(with lemonTree Creations Artistic Producer Indrit Kasapi)
Last night, I received Canadian Actor’s Equity Emerging Artist Award, generously sponsored by Stage West, at a fabulous event attended by CAEA membership. Also honoured were Chick Reid, the celebrated Actor and Arts Educator; Bill Millerd, retiring Artistic Director of Arts Club Theatre; the formidable Lisa Brown, retiring Director and Founder of Workman Arts Theatre; and AFC (formerly The Actor’s Fund of Canada). I was an emo wreck leading up to it, because I take my work and being an Equity member seriously, but also because anytime something is from your peers it’s special…I wanted to do a good speech that made people laugh but also made them think but also remembered two people the community lost but also honored my teachers and collaborators but also was a bit political but also really made people laugh. Indrit Kasapi from lemontree made the presentation and my Mom attended, but I was really grateful to see people like Dustyn Wales and Sedina Fiati and Paula Wolfson and Deb Mcgrath as well….our community is a strong one and I’m grateful to have had a lovely night.
I’m sharing the text of my speech below to hold myself to what I aspire to as a working artist. Missing is the joke I opened with (after thanking CAEA and Stage West: “I never thought I’d be pushing 40 and still be an Emerging Artist!”) and me trying not cry during Indrit’s presentation (emo wreck, I tell ya!).
lemonTree creations (where I’m an Artistic Associate under Artistic Producers Indrit Kasapi and Cole Alvis), supported by Factory Theatre and Nininsky Lee Aquino, Magnus Theatre and Thom Currie, Toronto Fringe and Lucy Eveleigh made this happen and it means the world to me. Cole and Indrit’s powerful drive and vision, Nina’s incredible leadership, Thom’s loving rehearsal process, and Lucy’s community building all are ways of existing healthily in the theatre, of supporting an ecology that lets theatre artists flourish. They (along with Generator TO and Buddies In Bad Times Theatre, my favorite company in the world) are my theatre family, and it’s an exciting time to be an artist….looking to who the province just elected to govern, there’s lots happening for us to respond to: much escapism we can provide, much anger and frustration to vent, and much building of the culture and society we want to see.
As Equity members, we share a rich legacy of agitation for change. I believe that as much as it is our shared duty to be highly skilled, consummately professsional, and motivated workers, it’s also our shared duty to continue that legacy…in the words of Angels in America, “….and we all desire that change will come”. Some of us have heard of the 7 generations concept during Indigenous land acknowledgements; it’s a concept that Equity members should take the time to learn and take to heart. What are we doing for the next 7 generations of Actors, Directors, and Stage Managers? It’s not just about how much we get paid (although it is a bit about how much we get paid). It’s not just about our benefits (although I have a massage next week, thank you CAEA). It’s about the pride we take in our work and ourselves. It’s about looking out for each other.
There are two names I want to speak into the record: Jonah McIntosh and Scott J. Campbell. I don’t claim any special closeness to them or to their families, but as Equity members we are all connected. As Equity members, we must pay close attention to each other, to be there for the next Jonahs or Scotts.
As Michel- Marc Bouchard wrote in the play Lilies, “One can do anything in the theatre, even conquer the unconquerable”, so while I’m here I want to give gratitude for being able to do just that with the companies of:
MSM [men seeking men]
MacArthur Park Suite: A Disco Ballet
Little Pretty & the Exceptional
and We Will Rock You.
I’m also grateful for my frequent collaborators Mark Selby and Nicole Rose Bond for their sense of play, my agent Bella (who lets me do theatre and not just film/tv), and especially my best and favorite teachers David Charchalis, Dave Powers and Lesley Ballantyne because I have delighted in learning from all of you and passing that knowledge onto others. 20 years ago, Lesley gave me an incredible lesson. She said “the smartest thing any of us can do is say “Gimme! Gimme your knowledge, gimme your experiences, gimme your lessons.” and then shut up and listen. To me, that’s the best thing about working in theatre: no matter what stage of your career you’re at, there’s always someone who knows more than you do, and who you can go to and say “Gimme! Gimme your knowledge, gimme your experiences, gimme your lessons.” To my mind, we’re all emerging artists, always.
Lastly, in my life there have been two constants. I’m grateful for the presence of two incredible women, because of whom I can stand on my own two feet. One is my mentor Chita, and the other is my mother Patricia. I grew up in a single parent/single income home, and with no alimony or child support, she raised me to love the theatre by taking me to everything, large or small, that came through Mississauga, Oakville, Toronto, Buffalo, and New York City. I really mean she took me to everything….except Starlight Express. because, in her own words, “I want you to have better taste than that”. In recognizing me, you are also recognizing her sacrifices and strength.
Let’s all work harder, create more, learn endlessly, give freely, and love theatre.
with my Mom, Patricia