Thems the Breaks

I'm a control freak choosing to work in a business where I'd guess about 90% of everything is out of my control and nothing is ever guaranteed. I am a crazy person. Last week, I auditioned for & booked a commercial in French. I know, pretty exciting stuff! The commercial was actually being shot in English and French but they hired different groups to do each. Though I wouldn't have any lines, I was going to be the "Hero Girl" prominently featured at the end of the commercial.

Shoot day, I go through hair, makeup, wardrobe, then sit around and wait. When I finally get to set, they put me and Hero Girl English in mics because it turns out they've added some lines. A very sweet deal that means I would be getting way more money than originally anticipated. They film everything in English and have us watch to make sure we repeat things exactly as we saw them. Then they switch. I take my position on the set. Microphone & makeup is checked. We are good to go!

That's when I hear it: "The client wants to switch them."

'Them' being myself & the other girl in the background.

So I went from being a featured player in a commercial to being in the background in the blink of an eye. After two takes, I was told they wouldn't need me anymore & wrapped for the day.

Yes, I will still get paid my due, but that doesn't make any of it feel less shitty. And to top it all off, I found out that this sort of thing is normal and happens all the time (!) in this business.

After having a chat with an actor friend, I decided to bring this incident up because I want other actors out there to know, it's generally not about your talent or your professionalism. If this, *insert deity here* forbid, were to ever happen to you, it's probably not even about you. It can very well be because they are four hours behind schedule and can save a shot by using the same set of hands in both commercials but yours aren't black and we're pretty sure the viewing public might notice a discrepancy.

Thems are the breaks.

In the meantime, just be happy you've got rent covered for another month.

Cool People Doing Cool Things

Meet Jayson McDonald. I've mentioned him within these pages before, mostly as the producer of one of my very favorite little festivals - London's Big Comedy Go-To (coming up in an April near you!) But Jayson is also the creator of some of the most awesome Fringe shows I have ever seen (including one that I was so very proud to be a part of The Last Goddamned Performance Piece). The first McDonald show I saw was in Ottawa in 2008. It was called Boat Load and it just blew me away. In a previous post I said of it that "I never realized until then that one person could do so much on stage with so little and still tell a beautiful and compelling story."

I remember talking to everyone I knew at the Fringe Tent about Boat Load and how amazed I was by it, so much so that I think I saw it twice. The general response from people in the know was along the lines of "well of course it is, haven't you seen him in Robot?" Oh Giant Invisible Robot, how you have haunted me since then.

Giant Invisible Robot was Jayson McDonald's first solo Fringe show and it has always been an incredible success.  It had played at the Ottawa Fringe Festival the year prior and, somehow, I had missed it (if you can believe it, there was actually a time when I didn't see everything).  In 2009, I started my own touring adventures on the Fringe Circuit and Jayson became a good friend. He's produced Giant Invisible Robot multiple times to unbelievable success everywhere he's gone, but somehow I always missed it. I would never be in the same city at the same time. Robot became my Polkaroo. This went on for FOUR goddamn years. It got to the point where I was asking Jayson if I could just give him some money RIGHT NOW would he just do the show for me.

One person shows work that way, right? Unless they take place on roller skates, in which case I will tell you I am wearing the wrong pants and can't give you a personal performance of Roller Derby Saved My Soul.

I thought this trend was going to continue even after hearing that Giant Invisible Robot would be clearing a path of destruction all the way to the Gladstone Theatre in Ottawa, because, BLAST, I was going to be in Toronto. But then Fate intervened. It just so happened that I would have an audition in Ottawa on the very same day that Robot would be opening. Now, my plan was to attend the audition and then boogie back to TO in time to catch my roommate's opening night of Dying Hard because, I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I love my uber talented roommate very much. When she caught wind of my plan and realized that I hadn't seen Robot yet ("What do you mean you still haven't seen it? How is that even possible?" - see my response above), she convinced me to stay in town to watch it. I'd be able to catch her show later on in the week anyway, but this could be my only chance to see Giant Invisible Robot. And, in her words, I just HAD to see this beautiful show.

And you know what? She was right. So right that I sent her flowers. The show is as worth it as everyone has told me it was.

Well, what are you waiting for Ottawa? I waited FOUR years to see Giant Invisible Robot, you shouldn't wait another minute. It's at the Gladstone Theatre until Saturday. And if you're feeling extra keen, stick around on Friday or Saturday night and catch another personal favorite of mine, Paul Hutcheson, in Third Time Lucky, right after Robot. That is one awesome night of theatre right there!

Play Hard, Work Harder

I've been so stupid tired in the last few days, my blogging has fallen off the map, so get ready for an influx of posts in the next little while. And why, you might be thinking, would I be feeling so tired? Although you might not be thinking that. Maybe you're thinking "should I have another coffee right now" to which I would respond, yes. You should always have another coffee right now. Anyway, on Monday night, I caught the train from Toronto for a busy Tuesday in Ottawa. It started out with a meeting with my Mary M director (PRO-TIP: if you want to schedule a meeting with your director, just crash at his house), a French theatre audition, lunch and chat with my dear friend and former Evolution Theatre partner, picking up my tax information, audition prep for another French theatre audition in Toronto the next day, dinner with my director and his beautiful partner, and finally a show - Jayson McDonald's Giant Invisible Robot. (more on that in my next post, but trust me, just go see it)

I felt good about my day. The audition was one of those amazing group ones that last about two hours; where you just get to play with a bunch of strangers and create something beautiful. It's a testament to the Artistic Director that brought us all together that within the first 15 minutes strangers quickly became trusting friends and coworkers. I love those types of situations because they are incredibly fun and leave you with such a high.

