Running Away to Join the Circus

A few months ago, a friend of mine told me about these Vaudeville classes she was taking at "Circus School" - Centre of Gravity in Toronto.  My curiosity was piqued.  I've done clown work and stilt walking in the past, and I definitely want the roller skating I do in Roller Derby Saved my Soul to be very circus-like.  I checked out the website and found something that was perfect for me: Circus Conditioning and Flexibility Class.  Now, to be fair, my brain, the first time, totally read that as "Core" Conditioning and Flexibility Class (in fact, I didn't realize until right now when I looked it up for this blog that it was called something else)  and I jumped at the chance to get more ab work since I totally need it to get steadier on skates. The roommate and I signed up.  Turns out my roommate is a former gymnast (is there anything she can't do?) and she also wanted to get back into shape.

The class itself is really cool and the instructor is *sigh* very good.  We started out with some stretching, then some tumbling (where I swear the Mission Impossible theme was playing in my head the entire time), tried to balance some objects on our chins, got my first introduction to juggling, and then did a circuit that included balancing yourself on top of a ball as well climbing up silks and a low-hanging trapeze.

It was hard and I'm definitely feeling it today, but I'm proud that the roommate and I were able to keep up.  Not to mention some activities were a lot easier than I thought they would be like standing up tall on a big round ball.


This one made sense to me.  It's all core work and I've got a lot of experience there thanks to yoga and roller skating.  No, the one that did surprise me was the fact that I can juggle.  How that happened I really don't know, but it felt the exact same way it did the first time I put on roller skates.  Not easy, but with definite ease. Next up, juggling on roller skates?


Hulk *Smash!*

I'm an angry person. I'm angry about everything: the news, the weather, the way I look, the jobs I have, the jobs I don't have, my family, my lack of skills in certain areas, watching "bad" theatre when I know you can do so much better, money, power, men, women, my mattress, the languages I speak, the languages I don't speak, the city I'm in, the city I'm not in, selfish people,  people who get treated badly, cleaning, getting out of bed in the morning, feeling tired, sex, politics, debates, competition, people who hate everything, and, oh I don't know, let's say the Dutch.  Seriously though, the list doesn't end there. I am pissed off ALL. THE. TIME.

I never admitted it in public before. Ever.  And having to hide who I am all the time has made me an unhappy person.

Last night, I had my first acting class of the new year.  Our first day assignment: do something that reveals yourself.  It could be anything.  Some people danced, some read poetry, some just talked. Me? I smashed a whole bunch of stuff into itty bitty pieces on the floor.  And it felt AMAZING.  Having let that out, I feel more than ready to tackle the scene I was then assigned: Janice in John Patrick Shanley's Italian-American Reconciliation - probably the angriest woman written for the stage since Kate in Taming of the Shrew.

This realization also explains to me why I really love things like Roller Derby, Boxing, Wrestling and a healthy dose of Xena: Warrior Princess.  Now I understand why I love the sister character in my one-woman show so much and how easy it is for me to drop into her. She isn't just an alter-ego, she's me.

Don't get me wrong, just because I'm angry does not mean I'm unhappy or can't be happy or can't be a good person.  I know that, you know that, but I'm not too sure society knows that.  I've been hiding who I really am, making myself weak and small and victim-y because society has taught me that angry, strong women, with a few exceptions (What up, Lucy Lawless?) are "unattractive" and "bitches".

Well fuck you society, I'm done with that.


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.


Yesterday was my last acting class of the month.  I did good work in that class.  But when the scene was over and I was asked by the instructor how it went, my ego took over.  The ego can go one of two ways: it can pump you up to irrational heights or, as in my case, it can beat you down to new lows. The ego tries to keep us safe.  In my case, by telling me I am a shitty actor, it's trying to make it easier on me to get a "regular job" and move back home.  You know, because if I'm not any good at this, then OF COURSE I should give it up.

So what do you do in this situation when that little voice inside your head just wants you to run away?

You do the opposite.  You do the thing that's scarier.  In my case, stand my ground.  Never give up, never surrender.




I'm exhausted.  I had a particularly difficult acting class tonight.  In the scene, I confront the woman I suspect is having an affair with my fiancé who just postponed the wedding earlier that night.  It was emotional and physically draining and at the end of it all I felt like had climbed a mountain or run a particularly gruelling race.  And it made me realize how much I've neglected my workout routine. Basically, I didn't have the stamina and my body was collapsing on me.

With all the travelling, the move, the weird hours and overnight shoots, I haven't been very good to myself.  A lack of physical activity, bad eating habits, and inadequate hydration have lead to one sluggish Nancy.  It's hard to get into a routine when your life revolves around uncertainty, but as actors, we really need to take proper care of our instrument. It's not like a guitar or a paintbrush where if one breaks you could always get a new one.

So, I need to go to sleep now.  Plenty of rest and water so I can get up at a decent hour.  There's lots of work to be done.

