The Kids Are Alright


Photo Credit: UV Fedor via Compfight cc Sidenote: I'm going to apologize now for all the swearing. As I can't really swear on tour, I'm using this as my fucking outlet. Ya dig?

Don't tell the gang at Monster Theatre, but I think performing for children is the most fucking terrifying type of work any actor can do - and if anyone from Monster Theatre is reading this, you already hired me so you're stuck with me. Suckers! No takebacksies!

While I have done a school tour in the past, twice actually, with A Company of Fools, it was for high school kids, who are already way too cool for this shit. It wasn't unusual, especially at 8:30 in the morning, to see tired and cranky teens rolling their eyes at four grown ups in pantaloons. I can deal with that because I expected it. And we always won them over in the end.

Why would anyone roll their eyes at this?

But this production is for the kindergarden to Grade 7 set. These are children. Scary, impulse-driven children. While teenagers are too cool for your shit, children just won't take your shit. Worse yet, they will be VOCAL about it. Are you boring? They will tell you. Are you mean? They will tell you. Did some technical function just fuck up? Oh you bet ya they will tell you. It's what I imagine doing theatre in Shakespeare's day must have been like except no one is passing around rotten tomatoes for them to throw at you. (Thank Jeebus!) We've even had, in the past 4 days, one child drop his pants and pee on the floor as we were setting up and another burst into uncontrollable sobs as soon as the show began. Because critics.

You might be asking yourselves why I would put myself through this? Well, that's a pretty easy question to answer. In my day-to-day life, I am a control-freak. I love planning and knowing exactly what's going to happen next. But as an actor, I need to listen to my impulses, go from moment to moment, and enjoy this crazy ride of life without a safety net. The real reason performing for children scares me so is that they truly are the greatest actors. They somehow know how to do all those things and society hasn't beaten it out of them just yet, though you can already see it happening with the older kids. Basically, children are just fucking rocking at this game of life because they innately get that it's all a game.

That kind of pure, innocent self-actualization is powerful and fucking scary to me.

While they will be direct when they don't like something, I should also add that they will be just as loud when they love it too. Is your character sad? They will try to cheer you up. Are you saying goodbye and going offstage? They will scream at you not to leave. And man, let me tell you that there is nothing quite like a room of 600 kids in stitches at something you did or said to make you feel like the funniest fucking person in the whole fucking world.

In one post-show talkback, as I was taking one last question, a little girl looked me right in the eye and said: "I love you." No pretence. Just love. On another day, a little boy was following us around as we packed up. I remembered him since he had sat in the front row and I had chosen him for a question. He told us it was his birthday, so Tara pulled out one of our puppets and had it sing him happy birthday. A teacher who was watching then offered us a birthday cupcake. I may never see that kid again, but he is for sure going to remember us. And I will remember him.

Because cupcakes. And love. But mostly cupcakes.

I can only hope my presence in these shows will have some kind of impact. That I will inspire a few kids do to something or other. But at the end of the day, I think I have way more to learn from them then they do from me.

Fortune Favours Fools

There's something really interesting about performing a show for young audiences inside a high school. Standing around the girls bathroom while Catholic teens with truckers' vocabulary and skirts so short a stripper might ask you where you got it gossip and bitch, well, I couldn't help but feel the slightest bit uncool... it might have had something to do with the pantaloons and pigtails.

The show itself was a blast to do. People in attendance usually took a little bit of time to warm up to us (especially if we happened to be performing at 8:30 a.m.), but that was mostly because they didn't know what to expect. It's Shakespeare right? Then why is there a guy in a beard running around in a dress with his boobs drooping all the way down to his knees? I giggle as I picture the visual in my head. Hee.

After most performances, we would have a brief talk-back with the kids. Questions would range from "How did you come up with the concept for the show?" to "Did you get any tongue with that kiss?"

But since a lot of these kids were drama students, almost every single time we were asked: "Where did you go to school for acting?"

You could see it on their eager faces: "I want to go there too so I can do what you just did." And that, I found quite dangerous.

Though I was happy to tell them I went to the University of Ottawa, I wish I could have told them what I recently found so eloquently presented on The Mission Paradox blog on The miseducation of the artist:

School doesn't teach anybody to be an artist. They teach skills. What separates (you) from the pack is (your) willingness to mix (your) considerable skill with the art/love/generosity that lies within. It takes a lot of courage to do that. When (you) or any passionate artist is really trying to connect with people, they open themselves up for ridicule. They risk being laughed at. They risk having their ideas challenged. In many ways it's easier to be that second violinist. It's easier to just blend in and do your part. Sure, the wage sucks, but that's the price you pay for being invisible.