In the evening, by the time the show was over, I was ready for drinks, even though I knew that I had a train to catch at 5:30 a.m. the next day. Why so early? Because I wanted to be back in time for work and I had another audition to get to in the afternoon. But a little devil on my shoulder started telling me I should postpone the trip to a later one, maybe call in sick to work, stay out, sleep in, HAVE FUN! And to tell you the truth, I was tempted. Oh so very tempted. Because let's be honest, what are my odds of booking this gig in TO anyway?  But the later trains were sold out and, no matter how freaked out I was about the audition, I had done all this prep work for it and didn't want to miss it.

So I did what any responsible grown-up would do in this situation: I drank like a fish, closed the bar and then stayed up all night before heading directly to the train station... Ugh.

Ok. Let's be honest. I am not the best example to follow. (Won't somebody please think of the children?) But I knew what I was doing and I did not give up along the way. I dozed as best I could on the train, showed up for work and did my job. Well, I might add. (Though special shout-out to my roommate for dropping by with some life-saving acetaminophen.) Then I went to my audition and knocked it out of the fucking park. My body knows, because I've done this before, that the show must go on. Something always clicks inside me when I have to get something done, something that makes sickness and hangovers disappear until I am able to deal with them. Maybe that's my Mutant Superpower?

It was hard, it was painful, and I am getting too old for this shit, but I pulled it off, crashing into bed somewhere around 8 p.m.

Years ago, I was at a Leadership Camp where you had conferences and events during the day and big ass parties at night. During the very first session, someone said something to me that I will never forget: You're only allowed to play as hard as you are ready to work. I'd add to that, you are only allowed to play hard if you are ready to work even harder.

It's too important. This career is my love and people are counting on me. I'm not ready to throw that all away for a few nights of fun.

The Stepford Phenomena

Commercial auditions are a weird thing.  I remember being told during the Sears and Switzer TV Commercial Weekend that these were the only auditions where a 20-year Startford veteran could be legitimately competing against the plumber from down the street (or was it a veterinarian?) First of all, leave the resume and headshot at home. You'll have to fill out a form and get your picture taken on location.

The less lines there are to learn, the more people you will find packed into what feels like a very tiny room.  There's a reason they call them "cattle-call" auditions and, the first time around, you will be struck by the fact that so many people in this town look JUST LIKE YOU.  I swear I didn't realize there were so many brunettes who like wearing skinny jeans inside their boots before... Remove any delusions you might have. You, my friend, are not special.

If you are a member of ACTRA, don't forget to sign in with your call time and audition number (meaning is this your first, second, third, ect audition with these people).  This is very important because commercial auditions are one of the few times you can get paid just for showing up.  You get $50 for a callback audition and, if they are running behind schedule, about $75 for every hour past your call time you have to wait.  But you have to sign it all in, otherwise you will not get your money!

Then there's the audition itself.  Every single one I've had so far has been different.  Many of them are in groups, lots seem to involve improv and miming of some sort, and I even had one where they just asked us to say a few words about ourselves.  Sometimes there's food, though not always the product food. One time I was supposed to be wolfing down a sandwich so they gave us plain ol' hamburger buns instead.  My roommate often jokes that they just want comedians for commercials and she's not quite wrong.  They don't usually want actors, they want "real people" (unless it's a beer commercial and then they want models).  And since most people watching TV or online ignore commercials, they usually want something funny that will be memorable and hold your attention.  So they want "real people" with "great comedic timing".

There will often just be one other person in the room, and that's typically the camera guy (or an associate casting person who is also happens to be the camera operator).  The casting director, the director and the "client" usually won't show up until a callback, unless there are no callbacks, in which case they will be there.  And if they are there, they will probably be talking to each other a lot and you will wonder why no one seems to notice you're standing RIGHT THERE.

Chances are you won't be in the room for more than a few minutes.  They will thank you. You will leave.

If you get a callback (Congratulations! Enjoy your $50!), just come back and do the exact same thing you did last time.  As a safety measure, just wear the same clothes too.  The client probably saw a lot of tapes and don't have too much imagination. If they brought you in, it's because they liked something you did the first time around.

Oh and I should have probably mentioned this before, but remember to have fun!

After that, well, I'm not sure what happens after that as I have yet to book a commercial, but I am told it is a very lucrative endeavor, albeit not a very artistically fulfilling one.

And there you have it.  That's the commercial process in a nutshell.  If I missed anything, feel free to add it in the comments section.

You Are At Work

Ok, this is that part about reviewing that I didn't care for...  Alright, I'm going to get this over as quickly as possible before moving on to me favorite topic ("ME!" she says, a false sens of pretension dripping in her voice.) Last night, I had the chance to see Living with Henry at the Next Stage Theatre Festival.  I was pretty keen to see this one since the subject matter appealed to me.  As the friend accompanying me pointed out, a few years ago there were so many movies and stories about people getting HIV/AIDS and dying from it that it's refreshing to see someone talk about it and where it's at today.  Because the disease isn't gone, but sometimes it seems a bit forgotten.  There are a lot of enjoyable moments in Living with Henry: the lead carries the show well; his Mom is a solid actor and I really enjoyed her singing voice; I love the way they portrayed HIV as a big, tough bald guy; there's an awesome tango number in a bathhouse and OHMYGODSOMUCHPRETTYTOLOOKAT... *ahem* - but as a whole, the show just didn't do it for me.  I think part of it is because the show tries to be too much at one time.  It wants to be funny and serious and musical and dance-y and it has so much potential material to pull from and gets tossed into so many directions that it just can't get really good at one thing.  Again, Living with Henry definitely has something to offer, I'm just not sure I was the right person to receive it.