Big City Vibe

The vibe for me in Toronto is so different than anything I have ever experienced.  I'm not talking about the city (which personally I find dirty & closed off), but what being in this city has done for me as an artist. I'm here taking classes with a wonderful teacher named Michèle Lonsdale Smith. She is primarily based in Vancouver, but she's been all over the place. I've studied with her, on and very much off, for the past four years whenever she came to Ottawa.

You see I've discovered a bad habit of mine. I take lots of classes, as many as I can afford, in a variety of theatrical practices. My preference is for weekend workshops. A little dabble here, a little dabble there... Are you beginning to see the problem?

I like to dip my toe in the water, I like to scratch the surface and be done with it. It's like going to the gym one day and not going back for six months (which reminds me...). How do you expect to get fit that way?

Acting is like that. It's a muscle, like any other, and if you don't use it, you will lose it.

After taking her weekend workshop (ahem!) in Ottawa this past August and with no projects on the horizon, it was with trepidation I applied to 3 week intensive in TO.  And I could not be happier.

My time in Toronto is completely dedicated to going to acting class, auditing acting class, and going to auditions.  I feel, for the first time in my life, like I am an artist.

A New Chapter

"You can't do this," the voice says.  "This is crazy. It's not safe. It can't possibly work out." I've had plenty of blog post topics running around in my head for the last few weeks, ranging from acting to marketing to random song lyrics, but I haven't written any of them because I have been avoiding writing this one.

After lots of back and forth and hemming and hawing, I finally made a decision - sort of.  I can't even seem to commit to it because my fear is so big.  I haven't even really told many people about it.

Tomorrow, I leave for Toronto.

Live to Learn

Soon, all of my posts will have to do with the Upper Canada Playhouse and the Ottawa Fringe Festival. But before that happened, I wanted to briefly mention how much I love learning. Seriously, I can't get enough of learning new things. It's difficult and frustrating at times, but man is it ever sweet when you can go "OH MY GOD I TOTALLY UNDERSTOOD THAT!" Besides, as artists, it is important for us all to keep training and learning new things. It is the best and easiest (though not always the cheapest) way that I know to gain new skills and inspiration.

This past month, I had the opportunity to take two amazing, yet completely different workshops, which helped me out in more ways than one.

The first one was with the Ottawa Stilt Union. Guess what I learned there? Here, I'll give you a hint:

Yup, thanks to the incredibly patient, dedicated, amazing, possibly magical (I honestly can't say enough good things about this wonderful woman) Laura Astwood, yours truly can get up on pieces of plywood and walk nonchalantly around a room (sometimes I can even do it without bursting into tears and/or having a panic attack).

Now if you're my Mom, you're probably thinking "Why in the world would you want to do that?" (PS. Hi Mom!) For one thing, it's incredibly cool and something not a lot of people can do, for another it fulfills a deep-seeded childhood dream to join the circus, which my sister says I should have done many years ago (PS. Hi sis!)

But frankly, in the last couple of years, I've been interested in various forms of physical theatre. This workshop just pushed me further into that direction. Also, as a wannabe creator, I enjoy the work the Stilt Union does and am inspired by their collective pieces. It was nice to finally check them out up close in personal.

Also, stilting is an incredible workout. My time in the workshop reminded me how much I need to take care of my body and to keep it in shape. Since finishing the workshop, I've been working out almost every single day and even doing those horrendous ab exercises called the "Brazilian" (I think the one that involves hot wax is less painful) every single night because dammit if I'm not a glutton for punishment.

I expect more stilt walking in my near future.

The other workshop was through the awesome Guerilla Heart Juice. It was with the incredibleMartha Ross and was called Find Your Voice: A Writing Workshop. But this wasn't any simple writing workshop. GHJ is, after all, a movement school. No, this workshop helped us find our various character voices based on Martha's experience with the teachings of Jacques LeCoq.

It was incredibly freeing to find a character in the body first before bringing that character to the page. I had been experiencing writer's block for many many weeks now and this was the first time the valves opened up. I'm pretty sure I may have discovered a new character for my Derby show. More on that later, as it develops.

Where To Get That Play

You're taking a scene study class and you need to find the play your scene is taken from.  The library doesn't seem to have it and neither does Chapters.  So what do you do? I've been collecting plays and building up my own personal library for years, ever since I took my first Theatre History course in University and had to purchase 10 different plays for class.   I truly believe it's important to build a good collection if you want to work in the theatre.  I regularly make the rounds of used bookstores and get what might be of interest to me.  Last year, season announcements were made all over Ottawa.  I went straight to my bookshelf and realized I was only missing a few texts.  This meant I could instantly consult the character breakdowns, see which shows I may be suitable for and send a message to the various artistic directors expressing my interest.  And the plays I didn't have?  I quickly ordered.

But what if it's a modern text or something a little more obscure?  What then?

You can always try Theatrebooks in Toronto or BizBooks in Vancouver.  They both offer an excellent selection and if they don't have the title you are looking for, they might be able to order it for you.

Unfortunately (and I hate to go all big business here), it can take forever to get something if they have to order it for you and, if you do a little price shopping, it's often cheaper to go through Chapters or Amazon for more common pieces.  Still, a great option.  I always make a stop at Theatrebooks when I'm in Toronto.

