THERAPY AND LETTING GO

How’s that for a title to grab your attention???!!!

For those of you who remember my talking about my therapist long ago, this will be a catch-up.  For those of you who are new and haven’t read any of the old posts, welcome to the inner, inner workings of my mind.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  I’ve got this wonderful therapist who is an “energy therapist”.  What that means is you do a 75 minute session.  For about 45-50 minutes of it, you sit and talk and he guides and helps your realize what’s bothering you and what to do with that.  Then you get on his table and he does energy work -chakra balancing, reiki (sp?) sort of stuff.  But he also really reads the body.  He is incredible.  He’s really intuitive so you can feel him feeling your body’s ‘information’.  The most fantastic experience.  I feel so cleansed after seeing him.  1 – because I can spill my guts without sensoring.  And 2 – he cleans your energy in the table work so you don’t carry it around with you. His name, by the way, is David Scammell.  Treat yourself to some healing, y’all.  You won’t be sorry.   And for those of you who think it’s all just airy-fairy stuff.  I assure you, it’s life-altering and, in fact, he is very practical which is a great balance.

http://www.davidscammell.com/

Well, I haven’t managed to get in to see him since I got to Shaw in February.  He comes up to St. Catherines about once a month/month and a half because he has a handfull of clients in Niagara-On-The-Lake and environs (love that word – “environs” – it’s so upscale rural).  But I don’ t drive or have a car (why would I, I don’t drive) and I haven’t been able to hook up with someone who would take me out.  Well, I finally found someone who would get me there and I had a session on Thursday (two days ago).  It was – dare I have a renaissance and bring the word back – AWESOME.   God he’s good.   He helped me focus on things I wasn’t seeing.  He helped me realize I’m holding on to a perception of myself as a performer that is not my own.  It is someone(s) else.  Along with that was the realization that I don’t need to say yes to work just because someone thinks I’d be good in it; that I can be flattered that someone sees me in a role I wouldn’t think of casting myself in and still say no because I don’t have a desire to do it.  That was something I’ve had a hard time allowing myself to do.  And then I end up in something I really don’t want to be doing.  Even if people think I’m good in it, it doesn’t mean much if I’m not having a good time.

So the biggest thing I took from that session was – well, two things really.  The first thing is that I can say ‘no’ to shows if I don’t see myself being happy in them.  And the second thing is the realization that I want to tell stories and take people on a journey.  And that means, I think, that I have to be really choosy about what I want to do.  I want to do cabaret and concert-work.  I love telling a whole story from beginning to end in 3-4 minutes.   I love singing.   I also want to only do theatre gigs I really want to do.  But the biggest thing of all – and I think many performers don’t understand this about themselves – is that I want to do work that utilizes and expands on my gifts.  Now, before you all start rolling your eyes (that’s right, I saw that), let me just say that what I mean by gifts is that we all have gifts we’re given inately.  My mother plays the organ and is great with numbers -literally, I mean, math stuff.  My father is a people-person; people love him, he makes them feel taken care of and at ease, that’s why he was so good at being a porter for VIA Rail for 38 years.  So I want to use whatever gifts I have to their fullest and be given the opportunity to expand those gifts, develop those gifts and discover new gifts.  Which means challlenging myself while always embracing things that scare me.  But the difference is I’ve done things in the past that scare me but don’t always interest me.  That is something that now has to stop.  If I’m drawn to it while being scared and/or excited by it, then I’ll consider it.  If not, I need to say no.  That is a huge and thrilling revelation for me.  It probably won’t always be easy but what worthwhile thing is.  . . . . Well  (jeez- these ideas keep tumbling into other ideas – time for a new paragraph)

That last idea leads me to an idea that someone put to me once.  It’s the idea that when you are doing what you are meant to be doing, it isn’t work.  You work hard but it doesn’t feel like it’s work because it fills you with such joy and life that it’s not a ‘chore’.  That’s the place I want to reach.  So raise a glass y’all.  (c’mon, it can be a water glass, diet coke, Fresca -mmmm Fresca)  Let’s have a toast to (here comes a five dollar expression) . . . to self-actualization.  Woohoo

Published in: on July 26, 2008 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

WORK

Wow, you guys.  I have to admit, I’ve been feeling a bit anxious lately.  Not sure of where I want to be and what I want to be doing.  I’ve been doubting my talents and my abilities a little and wondering what I’ll be doing after this (Shaw) contract.  The big joke among actors when you don’t have something booked after the gig you’re doing is to say you’re never working again after this job.  And I’ve been feeling a bit like that.  It’s just part of this business.  But the weird reality is, I’ve gotten 3 offers for jobs after this contract in the last few weeks (2 in the last week) and possibly two more coming in the next week and a half.   Life can be very funny, my friends. There may be some conflict with one or two but I’ll deal with that when and if it happens.  My thing though is this.  I’m past taking an offer just because it’s offered.  What is important to me now is that its a role that uses my talents.  It has to be fun and/or challenging.  And the director has to be someone I really want to work with.  It’s not enough to just be about the money.  I can get money some other way (no I’m not talking about selling my ass, y’all).  But it’s not worth selling my soul anymore.  Luckily I haven’t knowingly had to do that a lot in my career.  Knock wood  . . . . or something