Ok. Moving on. Yesterday, I also had the privilege of attending a general theatre audition for four different summer stock theatre's in the province.  I thought it was really great they got together for these auditions.  Some people might be intimidated by having more people in a room, but I thrive on it.  Not to mention it's a pretty big time-saver for me.  I was feeling pretty good about the audition and, yes, it did go very well, but that's not what stuck with me at the end of the day.  When I walked into the room, one artistic director apologized because they were ahead of schedule and they didn't want to rush me.  I said it was no problem, it would just get me back to work faster.  And that's when, with good humour, he replied:

"You are at work."

I don't get speechless very often, but that one threw me.  Of course I'm at work!  Auditions are just as much part of the job as the job itself.  Just because you are not getting paid for it, does not mean you don't have to work. These people don't know me. They've never seen me perform before.  I can't coast and save up all the "good stuff" for when they hire me.  No.  I have to prepare.  I go to class, I learn and rehearse a monologue, I print resumes and headshots (all of this on my own dime) so that I can walk into a room and comfortably, for lack of a better word, "work" it.

It's been a while, but I was grateful for the reminder.

Back to Blog

I won't lie. I miss you blog. The Big Smoke has been good to me. I have an amazing roommate, a great apartment, a job in the arts, take classes like they are going out of style, and I'm auditioning. Mostly for student films, but there's been quite a few commercials (with some callbacks to boot) and even a feature. I've been auditioning so much that I made a chart. Ever since moving to Toronto, I've had 26 auditions and the year ain't over yet. Compare that to Ottawa where I would be lucky to get one audition a month... well, though I miss my friends, the move really seems like a good idea these days.

Acting classes have also been great. This is the first time in a very long time that I have been studying steadily and it feels good. This past week I made the discovery that I panic as soon as I start my work. Stage fright, for lack of a better word. Sure, I always got scared before going on stage, but I just assumed that it was a normal part of the process and I was pretty much fine by the time the lights hit me... But no. In reality, my hands start shaking and I feel like this engine inside me is revving up before I finally shift gears and blow out of the gate. Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to my panic mode.

I realize now that the panic has always been there, the difference now is that I know how to identify it. First you out the problem, then you correct it.

Let's see how that works out, shall we?

Mamma Mia

We have to believe she's the mother of a girl of 7 years. That's what the audition breakdown said. It always surprises me when I start to think about it, but had my life taken a very different turn, I could totally be the mother of a girl of 7 years. I'm not 20 anymore...

And yet, whenever I have to play a Mom, I always feel like a fraud. Like THEY'LL KNOW I have no idea what to do with a small child. (Isn't she the one who's in all those "dead baby" shows...) Then again, whenever I happen to be around small children, they seem to enjoy my presence. Probably because I prefer sitting on floors to chairs and love a good colouring session like nobody's business.

But back to the audition. It's for one of those typical commercials where the very happy family is enjoying a very happy time together, happy time that probably would not exist or be enjoyed without the help of *insert absolutely necessary product here*.

Though I'd heard about them before, this was the first such audition for me. You show up, they pair you off with a "Dad" and a "Kid" - in my case, since it was the end of the day, we got 2 kids. These child actors are, of course, absolutely adorable, precocious and possess a sense of maturity mixed with fun that I absolutely envy.

We all go into the audition room and we're told to just do things together: make some crafts, set the table, dance with the kids, snuggle up to "Dad".

It's important to remember in these audition situations that you are having THE GREATEST TIME IN THE WORLD! But, at the end of the day, they will cast the child first - the most adorable one who took direction the best - and then they will cast the "Parents" who look like them the most.

And although I was glad to send them home with their real parents, I still had fun with my pretend children. I guess I'm not such a fraud after all.

The Audition

I've had a lot of auditions recently. Yesterday, there was one for a TV Show Pilot. A friend joked with me the night before about showing up to a room where everyone looks just like you. This did not happen to me. I was the first one there. That said, I was early and got to sit around while a lot of people who kind of look like me started showing up. Funny how that just made me chuckle instead of worry.

Since I was VERY early and felt ready to go, I just took the time to observe everyone's behaviours. I had just finished reading this great blog post about audition nerves and so it was on my mind. For the most part, everyone adopted incredibly similar body positions - legs crossed (all right over left), arms crossed over the chest, eyes going upwards as lines are mentally run over and over again in their heads. As soon as I noticed this, I uncrossed my legs. That felt better. I recognized a guy from an acting class and we started chatting. I could tell the others in the room wanted to join in. Facial expressions started changing, relaxing.

For all the guarded, sometimes bitchy looking expressions, people have on their faces in an audition waiting room, deep down everyone just wants to chat, to connect, to know that this is not a big fucking deal, that we can all be friends, that we're all in this weird weird world together.

I know they're my competition, but I just wanted to give everyone there a hug.

As for the audition itself, it was great!

In September and November, I took an audition workshop with one of my acting teachers in Toronto. I was always so nervous going into auditions, but I never got enough practice with them to fix the problem. Though we were asked to bring in audition pieces to work on, the first thing we did in class was learn how to walk into the room. Funny how even the most relaxed and easy-going performers in the classroom would just completely shut down when asked to simply walk into this room of colleagues pretending to be producers/casting directors.

