The actor as business person
Working at Canada’s ‘other’ great theatre
Actors don’t read reviews. They can affect your performance. A good review may make an actor may feel self-conscious - much as an athlete may conquer a specific technique, be praised by a coach, then find it difficult to recapture that natural impulse. If the review is negative, it can throw you off the whole game - with a whole season of games yet to play!
Discussing the Guardian review of “Alice Through the Looking Glass” may appear as a conflict of interest, but, I want you to know what reviews mean to me as an independent contractor - I am my own business.
All actors in Canada are selfemployed, collect HST and are unable to qualify for (un)Employment Insurance. Building and maintaining a career takes as much focus as does what we put into our craft. Like any private business - restaurant, plumber, electrician - reputation is all. It is a big part of my job to explore the career pros and cons of appearing at any theatre. And in his review, Lennie MacPherson, reaffirmed my choice to work here.
MacPherson said: “(Alice) fills me with excitement for the future of the Charlottetown Festival”. Excitement for the future key to anyone building/maintaining a business/career - and that’s what I’m looking for.
MacPherson also said: “- it’s just weird”. He’s right. Alice is weird. It’s not Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. MacPherson “got it”, paving a way for audiences to embrace something something we are not used to seeing everyday.
At this point in my 30-year career, as a business man, I need to work on major national and international projects (I just flew back to Toronto to do a reading of a piece poised for a pre-Broadway workshop). Alice is proving to be the first major national production in decades. Evangeline is close on her heels with our production going on to Edmonton.
What does “national production” mean? Based on the original adaptation of the Lewis Caroll classic by great Canadian playwright, James Reaney, Jillian Keiley, Artistic Director of the National Arts Centre, re-imagined the piece for the Stratford Festival 2014 season. By the end of this year, this production (with a different local cast each time) will have played Stratford, Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Charlottetown. “Anne of Green Gables - The Musical” used to be that production, decades ago, touring the world, and I have confidence she will make her comeback.
Having Alice in Charlottetown is a big deal. We boast the largest cast the show will ever have and the only time it will be produced with a full orchestra and chorus. But, if audiences and critics don’t “get it”...
For me, day to day, it is a different story. I can’t “act” “national significance”. In Alice, each night, I climb a 12-foot tower, hook up my safety strap, squeeze into a giant lacqueredcloth egg leaving only my face and voice to create the character of Humpty Dumpty. Talented Josh Doig and Kristen Pottle manipulate my right and left arms, respectively, while I move my little puppet legs.
I can’t see Natasha Greenblatt, our Alice, who is my only scene partner. We play a complicated scene about the absurdity of language like a hilarious game of tennis - and we play it blind.
But, audiences and critics are “getting it”, which means, I made a good business decision in coming here.
Alice is weird - and the country is noticing the Charlottetown Festival, again.