#12 – Pier

While I was waiting in line to grab a coffee before my meeting with Kate, I ran into Pier.  I don’t think he and I have properly spoken in a long time.  Maybe even years.  Sure, we’re friends on Facebook.  I stay up to date with his company’s work, but it’s been a while since we… talked.

This is strange in some ways.  He hired me for my first major professional acting gig.  I stage managed and assistant directed on a beautiful Brecht piece he worked on.  DD5 and I saw him perform at her school.  He was a witness at my first wedding ceremony and sang at my second.  (Same guy.  Long story. Don’t ask.)

I’ve always been in awe of him.  I hesitate to call myself an artist, but wouldn’t for a second hesitate to give him that moniker.   I greatly admire his passion for children’s theatre and his organic creative process.  All of this admiration can be scary though too.  One day, I watched him in rehearsal release an actress’ voice so much that she was sobbing by the end.  I was afraid I’d be next!

Pier has a way of bringing out vulnerability in people.  Getting to the core of what they didn’t know they were capable of.  Thankfully that often translates to depth and truthfulness on stage… and not just tears in the rehearsal room.

Our brief chat while I waited for my coffee was typical Pier.  A bit of a whirlwind.  Charming.  Slightly self-deprecating.  Always creating.  He said he was at the cusp of something new in his life, and that he’d really like to reconnect properly.  He said something along the lines of he thought it would “do him some good.”

I think it would do me some good too.

#11 – Kate

Looking fierce! (And yes, my youngest daughter was born with a mohawk.)

My friend Kate has given me an amazing opportunity: the chance to direct again.  I’m not just directing any play.  I’ll be working in the theatre for young audiences realm, specifically for kids 5 to 9.  Wheee!

 

I feel like Kate and I have a special bond.  We have daughters near the same age.  We both did the single mom working theatre contract to theatre contract thing.   We both have twisted, and often dirty, minds.  (Which we would never bring into our theatre for young audiences work, of course.  Ahem.)  We’re both hard-working, driven women with nice faces and yummy gooey emotional centers.    Nom.

 

We recently got together for our first brainstorming session about the new play.  I’ll be honest, the first time I read this piece I put it down after the first page.  It did not grab me, at all, but I gave it a second chance.  After all, I trust Kate.  She wouldn’t give me a bad piece to work with.  Right?

 

I’m always a bit intimidated when, as a director, I meet up with an Artistic Director because I want to make sure I impress them.  Confirm that they made the right choice in hiring me.   Reassure them that, though I couldn’t remember to bring a change of clothes to my daughter’s daycare, I’ll most certainly meet all deadlines with verve and creative gusto.    I had no real reason to be worried about meeting with Kate.  Within a few minutes, I confessed my original uncertainty with the script and she told me she felt the same way.  The more we talked, the more I realised we had a lot of the same questions about the narrative, the characters motivations, about costuming…  I mean, really, does he need to have a full-body fish costume?  I mean, can’t he just say he’s a fish and we’ll believe him?  Anywho, I digress.  The point is Kate is an artist and a being an artist involves having a lot of questions, and worrying that you’ll never find the answers.   The creative process ends up being trial and error mixed in with random silliness in an attempt to make sense of things.  And often the end result is an artist’s best attempt at making the answers interesting and beautiful enough for an audience to soak up.

 

I love doing all these things with Kate.  I think she’s a pretty talented lady and, when I’m around her, I feel just a bit more talented too.

#10 – Aron

After over two years of not seeing each other, we finally meet for coffee.

He uses the word “cunt” in one of his first stories, and then apologises for his language.

I laugh.  Has it been that long?  Has he forgotten who I am?  Cunt doesn’t bother me… neither does any of the other expletives he throws out at me during this storytelling.

Same old Aron.

We’re known each other since university.  I had a huge crush on him, though he never knew that.  (I guess he does now… if he reads this.)  I played both his lover and his mother, not in the same production of course.  It’s the lover role that I remember the most.

He was my Romeo.

My crush had vanished by then (no offense Aron) and was replaced with awe of his natural talent and spunk.   (The energetic/vibrant type… not the biological fluid type… though I never had first-hand knowledge of the second.)    We were couple together for classic scene study class: the famous R&J balcony scene.  I could tell Aron wasn’t pleased.  I don’t think he minded working with me, but I don’t think he saw himself as much of a romantic lead.

You see, Aron is a clown.  In all senses of the word.  Always has been. Normally I dislike clowns.  Correction:  I dislike BAD clowns.   Aron, I adore.  So you see how good he is at what he does.

Our scene finally clicked once our prof got us to see the nervous energy, the eagerness, and the humour in the scene.  Once it became fun to play, Aron couldn’t be stopped.

