The ac­tor as busi­ness per­son

Work­ing at Canada’s ‘other’ great theatre

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINMENT - Bruce Dow, an award-win­ning ac­tor raised in Van­cou­ver, B.C., is writ­ing this col­umn for The Guardian through­out the Char­lot­te­town Fes­ti­val sea­son. He wel­comes ques­tions and com­ments at, www.bruce­ or @DowBruce.

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.

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