basically a guitarist who imitated other guitarists that he liked. Very simple concept. He was a brilliant player. At one point in the show he talked about one of his idols practicing for 5-9 hours every day, and this just hit me. Obviously I have heard of people practicing for insane hours every day before, but at this particular moment it made sense to me that the performers I look up to all dedicate immense amounts of hours to rehearsing and creating. And this is the "work" I am in pursuit of.

One of my teachers this year said that I didn't understand the amount of work that is required of me to be an actor. I know this isn't entirely true because I have a lot to offer, but they were right in the sense that I tend to avoid the things that actually need my attention, I convince myself that I am working when clearly I am not. Conclusively; If acting and performing is truly something that I want and cannot live without then I must do anything and everything in my power to make it a realty.

Perfection comes from practise and the only way that this will work is if I dedicate all of my time to making myself better and stronger. Physically, verbally, and mindfully. I have always fell back on the things I am good at rather than seeking the things I am not so good at, and now I have to step up and take what has been offered to me. I have to be honest with myself and LISTEN to what I need to do. I can't keep sliding through on my talent, I have to fight to have a place in this world.

I will now leave you with one of my favourite Beyoncé songs:


Night Abyss.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Jet Setting.

Hey Abyss,

Just got back from the auditions for Aladdin Jr. being put on through Stabback Music Studio; the company I am working for over the next three weeks. It was great to be in the room with a slew of new kids and the different energies they bring. I have been feeling quite exhausted and lethargic over the last few days because of all the travelling I have been doing. I flew from Halifax to Montreal yesterday and had to race to my apartment and switch bags before catching the bus to Ottawa. I didn't get in until 11:30pm, which doesn't seem late but since I have been commuting for the last fews days it has started to take its toll on me physically.

Despite me complaining about my sore butt, I am stoked for the next few weeks. I have two of them to direct a full musical production, which is a challenge I have gladly accepted. The last time I directed this particular show was at Truro Junior High School and we had about 4 months... Needless to say, this will be exponentially different. It is a great team of people though so I have no doubts we can pull it off and make sure the kids get the most out their time with us.

These next two months are going to be extremely busy for me, but with all the downtime I have accumulated since May I figure it will be a good balance for my last summer. It is so much healthier for me to be constantly doing things. The most exciting part about this summer is that I am spending a lot of time in places that I have either never been or haven't been in a while, and I am all about new experiences. After I finish up here in Ottawa I am spending sometime in Toronto getting to know the city and hanging out with new and old friends. Then before I return home to Nova Scotia I am seeing Beyoncé live in concert on the Mrs. Carter World Tour in Montreal.

Pretty Solid.

The Ottawa Fringe is this week and I am going to try my best to see as many things as possible. There is a lot of compelling work in the line up and I haven't been to a Fringe Festival in a while, so where better to start then where I am located! My friend, who is ironically from Ottawa, is currently in Calgary performing in the show Girls, Girls, Girls! with Major Matt Mason Collective (despite all the flooding) and when she returns we have plans to put together a double bill of our Solo Shows here. I am looking forward to performing it again for a completely different community.

The more I can do it the better.

On that note: most of my class, this summer, have also performed their Solo Show more than once. It is such a great feeling to have a piece of theatre that you can just whip out and is only 15 minutes long. Truly a wonderful project, and my class put together some amazing work.

I had coffee with Jonathan Torrens on Friday morning and he had some really great advice for me as a performer from the Maritimes. He is a stand up guy and I am grateful he could take the time to hang out with me for a bit. I love being able to talk to other artists and hear their stories and successes, it makes my dreams obtainable.

As time goes on I find myself continually coming to conclusions about myself and my goals as a developing artist and I feel blessed to be surrounded by people who continue to guide me in the right direction. As many struggles and hardships I run into, there is always a lesson to be learned. I am really excited about my third and final year and what lies in store for myself and my classmates. It's been quite the journey so far.

Night Abyss.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Hey Abyss,

This week has happened.

I head to Ottawa in 9 days and I feel like I don't know where the time has gone. It hasn't really hit me until this year; time just escapes when you aren't looking. I am preparing for the second stage of my summer which is going to consist of a lot of plane rides, directing, performing, meeting new people, exploring, watching Beyoncé and of course teaching. Basically in that order. The first part of the summer was supposed to be "down time" time to recollect on what has happened to me this term and how I can improve going into this year. Although I have done some recollection, I feel like most of the things I have been grappling with are going to fall into place once I am utilizing them all again.

It is so scary how quickly I can become lazy and abandon the practice they teach us at NTS, now this of course is due to a compilation of things; me being tired, lazy, wanting to escape...and so on. Lately my body has been giving me signs that is misses the schedules and the regulation. It craves the stretching and the warming up, despite how much I loathe them. I feel like this is part of the process though, if you continue to work on the things you hate eventually they become things you enjoy. The hardest part of this cycle is not just running away, but sticking with it, as hard as it is. Believing in the system.

