If you want to be a good actor you need to be continuously acting. This is the lesson I’ve learned over the past 4 years from watching Steve Park; as an actor in my ensemble, as a TV/film actor, and as an acting instructor at the Lyric Studios and the Vancouver Film School.
Steve is also one of the most frank and opinionated artists I know. I’m grateful he brought that to TOGtE…
1. In one word, describe your present condition.
2. In your own time and number of words, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.
I think that our theatre scene is on the brink. Of many things. Evolution, extinction, revolution, transformation. It feels to me that a great shift is possible. I believe that it is inevitable and necessary. The old models both business and artistic are no longer relevant or viable. The way in which the newer generations get their information, their stories, their entertainment is vastly different then how I did as a kid and as a young man. The internet and the digital age has changed the playing field. There are some companies who have seen this and embraced it. They are the ones that will continue. The companies that continue to experiment with and search for new ways to tell stories are going to prosper. I don’t think that the stories themselves change it is the story telling that must.
I also believe that this change is going to clean out the gene pool, so to speak. The business of theatre making has changed. Permanently. The funding sources, the marketing, the potential audience. We as an industry have to get off the Government tit. As the population grows so does the opportunity for different funding sources. I can hear it now, “If I don’t get government funding, if I don’t get community assistance, I won’t survive.” Well, maybe you shouldn’t. If you provide something that the community wants, even – dare I say it – something that it needs, you will survive. You will flourish. I am not saying that we should do away with Government support of the Arts. The funding levels and infrastructure levels are below ridiculous. I am saying that even if they were exceptional, it is a stupid idea to be reliant on one food source. More resource sharing between companies, and we are seeing that now, more private sector investment. Make what you are selling profitable and the funding will come.
3. What is the relationship between our theatre scene and the local TV/film industry, from an actor’s point of view?
Well, before all the work dried up, not too much. But now, everyone wants to do a play.
I mean, I still hear it all the time, television and film Actor. Theatre Actor. Not often just Actor. There is this notion that you are one or the other and (almost) never the twain shall meet. A shame really. There are lots of Actors in town who do both. But I think that most are identified as one or the other. I think that the relationship should be one of symbiosis. I think that all actors should work in all possible fields. It just makes you a better Actor.
4. Once we’ve got a new audience into our theatre, what’s the surest way to get them to return?
Turn them on. Get them off. Emotionally, Spiritually, Sexually. Make them fully half the equation of the experience. I mean, what makes you go back to something again? Not Pretty clothes and sleek programs. Not shamelessly self indulgent and neutered acting. Not half-assed stories. Not, “I did a scene from this play in acting class and I fucking rocked, so now I want to do the whole play so I can really jerk my ego off.” I go back to companies and plays that shake me, shift me. Things that make me wonder if the actors are really acting. Stories that force me to confront and embrace parts of me that I hadn’t before. Stories that are True and celebrate all of the Human condition.
We have to get our audience to work for us. We have to get them to tell other people, “You have to see this show.” We have to get them to bring other people through the doors. We do that by embracing just how smart our audience is. How much they are dying to go into the unknown with us. They want to jump and not pull the cord. If the product is good enough, it makes you as an audience member feel like you just shared something special and unique. Something “Cool and Sexy and New”. You do that and the audience will then become your marketing arm.
5. How are we as a community rising to meet the government’s recent treatment of us?
We are not. We are standing around in silent grey squares jerking off and looking like a bunch of flaky artists.
This will change exactly nothing. The powers that be will do nothing until their jobs are in jeopardy or there is a real profit to be made from doing something other then what they are currently doing.
Politicians are affected by lobby groups, yes? The B.C. film commission isn’t demanding that our tax incentives match what the rest of the country is doing because they are in the Liberals back pockets. U.B.C.P. would rather argue amongst themselves then stand up to the provincial government on behalf of their membership. ACTRA is seemingly in the business of preventing small and independent theatre to exist, for our own protection they tell us. It is almost enough to make want to throw in the towel. We need to form a strong lobby group. We need to find Patrons, wealthy, connected patrons, who are passionate about Arts and Culture.
This Fight isn’t limited to our provincial government either. The biggest spotlight in our country’s history is about to be shone on Vancouver. If our community had some balls we would leverage that fact and deny our services to The Olympics until the government gave us what we want. I went to this year’s Wrecking Ball. It was an embarrassment, if you ask me. It is supposed to be an event that ignites our political will as a community. It was milquetoast at its worst. We had to have an Artist from Toronto come and give us shit for not standing up for ourselves. This is Crap. Get mad, get smart and get vocal. Challenge businesses that you patron to write their MLA. We need to march, we need to protest we need to define exactly what we want. We need to make the general public understand what has been done to them by the government’s slashing of funding. Nobody will give a good goddamn about something they don’t feel affects them directly. They sure as shit won’t give a fuck about silent grey squares. I don’t. Why should they?
6. Finish this sentence: “Dear Premier Campbell…”
You’re doin’ a heck of a job, Brownie!
7. What’s been your greatest revelation about theatre since being involved with your own company?
How important the audience is to the whole event. It is a communion on every level and it takes putting yourself completely at the service of the audience. Check your Ego at the door. When that is accomplished the transformative power of the live theatrical experience is unlike anything else. It can have the power of a great rock concert and the intimacy of making love all at once.
8. Define the term “Good Acting”.
The fearless and creative expression of the reveal of your true humanity.
9. What is your career highlight to date?
The 21st Floor, Ashes, Gift of Screws and The Englishman’s Boy.
10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?
4:48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane
Scorched by Wajdi Mouawad
And whatever the next thing is that Bill Marchant is writing.
11. What’s next?
Putting my money where my mouth is.