A Class By Herself: A Conversation with Actor, Writer, and Producer Kelly McCormack

Kelly McCormack is not an overnight sensation.

Such a thing doesn’t even exist, not really. Not even in this age of instant fame via Instagram. For people like Kelly, it’s about a lifetime of work that gets them to a point where success is suddenly found. The actor, writer, and producer who stars in the third season of the hit sci-fi show Killjoys, is filming a feature film she penned for next year and recently travelled to Taiwan for an opera. A quick internet search has Kelly showing up everywhere, but as she told me over the September long weekend, her wild amount of on-the-go projects lends itself to years of diligent work.

If you were looking for a Cinderella story, this both is and is not it.

Natasha Grodzinski: 2017 has been and continues to be a big year for you. What do you have on the go right now?

Kelly McCormack: From my perspective, I’ve been so busy for so long working on a lots of different projects. You put irons in the fire and it just so happens that 2017 was the year they all exhibited. It’s been a bit hilarious because my acting career, my writing career and my producing career have all coalesced for this one year of bananas. I’m on the show Killjoys which is a huge deal. I went to the audition — it was the first audition of the year, I booked it, and that kind of changed my year, because I was shooting the series from January to May. The TV show I produced for the CBC, The Neddeaus of Duqesne Island came out. We found out we got to moved forward with my feature film Sugar Daddy and I went to Taiwan for this opera. It’s been a little bit absurd, but amazing. I’m a total workaholic — I get stressed out when I have time off to relax. So, it’s been a lot of fun.

NG: Being idle isn’t something you do well?

KM: Oh my god, no. Laughs. I say that so honestly. When I was seven years old, they asked me to do a project on a superpower I wanted. There were lots of powers I wanted, but when I was seven I wrote I didn’t want to have to sleep because I wanted to get more work done. When I was younger one of my uncles told me you sleep for half your life. I was so devastated by that. I don’t do holidays well. The best kind of holiday is how I went to Taiwan for this opera, where I have to perform a bunch but can explore in between. I can deal with moments of high pressure and I feel like that’s when I’m the most myself and the least stressed. You know, I was the girl who rearranged her room every month and had all these decisions about what she was going to do. All of my bucket lists were books. That’s it.

NG: I would say that’s working out well for you now.

KM: Yes, I suppose. I’ve always wanted to be an actor. I started my academic life of writing in university. Producing I just love. I love putting pieces together and making stuff happen. But those were all done in the service of telling more stories and getting busier. In my film Sugar Daddy I play a musician as I also came up through music. I didn’t mean for it to boil over like this but it’s great. Like I said, I don’t do holidays well. I like being able to turn off my phone for  a day, but then I think, “Oh god, there’s all these things I should’ve been doing.”

NG: You touched on one of those aspects of storytelling I wanted to talk about, which is starting your own production company.

KM: Well, it kind of came out of nowhere. About three years ago I was supposed to be in this play, but it fell through. I did have this sweet part-time job at Seneca College. You know I always say artists live or die by their part-time jobs. People are always trading advice and secrets.This one was sweet, it was the holy grail of part-time jobs, but I got laid off there and a bunch of things just fell though. I had a super busy summer, then my slate was wiped completely clean. I was so stressed because it wasn’t where I saw things going. Then Ingrid Veninger, a very well-known DIY filmmaker in Canada, was doing this challenge for filmmakers to make a movie for only $1000. I was hanging with my friend Kristian Bruun, we were just talking about it and I thought, okay, screw it, I’ll write a feature film, the two of us will produce it and we’l put our friends in it. It was this really sweaty, insane summer exercise. I wrote it in two weeks, we shot it in two weeks and we produced the whole thing for $1000.

NG: Holy god.

KM: Yeah, it was crazy. The way that we cast it, with a budget like that, the more creatively involved you have to keep people. Everyone thinks you have to call in all these favours — don’t get favours, get people who are so hungry to make something happen. The way we assembled this cast and crew was like this: I asked Kristian, “Who would you not make a movie without?” He said, this person. Then we asked that person the same question and so on. We assembled this ride or die clan of people. Kristian and I didn’t sleep for two weeks, I sublet my apartment to pay the $1000, because even with a low budget like that it’s a lot of money. We produced this film called Play the Film. It’s a comedy, it’s really weird. It’s about these actors who aren’t booking work so they put on this play. Very meta about our lives, you know. It goes horribly wrong and they end up improvisation stage and making the most offensive play every to be put before an audience. It ended up doing really well and went to festivals around the world. It happened that I needed to put a company name on this film. I have this super righteous dog named Floyd and for some reason we call him Floyder. I wanted to immortalize him so I called the company Floyder Films.