And I’ve realized something else.  I’ve got to give up sugar  . . . . again.  I did it last summer and I’ve rarely felt so good.   I admit it, y’all, I’m a sugar-aholic.  I’m so addicted to sugar.  And you know how I’ve felt anxious, well, when I’m anxious, I eat.  Now the good thing is, I’ve been working out too so I’m looking beefy.  The bad thing is the beef is marbled.  I’ve gained a chunk of weight.  Woohoo.  People don’t really see it as fat since, as I say, I just look beefy.  And I carry extra weight well.   But I’ve got a belly, my friends.   There are jiggly bits.  hahaa  But I want to be very clear.  I feel no shame about that.  I see no reason to.  I just can’t fit into my clothes the way I’d like to.  And the worst and funniest thing is my costume in A Little Night Music was fitted about 17 lbs ago (less) so breathing is not the easiest thing.  Woops.  (Insert sound of me laughing).  So it’s time to settle down and tell myself I’m okay and cut out the sugar and cut down the refined starches (flour).  And see how that goes.  Luckily, as soon as I start eating better, my body dumps excess weight fast.  Thank God.  What I’m not looking forward to is that first week of being off sugar.  I remember feeling like a crack-whore going through rehab.  The mood swings, that rages, the self-bargaining.  Good times.  Wish me luck.

Published in: on July 21, 2008 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

NIAGARA FALLS

Oh I can’t believe I forgot to blog this. So yesterday (Friday), I ended up with a rare day off. I decided to bike to Niagara Falls. It’s about a half-hour away by car. I heard it would take about an hour and a half. It was awesome. (Okay I think it’s time for awesome to be retired. I’ll only use it on special occasions.) It was fantastic. So exhilarating. It took me and hour and 24 minutes. It’s a beautiful ride. Takes you by the river. (not sure which one but I’m assuming the Niagara – haha) And it was a great day for it. Really warm but slightly over-cast so I didn’t have the sun beating down on me. I always forget what a freak-show Niagara Falls is until I get there. If you want to people-watch, that is the place. My God. The characters. You go up that street that has Guinesse (sp?) Book of World Records and that stuff and it’s a free for all of over-fed tourists, misfits, families, frat-boys and bootie-shorts. Wow. So I wandered about a bit. Had a slice of pizza and an ice cream (what the hell, I had another hour/hour and a half bike ride to burn it off) then went to look at the falls a bit. Realized I had been there about 4 times already in the past and not much had changed, so I decided to head back. It only took about an hour and a bit to get back – tells you where all he hills are. And the great part is, I can now set a table for 12 on my ass as its sitting so high right now. Woohoo. I will be doing that again, several times.

I’ve heard the ride to St. Catherines is a good one too. So I’ll try that as well. Oh yeah.

Published in: on July 19, 2008 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

SHARRON’S BLOG

Okay if you aren’t watching it already, you have to watch Sharron Matthews blog.  Hi-larious!!  Go here,

http://sharronmatthews.com/blog/default.htm

Funny!!!!!

That’s all I have to say.

Published in: on July 19, 2008 at 1:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

BELLE MORAL

You guys, today I saw BELLE MORAL at Shaw. It is one of the best things I’ve seen in a while. Now, not to say that I haven’t seen some great stuff here so far – I absolutely have (nobody get there knickers in a twist – knickers? – what am I, 73?) But this was a magical combination of script (by one of Canada’s true literary treasures, Ann-Marie MacDonald), direction (Dora winner Alisa Palmer), design (Judith Bowden – who, by the way, designed the Cabaret I did at Theatre Calgary – she’s awesome and we love her) and cast:

Bernard Behrens

Julie Martell

Graeme Somerville

Martin Happer

Jeff Meadows

Donna Belleville

Peter Hutt

And the extraordinary Fiona Byrne, who gives a performance so luminous, she could embarrass a solar flare. It is truly a great production of a really intriguing and beautiful play. RUN, DO NOT WALK to get tickets as it was such a hit when it premiered at the Shaw 3 years ago, it will probably sell out fast. I feel truly inspired to be a better actor/performer/human being after seeing that show. It makes me realize what can be achieved when care is taken and given to every detail of a production.

