Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Actor’

Artist Profile: Ellen Denny, Actor in LIFE AFTER

Interview by Hallie Seline

It is a pleasure to feature actor Ellen Denny who is currently starring in Britta Johnson’s new musical Life After. We spoke with her to find out a bit more about her as an artist, about her experience working on Life After, the emotional power in musicals, and a new play of her own about her great-great-aunt Harriet Brooks, one of Canada’s first female physicists. Be sure to catch Ellen on stage now in Life After at Canadian Stage until October 22nd. She’s incredible!

HS: Hi Ellen! Let’s start with getting to know you a bit more as an artist. Tell me about yourself. 

ED: Hello! I grew up in London, Ontario, trained in Halifax at Dalhousie University (BA Music & Theatre), then did some more acting training through the Citadel/Banff Program. I have been based in Toronto for about five years now, but much of that time I have spent away on contracts. I’ve started collecting provinces – this November I’m headed to Quebec, which will be my seventh! As much as the nomadic lifestyle can be tricky, I do enjoy getting to know different communities across this vast land. I perform in both musicals and plays, and have recently started writing, myself. My first full-length play is about the gender barriers faced by my great-great-aunt Harriet Brooks, one of Canada’s first female physicists.

Dan Chameroy & Ellen Denny. Photo by Michael Cooper.

HS: Amazing! Can’t wait to hear more about that in the future. What has it been like working on Life After?

ED: It is such a unique experience to work on a show that is in development, because everyday changes are being made, and the writer is right there in the room with you, and everyone is working as a team to make sure the story is being told in the clearest and strongest way possible. We had the luxury of four weeks in the rehearsal room with this piece – which runs 75 minutes – so there was opportunity to really delve in to each moment. Even though I am so excited to share Life After with an audience, I am in some ways grieving the end of rehearsals, because in this case the process was truly fulfilling.

HS: What has been the most rewarding aspect of working on Life After?

ED: Hands down, the most rewarding aspect is doing a piece by a young female writer. In this case, the incomparable Britta Johnson. A lot of the time I am telling stories written by dead white men, and so it means the world to me to interpret the work of a woman my age. There is a palpable difference in the way the character of Alice is written, because Britta understands what it is to be a young woman, and to be dealing with enormous loss in the midst of the messiness of growing up.

HS: What is your favourite aspect or moment in the show?

ED: Oof – that’s insanely hard! But one aspect of the show that I adore is our ensemble of three women (affectionately dubbed ‘The Furies’), which is a new addition since the Fringe production. Their function throughout the story is very creative and provides me with some much-needed giggles along the way.

HS: What draws you to Musical Theatre?

ED: There’s something inescapable about the emotional power of music. Something that our writer Britta Johnson harnesses expertly. It’s not just about the sung melodies, but also the instruments of the orchestration (shout out to our awesome orchestrator Lynne Shankel) that bring so many colours and feelings, things that cannot be expressed with words. For me, there’s also a sense of nostalgia in many musicals that I grew up listening to – Anne of Green Gables, Gilbert & Sullivan, all of Rodgers & Hammerstein – they bring me back to my childhood. What’s exciting about contemporary musical theatre is it’s really pushing the boundaries of the form, and I’m intrigued to see how the genre will continue to develop.

(from L to R) Ellen Denny, Trish Lindström, Tracy Michailidis, Rielle Braid, Kelsey Verzotti, Barbara Fulton, Neema Bickersteth, Anika Johnson, Dan Chameroy. Photo by Michael Cooper.

HS: Where do you look for inspiration?

ED: I try to see as much theatre as I can, but also other art forms: dance, opera, music, visual art. I find the work of other artists incredibly inspiring. But inspiration is everywhere. I look around the subway car and am fascinated by all the characters and stories around me.

HS: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

ED: “It’s only a play.” Extremely helpful when the going gets tough! Along with that, the importance of having a life. This industry is so consuming that it can be hard to take time off to recharge or travel, but if an artist never goes out and experiences life, how can they interpret it onstage?

Ellen Denny & Tracy Michailidis. Photo by Michael Cooper.

HS: Where is your favourite place in Toronto and why?

ED: I love Cabbagetown… I’m a sucker for those heritage homes.

HS: What are you listening to/reading/watching these days?

ED: Recently binged the first season of Riverdale – a great reprieve to the intensity of rehearsals. And I’m reading Barbara Cook’s memoir. She just passed away and is forever one of my soprano inspirations.

HS: If you could take anyone out for a drink (alive or dead) who would it be and what would you want to talk about?