Funnily enough, he eventually performed the role for Company of Fools.  I was insanely jealous of his Juliet.  😉

Our paths have crossed a few times since then.  I did some silly choreography for one of his first clown shows in Ottawa.  But then he left town.  Went on to study in Italy.  Did his MFA in Calgary.  Went on to learn from some dude…. Philippe Gaulier or something.  He’s now working for Cirque du Soleil.  You might have heard of them.

Aron is a deeply intelligent, artistic, and passionate person.  He’s a creator in the grandest sense.

He’s worked around the world, and he’s still as grounded as he’s ever been.

And when I’m around him, I feel grounded too.

Aron and I in The Lark (2001)

#9 – Melanie

So I had a date with my friend Andrew to see a play at the University of Ottawa. This girl saw us in the lobby and essentially tagged along for the rest of the night. I didn’t mind. It’s theatre. It’s a social occasion. It’s not like we’re going to be talking during the performance. She seemed nice enough.

We were introduced. I found out she was doing the MA program at the U of O theatre department.

Huh. Bonus points in her favour.

Eventually we get to chatting and, I don’t remember the exact wording but, she said something like: “Oh, I know you. You directing that play I saw the other day. I didn’t like it at all.”

Huh. Well then.

Not one to miss an opportunity to debate with a fellow academic, we all went for beers after the play and had an amazing discussion about the play I had directed, about the form, about my directorial style and about our love of theatre. Turns out, she actually really enjoyed my direction. She just wasn’t a fan of the play itself.

Fair enough. Still, bonus points for the compliments. .

Our next major exchange occurred over makeup shopping at Sephora. And that’s all it took. Girlie stuffs and theatre… we left each other with hugs and “I love yous”.

I know good stock when I see it. Someone who challenges me, stimulates me, and makes me laugh.

That’s Mel.

And she’s got fierce rapping skills too. Don’t believe me? Check this out.

*girlcrush*

#8 – Shane

Shane with his beautiful daughter and wife.

I have a strange way of making friends.  I mean, I meet people pretty much the same way everyone else does, but I go about choosing my “keeper” friends oddly.  #8 and #9 are such people.

Do I remember exactly when I met Shane?  Nope.  I know he did community theatre with my Mom and I was involved backstage somehow.  I was quite young and don’t have the clearest memories of my community theatre days.   Once I got involved, I got heavily involved, and one production blends into another.

What I do remember clearly is that Shane was part of a group of crazy boys (men?) that I admired and loved very much.  They were (are?) smart, witty, creative, rambunctious, and fiercely loyal to each other.  They all pretty much treated me like a little sister (though I thought most of them were hawt!) and protected me.   Our families knew each other well and spent a lot of time together, but I was still the “kid” through most of it.

There was a lapse in time where Shane and I didn’t really speak or see each other.  Too long of a story to mention, but he was back in town when I turned 20 (or was it 21?  Again… a blur) and he took me out for an amazing day that resulted in drinks and getting my navel pierced.

Though we were good acquaintances up until that point, that one day of sharing, confiding, hugging, and celebrating made us brother and sister.   One day is all it took.

And it’s been that way ever since.

He lives on the other side of the world now with his beautiful family.

But he’s still my Big Bro.  Taking care of me from afar.

#5 – Dalelle

The Glass Menagerie – University of Ottawa – 2001

Dalelle and I met the summer of ’98 at a University of Ottawa residence orientation weekend.  A year younger than me, she traveled alone from Sudbury to meet new people and get acquainted with the campus and city she’d call her home.  I journeyed 45 minutes from home, by car, with my Mom, for the occasion.  She seemed so… grown up compared to me.

She told me she was registered in the theatre department.  We found out we had a lot in common.  Both fully bilingual.  Both theatre lovers.  Both chatty as all hell.  We sat by the Rideau Canal talking about our dreams.  She was going to volunteer for everything she could and eventually get herself a job at the National Arts Centre.  She was bound and determined to make it in this town.  I admired her drive.

Long story short, she eventually went on to coordinate one of Canada’s major francophone theatre festivals for the NAC.  She’s now a Production Coordinator for the Museum of Civilization and often works for Bluesfest and the NCC.   Oh, and she’s barely 30 years old and she has two kids.

I consider Dalelle one of my best friends.  I’ve directed her in quite a few productions. She was the maid of honour at my wedding.  I babysat her first born while she delivered her second.  And yet, we only speak a handful of times a year.  We’re lucky if we see each other a few times a year.  It’s part of the curse of being very similar people, both intensely focused on family and our careers.

She always tells me I can count on her for anything… and she means it.  Just recently when I was stuck without a babysitter at the last minute, on a whim, I decided to email her.  Not only did she agree to watch the girls, but she wanted to take them for the entire day so I could relax.    She knows that I schedule babysitters for when I need to work, rarely for social/date time.   I would be more than happy to give you a “just cause I feel like doing what I wanna do day” if you would like. 

