On Friday, I saw Mies Julie by Yael Farber at Place-des-Arts. I was blown away by the whole theatrical experience and am still thinking about what I witnessed that night. The raw energy and emotions had a huge impact on me and each actor’s performance resonated with me in its own intricate way. I was moved entirely by the performance of Zoleka Helesi, who played Christine; she was brilliant and broke my heart more than once.
Moms kill me. I love mine too much.
It was the kind of theatre I love: Raw, visceral, real and ultimately imitating life at its highest point, with a few stylistic moments. After seeing the show, some of The Circle cast and myself caught up with Bongile Mantsai, who played John. He gave some beautiful insights on his experience with theatre, as he feels he is more of a dancer, and working with Yael, who is a force of nature. He was extremely kind and especially generous with his time after such an exhausting show. Something he said has really sat with me, he said that he doesn't like "acting". He said, that if he feels like he is acting it isn't real for him. Makes sense. The work for him comes from simply being John. He said that when the role was presented to him, he told Yael that he did not want to "act" and she replied, she was not looking for an actor; she wanted someone who could be John. After seeing the show, I can say that he did just that. When he spoke about this idea it brought some clarity to my own work. I find I can get frustrated with actors who need to discuss every detail of what is going on with their character and why they would do the things that the script is saying. I feel like it can get quite pedantic trying to figure out every rhyme or reason as to why someone would do something. Do we know why we do everything? No, so why is there such a need to figure out every character. I believe that my job is to bring the text to life, to make offers that work with the text and simply do what the text is saying my character does.
"Why would my character do this?" Because the script says they do, and in the case of a great director, trust that they know what they want and do what they ask for. I know it could be argued that I should feel free to voice my opinion and what I think my character might do, but what I took from Paul Gross and David Latham this year, was that my character is actually our character. We are building a living human together. So is it wrong to not fight them? Am I so bold as to think that I know more about this person that anyone else involved in the process? Who knows. What I do know is that as soon as I think I know who someone is, they usually surprise me. In life and on stage.
If acting is supposed to be imitating life, than that is my goal, to simply immerse myself in the writing and fully experience what the character does in each moment. Its funny, I forget who said this but, "...Actors rely on so many people for their job to even exist." Meaning: You have directors, playwrights, set, costume and lighting designers, all who create the world for the actor. Without these important people what are we really? Just people, standing there. Bare. So what makes us special from any other regular person? In my opinion, what separates actors from, say, office clerks is the ability to inhabit other people and convince someone that we are that person as well as being able to authentically fabricate (I'm aware of the oxymoron) an array of emotions. It's a hard job and whatever it takes to get into the skin and mind of that character is the process, but don't be so arrogant as to put that process on anyone else, especially other actors.
As I tend to do, I have been thinking about my life and what I actually want from it. I find that the more I talk to people who seem passionate about one particular aspect of acting, whether it is film or travelling around in a caravan putting on puppet shows for farm kids in the mountains, the more I realize I actually have no idea what I want. I love performing. I am learning how to be a better actor and starting to trust and explore my creation abilities. That being said, I still feel like I have yet to land on one specific thing that I want. Over the last few weeks I have been writing artistic statements as part of some summer program applications, and they have got me really digging deep into what actually motivates me as an artist. The one conclusion that I have come to is fear. I am afraid of not being able to do what makes me happiest. I am afraid of becoming stale and unable to book any work that excites or impassions me, or at the very least; pays my rent. I am afraid of all my work amounting to nothing and me having to resort to slaving away at a Joe job because I couldn't get my career off the ground. I am afraid of being that 34 year old hipster guy who reads his poetry from a dirty moleskin to a bunch of 20 year olds who are snapping their fingers at anyone who farts and wears a beret. Yes, that is the epitome of hell for me.
Sitting here, writing this, all I want for myself is to be happy. To live my dreams. Having enough notoriety that I get a choice in what projects I want to be a part of. Having enough credibility that people hire me for my energy and enjoy being around me. To be valued, and diverse, to always surprise people and myself, to be a dad someday and have enough money to support that kid. Maybe and actor isn't the best profession for that last goal, but why not? I have seen so many artists at the school that have families and solid relationships and they have not had to sacrifice their career, they just make it work. I've accepted that I am always going to be poor, but I am going to look damn good being poor, and so will my potential baby. I am not searching for fame, but if fame allows me to be part of amazing projects then so be it. I want the best for myself and I will fight to have it. That's the best I can do.
Things are very quickly wrapping up here in Montreal. My 3-year journey is coming to a speedy end and I am looking back with a smile on all the things that have gotten me to this point. 9 extremely talented and different people surround me. New Words has divided us, and over theses last few weeks I have really felt the separation. I can sense, from everyone, the need to start new chapters, and move forward into our adult lives, yet at the same time experiencing the loss of our family who has managed to go through hell and back over the last 3 years. No one makes me angrier or more proud than these people; I cannot wait for this week to start and have our shows playing together in harmony. Broken legs for everybody.
This is it: let the final week begin.