You know, my friends, life is full of so many wonderful things if we let them in . . . or just simply look around and notice the good stuff that’s going on. I just had dinner with our “Spelling Bee” director, Dean Gibson, his partner George, amazing actress Corrine Koslo and her partner, Peter. We had a great dinner, laughed out asses off, caught up, told stories, had a great time. And I had that moment where you stop and just make a mental note of what a great time you’re having. I had to breathe in this feeling of joy and happiness and . . . what? Honour, I guess. I feel honoured to be friends with these people, these artists. People I respect, who respect what they do. Dean is really a fantastic director. What makes a fantastic director, you ask? I’m glad you asked that. To me – I repeat – TO ME (for all of those who want to get a big, “well, I want a director to blah, blah and not blah, blah, blah” hate-on, chill the freak out) a fantastic director is a precarious balance. He (or she, but since our director is male I’m going to go with the masculine pronoun) has to come to the project with ideas and insight, a strong point of view for the production, but be completely open to the ideas of the actors and their instincts, ready to shift moments and perspective as fresh versions of character erupt from the artists in the room. That’s what makes a room feel “safe” for actors to explore. It can’t feel like there is any possibility of being shut down by the director – it makes actors not feel emotionally available. I mean, think about what actors are asked to do – to lay bare our entire emotional canon, to be sifted through by ourselves, our fellow actors, the director, the musical director (if it’s a musical) . . . vulnerable, raw, searching. In the hands of someone insensitive, uncaring, clumsy (which is a big pet peeve of mine), careless, it can become an experience that is horrifying, boring, annoying, inane, colourless, insulting, etc, etc, etc.
A fantastic director also knows when to push you and when to let you figure things out on your own. There is nothing worse, as an artist, than being micro-managed early on before you have a chance to figure out who this person is your supposed to be portraying. A director should have information to give you at the beginning, know the world of the play to give you the architecture, then let you play and find your way while steering you if you go too far in a direction that doesn’t make sense of the character or the script. (Which is really what the common goal should always be – to make sense of the play/musical/show.) Now having said that, he should be a constant presence, prodding the actors toward the truth while empowering the actors’ choices, be able to see when an actor is lost or in trouble, be able to keep his actors buoyed and confident. It’s a lot of things.
The great thing is Dean is all of those things. His eye for detail is so specific and gets more so the more we discover. But he’s not molly-coddling. He is firm but caring, acerbic and witty and crazy (in the good way) and incredibly intelligent. It’s been a great time. He cares about art, people.
And Corrine Koslo is one of my favourite people. A wonderful actress who is so smart and funny, she makes every show and gathering a scream to be a part of. Again, someone who is about doing great work and having a ball doing it. No short cuts, no “close enough”.
There’s something in the air for me these days. I’m running into/working with so many people who are amazing people and amazing artists – respected in their fields, loving what they do, doing it really well . . . with care and excitement and intention and focus. . . . . . . .
I guess what all of this is about is I feel like the universe is preparing me for the next phase of my life. Like I’m supposed to get ready to step it up. And I feel like I’m ready to do that. It’s time for change and I’m welcoming it in with open arms. Am I a little terrified ? . . . . . . . Only a little, actually. I feel more excitement and anticipation than fear. I want to be one of the people I’m meeting. I want to be respected for the excellence of my craft/talent/skill. I want to be working with people who want to make magic. I want to part of the world of magic that happens when one finds one’s reason for being on this earth – the actual full usage of the gifts we get to “borrow” while on this planet. I don’t want to waste time pretending I’m living my life. I want to live it, to see the world, to share my shit with the world. Bring it on.
I’ve been very lucky in my career, I haven’t worked with too many people who were crappy but I don’t know if I’ve worked with a lot of people who were brilliant – some were good, a few great. But I’ve never wanted to just work. I really want to be a part of things that are an attempt at something great. (Be it really funny or dramatic or whatever). Don’t misunderstand me, this is not about “I think I’m so great that nothing lives up to me!” (“Wow, Thom Allison’s an asshole”) !!!!!!! LET ME BE VERY CLEAR. It’s more the opposite. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of who I am as an artist. I want to work with people who are way better than me because I learn so much and can keep growing and seeing what is possible. It’s thrilling when you see someone who is truly realized in their evolution. Let alone get to work with them.
I’m reminded here of the late, great Goldie Semple, whose memorial I just missed because I was here in Calgary. I had seen her for so many years, doing the most extraordinary work over the years. Then there I was a couple of years ago, not just sharing the stage with her but playing her lover. To be in the room with her was already like meeting the Queen but then playing a scene with her, being terrified, then looking in her eyes and seeing her gentle warmth, inviting me to play with her, was an experience I will treasure forever. Her talent and grace showed me that there is life and breath in generosity. I want a life of those experiences and I can only hope that I have the grace to pay it forward.
Okay that’s all.