Valentine for Ernest MannNaomi Shihab Nye, 1952
You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.
Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, “Here’s my address,
write me a poem,” deserves something in reply.
So I’ll tell a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.
Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn’t understand why she was crying.
“I thought they had such beautiful eyes.”
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.
Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the off sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.
This year has been full of adventures, theatre, friends and family just like other years have been. There have been losses in 2015 which will mark it in my memory, but otherwise it feels like many of my other recent years - fun, quick, full. Looking at these photos I'm struck by the awe-inducing number of good people I have in my life. I'm struck by my freedom to live in this beautiful country and to do work that I care about that is creative and life-giving. I mostly feel grateful.
All my love to each of you for sharing your life with me. I hope for more goodness in 2016, more composting, more sunshine.
all my love,
I'm currently writing this snuggled into a king sized bed, in the little town of Wells, nestled in the Cariboo mountains. I feel very tucked in. Sunshine is streaming through my windows and I can hear a guitar being played by some guys outside. I have the worst sore throat I've ever had in my life. Let me tell you how I got here.
My husband Mack and I have been cast as historical interpreters for the summer in Barkerville, BC. Barkerville is a living museum, which means it's a historic site that has been preserved since it's heyday 150 years ago. Actors are hired to create authentic character reenactments for visitors as a way to share about BC's history and past. I used to do this work in Victoria at the Parliament buildings and I always kind of hoped I would get to come up here and play with the big boys in the Cariboo. And now, here I am.
The past month has been pretty non-stop for me, but for this story, lets just focus on the last seven days. Before leaving Vancouver for three months I needed to get a lot done; pack for the summer, clean the apartment for our sublet, get our car into the shop and pay with $$$ we don't have, manage many scraps of paper with various to-do lists...
But more important than all that stuff was getting to spend some time with my friends and family. I am fortunate to have a very close circle of people around me in my life, and I knew that leaving them for these months would be the hardest part. It is also a particularly challenging summer to be apart from them, as my family is going through a lot of big life changes.
My first stop was Victoria where I spent three days visiting and caring for my beloved Gramma Williams. She is ill and I am most nervous about being away from her this summer. Our visit was simple - a wheelchair ride to her backyard where she instructed me around weeding her garden, a few small meals, just sitting together, listening to her stories. I was pretty bad at not crying around her. She's tough and told me she had stopped crying weeks ago.
Back in Vancouver, I had dinner with my pregnant sister and her partner Dawson in their new home. I toured their Killarney two bedroom, looked at every piece of baby clothing Eryn has bought, saw all the beautiful new furniture Dawson has made (he's a very talented carpenter) and hung out with all their animals (cat, dogs, parrot, budgie and chickens!). If my visit with Gramma was small and simple, this one was all big and buzz. Eryn is 7 months pregnant. She is doing great and her life is full and exciting. If everything goes according to plan she should go into labour right around the time Mack and I get back to the city. That's a big "if", I know, and I would chalk being away for the last two months of my sis' pregnancy as the second hardest part of being away.
On Friday I got to see my best friends for one last picnic dinner. They each loaned me one of their favourite books to read this summer. I love these people so much. We laughed and played games together and gave big hugs. It was late Friday night that I started to feel a tickle in my throat. I went to bed with a fever like I haven't had since I was a kid. I got maybe four hours of sleep?
On Saturday I woke up with no more fever but a serious sore throat. Ugh. I HATE sore throats so much, but I get them fairly often and I had been doing so much running around that I wasn't surprised. I drove out to Ladner to visit with my Momma. I found her in her garden - she toured me through all her plants and flowers. I nodded as she pointed them all out, me not knowing the names of any of them. Maybe I'll take up gardening this summer? That would really impress the maternal women in my life. Mom and I then went to see Grandma and Grandpa and I got to spend some time with them. They are the sweetest couple in the entire world. After 60 + years of marriage they are still head over heels crazy for each other and it's a beautiful thing. After that visit and goodbye, Mom took me to Costco where I stocked up on three months of quinoa and other neccessities. Saturday night I went to Mack's dress rehearsal for The Tempest at Bard. It is a gorgeous spectacle of a show and I am so proud of him and his work he's done assistant directing it. That night I went home and collapsed into bed.
Sunday morning was spent with my Artisan family, where I learned that our recent fundraiser exceeded expectations tenfold and I broke down in tears at the good news. I blamed being sick, but I think it's also that I'm really going to miss my church this summer too. I never, ever, ever thought I would feel this way about a church - but these people are one of the best things in my life and it will be hard to be away from all of them.