And that's the first impression you're giving off?

After two months of practice and multiple auditions since, I've noticed a shift. My nerves, though still there, don't get the better of me anymore. I actually noticed this when I shook hands with my reader. His hands were a bit clammy, which is how I noticed I wasn't nervous at all. He seemed pleasantly caught off guard. I don't think anyone ever typically introduces themselves or even asks for his name. I doubt many even make eye contact. That was another thing I took away from class. Love your reader. You're not playing alone up there, so be sure to make contact with your support system.

For me, it worked. I gave two good takes and headed out. Now, I put it all behind me and move on to the next project. Student film, here I come!

More Than A Spice

Last year, I wondered aloud what theatre companies were looking for when calls for general auditions are put out. I still don't really have an answer, but I do know that since receiving my full CAEA status this past summer and putting down a Toronto address, I've received an answer to two out of five applications. After years of sending these out into a void, those are some pretty damn good results.

Yesterday, I finally put my foot into the door of the Toronto theatre scene with a General Audition at the Tarragon Theatre. I was asked to come in with two contrasting Canadian monologues.

Sitting around in the waiting room, staring at past show posters, I realized I had already seen quite a few Tarragon productions while they were on tour in Ottawa. That said, when I was considering monologues, my only familiarity with work on their stage was the shockingly beautiful If We Were Birds. I saw this production during a trip in May where I got to meet the wicked cool SMLois in person for the very first time. I went in knowing nothing about the show and, if I remember correctly, we saw it on Mother's Day.

Now, if you are at all familiar with Erin Shields' script, you might quickly realize that this probably isn't a show you want to see on Mother's Day. But you would totally understand why, for my audition, I decided to pull out what I like to call the "dead baby" monologue (from hereon called "DB" for short because I just don't really like typing "dead baby" all the time).

Along with the DB monologue, I also came in with a piece from Daniel MacIvor's See Bob Run, an awesome and completely underrated little show, you know, for levity's sake.

I walk in and there's a little bit of chitchat and a comment that made me think everyone and their dog comes it with MacIvor, so I'm asked to start with the DB.

Oh, gosh, really? You want to start with that one? Alright.

Of course, the auditionee does not know what the piece is about because it's not called that and, well, why spoil all the fun? (she says, tongue firmly planted in cheek - please don't email me about DBs!)

And as I speak, I see the realization dawning on the auditionee's face as she begins to understand what I'm talking about. She gets more and more uncomfortable until she can't even look at me anymore. For a split second, I think I must really be fucking this up. But only a split second as it suddenly dawns on ME that this is EXACTLY the type of reaction this monologue should get. There was this quiet in the room at the end. I'm not sure she knew I was done.

Mild awkwardness aside, I then moved on to Bob and the mood changed dramatically. Perhaps it was simple tension relief, but I had the auditionee in stitches. When I finished, she gave me the incredible compliment of: "You're very funny! Not many people can do MacIvor well."

(Well, if you're ever looking for someone to remount this show... Ahem.)

I thanked her for her time, she thanked me for ending things on a laugh and I walked out feeling pretty good about the whole experience. Toronto Theatre Audition Cherry: Popped.

The Problems You Want

Is there a term for that? A "good" problem? I'm curious. My year is off to a very good start. I've got work lined up for January/February with Evolution Theatre's Little Martyrs and it has been confirmed to me today that tickets are now on sale through the Arts Court Box Office - 613-564-7240 (Details about the show can be found under my Upcoming Appearance tab.)

I've also been requested for two general auditions in Toronto. After years of sending in packages without answer, I'm thrilled! (Though I'm quite sure this is partly due to my Equity status and partly to my use of a Toronto mailing address.) Since rehearsals for me don't really begin until this Saturday, I can attend one of them no problem. The other? Is at the same time as rehearsal next week. Did I mention that rehearsals are in Ottawa?

As actor's these are the kinds of problems we want: being too busy working at our craft to do more, no matter how much more we want to do.

Still, it sucks. This is not for work during the run of the show, this is for work this summer, so it's unfortunate that I can't even give it a shot. In these situations, all you can really do is shrug it off and keep going. This one was just not meant to be.

Reflections on 2010

2010 has come and gone and here I am alone in my condo reflecting on the time that has gone by with the Simpsons/Family Guy marathon that seems to be continuously  on Global on Saturday afternoons playing in the background. January 2010 was a pretty dark time for me. After months of no work, I was starting a new job at the Great Canadian Theatre Company and feeling completely overwhelmed by it all. My finances were a mess, my heart was broken, I was experiencing panic attacks... I was feeling utterly and completely lost.

And then someone very special walked into my life. Our time together was brief, but also incredibly illuminating. His lust for life was contagious and, as he disappeared back into whatever magic vortex he came from, he left me with a very simple: "Hey, life is awesome."

I'm very grateful to this person because my entire attitude changed after our encounter and every risk, every move, every dream I've dared to pursue to its fullest this past year can be directly traced back to the impact he had on me.

After that, things began to change almost immediately and 2010 was a very good year.

I had more professional acting gigs than ever before. It started out with this fun little number: [youtube=]

There was not one, but two jobs as a stand-in where I got to work alongside people like Adam Beach, Elisabeth Shue and Jennifer Lawrence; a school tour with A Company of Fools (which I may very well be reprising in 2011) that lead to a one-off in Montreal and at the Lumiere Festival; a seven or eight week contract in Morrisburg at the Upper Canada Playhouse and a Fringe Festival run in Ottawa and Calgary; a workshop for Evolution Theatre's Little Martyrs as well as a reading of We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay! for our five year anniversary party; a voice-over contract in French for a birth control website; and a bilingual gig at the Upper Canada Village.