I recommend everyone reads the full post by clicking the link above.

I truly believe it does not matter where you go to school if you want to make art. It's about what you do when you are there - the people you meet, the activities you participate in - and knowing that your learning experience does not end when your official education does. You can gain skills anywhere, but what's really going to help you succeed is your passion, your drive, your dedication, and your love of what you do. And you have to love it, every part of it, even especially the rejections because they are only going to make you stronger.

It would have been easy for me to stop auditioning for the Fools after not getting cast the first time, but I kept at it. Maybe 5 or 6 auditions later, after wearing them down enough that they probably went "Well, she keeps coming back even though we made her dance on roller skates to Single Ladies while reciting verse with a mouth-guard on her teeth... maybe we should put her in a show," I FINALLY got to wear yellow tights. It's about persistence. And love.

That's what's going to help you stand out.

And that's what I wish I could have told those kids.

Can You Help?

This was going to be a post about the last day of the Big Comedy Go-To, but since it's now over that can wait a bit. This is a post about my first day performing with A Company of Fools in Shakespeare's Interactive Circus. The show is very fun but also probably the most physically demanding piece I've ever had teh pleasure of working on. And, as with most Theatre for Young Audiences (or TYA), we do the show twice at day with probably about three hours to spare between performances. In those three hours, we must tear down the set, change out of costumes, pack everything up, eat, travel to our next destination and set everything up again. I'm exhausted but exhilarated at the same time.

Performance wise, though I had a few blocking (and by blocking I mean choreographed dance routine) issues, everything went really well.

On the personal side though, things were not as good. We performed our first show in a school cafeteria and we were told we could leave our things in the teachers lounge right next door. During the last bits of the show, I saw a group go into our room. Apparently, it's also used a class. Since, I was on stage, I couldn't exactly go over there. I had left my bag open because I assumed the room was secure for us.

When the show finished, one of the actors and I walked over. We were met by a teacher who was just leaving. We asked about our stuff, she said she moved it all to another table. I went to my bag. Some of my stuff had "fallen" out (lipstick, keys, deodorant, and some of my clean clothes). I looked for my iPhone. I couldn't find it. My fellow actor offered to call it. It went straight to voicemail. I started to panic. I never turn my phone off. It's always on silent or vibrate, it should not go to voicemail. I emptied out my bag and everyone looked around our things.

My iPhone was gone.

Also gone from my bag: an apple I was going to eat as a snack. Would this be considered irony that my apple products are what have disappeared?

I know it's just a possession and it's kind of silly for how upset it makes me, but I feel so gross right now. My entire life is in that phone and this is such a violation of my privacy. If someone wanted to, they could have access to my email, facebook and other accounts. They have phone numbers, private text messages, work videos, notes I've jotted down about ideas and shows, and all of my photos & music. It's also an expensive loss. Not just the phone, but also the apps and music I've downloaded on to it.

I don't really know anyone's number by heart and almost everything on there isn't backed up since my desktop exploded back in December. My hardrive was synched to that phone.

I've tried calling it and friends have left texts with requests to call if found. One friend even put in that a reward would be offered. A part of me keeps hoping that it's all just an innocent misunderstanding and so I've been holding off on getting it deactivated, just in case. At this point, I just want it back. But the phone is still off. Rogers can't track it if it's off or if they threw away the sim card, which is a very distinct possibility. I've spent my afternoon at the police station waiting to file a police report and the school tells me they are "looking into it," whatever that means. The officer at the police station was very kind, but I'm not sure if anything can really be done.

So, instead, I'm putting it out there on the interwebs in the rare instance that someone might know something. My phone is a white iPhone 3GS with no case. It was "lost" this morning, April 26, somewhere between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. at Canterburry High School in the teacher's lounge next to the cafeteria (some people at the school also called it the teacher's cafeteria). When you turn it on, the screen-saver is a picture of my cat sleeping in a suitcase.

I honestly won't press charges or ask any questions if I can get it back in one piece. I'm even willing to discuss a reward if found. You may keep the apple (that's not the reward, but you can keep it).

If anyone knows anything, please leave me a message below or email me: nancyjkenny at yahoo dot com