Which brings me to this little gem of advice: Skip the middle man and order the play yourself.

First, find out who the publisher is.  In most cases, it's probably Samuel French, the Dramatist Play Service, Pioneer Drama, or Broadway Publishing for most American titles.  It's fairly cheap too.  A play purchased through Samuel French will generally cost you about $7.50 US plus shipping.  Order multiple titles to save on shipping.

For Canadian works, try Playwrights Canada Press or Centre des auteurs dramatiques (for French work - though they might know where to find the published English translation).

If the text has yet to be published or is out of print (it can happen), then find out which theatre may have had the first official production or, better yet, contact the playwright or the playwright's agent directly.  (Yes, you CAN do that!)

If you have any other tips or suggestions on where to find a play, please feel free to mention it in the comments section.

Good luck and happy reading!

Just Open the Door

I just got back from a pretty amazing trip to Toronto. Seriously, it was better than I could have possibly imagined. And to think I almost didn't go. In December, I had taken a pretty incredible workshop with an equally incredible lady named Barbara Deutsch. I knew she was coming back to Toronto in February and I really wanted to be there. In addition, I had two TO agents interested in meeting with me who were just waiting until the day I was coming down to schedule an appointment. You'd think I would have just jumped on that right then and there, right?

Unfortunately, my finances are incredibly tight at the moment and I just didn't think I could do it or justify it. I was feeling pretty bad. I don't like not being able to do what I really want to be doing because I'm lacking something as silly as money so I was desperately looking for a way to make it happen. I could afford the workshop, but not the trip down... I searched for a ride, tried to find discounted fares, but nothing was working. And then about 3 days before the workshop was set to begin, it hit me: I've been collecting Via Rail points for the last ten years! I have enough points for approximately 6 trips to Toronto.

The relief I felt was immediate. And the weird thing was that as soon as I opened the door to Toronto, everything just came pouring in with ease: the workshop still had room, the agents promptly replied to my emails, friends came out of the woodwork to meet with me (more on that later!), and, best of all, I started getting auditions!

I can't even begin to tell you how well things have been going for me lately, even before this whole trip to TO (which I'm repeating again on Sunday). I'm happy with my job, my Ottawa agent, my acting career and the path it's on... and all of this started happening when I just shifted my perspective on things.

Breathe Again

We're all born knowing how to breathe and how to use our full voice, but somewhere along the line, social conditioning and habits get in the way. Most people can get by, for the rest of their lives, with survival breathing and a quiet voice, but if you want to be an actor, you kind of have to go back and retrain yourself in those early ways. On Saturday, I had an incredible voice class with Julia Lenardon, a former voice teacher with the National Theatre School and now an independent voice and dialect coach. I was so blown away by this course that I've already signed up for her advanced class in February.

We started things off, after a quick intro and chat about the voice, with some breathing exercises. We laid on our backs on yoga mats for almost 3 hours and just breathed. Yup, 3 hours. And it was awesome!

Ok, not always awesome. Julia likes to call them "thresholds" but I hit what I like to call the Five Stages of Resistance. Here they are, in no particular order:

Bored/Numb: "How long are we going to be doing this? I can't feel my feet." Anger: "This is fucking stupid. Why am I doing this?" Panic: "Oh my God! I can't breathe! How can you expect me to just lay here and breathe?!?! My body hurts!" Tears: "My throat hurts too much. I can't do this." Giggles: "Hee! Hee! Hee! I think I need to pee."

All of this is your body's reaction to something new happening within it. My main problem area was my throat. It was painful and I wanted to stop. But really, what was I doing that was so terrible except breathe? When we finished the breathing exercises, we did some grounding work, some posture work and I learned the real reason behind my sore throat.

Put it this way: Take your hand and squeeze it tightly into a fist. Now imagine holding it there for a couple of years. After a while, you'd start to think this is how your hand is suppose to be since that's how it's always been. Then imagine that after all those years you tried to open your hand up again. There's bound to be some stiffness and pain. So much so that you'd be tempted to squeeze your hand shut again to make it go away. But your hand your hand is meant to be open...

In the second half of class, we got some one-on-one monologue coaching. After watching some incredible work from people with very little stage experience, but an incredible amount of heart, I went up with my tried and true Shakespeare.

After sharing my piece with the class, I was given some special activities to do. First, I was asked if I sung. I paused for a moment because I'm pretty self-conscious about my singing voice but then simply replied: "I want to sing."

Good answer, apparently.

I was told to do my monologue again, but this time to sing it in my biggest, boldest, diva-est operatic voice. Oh, and there would be props! Julia loves props. So quickly armed with a fluffy orange pillow (my shield), half a coat rack (my spear), and a sweater wrapped around my head (my viking helmet. or course), I wholeheartedly committed to belting my little heart out of Helena's How happy some o'er othersome can be. You'd think I was auditioning for The Fools or something.