The rest of Sunday I finished up packing and running a few last errands. By 6pm I was mostly finished and I had mostly lost my voice. Mack and I got pizza and drove down to the beach. It was overcast, Locarno was quiet, and it was a perfect evening to say goodbye to my city that I love. It was also Mack and my last night together as he isn't joining me up here for another three weeks (once Bard is open). We had good chats and some snuggles and he only complained about the sand a little bit.
Monday morning, 5:00am - I still didn't have a voice, and my throat was killing me. Mack and I loaded up the car, said a brave goodbye (no tears) and I drove back out to Ladner to pick up my road trip buddy: Dad. We left a little after 6:00am. My father really likes road trips, and we've been known to go on a few driving adventures together, but he's also a really busy guy, so I wasn't sure if this whole trip would work out. I guess he loves me, because he managed to carve out two whole days from his jam packed schedule to drive twelve hours and drop me off in the mountains. He wouldn't even let me drive!
Yesterday was a long day, but it was also really great. The drive wasn't bad at all (easy for me to say as the passenger). After Lytton, the Cariboo Hwy has no jagged cliff edges, unlike the Coquihalla. It follows along the Fraser River and shows off BC's best fields, marshes and rolling mountainsides. We were high up, but the roads were mostly flat - I liked it. Dad and I kept ourselves entertained with a wide range of conversation topics and This American Life episodes. I mainlined Tylenol and Advil every four hours and ate the maximum amount of recommended Cepacol lozenges for one day - nine. I still had no voice, and Dad had to listen to my Fran Drescher squeak all the way. He is a saint.
We arrived in Wells a little after 7:00pm. Wells is tiny! I already love it. The buildings are all painted bright, easter-egg colours, and it's full of art galleries, good dogs and friendly people. I'm staying temporarily in an apartment attached to the Sunset Theatre and after two weeks I will move into a house we're staying in for the rest of the summer. I know that the house is gorgeous (I've seen pictures), but I had no idea what the apartment was going to be like. Everyone kept telling me it had amazing views, which made me think that maybe the place itself wasn't as good? Well, my East-Van-350sq ft- studio-apartment-dwelling-self was in for a BIG surprise. This place is like a palace. The bed is actually bigger than my bed room and closet at home. There is a kitchen with ample cooking space and a stove built after 1960. It may have even been made in the 2000s!!! There is a claw foot bath tub, a big long dining table crying out for a dinner party, and - people were right - the view! I can see the mountains and marsh and watch the sun rise and set from the living room. Back home I can watch my neighbours going out for smokes on their stoop. Wow. Wow. Wow. I am feeling very fortunate. And these are only the temp digs, apparently the other ones are even better!
This morning, Dad and I woke up and explored Wells a bit more. It didn't take too long! Wells makes Chemainus look like a metropolis. It is so sweet here, though. People smile and wave, conversations are struck up with ease. I love community and this place feels like the definition of that word.
After our little walk around town we decided to go check out the main event - Barkerville itself! BVille is about a ten minute drive outside Wells - it's the end of the road, the final destination. I came here with my Grade 10 Class twelve years ago and it's amazing how many of the details from that trip still are with me. Dad and I walked up and down the main street, poking our heads into the little rooms and buildings. I got to meet a lot of the people I'll be working with this summer and got to reconnect with old actor friends. I was pretty embarrassed to be meeting everyone with no voice. Imagine hiring an actor to come work for the summer and when they show up they can barely speak above a whisper!!! Everyone was nice about it, but I still felt a bit bad.
After our afternoon in BVille, it was time to head back into Quesnel to get my Dad to the airport. This time I drove as I wanted to get a feel for the trip (it's about an hour drive). We had debated going to a walk in clinic to check out my throat, and by the time we got into town I realized I needed to get checked. If I did have strep I wouldn't be back in town for another week, so this would be my only chance. I said a not so brave goodbye (tears) to my Dad at the airport and headed to the walk in clinic. There, a curt doctor with an Australian accent said he didn't think I have strep. He prescribed rest. He took a swab anyway to put my mind at ease and then told me to go to the front desk. The receptionist handed me my swab in the little baggie and said:
"Ok, now you have to take this and drop it off at the lab in the hospital."
"Sorry?", I croaked.
"The hospital is about a block and a half away. Take this there, go through the entrance with the green awning and drop it off at the lab. If I wait til my shift is done they'll be closed, so you should take it. Then we'll get the lab results tomorrow."
So, I left the walk in clinic, drove across the street to the hospital and dropped off my own strep throat swab. It was a very strange thing to have to do. But I just chalked it up to my rapidly growing list of things that I'm going to do for the first time this summer.