ED: It would be my great-great-aunt Harriet! She died in the 1930s. She didn’t leave behind a diary or anything, so sometimes in trying to write about her life I am left with BIG questions. It would be my dream to talk with her about why she made the decisions she did. And what it was really like to be a woman in science a hundred years ago. And to thank her for being a badass trail blazer.

Photo of Ellen Denny by Michael Cooper

HS: What other theatre show(s) are you most looking forward to seeing this year?

ED: I have yet to see Come From Away, so I’m excited to see it return with an all-Canadian cast. Also my friend Audrey Dwyer has her play Calpurnia at Nightwood Theatre this season. And I’d love to check out The Humans at Canadian Stage.

HS: Describe Life After in 5-10 words.

ED: The messiness of grief and the beauty of music intersect.

Life After

Who:
BOOK + MUSIC + LYRICS BY Britta Johnson
A CANADIAN STAGE, THE MUSICAL STAGE COMPANY & YONGE STREET THEATRICALS PRODUCTION
DIRECTED BY Robert McQueen
MUSIC DIRECTION BY Reza Jacobs
CHOREOGRAPHY Linda Garneau
ORCHESTRATIONS, ARRANGEMENTS & MUSIC SUPERVISION Lynne Shankel
DRAMATURG Anika Johnson
SET DESIGN Brandon Kleiman
LIGHTING DESIGN Kimberly Purtell
COSTUME DESIGN Ming Wong
SOUND DESIGN Peter McBoyle

CAST Neema Bickersteth, Rielle Braid, Dan Chameroy, Ellen Denny, Barbara Fulton, Anika Johnson, Trish Lindström, Tracy Michailidis, Kelsey Verzotti

What:
Sixteen-year old Alice is left to navigate life after her father, a superstar self-help guru, dies in a car accident. We plunge into Alice’s overactive inner world as she tries to decipher the events that led to that fateful day. An expanded and reworked production of the hit 2016 Toronto Fringe musical, Life After is a funny and frank story of love, loss and vivid imagination from one of the most exciting new voices in Canadian musical theatre.

Where:
Canadian Stage
Berkeley Street Theatre
25 Berkeley Street
Toronto

When:
On stage until October 22nd

Tickets:
canadianstage.com

Connect: 
t – @ellen_denny

Artist Profile: Vivien Endicott-Douglas, Actress

Interview by Brittany Kay

This Lady Boss had a kick-ass 2016, which appears to be shaping into an even more exciting 2017. We couldn’t be luckier to sit down and chat with actress Vivien Endicott-Douglas, who’s performing in the current remount of Infinity at TarragonWe spoke about not going to theatre school, how she has grown as an artist at Tarragon over the years, and the love that comes with Infinity.

Brittany Kay: What made you choose performing as a career?

Vivien Endicott-Douglas: I’ve always been a performer, ever since I could talk. I loved to perform for my family. My family is a huge fan of the original Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne. I had listened to these stories on tape a bunch. There was one point where I was 4 or 5 years old when my dad turned on the tape and I had memorized it entirely. I just recited it, instead of listening to the tape. I asked my parents if I could start acting when I was 8 and they sent me to these drama classes called Dragon Trails with a woman named Jill Frappier, who’s this incredible actress and had this drama school for kids. I was in love with her. I was in awe of her. She was always doing voices and had so much energy and we created plays with her. She said to my parents, “Have you ever considered Vivian doing this professionally?” I really wanted to, so when I was 11, I got an agent and started working professionally. That was mostly in TV and film so I was able to learn so much. I got a lead in a TV series when I was a year into working professionally and I was in almost every scene, so I really absorbed a lot and got to work with some incredible actors.

Richard Rose gave me my first professional theatre gig right out of high school at 18. I was taking a year off and trying to figure out whether I wanted to go to theatre school or not. I was working and there were all of these other actors who were like, “If you’re already working, maybe theatre school isn’t right for you and you can find other people to train with on your own.” That was a big debate for me for a while of whether I should go or not go. Not going kind of won out in the end, just based on friends and people’s advice to me. The biggest challenge for me was the fact that I really wanted to find a community of artists and actors and theatre makers.

BK: That can be hard if you’re not going to theatre school.

VE-D: Exactly. And I was always kind of like the kid amongst the other artists. I was so lucky to be working with these older, super experienced actors but I didn’t feel like they were people who I could necessarily create new projects with. Around that time it was important for me to find people my own age who wanted to experiment and create. I met Rosamund Small during my time at UofT and our friendship and working relationship blossomed from there.

