Tag Archive: Toronto

Dec 30

Not My Day

Safe and sound in the T-dot, thanks to Jon Vokins (and Louise Vokins for letting him come and get me).

Had a hell of time getting in– first, I realized I’d forgotten my keys. Then, when we stopped at my sister’s house to pick up hers, my Galaxy Note dropped out of my pocket and into a puddle. Then, when I picked it up, it flipped over and dropped again. Then, after I got back to the condo, I realized my suitcase was still in Mr. Vokins’s back seat moments after he pulled away. Then, I realized I didn’t have his phone number. Then, I tried to get into the apartment to get on the internet to let him know, but the key  was a dud and I spent several minutes futzing with it to get the door open.

At last, I popped open my laptop, jumped on Facebook, and sent Jon a message. He turned around and came back.

Jon Vokins, HeroTHIS IS THE KIND OF GUY HE IS.

Jon Vokins, ladies and gentlemen, is a saint. This is not the only time he’s gone out of his way to be nice to people. I’m so happy that he’s got a kid, because I don’t think anyone is more qualified to be a full-time dad than him. I really hope to see him in Japan sometime in the next few years.

As he pulled his car away for the final time, Jon thoughtfully suggested to me that I not leave the house for the rest of the day, seeing as my afternoon had been pretty much a bunglefest. I resolved to follow his advice… until I saw that there was no food in the fridge.

 

Oh oh…

Nov 11

The Big “C” and the Big “D”

My parents have recently announced it to friends and family, and some of my own friends will know already the purpose behind my trip to Canada last month.

 

My father had been diagnosed with cancer.LINEcamera_share_2012-11-11-22-00-43

 

When I went to Canada in October, it was clear that his condition was serious, but it was still unclear how serious. The doctors were taking (what appeared to us, anyway) their own sweet time in figuring out what was wrong with him. Now they are quite clear about what’s wrong, and the prognosis is quite grim. Grim enough that I’ve dropped everything for the months of December and January and, thanks to the generosity of my Japanese family, am heading back to Toronto. (All with the knowledge that I may have to push that trip up even earlier if things take a turn for the worse, of course.)

 

I’ll be spending my first winter holiday season in Canada since 2004, and I’m not too happy about the circumstances.

 

I’m actually hesitating to book the tickets, and I can’t even put my finger on why. Is something telling me I’m going to have to go sooner? I’ve budgeted for that, so what is stopping me from pulling the trigger on that booking?

 

We went to get my father’s watch fixed today. He bought it here a couple of years ago and it’s never worked properly outside of Japan. This year, it stopped running together (we hadn’t realized that it was a solar watch—nothing in the 100% Japanese instructions made that clear, I guess), and so he asked me to bring it back with me to get it repaired. Apparently, the shop in Canada was reluctant to work on it.

 

K and I took it in to the watch counter at Yodobashi Camera today, and they told us the repairs would be 12,500円—almost half the cost of the watch new! The guy at the shop recommended that we give it one more chance to recharge and leave it in the sun for a few days. After some quick research online, I found a blog that suggested leaving under a fluorescent lamp would be the most effective way to try to jumpstart it—with results in 12-24 hours rather than a week sitting in the sun filtered through glass. If it doesn’t charge, I’ll take it back again on Tuesday and bite the bullet. I don’t want to wait too long, because they said the repairs could take 3-4 weeks, and four weeks is all I have before I fly to Toronto again.

 

If you are, by chance, expecting some piecing insight into cancer, or into having a family member on borrowed time, you’re not going to get it here. I just wrote about a watch, for fuck’s sake.

 

I regret nothing, but I can no longer live my life at such a distance from the people I care about. I don’t mean physically: I’ve made Yokohama my home. But I’m going to need to reorganize my life so that I can play a more active role in the life of my Canadian family. I thought I had time, but I don’t.

 

So the closest thing to a useful thought comes through my head when I look over and see the button I made on tour in 2010 with my acting motto on it:

 

2012-11-11 22.21.45

Sep 08

The Dream I Stole From Sam

(mumble mumble) years ago, I was sitting in an apartment in Toronto, watching the real actors smoke, including Sam Rosenthal, now Artistic Director and General Manager of the Vaughn City Playhouse. This was a party of some sort (my memory is vague), possibly even the closing night party of The Diary of Anne Frank, my first semi-professional show and my first real show unconnected to an educational institution I was studying in.

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My eyes weren’t blinded: I knew that this show, in a grotty little Theatre called, appropriately enough, The Annex, was not a high budget affair. And though they seemed seasoned and wise to me then, the creative forces behind the show (the aforementioned Sam Rosenthal and his partner-in-crime Eli Lukawitz) were young and just starting out into the world of making Theatre. Don’t get me wrong, I knew this at the time, but I also felt inspired by their energy to create Theatre and so I spent most of my time hanging on their every word. They were really doing it; they were making it happen.

 

Eli and Sam were very influential on me just at the right time, much more than most of my university professors, and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity they gave me by casting me in that show, and letting me see how a semi-pro company should be run (i.e. as much as possible like a professional company). I’ve held every group I’ve worked with since up to the standards that those two set for me, including my own casts and crews. But beyond that, something that Sam said that night at the party has stayed with me ever since.

 

He talked about how his dream was to run a rep company. Simple as that. Back then, I still pretty much wanted to be “just” an actor, although at that point, I think I’d at least narrowed it down to wanting to be a stage actor (i.e. I’d realized that I found film shoots intensely boring), so I probably nodded sagely, even though he was talking to someone else (Walter Young, I think1).