All of this led to accomplishing two of my goals for the year: I became a full union member of ACTRA and CAEA (and got a few more credits towards my full UdA status) and found an agent to represent me in the Toronto market.

And if you're looking at that pseudo goal list I created at this time last year, my laptop died and I moved myself into the wonderful world of the MacBook Pro. I didn't schedule time to write, but I did finish a first draft of my Roller Derby script. I completed a 5K Race and I'm now working towards being able to run a 10K. I took a bunch of incredible acting classes in order to keep training with more consistency and, as many of you know, I traveled a whole heck of a lot.

As for my marketing work, I was at the GCTC where, among other things, I implemented a social media marketing policy and gave my first workshop on the subject to the staff. Since they're still going strong in this area now that I'm gone, I'd like to think I did pretty alright there. After giving a presentation under the banner Art as Business, Business as Art - my chosen topic being Branding the Artist - during the Ottawa Fringe Festival's brilliant Lunchtime Artist Series Ignite the Fringe event, I was approached by Odyssey Theatre to help them with their marketing and promotions for They All Do It. (Oh and I learned that I probably influenced at least one new blogger in town.) And I also ran a pretty successful publicity campaign for 'I', which took place at The Gladstone in November.

As I briefly mentioned above, my theatre company, Evolution Theatre, after a year of workshopping new shows, celebrated its five year anniversary, became a resident company of Arts Court and announced the two shows we will be producing in February and May of 2011 (which will be a whole other post in the ver near future).

And though I can't beat this guy, I saw over 75 stage productions - give or take a couple that I'm sure I'm forgetting.

Oh and I became an auntie and a godmother to the most adorable little boy in the world.

It wasn't all sunshine and lollipops though: my grandparents passed away; I kissed a lot of frogs, but didn't find any real princes; I got sick, tired and depressed more often than I cared for; I never knew where I would be sleeping next or how I might be able to pay for my next meal; and, sadly, until I've figured out a more permanent home for myself, I've had to leave my cat, Winston, with someone else.

But Winston is being well taken cared of, my life feels like an incredible adventure, I've discovered that I have wonderful and generous friends, and there was making out. All in all, 2010 was pretty gosh-darn amazing!

I can't wait to see what's going to happen in 2011.

Hello God, It's Me, Nancy

I've been ignoring you, dear blog.  I recently realized that when things are not going super well, I avoid talking about it here, because frankly, who likes a whiner?  Nothing's been really wrong.  In fact, lots of great things have been going on.  I saw some absolutely incredible theatre in Toronto  - The Silicone Diaries at Buddies in Bad Times and Studies in Motion at CanStage, in collaboration with Vancouver's Electric Company.  For both show, I managed to catch a post-show talkback, which I always find incredibly illuminating.  In the case for Diaries, I was moved to tears.  Seriously, I tried to congratulate the performer of this one-person show on my way out and all that came out was a bunch of garbled "so great/thank you *sniffle* *choke* kthxbai!" And then, my little theatre company - Evolution Theatre - (maybe you've heard of them?) - turned five FIVE years old. Can you believe it?  I have trouble keeping a relationship going for that long and yet, somehow, my little partnership with the Bedberts has outlasted them all.  I believe that Christopher & Linda Bedford and I have known each other for almost ten years now.  Just incredible.  We celebrated with cake and a special reading of the first show ever produced by the company, Dario Fo's We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay!

But wait! There's more!

At the birthday party, we had a few announcements.  First up, Evolution Theatre was named one of three resident companies of the Ottawa Arts Court Foundation.  This means that starting in September of 2011, we now have a permanent performance home until 2013 and we will be producing two shows a year in the Arts Court spaces.

And if that wasn't enough, we also announced our 2010/2011 season.

Up first is an original translation of Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf's La petite scrape. It was translated by local Evolution collaborator, Mishka Lavigne, with the assistance of Canadian dramaturgy heavyweight Maureen Labonté.  This is a show that has been in the works since 2008 and we are thrilled to be bringing it to the Arts Court Studio from February 9 to 19, 2011.

The production, now titled Little Martyrs, will be directed by Christopher Bedford and features the amazing local talents of Jody Haucke, Brad Long, Margo MacDonald, Matt Miwa, and, you know, yours truly.  Rehearsals have just recently started and I am incredibly excited to be a part of this project.  More details will be up on my blog and the company website soon.

The second show is an original script by local playwright Lawrence Aronovitch and is entitled The Lavender Railroad.  It will be directed by l'incroyable Joël Beddows (whose Swimming in the Shallows was probably one of my favorite productions in Ottawa this year).  As both Lawrence and Joël were out of town for the party, we received a message from our former Professor Beddows which I would like to share with you, as I got a little misty-eyed when I first read it:

I was a young professor when I first met this trio.  They were all opinionated, argumentative and ambitious.  Our rapport was not always harmonious: this often happens among people too similar to one another. They seemed determined to question any and all statements I made. History would state that they were correct to do so.

They graduated and started making theatre.

I was intrigued; then I was impressed; suddenly, I could not “not” see their work.

For awhile, I was proud; then I was fascinated; today, I am trying to keep up!