BK: Well that’s a great connection! Without the training of theatre school, what is your process or preparation for auditions and rehearsals?

VE-D: I started taking voice classes with a woman named Rae Ellen Bodie about 4 years ago out of Pro Actors Lab. She’s an incredible actor, director and coach. I took this class because I thought I should have something on my resume that says that I’ve had some kind of training. I walked in on my first day and Rae was like, “Where have you trained?” and I was like, “Mhmm… I haven’t.” Everyone started making these sounds and moving freely and I just tried to do that too with absolutely no idea what I was doing. It turned out to be about breath and body work to connect with how you’re feeling right now in this present moment and so I have incorporated that into my daily practice. It helps with auditions, a lot. Auditioning is not easy for me. I don’t think it’s easy for anybody.

BK: What are you talking about? It’s the best process ever…

VE-D: (laughter) I certainly enjoy auditioning for theatre more than I do for TV/Film just because there feels like there is more time and you can really talk about it and get into it. I’ve picked up other things along the way. There’s a book called the Power of the Actor by a woman named Ivana Chubbuck. It’s these twelve steps to approaching a character and script. What really spoke to me was this idea of what you need from the other person and what you want to make them do. That has really helped my work. I have played a lot of victims or people who don’t necessarily have a lot of agency, just because of the nature of the roles I’ve been given in my career so far. This book really empowers you. Instead of just wanting something from them, it forces you to look at what are you doing to that person to make that happen.

I think I have an emotional intuitiveness and I’m a very empathetic person. I think I bring that to my work. For the past few years it’s been really important to be more powerful. Not just in the work but in the room. Really have my voice heard by directors and other actors. Because I started as kid, I’ve always felt like a kid.

paul-braunstein-amy-rutherford-vivien-endicott-dougas-in-infinity-photo-by-john-lauener

Paul Braunstein, Amy Rutherford, Vivien Endicott-Douglas in Infinity. Photo Credit: John Lauener

BK: Tell me a little bit about the show?

VE-D: Infinity is about a couple, who are two brilliant people. One is a theoretical physicist and the other is a musician. I play a young woman, named Sarah Jean who’s a mathematician and I go between being in my mid twenties to playing an eight year old. It’s about her figuring out her emotional life because she doesn’t actually live in that at all. She’s a very intellectual academic, a very smart, driven person, who doesn’t often take an emotional inventory of where she’s at or of her past relationships. Without giving away too much, there’s kind of an incident that makes her have to reflect on it. It’s about how we come to understand love in our lives, with parents and with lovers.

It’s also filled with beautiful live music. There’s a violinist, named Andréa Tyniec that plays throughout the show. It’s amazing because live music has such a resonance as you’re working. It’s so visceral. It’s really intertwined with what we’re doing and how we’re feeling. She has an incredible ear so she can be dynamic in the way that she plays. She changes with us from night to night.

BK: There’s definitely something about strings that brings you further into the experience as an audience member. It just hits you somewhere deeper.

VE-D: Well the vibrations hit you. I find it so moving when there’s live music.

BK: Were there excitements or fears or challenges coming into a remount, where Haley McGee played the part before you?

VE-D: Well yeah, those are certainly big shoes to fill. Because I didn’t see the original production, I didn’t have any preconceived notions about the character. I just had a couple of monologues and read the script and went into the audition bringing what I had to it. We worked quite intensively in the audition. I think we made a lot of fresh discoveries about the character and about how I relate to Sarah Jean. Our director Ross Manson was really willing and very interested in me finding the character myself, which was awesome because I felt like he gave me the kind of support to just go. There are certain things about the character that are true for anyone playing this part but within that, I was able to find what my own relationship to her was. We only had 10 days of rehearsal…

BK: Whoa! Why so short?

VE-D: Well because it was a remount and originally Haley was going to do it. She wasn’t available and so they had only budgeted for 10 days.

BK: Wow…

VE-D: Yeah… It was an intensive rehearsal process. I found out that I got the part while I was doing Killer Joe, so I had a lot of time leading up to prepare. The first day we just got on our feet. I came into a room of people who were already so confident in the work, which was actually really neat. Amy and Paul, the other actors in the play, have such a great dynamic in their relationship. They were very encouraging and supportive of the work that I was doing. Ross worked with me and really challenged me. He pushed me, which was important because we didn’t have a lot of time so I had to be on my toes. I felt like I came into a room that was filled with a lot of love because I think people really love the play. From the whole team, everybody loves the play, and you really feel this connection… they all feel connected to it.