The biggest challenge for me as a person/actor is listening. Frankly, I just don't do it. And by listening I mean all aspects: scene partners, myself, situations... I spent the weekend with one of my very close friends at my cottage which has no running water or electricity. All we had was a wood stove, a propane light, and clean water in a Gatorade cooler. The place is the epitome of serene. There was a moment, one evening, where he was very quiet and I asked him what he was thinking about, and he replied that he was purely listening. I asked him, "To what specifically" and he said, "All of the sounds. And each of them individually. The wood stove, the light, the clock, the ocean.." With that, I laid my head back on my chair and started to just listen for the sounds he mentioned. Almost instantly my mind cleared, like someone had taken a chalkboard eraser to my mind. It was peaceful, finally.

All year my teachers, my family, and my psychologist have all repeated the same things to me; LISTEN! And it took my closest friend in my cottage to actually let that hit for me. It was a revelation. If one can listen without judgement, to all things, then one can exist authentically. Everything that pours out of them is truth. There is no indulging, no pretending, just living. This word is my word for life, whenever I feel overwhelmed or chaotic, I have to take the time to simply listen.

I watched Inside the Actors Studio yesterday and it featured the cast of Mad Men. It was a great episode, all of those actors have come from such diverse backgrounds and have had extremely different routes to the show, it was inspiring. The one thing that stuck with me the most was Jon Hamm's response to a girls question from the audience. She asked him about how much rehearsal they get before shooting a scene. And he replied, "None. You are expected to come onto set knowing your lines and having done your research. You are coming into a well oiled machine and if you junk it up with tripping over your lines then you are replaced." He was talking about TV, but I think the rule applies to all mediums of acting. His frank statement really drove home what happened to me earlier this year in Snap Back to Reality, also this quote by Tom Hardy has resonated with me the last few days:

''Surviving is one thing. You can get through, you can white-knuckle. You can do the bare minimum. But there comes a time when life stops rewarding potential. If you want to participate on a certain level in anything, you cannot just turn up and be respected." 

These instances have really impacted me, and how I need to change up my approach. The things that have been working for me over the last 22 years are not going to work forever it is time to reevaluate.

On a lighter note I had an audition yesterday with a very nice girl. I felt okay about it, but who knows what will come of it. And Blackbird opened on over 50 screens in France yesterday!

I feel truly blessed to have the amount of support I do, thank you to all the readers for letting me unload my brain and evaluate myself in front of you. This blog is coming up on is 3rd year anniversary!

Night Abyss.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Hey Abyss,

First of all I want to thank everyone who came out to support me at SOLO-icious last weekend, I truly felt the love. My mom was able to come and see LIONESS and this was the first time she had seen me perform in a couple of years. She was thrilled, and of course had some notes for me afterwards; as she does.

This was the second public performance of LIONESS, my definite third will be happening in Ottawa next month, and I learned so much this time around. The audience was obviously different than the audience at The National Theatre School, albeit just as special. The catch with SOLO-icious is that the audience doesn't know what they have signed on to see, they just buy a ticket for the evening and take the ride. So the audience is intently gathering information about each piece as it comes out, because they are completely unrelated.

All day I had been extremely nervous about how the audience would feel about LIONESS, and my nerves ended up getting the best of me at the start of my piece. As "Wayne" I have a tendency to be very hard on myself and make judgements, for other people, about myself. I create these big personalities, which are my characters, and I have a difficult time letting them live in front of an audience. I lose faith in my abilities sometimes, and it is venomous.

I know the show entirely. Maria is inside of me. I know how she moves and how she thinks about everything and everyone. That's not a question. Granted, what I learned from performing the show last week was that I truly need to let "Wayne" fade to the back when I am playing a character. Of course there are going to elements of myself in everything that I play, but as soon as MY nerves and insecurities filter into the character in suffocates them and they can't do what I have created them for: To be an expression of me as an artist, to tell the story that we develop together. Thus, my performance isn't what it could be and ultimately, I let the character down.

Due to the fact that I also wrote the piece there is more at stake in my mind when I let my nerves get the best of me or I stumble. It is an odd feeling when you trip over the words you wrote. But even the best actors mess up, and even the best actors have bad performances where they feel they didn't do what they are capable of. As self deprecating as this all may sound, I think it is part of this journey as a young actor.

Over the last few weeks I have been talking to some very influential people about my journey into third year, and about my career. A lot of things that happened to me in last semester are starting to drop in and make sense. Somehow over the last two years I have lost sight of aspects of myself and I am looking to reclaim them in the next few months. I want to graduate from NTS as strong as possible. And the only way I can do that is to face my weaknesses head on. This summer so far has been about digging and recalling those weaknesses and thinking about how I can make then strengths.

This stuff is all old hat, I just need to reiterate it for myself. Keeps me accountable.

No auditions of late, the next big thing on my plate is a Personal Training Course that I am preparing for. Other than that I am trying to expose myself to as much inspiration as possible while enjoying my downtime. I head to Ottawa to direct Aladdin Jr. with Stabback Music Studio in 18 days!

Over the weekend my grandfather gave me his Father's wristwatch. It is a self timing watch, which means that it stops ticking when it is not on my wrist. I like that each time I take it off, before I put it on I have to set it. I think it is going to be a great way to teach me how to slow down and enjoy the simple things. Getting my first adult watch makes me feel so grown up, as cheesy as that sounds.

Life is the time we have left, and what we choose to do with it.

Night Abyss.

(Disclaimer: I am not a drag performer. Maria is simply a character who has a story to tell. And I am a man who is choosing to tell it, authentically. I have a lot of respect for drag performers but that is not the point of LIONESS.)