That finished, no time to think, just go and do the monologue again normally. Boom! That's done, here! I want you to throw an item from this pile of junk on every end of a thought. No, that's no working. Hurry! Go run around the dressing rooms. Run, run, run! Faster! Use those legs! Quick, run again! Ok, now go! Grab the junk and throw!

And once that was all done, I did my piece one last time. I can honestly say it was probably the best I'd ever done it.

Crazy, I know and you may be wondering how the heck I would apply all this in, let's say, an audition situation, but I learned a lot that day. I realized that my true voice is deeper than what I normally go around with. I learned that I have a lot of power and that I don't need to push out and strain against my throat to be heard. And I especially learned that I have to stop thinking so much. I also took away some great breathing exercises to keep this momentum going and was told that I should recite lines out loud while running. This last one makes absolute sense to me and reminded me of a documentary I saw on Destiny's Child where they would sing while running on a treadmill to increase lung capacity.

When I told Julia that I was actually a runner she retorted with "But I bet you never really breathed while you were running, yeah?" Yeah, I totally believe that.

A big thank you to the fine folks at the Ottawa Little Theatre, as well as my friend Chantale for bringing Julia in. I can't wait to work with her again in February!

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?

A New Post - Sorta

I know, I know! I promised this was going to be a New Year's Week Blogtacular with a post per day. Unfortunately, the new job, as well as life, have gotten in the way. It's well past midnight, I just got back from a most challenging, inspiring and beautiful acting class and I have to be at the GCTC for 9 a.m (BTW, you can start following them on Twitter now - @GCTCLive!). Too much is running through my head at the moment and I need the time for the words to sink in.

So in the meantime, I hope you will forgive if I cop out slightly tonight and send you back in time to September 3, 2009. Charge up the flux capacitor because Patty Griffin will tell you how I feel tonight.

Sweet dreams, my precious!


Goals for 2010

I don't like the term "Resolution". It sounds so final. I much prefer to go with goals. For some reason, I haven't really blogged about my yearly goals before (probably because I don't want to be reminded when I drop them sometime around February...) Here are a few things that I want to focus on throughout the year:

- Now some of you may already know this, but a few days before I left home for the holidays, my desktop computer had a minor explosion. After careful examination, I'm quite certain it's the power supply that blew, which is cool because it means my hard drives should be intact. Though at first I was pretty annoyed by this turn of events, I can't help but think it's really for the best. You see, my computer is in my room, facing my bed. It's always on and a constant source of background noise. Silence and stillness scare me. I think this may be a sign that I need to stop making so much noise and get used to sitting in the quiet for a little while. In addition, my second set of headphones has now died on me. I think I may take my time in replacing them, just so I pay more attention to the world around me when I'm out. (That said, if any computer people out there know if it's best to simply replace the power supply or get a new computer, please let me know! I will need to get this fixed eventually, just not right now.)

- I've also got my laptop. Unfortunately, I've gotten into a really nasty habit (even before my desktop broke down) of using my laptop on my bed. I'm finding it to be somewhat unhealthy. I'm on my computer all the time and yet I'm quite often distracted from my work by video games and online TV shows. I've decided that I won't be using my laptop in my room anymore and I'm reclaiming my dining room table (which will disappoint the cat, I'm sure). I'm also going to be scheduling specific time to work on stuff. It's time I stop multi-tasking and focus on just one thing at a time. If my trip to China taught me anything, it's that the world did not blow up when I was away from my computer for a week (not saying I'm going to be away from my computer for a week, but I'm going to be cutting back). My bed will now solely be used for sleeping, movie watching, and well, that other thing you do in bed... let's see if it's going to be a good year or not.

- Speaking of scheduling work time, I've decided to set aside three hours a week where I will do nothing but write plays. It's time I take responsibility for my writing and quit flaking out on it so much. Once I know my new work schedule (yes, I'm starting a new job this year, more on that in tomorrow's post!), my writing time will be fixed and nothing can interrupt it (except maybe an audition, in which case I must immediately reschedule said writing time).

- I'm going to complete a 5K race. I've been training for some time now and I am almost ready. If this goes well, I may upgrade to 10K before the year is over. I've also been looking into a Try a Tri (5K race, 10K bike ride, 200m swim) - this may or may not happen this year, but I'm working towards it. Note to self, get a bike.

- Oh and there's another kind of bike I really want to get my hands on. I'm being deliberately vague here because of certain people who might be reading. If you're curious, just ask me in private.

- I've got a new agent in Ottawa and I'm pretty thrilled about it. I'm hoping I know this is going to lead to bigger and better audition opportunities in 2010. That said, my agent handles Ottawa and Montreal so I'm still looking for someone to represent me in Toronto. My goal for 2010? Get a Toronto agent and be triple carded (ACTRA, Equity and UdA) by the end of the year.

- Keep taking classes and gain new skills. I love learning. I'm an eternal student and I don't plan on stopping this year. I'd like to pursue more classes in voice, movement, and clown this year, but I won't be limiting myself to just that. Perhaps some dancing might be in the cards?