BK: Why is this play so important and important to bring back?

VE-D: It’s so relatable in the way that it shows a relationship between two people who are deeply in love and who can’t quite get on the same page or can’t quite give each other what they need. My character, Sarah Jean, is so relatable because she’s this young woman who’s trying to figure out her relationship to her parents and what their legacy is and her relationship to how her childhood has made her into who she is. It’s her opportunity to reflect on how she’s gotten to where she is and that she can actually change… that the future is not written and she kind of comes to this realization that she can change for the better.

andrea-tyniec-vivien-endicott-douglas-in-infinity-photo-by-john-lauener

BK: This is your fourth show with Tarragon. What do you love about being there and what keeps you coming back?

VE-D: I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to work there. I have learned so much working there because they produce all of these new plays. I actually have also been a part of numerous workshops that have taken place there. Being a part of those with other actors and directors has allowed me to learn so much about theatre and about being an actor and the process to creating a show. I have been able to learn how other actors approach the work. People will really question playwrights and then the play changes and grows and that’s a huge part of working at Tarragon – having these conversations about stories. You’re often not getting a static play that’s already written. So much of the time it’s about dramaturgy. I love that part of it.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with from Infinity?

VE-D: I hope that people walk away feeling hopeful. I hope that people walk away and maybe call someone they love and tell them that they’re grateful to have them in their lives or if they come with family or friends and can walk away and talk about their connection to each other. I hope that it opens people up.

Rapid Fire Question Round

Favourite Movie: Back to the Future

Favourite Play/Musical: The Sound of Music

Favourite Book: Fall On Your Knees, closely followed by The Sun Also Rises

Favourite Food: Salmon

Best place in Toronto: Either of grandparents’ houses or the ravine close to my parent’s house.

Advice you live by: Trust your instincts.

Infinity

Tarragon_Infinity

Who:
Written by Hannah Moscovitch
Original score composed by Njo Kong Kie
Directed by Ross Manson
Co-produced by Volcano Theatre
Featuring Paul Braunstein as Elliot Green, Vivien Endicott-Douglas as Sarah Jean Green, Amy Rutherford as Carmen Green and Andréa Tyniec as violinist

What:
How does a new Theory of Time change everything we know about ourselves? Three brilliant minds – a musician, a mathematician, and a theoretical physicist – smash together like colliding particles in an accelerator. Together they learn that love and time are connected in ways they couldn’t have imagined. Infinity is a shocking, funny and revelatory play about love, sex, & math by Tarragon Playwright-in-Residence Hannah Moscovitch developed with Volcano Theatre. Back by popular demand from Tarragon’s 2014/15 season.

Where:
Tarragon Theatre

When:
January 4 – 29, 2017

Tickets:
tarragontheatre.com

 

 

Brady VanVaerenbergh discusses Understudying and What it’s like on the road

I greeted a pixelated smile over a Skype call at 6pm on February 8th. Brady VanVaerenbergh, an actor hailing from Chatham, ON, is currently overseas with a German production of Grease. This is Brady’s second time with the show and I’ve asked him to share his tips and tricks with us on how to survive being part of a touring production. 

Where are you right now?

I’m in Dussedolrf, Germany. Our show is being performed in the Musical Dome in Cologne so we have to commute to the show every day.

How many cities have you gone to so far?

This is our second city on the tour out of seventeen cities. Next stop is Brauncshwieg, a few cities beyond that is Vienna, a few beyond that is Frankfurt and a few beyond that is Zurich. We really get to see a lot.

You were offered a part last year in Grease in October? How did you feel when you had to pick up and leave for a new country?

It was crazy because the whole thing happened so fast. I got a message from the show’s choreographer, Melissa Williams, and she told me that one of her ensemble guys had to drop out and asked “Do you want to come to Germany and perform Grease?”

“Um, Yes!”

I got a call from the producer and after a few phone calls back and forth, he said “We can use you. When can you be here?” I naturally responded with, “Whenever you need me.”. So he said ” Great. Can you be here tomorrow?” And I said yes. I called my parents right away and explained that I needed them to come to St. Catherines to help me pack and to drive me to the airport.

What was it like being in a new city?

Well, my first experience wasn’t the most pleasant of my memories. I had gotten so lost in the airport because that was the first time I had ever been on a plane, let alone been to Europe. I eventually got my luggage and hopped in the first cab I saw. I informed the driver of where I needed to go but he couldn’t punch the address into his GPS and he couldn’t speak a lick of English. I was sweating. I ended up having to pay him six euros just to take my bags out of the trunk so I could hail a different cab. I was on the side of the road and I could have been anywhere. And that was how I got acquainted with Germany.