Working with Evolution Theatre this coming season represents many things to me; first and foremost, the opportunity to work with a creative team that has and will continue to make a mark on practice in Ottawa and someday soon, beyond.

Joël Beddows

Wow. Details are still being finalized for this production, I'll let you know additional information as it comes up.

I've also had two great auditions in Ottawa and Montreal during this time, but even after all that, I still felt... sad. Though I miss my friends and my routines, I keep trying to remind myself that there is a reason I'm doing all of this; there's a reason I'm working so hard.  Because I have a dream.  And fuck it! I'm going to see it through.

Now back to our regularly blogging schedule.

L'habit ne fait pas le moine, sauf que...

A good translation of my blog post title for all my anglo readers is pretty much "Shoes don't make the man, except..." I had an audition yesterday.  I refuse to refer to it now as a "big, French audition" as a friend kindly pointed out that even though it's for a lead in a TV series and even though it's in French, it's still just an audition.  No need to make a big drama around it.

Many, many moons ago, I really worried about what I would wear to an audition.  So much so that I think a lot of my preparation went out the window for this superficial aspect.  These days, I had gone all the way to the other end of the spectrum: good preparation but not much of a clue when it came to what to wear.

Before my audition yesterday, I had a little meeting with my agent.  Talking about the audition, she said: "So you're going to wear heels?"

Oh. My. God.

How did I not even think of that?  The show revolves around the local hockey team.  The character I was auditioning for is, for lack of a better word, the local town "sexpot" who works in the sports bar.  OF COURSE SHE WEARS HEELS!

I had chosen an outfit that morning, but I realized I had made a very safe choice.

And here's the weird part: this was not a stretch for me.  I LOVE wearing heels.  I own at least a dozen pairs so why wouldn't have brought some for this character?

Resistance in one of it's simplest forms.

Shoes are one of the most basic things you learn about in acting school.  When you rehearse a play, it's one of the first costume pieces you want brought in because how your character walks says a lot about who they are.

Since I had plenty of time, I went back home and rethought my outfit.  I knew exactly what it was going to be this time.  Instead of just a short skirt and a cute top with my sandals, I went for my teal ankle boots with the silver stiletto heel (second-hand boots that are lovingly worn out), a wide white belt to go over my skirt around my hips, and a top that I took from a friend just in case I ever needed to go to some kind of hoochie bar.

The result:

Though I felt confident in my preparation and in the lines, I now felt confident in the person I was trying to be.  She was me, only amped up to 11.

I won't go into details about the audition except to say that I was happy with my work.  So many external factors that you cannot control go into the casting process so I won't worry about it anymore.  I will, however, say a big thank you to my awesome agent for making sure that all those factors I can control were taken care of.


The audition breakdowns for theatre are all the same: "Please come prepared with two contrasting monologues." Sometimes, they might jazz it up a bit: "One of them should be Canadian." "One of them should be classical." "One of them should involve an intergalactic bunny."

Whatever. It all boils down to the same thing. If the breakdowns all ask for two monologues, why the fuck do you wait until you've "got" an audition to learn one (or *gasp* two!)?

I had an audition today. The first thing they wanted was for me to read through a section of the script. This is usually my favorite type of audition: the cold read. However, this cold read needed to include an accent for which I am not the greatest at learning in four days. I would say that bit of my audition was merely "Ok". I'm not bummed though because I took direction well and had fun with it.

Then, I had to present a monologue.

My feelings suddenly changed from that was merely Ok to that was frickin' awesome in 3.2 seconds.

You see, I know my monologue. I've used it as an audition piece many times now. I've received coaching from great teachers and feel it all the way down to my core.

In other words, I was prepared.

With preparation comes confidence, with confidence comes fun, with fun comes an enjoyable audition experience (both for you and the people watching).

When you know that a dozen or more people might be auditioning for the same part as you, why would you give yourself only a few days to prepare when you could start getting ready right now?

What's Going On?

Let me just say my life is pretty awesome and I am incredibly grateful for all the wonderful things that have been happening lately. I am currently sitting on the set of a TV movie shooting in Ottawa. At 9 p.m. on Friday night, I learned that I was booked for a stand-in gig starting at noon on Sunday.

This situation really exemplifies to me the absurd nature of the working actor's life. You can go through incredibly long periods of drought in which you still have to remain readily available when that often elusive gig decides to fall in your lap. Not exactly something most employers approve of.

That's why I am so fortunate to be working at the GCTC with people who understand the situation. Flexibility is so important to me. Not to mention: the fact that I can still do what I love recharges me (even after long hours on set) and makes me want to work even harder at my day job in order to show my appreciation.

It's funny how I spent over a year without work and now that I have a job I start booking gigs like mad. I've got two other big projects coming up and I can't wait until I get my contracts in order to be able to talk about them here.

As for my current stand-in job, some of you might be wondering what that is. Stay tuned for a post on that subject in the very near future.

What A Week!

Things were off to a great start last Sunday with the closing performance of BASH'd: A Gay Rap Opera at the GCTC followed by a theatre audition for a company in town. Then I spent some time with a friend and watched Heath Ledger's last performance in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnasus, an odd little film in which I learned it's best not to make a deal with Tom Waits. I had taken the time on the prior Saturday to come in and complete the finishing touches on a big project I was involved with at the GCTC. Oddly enough, my boss also decided to come in that day. There really is nothing better than choosing to work overtime and having your boss catch you at it. It's just like How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, only I was really trying. I was then able to take Monday off without much fuss.

It only got better after that. I received a call from a friend. Apparently their non-union film project got approved for union status and would I happen to be available on Thursday for a shoot? (More on this in my next blog post.)