- Travel more! Is it weird that I actually love living out of my suitcase and sleeping on other people's couches? I don't know if it's in the cards, but I'd love to do another big trip in 2010. I've got the bug! Perhaps this might finally be the year I visit Vancouver for the first time as well?

A couple goals I've had for years now but I've never truly acted on - we'll see if 2010 will be any different:

- I've had a violin for almost two years and I still don't know how to play it. This needs to change! If anyone has some links they could send me on learning the violin online (I know the NAC has something like that, but I can't seem to find it at the moment).

- Learn another language. My Spanish is very basic and I want it to get better.

- Get out of credit card debt. It's doable (and I'll talk about work a bit more tomorrow), but it just never seems to go away, does it?

I'm going to leave it at this for now. I'm curious to know what some of your goals might be for the New Year. Please feel free to post in the comment section and let me know!

My Heart Grew Three Sizes That Day

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending an amazing workshop in Toronto with Barbara Deutsch. Barbara is a creative coach who helps artists break through certain blocks they might be experiencing with regards to their careers. This is exactly what I needed: I've taken lots of classes, I've created my own work and I'm constantly seeking out new opportunities, but when it comes to career advancement, I feel like I've hit a plateau. The class was fairly big, but Barbara is incredibly adept at making sure everyone's individual needs were met. She's intuitive and doesn't waste any time getting to the root of a problem if you are willing to listen.

The vibe in Toronto was really different from what I was used to in Ottawa. I felt it immediately when I walked in. Though the experience level varied (from recent theatre school grads to principals in film and TV roles) there was no doubt in my mind that all these people were are 'working actors' even if they weren't currently appearing in something. It was an intimidating sensation, at first, as I fell prey to the 'What the hell am I doing here?/I don't belong in this room' doubts. I sat in the front row (keener that I am to absorb as much knowledge as I can) but I didn't feel 'present'.

Then Barbara helped me solve a big personal block. I won't get into here, but the solution was a simple one: 'Make it about the other person.'

As an actor, I've heard this a million times before. When you're on stage, you're not working alone (even when doing a one person show, there's an audience involved) and it's important to listen to your scene partner and make it about them. I never clued in that this was something I could be doing in my everyday life. When I make it about the other person, I'm not worried about me anymore ('How's my hair?' 'Does this outfit make me look fat today?' 'OMG, they probably think I'm such a dork!' ect.) and I just relax.

I started using this little trick over the holidays and I can't believe the improvements I've seen in my attitude and my life in general. I'm a much happier person for it.

2010 is going to be a great one! New Year's Resolutions coming soon!

Playback Theatre

How appropriate that during this veritable renewal of theatre in the Ottawa region, a new and different sort of theatre company should emerge. Yesterday, I participated in my second, for lack of a better word, workshop with Sanitas Playback Theatre and was invited to be a part of the company.

Playback Theatre has been around for over 30 years and yet I had never really heard about it before this summer. There are companies in almost every major city centre (like Toronto and Montreal), but this is a first for Ottawa.

According to Wikipedia (the guru of all things), "Playback Theatre is an original form of improvisational theatre in which audience or group members tell stories from their lives and watch them enacted on the spot. Playback Theatre is sometimes considered a modality of drama therapy."

I'm quite excited at the prospect of working with this new company. It involves a great mix of local professionals as well as two newcomers from Montreal who have experience in the form; one is a drama therapist, the other a musician.

For me, this is an opportunity to hone my improvisational skills, learn about a different way to produce theatre, interact on a deeper level with an audience, and witness first hand (through the sharing of stories) how theatre can actually help people.

A few gigs have already been booked for the ensemble and are coming up in the very near future. Stay tuned!

A Backyard Revolution

I mentioned a little while back that there was a meeting of members of the local Ottawa theatre community. Below are the minutes from that meeting. Since then, a preliminary steering committee has been formed to did further into these issues. If you are interested in finding out more or taking part in the committee, please join our Wiki at

Happy reading!

******************************************************** Theatre Community Backyard BBQ, August 24, 2009

The Key Suggestions:

1) Professional Ottawa Region Theatre Alliance (PORTA) - administered by a paid staff member - a volunteer steering committee - perhaps provided a desk in the Ottawa Fringe office - PORTA could ostensibly perform the hybrid function of Toronto’s Association of Performing Arts (TAPA) and the Small Theatre Administrative Facility (STAF), through administering projects such as: o The Ottawa Theatre Passport: a multi-play pass that would allow audiences to pay one membership price for access to a variety of independent productions. Each theatre company would put one play forward each season to be included on the passport. o a central database where information about all upcoming workshops and performances could be posted – could also be an active blog site featuring peer-reviews of productions o PORTAL (Professional Ottawa Region Theatre Alliance List; suggested by Judi Pearl and based on her e-list) would be a comprehensive mailing list which would be used to notify the community of upcoming workshops and performances. Judi has volunteered to manage this list until a paid staff person is chosen. o a roster of mentors (directors, designers, actors, playwrights, artistic directors, general managers, publicists, etc) who would be willing to provide guidance to emerging artists on their projects - this includes assistance in company development, grant writing and the drafting/dissemination of press-releases (ideal for companies which presently lack administrative infrastructure) o a central props/set storage into which companies could donate props, costumes, and set pieces from previous productions rather than throwing them out upon completion

2) A New Space (or an old space re-defined) Is it time to pool resources together and create a new space dedicated to the creation and presentation of new work? Could a collective of artists/companies (not restrictively theatre) pool their resources together and fund a new space? It could function similar to a time-share or co-op. Could the Ottawa Fringe lease a permanent rehearsal/performance space (ex. Montreal Fringe)?