How did you get accustom to the culture?

The cast of Grease all spoke English and they we so helpful. They taught us phrases that allowed us to get around the city. If you can say thank you and excuse me, you can get anywhere.

How did you deal with being away from home eight months?

The whole tour was really overwhelming for me at first because rehearsals were so intense. We had we rehearsals all day and by the time we got back to our hotels we were exhausted. But having the right technologies helped me to adjust quite well. Being able to communicate with friends and family back home through Skype and email made things a lot easier for me. Of course, it was still hard but at least I had that.

How does this year’s tour differ from last year’s? 

The show has almost an entirely new cast with the exception of three people and they are all so great.  So it feels a lot different in that regard. I find knowing the show already made rehearsals a lot easier. Don’t get me wrong, they still make me sweat but now i know what to expect. It’s not so overwhelming and I’m enjoying myself more.

Name 5 things you can’t be without on this tour.

Coffee. I brought a ton of Starbucks and Tim Horton’s with me this year. My Kindle E-reader which fills a lot of my down time. My laptop, deodorant, and pictures and cards from home.

In this production you understudy for a couple of roles. You are 1st understudy for Eugene and 1st understudy for Doody. Tell us about having to learn three different parts. 

Understudying is really new for me. The most important thing is to keep the character consistent but to make it your own. The other actors are very different physically so it’s interesting to learn their movements because it’s something I would never naturally think of.

It’s a really fun experience. It can get quite confusing though so I have to be on my game. Each track is so similar on stage but they are all subtly different. Every time I’m on stage as ensemble, Eugene and Doody are on stage too. I make sure to take a lot of notes which are very clearly written out.  I constantly review them before every show, especially when I’m about to play Doody. I can track Eugene in my sleep now.

Actually speaking of which, My roommate had once informed me that he overheard me clapping and doing the hand jive in my sleep. I have no recollection of it but that’s just one example of how natural the show becomes after a while. Being able to play different characters on stage really keeps the show alive for me. I can be someone new every night.

What advice do you have for actors about to go tour? 

One of the hardest things is the travelling itself. Being on a bus for five hours really makes me feel like, “Mom, Dad. Seriously, are we there yet?” Also getting accustom to every theatre and every backstage area proves to be quite the challenge as well. But being on tour is actually a ton of fun. You get paid to see new things and places. The set stays the same but every audience is different and that makes it fresh every time.

See Brady’s website here: www.bradyvanv.com

For more info on Grease das Musical click here: http://www.musical-grease.de/

Gaby Grice is In the Greenroom!

Gaby Grice joins us In the Greenroom for an interview about theatre in Toronto and her upcoming show, Patrick Marber’s Closer. The show Runs from February 1st-4th at the Winchester street Theatre. Click here to read her actor profile.

From one Alex to another – An interview with Alex McCooeye

By Alex “Addy” Johnson

MOST RECENTLY: Directed The Particulars and In General at Summerworks

AS AN ACTOR: The Little Prince (Geordie Productions); Beethoven Lives Upstairs (Centaur Theatre); 39 Steps (Theatre Aquarius); Harvey (Segal Centre); Nativity: A Coyote’s Christmas, Mother Courage, A Christmas Carol, The Ark 2007 (NAC); Rock, Paper, Jackknife (Centaur Theatre/Talisman); Rabbit Rabbit (Summerworks); Of Mice and Men (Montreal Theatre Ensemble). 

TRAINING: National Theatre School of Canada and the John Abbott College Professional Theatre Program.

NEXT: Starring in his own adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum at the Wildside Festival in Montreal.

INTRO:

Alex McCooeye is a Montreal-bred actor, director, and playwright. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you probably will. He’s putting down roots in Toronto. Constantly challenging assumptions, he is one of the most grounded, imaginative, and insightful young theatre-makers I know.

A few weeks before going into rehearsals for his new adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum, I (the assistant director of the piece, helping out the stupendous Greg Kramer) had the chance to Skype with Alex about what it means to be an actor-director-playwright, a breed that is becoming more and more necessary.

ADDY: So….how are you settling into the Toronto theatre scene?

ALEX: It’s such a huge community. There’s this core group, I find… And then outside of that there are hundreds of talented, talented people who struggle to get work in Toronto and [end up going] back to other cities all the time to do work. And it can be a really tough year the year after you’ve been in a company [the National Arts Centre]. I’m running into people and they’re saying, “So what are you doing at the NAC this year?” Well actually, you can hire me here.

