Please meet the unstoppable force that is Actor Marci T House. Marci relentlessly works on her craft all over Vancouver stage, TV and film, seemingly popping up in something everywhere I turn. And she finances her habit by doing a little architecture on the side. She is onstage right now as Viney in the Playhouse production of The Miracle Worker.
You can tell her country of origin by her spelling of theatre and colour in the following conversation…
1. In one word, describe your present condition.
2. In as many words as you damn well choose, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.
Hmmm…tired but trying for a rebirth? I love theater. It is my favorite medium as an actor. However, as an actor of color, it’s very tiring to stay optimistic, encouraged to audition for, or even attend theater in Vancouver. I’m not going to apologize for my desire to see people that look like me on the stage, especially when I always see the words, “color blind casting”. Rarely is this evident once I’ve paid my money to see the show, unless the role is specifically written for a character of color. This city claims to be very liberal when it is the most conservative place that I’ve ever lived…and this is number seven for me; so I’ve been around. I travel every opportunity that I get in order to see as much theater as I can, (i.e. New York, LA, Ashland, Oregon, Chicago, and soon Toronto) but when I come home to Vancouver I’m usually disappointed. Though, I do believe that the changing of the guard is coming to pass. You can’t hold the talented, stop-at-nothing, resilient people down for long.
3. What are the great strengths of the theatre scene here? Its weaknesses?
I like the ambition of the independent theater companies and small houses. I find that quite a few of them are trying new things, so that is a positive, for sure. I had the pleasure of working with Secretly Women Productions earlier this year at the Havana Theater on Commercial Drive. We did a short run of the play, Stop Kiss. It was a good show and a great cast. Our two leads were also the producers, I reiterate, talented, stop-at-nothing, resilient people. They are the ones who are getting things done and not waiting for permission to work. Currently, I’m working under the direction of the wonderful Meg Roe with The Miracle Worker at the Vancouver Playhouse. What an opportunity for a person so young and to be so damn good at what she does. I feel very honored to be working with her and the Playhouse Theater. They understand that in order to stay fresh and current you must revitalize, which means keeping new ideas, people, and artists in the mix.
I find its greatest weakness is that the theater scene is quite closed to newcomers. I often see the same actors on the stage. I’ve also spoken to many local actors who have tried to audition for various companies in town and have not been given the opportunity. Last, but definitely not least, is the lack of diversification in both the plays chosen and actors cast. This is quite a contradiction considering how diverse this beautiful city of Vancouver is. It is simply not apparent in its theater production. However, that’s just my opinion.
4. What do you consider the great triumph of your career thus far?
Wow! I’ve been blessed, to be very honest with you. I think I’ve had quite a few triumphs. Before I moved to Vancouver, I was living in LA and I decided to produce my own original play. It was a two-hander with the ridiculously talented Victoria Platt Tilford. We created the stories, hired the writers and directors, as well as raised the monies all on our own. Sixteen shows later… three NAACP Theater nominations for best ensemble, best original playwright(s), and best set design. We didn’t win, but as the cliché goes, it really is great just to be nominated.
My move to Vancouver has also been a great triumph to my career as well. After seven very hard years in LA, I almost left the business all together. So, I prayed on it and then Vancouver opened up for me. As an American you’re socialized to believe that the US is the center of the world, and that there is never any reason to leave it. Meanwhile, three years later in Vancouver, I’m simply living a life that enforces what I knew to be wrong about the so-called land of opportunity. I’ve found so much beauty and peace here in this gorgeous place. Not to mention…I’m a working actor. I booked more work in my first year here in Vancouver, than in the entire seven years that I lived in LA. Yeah, Vancouver was the best move I could’ve made.