New Play Development Blanket Notes

Is there enough new work being developed and produced for the size of population? - no - what are the problems?

Funding - there is a general lack of knowledge of grant writing

Space - make a rehearsal/performance space available to members of the community

Key Points: 1) The Atelier – many voiced a longing for the NAC’s Atelier where there was a) a space to create new work, b) a programmed season of new work, c) an audience who attended a season of new work – it drew national audiences, writers, dramaturges, directors, and Equity actors - it also supported the playwright, not just the work

2) Is a GCTC Studio Series a potentiality? - many view the studio as an under-used and unaffordable space - a programmed series of works by independent theatres in Ottawa (similar to CanStage’s Berkeley Street Project) - can the GCTC rely on local companies to secure the necessary funding before being programmed? - could it become the replacement of the Atelier with collaboration of the NAC?

3) A New Space - new spaces haven’t contributed rehearsal space (ahead 2 theatres, but down space) - as The Atelier proved, one of the keys to new-play development is a dedicated space to the activity - this becomes particularly pertinent when regarding creation-based/devised work - could a collective of artists/companies (not restrictively theatre) pool their resources together and fund a new space? (ex. The Theatre Centre in Toronto) - organizations that give tax credit to new condos if they offer rehearsal space to artists in Chicago - artists pay fees into co-ops, communal space - could the Ottawa Fringe lease a permanent rehearsal/performance space (ex. Montreal Fringe)?

4) Reading Salon - an opportunity for writers to get together and read their work - task several new independent theatre companies with forming their own unit if one is not provided by a larger regional theatre - sometimes writing groups become production groups

5) Existing Resources

Partnership with the Writers Festival – interest in more playwrights being represented

Potential opportunity for gap programming at Arts Court

There was much discussion over overcome our insularity from the national theatre community. - must take more advantage of Magnetic North Theatre Festival (it’s coming back in two years – let’s be ready with something!) - touring our own work - there must be greater dialogue with the current performance creation trends across our country (exchanges, workshops, touring)

6) The arts community remains fairly entrenched in their separate disciplinary silos. A database that would help artists find the people needed to create cross-disciplinary work (music, language outside of theatre). PORTA’s database could fulfill this function.

Professional Development Blanket Notes

Consensus that professional development opportunities are important- in order to increase artist retention in Ottawa, we must enable artists to grow at their craft

Key Points

1) Masterclasses/Training - accessibility of workshops are an issue – time of year, cost, and time commitment were all sited as reasons not to attend – some felt short, weekend sessions were preferable while others desired more integrated and extended ones - need to place more emphasis on bringing in nationally vital artists into the community (success of Maiko Bae Yamamoto’s workshop at GCTC) - requested masterclasses included: voice training for actors, directing, technical skills (i.e. sound design), arts journalism, fundraising and grant writing, basic admin

2) The need to create an umbrella organization (with an online communication space/database) to help disseminate news of upcoming workshops. The need for a database of mentors was also frequently sited. PORTA’s database could fulfill this function.

3) Next Stage Festival in Toronto is an excellent example of a professional spring-board opportunity for successful Fringe productions. Could Ottawa support/does Ottawa need a Next Stage-like festival?

4) A Conservatory - Volcano Conservatory and the Soulpepper Mentorship Program are excellent examples of intensive annual programs which facilitate interaction, dialogue, and creative growth amongst directors and actors. These units benefit from bringing in respected international artists as mentors. - Could the NAC and GCTC collaborate on creating a professional conservatory of this nature? A director’s lab which also provided development opportunities to actors?

5) The theatre community needs a bar. This needs to become a vital cornerstone in our community.

6) Increasing caliber of arts reporting will in turn increase caliber of work - a committed community of bloggers who attend every show and write informed peer-reviews (could be posted on PORTA’s website/database) - Plank Magazine in Vancouver was sited as an example of a successful theatre publication – could we work with Guerilla magazine to improve quality, quantity, and frequency of theatre reporting?