Needless to say, I was super excited to be on set again and even more so when I contacted my union's branch office and found out that I would be getting another apprentice credit for my work. When you start out with ACTRA (The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists), you typically begin as an Apprentice Member and you need to collect 6 credits before you can become a Full Member. More details on being an Apprentice can be found here. In the past, only one low budget film could be used towards your six credits. The reasoning being, I guess, that anyone could go out and make their own low budget films and get all their credits. However times change and so do some rules and regulations. I am now only one credit away from Full Member status (and some kind of minimal health insurance coverage!)

Oh and my agent also contacted me to let me know that I would be auditioning for a feature film on the Friday. so who knows, maybe I'm not that far away from Full Member status after all...

Somehow, I managed to do all this while juggling 40 hours of work and the big audience development project we had going on over the weekend. Oh and Thursday was also payday! Gosh, I wish all my weeks could be like that, but right now I am just grateful that everything just came together so well.

So You Need To Pay Your Bills

The bank wouldn't accept my mortgage payments in the form of artistic integrity. I tried, but they just kind of looked at me funny; this "What is artistic integrity?" kind of look before realizing it wasn't money and then having security guards beat me with clubs for having a bohemian on their premises. I may have made some of that up.

Being a full-time actor often feels virtually impossible. Gigs are few and far between and, let's be honest, you don't become an actor for the money (though you always keep faith that the money will one day be there). So you typically need a job to pay your bills and will still offer you the flexibility you need JUST IN CASE an audition pops up.

Back in October, I knew things were getting tough financially and so I started figuring out what I could do. I have a strong background in Marketing, Special Events, and Promotions, but I didn't feel like I had enough clout or contacts to try and push myself out there for contract work. I had applied for jobs through a temp agency because I still wanted the flexibility to do my performance work, but it wasn't enough. That's when I stumbled across the Metcalf Foundation.

I won't go into everything they do, but basically, the Foundation "will support the creation of internship opportunities for administrators, choreographers, composers, conductors, designers, directors, playwrights, and production staff. In this program, the Foundation is particularly interested in assisting individuals who have completed formal training and are in the early stages of their careers."

A quick bit of research and a few emails later and I found myself at the Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa with a proposal. They applied on my behalf and by December we knew that they had received the funding from the Foundation. And so you're looking at (or more accurately now reading about) the new Marketing Associate for the GCTC.

My contract runs until June (which leaves me the rest of the summer for Fringe or Summer Stock Theatre) and I almost cried when I read my Letter or Agreement:

The Employer recognizes that the Intern is a working theatre professional, and that the Intern may negotiate time off to undertake select independant projects that contribute to the Intern's professional development.

This is exactly what I wanted! A day job that understands my artistic aspirations and actively encourages them. They do exist!

So what will I be doing at the GCTC? First up, I will be undertaking the instigation of a social media marketing plan for the company. In fact, I just finished setting up our Twitter account this morning. Please follow us @GCTCLive. This is a really great opportunity because I will gain credibility and experience as a social media strategist, which will allow me to help my own theatre company and follow up on my goal to teach this new wave to the general public (for crying out loud this guy charges over $1000 for his weekend workshop so why couldn't I?)

I'll also be doing some work in Outreach and Development, sectors I'm less familiar with, and will be learning a great deal about traditional marketing methods. (Won't it be nice to attend a media call where the media actually shows up?)

I was scared to come back to an office environment, but this place is just great. Stick around this blog if you'd like to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes of a major Canadian theatre company... that is if I haven't already set up a blog for them on their own site by then.

******************************************************* Sidebar (or an absolutely shameless plug):

Ok, so an internship isn't exactly the most lucrative of endeavors. In addition to my work for the GCTC, I've also picked up a bit of a part-time job. I am also a brand-spanking new Mary Kay rep. Yup, I sell makeup and skin care products now.

It makes sense. As an actor, my face is one of my biggest assets and so I need to take good care of it. Mary Kay offers quality products and the cost is similar to anything you'd find in a major department store. Plus, I just really like makeup and this is a job I can do whenever I am available.

So, dear readers, wouldn't you like to have a little spa pampering session for you and your friends? Or maybe you'd like to treat yourself to a little makeover? Just contact me ( (at) and we can book a party at your place or mine. As the host, you also get lots of free stuff and there is absolutely no pressure to buy. Besides, this is great practice for me.

Or maybe you're just looking for a new lipstick? Or a gift for someone special? Check out my website and order online. If you spend over $50, you'll get a wonderful free gift from me. And if you live in Ottawa, I will personally deliver your purchase to your home or workplace.

Oh and gentlemen, skin care isn't just for the ladies, you know.

In the future, I'll probably be posting my reviews of certain products, but if you have any questions at the moment, please feel free to ask.

And if you're looking for some sort of home business for yourself, why not think about becoming a rep? I could help you with that too.

Besides, don't you want to see me in a pink Cadillac?

Rambling Farewell to June

This was originally going to be a wrap-up post about the Ottawa Fringe Festival, but too many amazing things happened throughout the month of June that I feel the need to go a little more in dept. Adjectives like glorious, amazing, incredible and the ever popular fantabulous will get thrown about so be prepared. This is going to be one of those look at all the great things that happened to me posts. Not because I feel like boasting about it all (ok, maybe a little), but because I sometimes need to remind myself that I am on the right path, even when a few pebbles get in my shoes. June was a month of glorious theatre intensiveness. Both the Magnetic North Theatre Festival and the Ottawa Fringe Festival took up large chunks of my time through shows, drinking, workshops, networking, drinking, creation, performance, and did I mention there may have been some drinking?