Again, as I know many people including people from the Shaw read this, I’m not saying care isn’t given to the other productions here, – on the contrary – it’s just that there’s something special that I got from the show today.

So come see it, y’all. You won’t be disappointed. And if you are, suck it up, at least you got some of that ‘culture’.

Published in: on July 16, 2008 at 4:40 am  Leave a Comment  

RANDOM THOUGHTS

So I don’t have something specific to talk about. I just felt the need to reach out to my peeps. That’s right, I wrote ‘peeps’ . . . and I’m not sorry.

It’s rainy day today here in Niagara-On-The-Lake and it feels quite cozy. I just had breakfast and I’m sitting here in my living room contemplating my life and what to do next (next being after this contract). Wondering what I want to do. But at the same time, taking a moment to really enjoy where I am. I feel so freakin’ lucky, y’all. I’ve had a career many people would envy. I’ve gotten to do such a huge variety of things and go so many fantastic places. I’ve been taken to Barcelona, Orlando, Los Angeles, the Caribbean, Maui, San Francisco, all over the states – all for work. Paid and paid for. I’ve gotten to play roles not normally given to actors of colour like Daddy Warbucks in Annie, Che in Evita, Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf in Into The Woods, Freddy Einsford-Hill in My Fair Lady, and even right now Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm in A Little Night Music. All at major theatres. It makes me realize how nothing is impossible and how important it is to not put boundaries around ourselves as people or as artists.

I had a really interesting experience at Stratford after a matinee of King Henry VIII one day in 2004. I was playing Henry’s best friend The Duke of Suffolk, a member of the royal clique. I was jonesing (that’s right, I wrote jonesing . . . and I’m still not sorry) for a doughnut so I went into the Tim Horton’s. As I was standing there, these three mature black folk (I’m black so I can say that – bite me), two ladies and a gentleman from the States, came up to me and asked me if they had just seen me in King Henry VIII. I said yes and they began to gush “Oh it was so thrilling to see one of us up there playing royalty and not a servant.” They went on to talk about how for them, it was like the dawning of a new day and they’ve always enjoyed the shows at Stratford but to see a person of colour be used as a character of such high status and not as filler was such an added thrill. It made me keenly aware of what needs to continue to happen in the theatre world. People want to see themselves on the world stages. They want to see their stories told. But not just that. They want to see that they can be included in other people’s stories too. They want to see that they’re welcome in those stories. I’ve been so blessed/lucky/fortunate to be invited to play in everyone’s world. I’ve never thought there wasn’t a place for me and luckily I’ve had directors who’ve agreed.

One of the complaints I hear is that non-white actors aren’t always particularly “trained well”. (Usually that means they aren’t very good) But we must look at the training. I feel it’s way better now than years ago, but when you look at how many non-white actors are being taken into theatre schools, that is the beginning of the issue. As I say though, that has changed a lot, I think, especially in the last 5 years or so. But also, when young people/performers don’t think there is a chance for them, they don’t try. I remember the first time I saw shows at Stratford. I was in my teens and I saw Much Ado About Nothing and Cabaret. I was over the moon. It was magic. But I don’t think I saw a single ethnic face on that stage. It never occurred to me that I could be there. I didn’t know it was an option. I didn’t feel shut out, it just didn’t seem like people of colour worked there. If you don’t know you CAN dream, you simply DON’T. So I think it’s an issue that needs to be actively dealt with. Non-white (I don’t particularly like that term but seems to cover all the bases) actors need to be given an opportunity to get better by doing – ie. theatre school, shows, festivals.

I get lots of students of colour but also with different issues (weight, physical conditions, etc.) who comment on the variety of my career. I tell them all the same thing, the only person who really puts restrictions on you . . . is you.

Now having said all that, I have to say, I don’t believe in the chip on the shoulder thing either. There is nothing to be gained by being mad at the blanket “people in charge”. Whining about it and being bitter doesn’t accomplish anything. I have just never believed I have those limits, and thank God, I never really have. And I’m thrilled to be a role model if that’s what my career is doing.

The humbling thing is I’m still a freak, and insecure and all those other human things. I still have flops (not often, thank God). I still have huge disappointments. But everything happens for a reason. Even the flops and disappointments. They can point us in the right direction if you pay attention. They can clarify choices. They can tell you where to go next. If you can see them as such, then nothing that happens to you – good or bad – is actually bad. It’s all helpful.

Hmmm well that was an unexpected train of thought. Gotta love random thoughts. I need to try to do a video blog. I will in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully in the next couple weeks, I will also have some work-related news. Stay tuned.

Okay, that’s about all. I need to shower and go to the theatre. I want to see if I can grab a room to rehearse some stuff for a call-back on monday. I can’t say what for but that may be part of the news. But only part. ooooooo suspense. Okay, suspense might be too strong a word . . . . . ooooooooo mild curiousity

And now the sun is coming out. . . . I knew there was magic in this day.