Audience Development and Community Outreach Blanket Notes

Common points from all four blanket sets: 1. share/pool resources 2. develop a shared subscription or passport (to a number of theatres) 3. develop an theatre calendar – on line and print 4. develop a theatre website 5. share theatre ad space 6. Do social media initiatives 7. Develop a blog group for the theatre community (both theatre bloggers and bloggers from other interest groups) 8. Collaborate on mailings (piggy back on each others’ mailings) 9. Inserts or ads in each other’s house programs 10. Do cross promotion with each other 11. Word of mouth is good 12. Work collectively with media 13. need a balance of traditional methods and social media methods 14. need for more mainstream media participation

Debate 1. to target/segment audience according to the theme(s) in the play vs not to do that

Common Barriers 1. ticket prices too high 2. theatre company marketing budgets too low 3. human resources 4. training and skills 5. track record of the theatre company 6. independents under value their work 7. audience think they will feel stupid 8. the walls of the theatre/venue – we need to get out from behind the walls: do theatre outside, or do sneak peak/mini “commercial” or live teaser of a scene from the play in a public place 9. Competition 10. The theatre companies not knowing about opportunities to develop audiences 11. The majority of the public do not attend if they are not familiar with the name of the play 12. limited space 13. difficulty securing project funding

National Reliance 1. Initiative to participate in a national theatre magazine to gain a national profile for the theatre work done in Ottawa. Example: Plank Magazine out of Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto Previews, reviews and discussion stories, what’s happening type articles.

More good thoughts 1. Need to bring theatre to the audiences instead of the audiences to the theatre 2. videos of our collective work 3. Coming soon to a theatre near you: screens up in public areas showing short videos of a number of theatres’ work 4. setting up sets, props, costumes in public places or in each other’s theatres in order to cross promote the work of each other 5. Be interactive with the audience 6. Build a conversation with the public 7. make it a whole experience for the theatre goers – from the minute they walk through the door – the show – a talk back or reception afterwards 8. Cross pollinate with other art forms 9. Set up meeting with the Citizen – in print, on line, how can we help you help us 10. Develop a theatre alliance group 11. Importance of publicity: 1. know the show 2. know the audience 3. know where to find that audience. Know how to spin the plot of the play to develop interest, prep media and prep the artists 12. Work with tourism 13. Engage the business community

Questions 1. What role does programming play in audience development 2. What role do the media play in audience development? 3. Why do music concerts and big events (spectacles) draw people? 4. How to get Cultural diverse audiences (programming, outreach, diverse actors on stage) 5. Chicken and Egg Question: What comes first – critical mass in audience, performances or artists 6. How do we help each other thrive

GCTC will work on Affordable rental possibilities in the studio Exploring how to continue the production mentorship program Hosting master classes at affordable rate Work with who ever is interested in audience development

Independent Theatre Blanket Notes

Common points from all four blanket sets: 15. sharing resources; publicity lists, volunteer base, performance schedules, 16. sharing physical resource; rehearsal and storage space 17. Create an online inventory of available props, costumes. 18. Create a “Theatre Alliance”. 19. create central box office, promotional tools, subscription season 20. Need a paid person to run “theatre alliance” 21. create a committee to oversee the “alliance” 22. Local community needs to get exposure to work outside our region to expand our horizons and raise the bar 23. Need more bartering among companies 24. advertise together to get impact 25. Need to get younger audience engaged. 26. There is a lack of communication among theatre companies 27. No training on how to create companies

Debate 2. Do we need lasting independent theatre companies? Should project based work be enough? 3. The limits/benefits of a mandate? It should be a living document to be revisited. 4. How much does audience need come first? 5. Value of Project funding vs. Operational funding. 6. When to incorporate? Or incorporate at all?

Common Barriers 14. lack of “affordable” space 15. equity vs. non-equity mix. Makes harder for Equity members to work on some projects 16. Lack of funding makes us competitive with each other. Need to rise above it. 17. National presence overshadows local work 18. Time spent on admin/production vs. creating art 19. Insurance

More good thoughts 14. Get city on board to create kiosks or billboards to promote local theatre 15. Have a collective season launch 16. Plan ahead. Good theatre takes time. 17. The resources are there but need to get to the people who need them 18. With collective wisdom you need a collector 19. Tie Theatre Alliance to Rideau Awards (Dora Awards given as an example) 20. CAO is a great resource that is underused. 21. Other available resources; Flying Squad, CRHC 22. Sometimes failing is the best training

Questions 7. Where does money come from to create “shared” pool? 8. Do we need to “grow” to be considered successful? 9. How do we maintain rigour while doing other jobs? 10. How do artists find information? 11. Do we even know who the independent theatre companies are? 12. What drives the need for independent theatre? 13. What does the city get out of a community? 14. How do we convince city of the value of that? 15. Where are the francophone companies? How do we work with them?

Post-Class Ramblings

It's past midnight and I'm home from class. I'm starving but I don't want pizza, so I'm making the only thing any single gal who hasn't been grocery shopping in over three weeks can make: Pasta! Plain, no tomato sauce, pasta! Mmmmm! Finally finished all my grant writing today for both Evolution Theatre and my upcoming Roller Derby show. It is such a huge relief to have that off my shoulders. I can now fully focus on Birth and my class with Michele Lonsdale Smith from Vancouver.