Amazing.

That’s friendship.

#4 – Kris

I miss Kris.

He’s moved to Edmonton with his beau to start a new life and stretch his actor wings out West.   His partner recently proposed.  Kris accepted.  I couldn’t be happier for them.

Kris makes me feel good.  He’s a beautiful man, inside and out.  His speaking voice make me melt.  He’s as much at home singing show tunes as he is reciting sonnets.  Passionate, driven and insanely witty, Kris’s major problems are that he is too talented and has too many possibilities ahead of him.

He is a great listening and advice-giver.  He is kinky and dirty and sweet and charming.  He is confident without being cocky.  Outspoken without being brash.

Collaborating with Kris on projects has always given me the warm fuzzies… feeling understood, challenged, stimulated and fulfilled.  (Solely in the theatrical, creative sense people!)

When we lived in the same city we didn’t see each other much, but every coffee we did have together was a treat.  Now that he lives far away, he sometimes sends me cute tweets that make my day.

I miss Kris.

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Featured image of Kris and Nadine is used with permission from the amazingly talented Kym Shumsky.  You should check out her 100 Strangers Project.  It’s lovely.  And, yes, I am biased. 

#3 – Michelle

Smart and sassy, Michelle is one of my longest friends.  We met doing community theatre and I was amazed with her positive spirit, grace, and beautiful voice.

She moved away for university and then spent what felt like forever building a career for herself, eventually starting her own ESL school in Japan.  Needless to say keeping in touch was difficult.

Her life hasn’t always been easy but she’s strong, determined, and fierce.

Sadly, she forgets how amazing she is sometime.  I take it upon myself to remind her as often as I can.

She’s recently moved back to Canada and will be (any second now) embarking on her biggest challenge yet… motherhood.  I can only imagine how excited and terrified she must be.  I know I was.  She’ll be living in Toronto once the baby’s born and, while I know that’s where her heart is leading her, I can’t help but be a bit sad that distance will come between us again.

Through ups and downs, her smile is always contagious.   Warm, creative, caring and exuberant, Michelle will be an amazing mom. Though our time in the same city has been brief, and I haven’t taken advantage of it like I should have, I plan on making sure she regularly knows how wonderful she is and how much I love her.

Day 284-287 Growing Up (Or Not)

Day 284 – This little bit of beauty was a big deal to me:   I turned 31. To say that my thirties have been an, um,  adventure so far is a gross understatement.  Raised as an only child having only met my 1/2 sister 13 years ago, I always looked forward to birthday for the attention and presents. Strangely, I really didn’t want a huge amount of hoopla this year and I think that’s a good thing.  It takes a lot of confidence for me to not want to make a big deal out of what is usually my “super special day”.  Was I overwhelmed by the amount of Facebook comments and Tweets wishing me a great day?  Yes.  It was marvelous.  But overall I was content in myself, which didn’t need outside validation.

Day 285 – One of the reasons why my neighborhood rocks:  After it rains, the reflection of the bright red fall leaves on the trees lining my street make it look like the puddles are made out of pink water!

Day 286 –

Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make THEIR eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.

– Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)

Day 287 – There’s something in the whole “fake it ’til you make it” idea.  I committed to helping my Mom with a community theatre musical she’s directing.  I promised her I’d come up with choreography for a particular dance number.  My dream was always to be a dancer, but I never pursued it… mostly because I don’t think I would have “made it”.  Oh sure, I can dance probably better than most, but I’m nothing spectacular. I equate it to my dropping OAC calculus because I was getting a 75% and didn’t want to bring my average down.  I gave up dancing as my main source of artistic inspiration in favor of the theatre, and finally, directing.  I think I made the right choice.

But still, I had to be a choreographer for the day.  And a good one.  Because my mom is notorious for talking me up.  To some of these people, I’m a big shot director from the Nation’s capital.  To me, I’m just… me.  But I digress.

I was having trouble coming up with choreo, but with a little help from my hubby, I felt inspired.  And when I got to rehearsal the next day, I walked into the room like I was the best damn choreographer there ever was (minus the huge ego, of course) and taught a 4 minute dance number in less than 3 hours.  And these people are “amateurs”!  And I have it on good authority that they choreography stuck!  They remembered it.  They are still having fun with it.

I went in there wanting to give those 8 women the confidence to execute the number with sass and power.  I had no idea that would rub off on me too.

Day 217 – Kindred Spirits

I love watching these two.  They work so amazingly well together.  Not only are they supremely talented, but they genuinely love what they do.  This is something my Mom often jokes about when talking about doing theatre:  “If it ain’t fun, I ain’t doin it.”  I firmly believe that my mom is loved so much by the audiences that watch her is because she truly enjoys every moment she has on stage.  That kind of love and joy is contagious.

These guys are contagious too.