Published in: on July 11, 2008 at 3:55 pm  Comments (2)  

CRITIC CONVERSATION

Oh my word, y’all. There is a fascinating ‘forum’ happening in J. Kelly Nestruck’s (reviewer for the Globe and Mail) blog page on the Globe and Mail’s website. It began by Mr. Nestruck linking to my blog (which was used in a sort of critical way but he said my blog was entertaining which was very cool of him – Thank you, JKN) And I applaud him for opening himself up to have discussions with his blog. That is very brave and very self-possessed of him in his position.

It’s opened an artistic can of worms that could lead to some interesting outcomes.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080707.WBTheatre20080707134933/WBStory/WBTheatre/#comments

Check it out.

Published in: on July 9, 2008 at 3:50 pm  Comments (1)  

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC OPENING

Well it happened. Two day ago. A Little Night Music opened on Friday night and it was a bit surreal. The show played really well. There was a great flow, everyone was on their game. Beautiful performances. The audience was a listen-y audience so they weren’t as vocal as some have been but they were clearly enjoying it. And at the end, they jumped to their feet which was lovely. Goldie was respendant, George was in fantastic voice and was charming, Patti was yearningly brittle (in a great way). The only bad thing for me was I wasn’t happy with my own performance if I’m honest. I felt like I came in and out. I liked the last note of my first song. That was about all I was happy with in my first scene. The note came out clear and honest. The rest of the scene had moments I liked and others where I felt like I was circling the airport but didn’t quite land the plane. The second scene (Weekend In The Country) was fun and playful and I liked it. The second act was more in and out. It was only an okay night performance-wise for me but I was so proud of the cast, everyone was wonderful. I love this group of people. They are so generous and loving and supportive and fun and funny. It’s a real gift being here and getting to play with these people.

And the party was fun. It was pretty casual. So many people where there. My God. And people were really happy about it. It was nice. And then I had people over for wine and food. Also a really good time. It was a rather late night. I got to bed at 4:30 and so yesterday was tough. Just the release of everything knocked me out. And we had two shows yesterday (the day after opening). I actually had to have coffee and I never drink coffee. Only 2 or 3 times a year when I’m exhausted and desperate. And I was exhausted and desperate. And I didn’t even drink a lot. Just tired. But the good news is the coffee worked and the Night Music (which was the second show yesterday) was my best show so far . . . in terms of the freedom and story-telling. I had such a good time. I felt free and I was discovering things and it was really exciting. I felt like I was riding the text and not forcing it. I had a smoother sing. It was great. I hope that is me turning a corner in terms of finding more ease in the playing of the show. We’ll see.

That’s all for now y’all.

Published in: on July 6, 2008 at 1:53 pm  Comments (1)  

DORA AWARDS AND CANADA DAY

Oh my God, you guys, it was FANTASTIC!! We had such a great time. It was a really long day but fun. Here is the breakdown

11:00 – Arrive at the theatre to drop off clothes and stuff.

11:15 – Go shopping for an undershirt, socks and sunglasses (to match my outfit for the pre-party)

12:30 – Arrive back at the theatre and have lunch

1:00 – Rehearse songs and announcing bits (I had to present an award and introduce the memorial section)

3:30 – Go shopping for lashes for Sharron, a scarf for my first outfit.

4:40 – Back to theatre and hang out.

5:30 – Get ready for the pre-party.

6:00 – Arrive at pre-party

7:00 – Get back to the theatre to hang out with Sharron and Bill (friend who did Sharron’s hair for the night) and Kat (in charge of Sharron’s costumes) and get ready for the show.

8:00 – THE DORAS

10:45 – Clear out of the backstage area

11:15 – Hit the party

2:30 – George, Sharron, Scott Fink, and I hit Fran’s for a little post-Dora nosh

3:45 – Bed

Sharron was so awesome. She handled the show like it was nothing at all; like she’d been doing it for her entire life. 10 costumes, plus a post party outfit. 10 hairstyles. And songs, jokes, stories. And many laughs on and off stage. Our songs went so well.

I remembered all of my lyrics, thank God. And the crowd seemed to like my songs. I didn’t like all of what I did vocally but I felt like I was able to tell some good stories. That is always my favorite thing. I’ve been getting some lovely e-mails which is always nice to hear the people enjoy your work. I love getting e-mails from strangers. That’s sweet.

And I’ve just done a matinee and been to a Canada Day party. It was great. Really fun. Barbeque, treasure hunt, and fireworks – what better way to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CANADA. Hope you all had a good one too.

I’m now going to bed to catch up on some much overdue sleep.

Cheers.

Published in: on July 2, 2008 at 3:44 am  Leave a Comment