By my calculations, if you include the reading series, almost 75 shows were presented to the general public. Fantabulous! I saw the vast majority, because my sanity is somewhat in doubt.

I did an incredible amount of networking which amounted in new contacts made here and across the country. My long dormant public speaking skills also made a brief resurgence during one particular MNTF workshop which directly resulted in having the Artistic Director of the National Arts Centre's English Theatre program attending my Fringe show and the Artistic Director of one of Ottawa's oldest professional theatre companies buying me a glass of wine (though honestly I think it was because he was bored with a certain workshop, but I'm not going to argue).

Other June highlights include a stack of auditions in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto; an extra union credit on the French side; some standardized patient work; the creation of a new production company; losing almost ten pounds; winning a crapload of gift certificates (MOST PERSISTENT DANCER FTW!) and, of course, this little show called No Exit Upstage - perhaps you've heard of it recently?

Oh, and the greatest of all my news: I received a creation grant from the City of Ottawa to develop my piece on Women's Roller Derby!!! A piece I hope to get off the ground with the help of my ultimate Fringe Crush, of course.

June was simply divine and July is shaping up to be even better: lots of get-togethers, a few tweaks and rewrites for No Exit Upstage, and then I ship off to the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.

I'm not sure how much blogging will get done between now and then, but you can be sure I will be keeping everyone up-to-date on Nancy and Natasha's Adventures in Winnipeg... That sounds catchy, like a TV series I could pitch to YTV. We'd have to clean it up a bit, but Natasha's a mom so she'd know if something wasn't appropriate...

Uh, where was I? Oh yeah, blogging about Winnipeg. Anyway, if my stats throughout the Ottawa Fringe are any indication, there are a lot of you out there who seem to be interested in what I might have to say... either that or an Adorkable Thespian just likes repeatedly clicking on my links... (Psst, Nadine, you can totally click on my links ANYTIME! - Yes, I meant that to sound dirty.)

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in...

I went to Toronto yesterday morning for an audition which meant that I would be missing all Fringe activities (and giving other people the chance to catch up to my record 19 shows + 3 performances - so technically 22) that night. "That's a good thing," I thought. I needed the break. I realized throughout my marathon viewing schedule that my attention span was waning. Unless an hour-long show was absolutely brilliant, I'd start to lose focus. This did not mean it was a bad show, it just meant I was tired. (Though I give incredibly high-praise to anyone whose shows come in just under the hour mark - Hey! This one does!)

*Side note - I find it interesting that I'm not the only blogger talking about time right now.

Anyway, so I arrive in Toronto at around 1:30pm and grab lunch at this great little sushi place I found on Queen Street W the last time I was in town. By 2:30pm, with 3 hours and 15 minutes to go until my audition, I decided to just find my way over to the venue, the Tarragon Theatre (Look at that, they are doing Scorched again. It's a good show.) Since I was ready to audition, I figured why not ask if I could be seen right away. You see, there's a 5:30pm train that could take me back to Ottawa that night. Since my audition was supposed to be at 5:45pm, I never would have made it, but...

The group from Theatre New Brunswick was wonderful. They squeezed me in early and I had an absolutely amazing audition that lasted about 5 minutes in length.

I headed strait to the Yonge Subway line, arrived at Union Station, exchanged my ticket, went to the LCBO, and boarded the train.

I arrived in Ottawa at about 10:30pm. Plenty of time to... head down to the Fringe tent... for karaoke... which I didn't get to participate in after all due to bylaw restrictions. Hell, if I was ambitious, I might have been able to catch something last night. But no, I needed the break.

I met my billets: two lovely gentlemen from Uncalled For and set them up in my condo.

Today, I get right back into the swing of things. No Exit Upstage is back on again at 6:30pm in the Studio Leonard Beaulne. As I mentioned in my previous post, the reviews have been fantastic. Then I will spend the evening catching up on shows.

See you on the Fringe!

No Exit Upstage Reviews

Well, after three solid performances, the reviews for No Exit Upstage have started pouring in and I'm thrilled to say they are all very positive! First up we have Patrick Langston from the Ottawa Citizen who calls it a "funny show" and "we find ourselves drawn to these two characters". You can read the whole review here.

Wayne Current at (Cult)ure magazine says it's a "solid script with many funny moments, has "compelling actors," and "Ken Godmere’s direction is also solid, especially his effective use of the stage. One scene in particular – where both characters are speaking in a simultaneous monologue – is quite powerful. It’s a beautiful piece of poetry inserted into the performance, and the play is worth seeing for that moment alone." You can read his entire review (which I am gleeful to note includes a link to my blog!) here.

There's also a charming review topically done through a split personality interview between Brian Carroll and himself on the Ottawa Fringe Festival website which includes this gem: "So why don’t more directors cast Nancy?" - His review can be seen here.

Finally, some Adorkable Thespian left a comment saying "It’s weird. It’s funny. It’s worth seeing." Thank you, whomever you are! You can read his (or her) comments here.

Only three more shows are left for No Exit Upstage! Our next performance is Wednesday, June 24 at 6:30 p.m.

******************************* I've been cleaning my apartment all day since my billets, the comedy group Uncalled For from Montreal, arrive tomorrow. Unfortunately I will not be around to great them since I will be in Toronto for an audition.

Can I just say how much I love my life right now?