ADDY: Do you remember that moment of choice we all have when we say, “that’s it, I’m going into the theatre?”

ALEX: I have to admit that I always wanted to be the centre of attention. Like I just loved being in front of people and only through theatre school did I develop a respect for theatre and understood the meaning of what theatre can be. But it was totally born out of wanting to be the center of attention. I can’t fake that that’s not true.

ADDY: Anything in particular that you still carry with you from your theatre school days?

ALEX: I think the main thing I developed…was a love and respect for text and language. And the importance of a respect for the playwright. I think there’s this weird thing going on where theatre is being confused as a director’s medium. And it’s not, in my opinion. The director’s job is to serve the play as it has been written for the performers on stage. And there’s this new thing going on with “my take, my vision of this play” that I really can’t stand.

ADDY: So what would you say is the director’s job, specifically?

ALEX: To ensure that the actors are serving the play while empowering the actors to own their performances. It’s to not get in the way, to let the work happen. To me…eighty percent of directing is casting. So as long as you have actors that you trust, that you think are right in the roles, then eighty percent of your work is done.

ADDY: And how did you venture into playwriting?

ALEX: I’ve always kind of jotted stuff down, jotted down ideas for plays and things. [During theatre school] a friend of mine and I adapted The Tempest and Waiting for Godot into one [single play]. Pazzo was ritualistically playing all the characters in The Tempest forever until he died in a campaign to keep theatre alive. We were going to peform it in this abandoned theatre in Montreal but were kicked out and moved into a real theatre…because of fire regulations.

ADDY: And years later, you’ve adapted Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum into a two-hander. Why Poe?

ALEX: I have loved Poe and this story since I was seventeen – just as I was getting into theatre and language and Shakespeare. I was looking for another way to do Shakespeare, for another author who is like him but not as celebrated. I still think that Poe is on par with Shakespeare, but didn’t write plays and didn’t write about love.

ADDY: And why The Pit and the Pendulum in particular?

ALEX: He wrote it while he was mourning the loss of his sister. You wouldn’t know reading it that it’s a reaction to mourning, but obviously while he was dealing with internal torture he decided to write a story about external torture. I love how he deals with the monotony and the banal aspects of the human mind faced with dire circumstances. Like when he’s musing over the size of his prison cell. Because it’s so true.

Alex (left) in Of Mice and Men, Montreal Theatre Ensemble

ADDY: Why did you choose not to direct it?

ALEX: I am of the opinion that a playwright, for the most part, should not direct their own work…they need an outside eye to come in and take what they’ve written and realize it. I’ve also written the part for myself so….to write, direct, and act for me right now is unrealistic.

ADDY: Do you find yourself directing as you are writing?

ALEX: I am definitely acting it as I write it. I’m in my living room doing all the voices and practicing the dialogue and all of that. For me it’s the only way to write. It’s the only way to get the rhythms and the relationships. It’s my entry point. Why not use the experience I have as an actor?

ADDY: How much does your work as an actor and director inform your work as a writer?

ALEX: I think a great deal. I would love someone else to approach me with this play and say, “would you act in it?” But because it’s my idea, I have to write it. [Writing is] my least favourite of the three. I much prefer acting and directing. I’m just using it as a tool to say what I want to say and do the theatre I want to do. But it’s torturous, I find, to write. It’s incredible for me to see all these writer-performers out there, because one job requires such a specific set of skills and a specific personality type that completely contrasts the other job. So it’s kind of incredible. Sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s an exercise in self-loathing.

ADDY: Do you find it tricky to compartmentalize and separate the stresses of the day from your writing? Or conversely, is it important to let your day influence your work?

ALEX: In this instance when I’m working with a story that already exists, I cant bring a lot of what I’m going through to it. And it’s hard. Was it Chekhov that said, “No writer can work if they’re poor”? It’s tough to go out and do other things and make money and come back and write. I think I’m pretty unsuccessful at compartmentalizing. But once I’m an hour into writing, I’m with it. I’m not thinking about other things.

ADDY: Would you say your work has an aesthetic?

ALEX: The biggest compliment I ever got was when someone said, “every time I see you perform, it feels like you’re in a conversation with the theatre.” Whether that’s true or not, I think that’s something to strive towards. What is this, what does it mean, what can it be, can I do this and get away with it? 

The Pit and the Pendulum will premier at the Wildside Festival in Montreal, January 2012.