I then drove the hour back into Wells and it already felt a little more familiar than it did the day before. Tomorrow I have the day off and I am going to heed the advice of the Australian Dr with the lazy receptionist and rest. I'm sure this whole throat thing is just my body screaming at me to STOP. Stop talking, stop worrying, stop planning, stop rushing, stop checking things off lists, stop, stop, stop. And the beauty is, I'm here now, I can stop. Dad made it home safe, I didn't hit any wildlife with the car, I start rehearsals on Thursday. I made it.
If you've read this far - wow. Kudos to you. I'll hopefully never be this sick or lonely or have this much time on my hands for the rest of my time here, so I'll probably never write an entry as long again. I do want to keep writing stories though and keep track of my Cariboo summer. Here's a few things I've noticed already.
- the light here is different and so is the air. It feels like when you put your hands in a really cold creek - it's like glass, clear and crisp.
- At one of the three restaurants in Wells, they told us that one day in the summer they have a deal where anyone named "Dave" gets to eat for free. If you bring someone named Dave you get a free dessert. (Apparently there are a lot of people named Dave here. I've already met two of them!)
- I found the motel that we stayed at as a class when I was here in 2002. It looks smaller. Do things from high school become dwarfed when revisited in real life? I thought that only happened with childhood playgrounds.
- I had to buy a bear bell to wear if I go running or hiking to scare off bears.
- Barkerville's school season has really suffered this past little while due to the teacher's strike. Amazing the ramifications and ripple effects these things have.
- There was a private school class from Chilliwack in town today and all the kids were dressed up in costumes. It was pretty cute.
-Some of the kids were riding the stagecoach and one of them yelled out: "I don't think we'll die, but if we do, tell my mom I love her!"
- On the drive from Quesnel to Wells so far I've seen 3 bears, 2 deer and 1 moose. I only saw the Moose's back and it looked like a dinosaur!
- There is a big bike ride that happens in the summer called "7 peaks" where bikers ride all along the mountain ranges that surround Wells. We met a guy who was training for it. Crazy!
- When we first arrived one of the guys I'm working with had to jet off because he was going to a friend's house to eat some rabbit that she had cooked for dinner.
- My Dad made sure to purchase an equitable number of little trinkets and wares from the shops in Barkerville. Fudge, Coffees, baked goods, magnets etc. Each store was visited and received his patronage. He said he was doing it to support the BVille economy. He's a saint, remember.
- I'm connected to the internet via two bars of wifi that I'm getting from the theatre next door. I'm able to IMessage with people and facetime. This is very good.
- The winter and spring in Wells were particularly bad this year. There are still small patches of snow in some areas. It's cool, I'm wearing a sweater and jeans, but the sun was shining today.
- When I was driving back alone I listened to Stop Podcasting Yourself and it made me smile.
- After writing for this long, my throat is feeling a little better.
Thanks for reading. I will post more over the next few months as I continue on my Cariboo adventure! But first - rest.
Yesterday marked my last day on staff at Pacific Theatre for the foreseeable future. I have work lined up for the next 6 months as an actor, and much of this work will take me out of Vancouver. It just didn't make sense to try and keep my position going at PT, especially considering so much of my work there involves connecting with the audience in person.
I'm feeling a heightened mix of emotions around this transition. I felt waves of sadness to be saying goodbye to my little corner of the office, and all my dear friends that I work with. I will miss checking the ticket sales for the week, greeting audience members in the lobby and even doing the front of house speech. I love that place, I love my job there, I love the shows, the artists... the art that is created at 12th and Hemlock is so much a part of me.
Despite this big change, I also feel a strong sense of peace - I suppose that's due to the fact that I know this isn't really a lasting goodbye. I'm certain that I will be back doing work there at some point, and I know that PT will always be a part of my life as it has been for the past 27 years.
Now I get to spend the next 13 days focusing on the last few details I need to sort out before leaving for Barkerville. I'm helping out with a show this week, then I'm heading to Victoria to spend some quality time with my dear Gramma. I've got family dinners, and dates with friends - and I'm hoping to soak up a few quality moments with Mack as well.
I've got a lot of things to be excited about - a lot of new adventures in front of me - there isn't time to be sad about chapters ending, and for that I am very grateful.
Last year my brilliant, (and slightly OCD) husband started detailing and keeping track of his life. He added up all his stats and did a series of epic blog posts (read them here) which outlined everything he ate, watched and read for an entire year. He also kept track of every person he spent time with. (like I said - OCD)
Although all those stats were interesting to look at after a year, I wasn't inspired myself to know how many veggie burgers I eat in a month (I'm sure it's a lot). I was, however, inspired by the stats he kept regarding his career as a theatre artist.