 

(In case you don’t know what a repertory company is, at its most basic it is a cast and crew that stay together for an entire season (at least) and perform several different plays together. If you want more detail, go look it up.)

 

In any case, at the time, a rep Theatre didn’t sound so great to me. Not bad, mind you, just not particularly special. But for some reason, I carried the idea with me over the years, and by 2001 or so, I’d basically stolen it and made it my dream. However, I ran into the problem that when you’re not paying them, actors don’t want to commit to more than one show at a time. Who’d have thought it? Well, Sam, obviously, which is why he’d been smart enough not to try it.

 

I realize now that part of the problem was that I was trying to do very conventional Theatre. Although my company was emphasizing original works and new interpretations of classical works, my approach to Theatre was still, in many ways, very conservative. With no money on offer, and able to get very little attention from critics, what did I have to offer actors? Basically, my Theatre company was one of the places to go to get something on your resume until a better job came along. Why would anyone commit for the long haul?

 

I closed up my Theatre to move to Japan, and when I started working with the Yokohama Theatre Group, I put the idea of a rep company aside. With the way that expats come and go here, a rep company was unthinkable.

 

And then I made The Tribe of Dirt with a bunch of high school students in about four hours one Saturday afternoon as part of the annual drama festival put on by some of the Kanto-area international schools. If you look that the video on the other side of that link, it’s rough, sure, but there’s something that happened that day that caused the penny to start dropping. Working on that show caused me to want to work on developing something wholly my own, in rehearsal, which led to my show 39, developed over three months of rehearsal with Kimberly Tierney. Doing 39, and the summer Fringe tour to Canada that went with it inspired me further, and by the time I got back, I was eager to develop more… which got me into trouble as I worked that ambition into the Tartuffe project I’d committed to the year before.

 

It’s now been nearly ten months since Tartuffe ended, and after much experimentation and farting about, I hit upon a possible answer to the question of “why would an actor commit to more than one show?”. The answer I hit upon was: an actor won’t.

 

Okay, but why would I? I would because I’ve come a long way since that night at the party, and I no longer think of myself as an actor: I think of myself as a Theatre Maker, as utterly pretentious as that sounds. What it means is that I want to be involved in the whole process of making new Theatre. I’ve known for years now that I want to do more than just interpret a playwright’s words in the way that a director wants me to: I have ideas that are too big to fit only into that niche. Which means I’ve been doing writing and directing. But what I’ve yearned for, and what Sam Rosenthal’s stolen dream has turned into is that I want to work with a group of people who want the same thing. Maybe they will want it in a more limited way than I do, I don’t know, but I want to find out.

 

The reason I’ve always loved Theatre so much is that I love collaborating with other people, and now that I’ve realized that the way I want to do that is much less conservative and more hippy-dippy than I had initially thought (owing more to the 1970s collective Theatre movement than to the rep companies of mid-20th century England), I think I may have found a way, if I’m really lucky and things go my way, to fulfil that dream I swiped from Sam.

 

1 No link there, by the way; he doesn’t come up on Google, and on Google images, searching [“Walter Young” toronto actor] brings up unrelated photos including Pennywise the Clown and Hitler.

Jun 09

Toronto Bound

I am writing this on the airport bus.  I had about 5 hours of sleep last night, which is much more than I usually get the night before a flight.  Of course, today’s flight departs at 16:00, which gave me some wiggle room in the morning.

 

Not that I wasn’t tearing out the door at the last moment anyway.  Or would have been.

 

It was raining, and since I didn’t want to try to lug my bags down the three flights of stairs near my house in the pouring rain, I called a taxi.  I had been on time until I made this decision.  It took me 15 minutes to find a taxi number (I was looking on the internet while I should have been looking on the fridge) before I was able to call.

 

The  dispatch guy told me 7 minutes.  It took them almost 30 minutes.  When I called the cab company at 11:20, I had expected to be at the terminal by 12:50, on the bus by 12:05, and at the airport at 13:30, about 30 minutes later than my intended arrival.

 

I’ll be 15 minutes later than that, which doesn’t sound like much, but with Air Canada’s online check-in system rejecting me, I need to do a complete check-in.  And in my past experience, the Air Canada counter is always swarming with people by the two hour mark.  I didn’t end up having time to pack a lunch, so I also need to eat.

 

I would like to eat at the SUBWAY which is on the outside of the security area.  There aren’t really any good restaurants for invertebratarians like myself inside security, unless lunch is going to be a Starbucks frappuchino.  Given that I’m going to be eating Greek when I arrive in Toronto, that’s probably not the best plan.

 

I’m wearing as much natural fibre clothing as I can.  I’ve been watching a lot of Air Crash Investigations lately (probably not the best idea before an intercontinental flight), and I’ve decided that I don’t want my clothing to melt into my skin in the event of a fire.  So, my disintegrating O’Neils that I picked up years ago in Bangalore (cotton), and my new cotton cowboy shirt.  My undershirt is a cotton/poly blend, because I have no natural fibre T-shirts.  I’m wearing my combat boots, because I can’t fit them in my bags.  Normally, that’s a problem because I take my boots off at security to avoid getting frisked when the alarm goes off, but these are real combat boots this time, so they are hard-toed, but not steel-toed.  Or so I’ve been told…

 

Anyway, while I’m already missing my wife, I am looking forward to being in Toronto again, no matter how briefly, and seeing some old friends.