I feel so blessed and grateful to be taking this class. I'm not just learning about acting, I'm learning to be a better human being. I wish everyone could see, feel, learn what I learn in these classes. I've been studying with her for almost four years now and I know that I would not be the person I am today if it wasn't for those classes. If you are in the Ottawa area and are interested in auditing a class, here's the event info, including how you can apply to audit.

I'm going to be working on a scene from Doubt with an absolutely lovely partner and I know we're going to have a lot of fun with it. I do, however, still need to find an outfit. I'm currently looking for a long black skirt, black shoes and a habit headpiece. Please message me below if you can help!

I am happy. I am exactly where I know I should be right now and for the first time ever I'm not scared to do the work. I'm actually thrilled to do it!

My heart is filled with so much love for everyone. If you are reading this, I love you very much and, even if we haven't met, I think you are beautiful and strong. You can accomplish everything you put your mind to. The only thing standing in your way is you.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my water is boiling.

Timing Is Everything

I wasn't going to blog today. I feel that the Ottawa Fringe web admin is probably getting sick of approving all my pingbacks and could use a break. Besides, I have a busy day today of seeing shows (aiming for 7 or 8 ) before performing in one of my own tonight at 11 p.m. However, it's that very crazy show-viewing schedule that is forcing me to write today. You see, I am a theatre watching whore. I want to see everything I possibly can. Since I am billeting some performers from Montreal, I was given a VIP pass for my troubles. This means I can get in to any show during the festival for free. This, ladies and gentlemen, is like being given all the crack you can handle in a 10 day period and I plan on binging like mad. Like all the other insane Fringers out there, I've made a schedule (though I have yet to fall into "spreadsheet" category *snort* loser!) and I have based this schedule on the running times presented in the programs. Now, I don't mind if your show is shorter than what might be advertised, but please, DO NOT GO OVER! Or if you're going to go over, could you at least make your show entertaining so I don't start wondering what I might be missing in the venue next door? Or at the very least, maybe you could be offbook and not carry your script around the stage... or you know, be able to cold read properly? Could you do that for me? Maybe? Thanks.

Though I'm not going to name the show, I will say that this situation happened to me yesterday. In most regular venues, I believe the technician is mandated to cut the performance if you go over your allocated time, however BYOV's (and no, the show I saw was not Miss Pearlman's - though I hear it is wonderful and will see it today. I'm just linking to her definition of BYOV for those who may not understand the term), often being the only show in the venue, have no such restrictions.

Please, artists, respect your audience. It is frustrating for a Fringe patron who may have a limited amount of time to see everything they would like to see to be held up because you did not respect your advertised running time.

This has been a public service announcement from Nancy Kenny and No Exit Upstage, which runs until June 29th at the Ottawa Fringe Festival.

Chill Out, Virginia, It Can Be This Easy

I woke up a little earlier than 5:00 a.m. with the sun barely creeping through my blinds. I was ok with that since I was going to head out for some early morning yoga, but I couldn't figure out if I had slept. If I did sleep, I spent the entire night dreaming about THE SHOW and my tossing and turning was based on all of my blocking, or I didn't sleep and I just thought about the show all night... Ah well, being up that early reminded me that I needed to do laundry, since my costume top was in the basket and we were teching at 9:30 a.m. I also filled out an application for what will surely be another cool festival for No Exit Upstage in September. Yes, the application deadline is way beyond past, but the fine folks in Kitchener-Waterloo have been kind enough to grant me one massive extension.

All in all, with the working out and an impromptu coffee meeting with theatre friends post-yoga, I had a very productive morning before heading out to our venue in Studio Leonard Beaulne on the University of Ottawa campus.

The reality of the situation finally hit me when I got there. We open in LESS THAN TWO DAYS! While on the bus my director/stage manager called to say his own bus hadn't shown up and he would be late. I arrived at the venue and couldn't find either the technician or my fellow actor. I wanted to panic! Where was the Fringe office phone number? Where was everyone? What the hell is going on!?!

Then I looked at my phone. It wasn't even 9:30 yet...

Needless to say, everyone arrived and things went as smoothly as they possibly could. I worried a bit, some more, that I wouldn't be able to get the timing for some of my cues, but we just kept working them until we got it right. I also had to keep telling myself that a cue-to-cue was not a place to be worried about character development. An excellent technical rehearsal later (Vincent is awesome!), we were having lunch on the grass before tidying up a few bits of the story arc. It was wonderful. Post-rehearsal I went to tape up posters around the venues.

Two days before opening and I am confident we have a solid show. It is an incredibly uplifting feeling to know that we won't simply be running on adrenaline to pull this all together. I can't thank the gang enough for making my life so incredibly easy. I sincerely hope to see you all out there throughout the run!

Nancy Kenny's No Exit Upstage, opens with a 2-for-1 admission price Thursday, June 18 at 9:30 pm and plays in Venue #3 - Studio Leonard-Beaulne.


As an added bonus, while we were finishing up our rehearsal, I received a call from Theatre New Brunswick. I guess I haven't simply been killing trees after all! I'll be heading to Toronto on June 23rd (a day we are not schedule to perform on - thank you Universe!) to audition for their TYA Touring Company.