5. What is your best advice to our new actors just starting out on their careers?
STUDY!!! Fall in love with this thing that we do. Truly get hungry enough to better understand what the hell it is that we do. Be inquisitive. No one should know more about what you do than you. You should be able to hold your own in any room with your vast knowledge of this business and its craft. You should know the what’s, when’s, who’s, and even the why’s. For instance, you need to know what’s being shot here, what’s coming to the stage and when, who’s being cast, who’s casting, directing, producing, and the list goes on. I find that people who obtain success without having any knowledge of how they got there…are really fucking miserable and insecure people. They are some of the worst “artists” that I’ve ever met. Develop other aspects of yourself …REALLY find out who you are. In the end, no matter who you are, this business will break your heart. It doesn’t love you, so you had better have beautiful people in your life that would still love you, even if you were delivering the mail.
I don’t have a theater degree, and in some ways it makes me feel a bit inadequate and/or insecure when I approach the work. I always feel like I don’t what the hell I’m doing. I decided to major in Architecture instead of Theater. Thus, I have a BA in Architecture and a MA in Urban Planning Policy and Design. Growing up in Chicago and doing theater, I was fortunate enough to work with some amazing actors, but they were all broke and struggling to pay their bills. I grew up poor, and didn’t want that for myself. So, I decided to get my degree in something else that I enjoyed. It was the best move I could’ve made. I continued to do plays and take acting classes as well. My architecture gives me financial freedom to study, travel, have a full life, and not go crazy when I’m not working. It even allowed me to finance more than 50% of the play that I produced while still in LA. Though it creates a lot of long hours of work for me, I’m still thankful for it.
6. How should we as a community be responding to the BC Liberals recent treatment of us?
Here’s a question, I must admit, that I’m not very knowledgeable of. I’ve kept a distance with the political arena, since my arrival, due to the fact that I am unable to vote. Also, since I’m still trying to understand all of the parties, majorities, minorities, additional elections, and the like, of the Canadian government system, I am not an authority to comment. Again, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a bit confusing to me. I’m also a borderline conspiracy theorist. I find it very hard to trust politicians and/or government. I don’t find them to be very honest. After all, I’m an American who is still suffering from the 9/11 propaganda that my own government is still pushing down the world’s throat, as well as the financial crisis …oh, and did I mention the bogus war that we are fighting too? I’m sorry, I digress.
I guess the only thing that I can say is that maybe this will encourage more funding from the private sectors. I also think it’ll make people work harder for their art. I think that maybe more freedom to create art that is not mandated, shaped, or controlled by the government would allow for a truer freedom of expression from this country’s artists. Why should American art(ists) be crammed down Canadian throats? Maybe it’s time to see what Canadians really think, instead of being dictated to by the government with the monies being funneled into the arts. Just my opinion, but I’m always for less government.
7. Who are your great influences, and why?
Honestly, anytime that I see great work, I’m influenced. It’s why I do this. When I was a kid, I lived in front of the TV. No matter how I felt, there was always a film, TV show, or something that could change how I felt about myself, the reality of my life, or whatever. When I was in kindergarten I said “I want to be a movie star”. I’ve been chasing that dream ever since. So, when I see actors like Meryl Streep, Jeffery Wright, Harry Lennix, or Shanesia Davis, I am in awe. I want to be that escape for my audience. So I am influenced by all of the great work that I see.
8. What type of theatre should Vancouver be producing more of, with an eye to future audience growth?
I hate to beat a dead horse, but MORE, MORE, MORE! We need more theater of color, new works, and shows that also cater to a younger audience. Let’s face it, we love the classics, but there are some really great new works out there too! (i.e. Intimate Apparel, RUINED, August: Osage County, Equivocation, Passing Strange, In the Heights…I could go on) I understand that you have to please those season ticket holders, but you’ve got to entice the new audiences too.
9. Fantasize your ideal career trajectory.
Broadway, followed by some great independent film roles… in between time. I wouldn’t be mad at a TV series (or 2) that lasted anywhere between 3-5 years…or longer. I wouldn’t turn down a few Tonys, Emmys, Golden Globes, Grammys, nor Oscar Awards (yeah, I like awards.)
10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?
11. What’s next?