So, in January 2013 I downloaded Mack's trusty Iphone stat app (Daytum) and started keeping track of my career. This included logging every audition, callback, acting gig and little step I made through out the year. It was not only incredibly satisfying, but also very encouraging, to look back at what I was able to accomplish in a year. And on those days (let's admit it, there are many) when I questioned my life choices, my talent, my drive - I could look at these stats and be bolstered by the fact that I had made little steps through out the year. And these stats I had logged were the benchmarks along the way.
So, in case anyone is curious what it looks like to be a 20-something actor in vancouver- here's what my year as a theatre artist looked like. I hope you'll find it encouraging, and might even be inspired, like I was by Mack last year, to keep track for yourself in the upcoming year - whatever you want to count - whether it be auditions, or cheeseburgers.
Part of the reality of being an actor is having frequent job interviews, or auditions. These auditions are not the only way to land a gig in this town, but for an emerging artist such as myself, they are necessary.
This year I had 26 theatre auditions with 4 callbacks and 6 film/ tv auditions, for a total of 36 auditions. I booked 3 of those auditions.
Out of the 26 theatre auditions - 6 were generals, 2 were for training programs, 8 were invited auditions and the last 10 were auditions that I submitted for directly. Out of the 4 callbacks, I booked 1.
Those stats might be sobering, but when I consider the depth of talent in this city and the few opportunities there are for young actors, especially for women - I am actually encouraged. I'm encouraged that I was invited, or called in directly, by so many companies. I also think it's a fairly accurate representation of how many theatre auditions a young actor could expect in a year.
Next year I would love to see my stats closer to 1 audition/ week. I know I got close this year with 36, but I think I can do even better. I'm hoping with my new agent I will be able to get in casting rooms more frequently to help up these audition numbers.
This year I had 22 acting gigs. I defined a "gig" as anytime I worked as a performer - so it could be a one day contract, or a three month play. I was paid for most of these contracts (huzzah!), with the exception of some of the short films. Here's what kept me busy in 2013:
The Foreigner (Pacific)
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe x2 (Pacific Tour)
Miss Shakespeare (Touchstone/ Arts Club)
Alone Time - Byron Lamarque
Edweard - Motion 58
Lucid Fear - Jovan Harmuth
Souls that Balance
Role Play/ Simulation Training:
Justice Institute x 9
Wolf Mountain Readings
Post Secret - Voice over
COSTUME DESIGN GIGS:
Picasso at the Lapin Agile, UBC Medplay Society
Us and Everything we Own, 20Something Theatre
Wolf at the Door, Otherwise Productions
Arts Club Actors Intensive
Audition Workshop - Katrina Dunn
Instant Theatre Improv Workshop
Jeb Beach - back to booking film classes
GVPTA Actors Symposium
Kitchen Table - Rumble Theatre emerging artists meet n greet
Playwrights Meet up - Arts Club
Interned with Electric Co for You are Very Star
Signed with Moving Pictures Talent
Got new headshots
Looking back on all these contracts, career moves and gigs I am certainly encouraged. If I'm being honest, at the beginning of 2013 I had a bit of a crisis. I had nothing booked and things were not lining up for me in my career. I questioned what the heck I was doing with my life. I was depressed. I cried a lot. Things weren't looking good.
And then after some soul searching and many conversations with friends, family, mentors and my husband I decided it wasn't time to give up.
Around the end of January, beginning of February, I began to focus on what I could do instead of what I couldn't. I took some classes and I said yes to every opportunity I could. That's when I started doing the film work and I discovered I really liked it. (I always thought I didn't really like film. What I've come to realize is that there is a big, big difference between sitting in a room with 30 supermodels hoping they pick me for the toothpaste gig vs. actually being on set working. I loved being on set working!) I got into the Arts Club Actors Intensive and I started booking things again. I learned something I already knew, but had to re-learn: this career is not a straight path. There will be glorious moments where contacts line up and things are booked six months in advance and then there will be moments like last January - where life is a big black hole of uncertainty and self-perceived failure.
This January I am in a similar position. I've got a few things lined up, but so far 2014 is looking pretty sparse.
Unlike last year though, I'm not in panic mode. Of course I'm disappointed at the opportunities that haven't come through - but I don't feel defeated. I actually feel eager to see what this year will bring. If only I could have told my 2013 self all the bad ass and awesome contracts and opportunities that were coming up I could have spent a lot less time crying and feeling sorry for myself.
Let me be clear that I believe it is normal and healthy to feel sad sometimes and to get bummed out as an actor. There is nothing wrong with crying. But this year I'm not going to wallow in that reality. This year I look at this blank canvas in front of me and smile expectantly and think, "what's next?"
I doubt I will post often, but I have found myself longing to find a place to write down thoughts and ideas lately and so I've decided to join the big-kids club and start a blog.
My interests include theatre, fashion, design, composting...pretty eclectic really.
If you are reading this, I hope you enjoy the thoughts I share.