Of course as the acting, writing and producing are going well, I’m thinking, what else can I do? I’ve started thinking about how I can grow the company and about better ways to monetize my ability to bring people together who love to tell stories and hopefully bring in some business-minded people, and hopefully, you know, just be a really powerful CEO one day. Laughs.

NG: One step closer to world domination.

KM: Yeah! I can say these things in interviews, like over the phone you know I’m not saying it in a different way, but I’ll see myself on paper saying, “I want to change the world!” I think, “Yeah, I sound really full of myself.” I’m sure lots of men say stuff like that and don’t worry about it.

At the same time, I am an outspoken feminist. I care about the representation issue in the industry. I care about telling stories that represent women and casting and hiring people of colour. The impetus from wanting to be successful with my production company is because I want to invigorate and hire people who may not normally get that opportunity, I want be a change in the industry. I’ve started trying to option books, which is a really fun thing. You get to read your favourite books and stalk the author and publishing company to try and convince them to give you the rights. Doing that is fun. I’m a big sci-fi reader and am always thinking of how I can make this story into a movie.

NG: Science fiction is a really fantastic space for progression.

KM: For sure! And you have all these people watching Star Trek or Star Wars where there are futures where race and gender don’t mean a thing. Mothers are realized to be at the centre of societies. I was finishing Dune over the weekend and mothers who reproduce and populate civilization are gods. There’s this future that we could be heading towards but it’s like, come on people! Sci-fi’s already there! That’s what great bout being on a show like Killjoys. I get scripts for my character and you don’t get the same ick factor as you do reading other scripts, when you’re thinking, “Ugh this is so gendered and so mildly racist.” It’s a wonderful space.

NG: Is that a direction you want your company to go in?

KM: I do talk about this a lot, about making movies without gender pain, without the ideas of the expectations we put on masculinity and femininity. I have a documentary I’m working on, and another series, and they centre around that topic.

NG: In your own writing, you have the film Sugar Daddy, which had a very familiar concept to me, having heard about it at school, but I wanted to talk about writing the stories you want to see.

KM: Well, Sugar Daddy is, first and foremost, about this up-and-coming musician. And she’s trying to make it. She’s broke and has yet to cross that threshold where she’s making money or getting noticed. Even without the sugar daddy, that’s not a story we see often. There are so many movies about artists trying to make it, and they’re all men! There’s this obsession with the male artist and the tortured, struggling musician. We’ve seen so many movies like that.

[Sugar daddies, at the basest definition, are rich men, usually older, who pay younger women to date them.]

She learns to package herself for all these other men in different ways. Then she learns how to package herself for the already sexualized music industry. It’s about the commodity of art and self-worth. It’s about sex as a commodity and generally the sexual politics that every single woman has to negotiate on a daily basis. You know, “Oh, this guy bought me a drink, do I need to talk to him now,” or, “This guy bought me dinner on a date, do I have the sleep with him now?” The things that half the population has to think about on an hourly basis is really what the film is about. It’s told through the eyes of this artist who is then regurgitating it into her music.

When I was in New York and had a million part-time jobs and all my friends were trying to make it on Broadway, a bunch of my friends did this. This was years ago, before it became the cultural phenomenon. My first reaction was disgust, but it took five or six years of being a producer in the industry and going to these parties to see how you don’t really have a choice in being commodified.You have to go through that stuff anyway.

NG: When you’re looking at roles you haven’t written, what are you looking for?

KM: In general, the type of roles that inspire me, whether I get offered them or not, are depictions of women we don’t see a lot. I like playing characters that have endgames, motivations and locations that are not not involved with them falling in love with a man, though I’m not saying I wouldn’t do a romantic comedy. Laughs. Like Zeph, for example, the character I play on Killjoys, she’s a science nerd. That’s her passion, her focus, her drive. In Sugary Daddy, she’s an artist, that’s her drive.

In terms of types of characters, I want to play the most opposite of the one I just played. I would love to have a career where someone calls me a character actor. I don’t really have an interest in defining this “Kelly brand” and delivering this ongoing character of myself. I became an actor because I love pretending to be other people. I’ve had some opportunities to play bizarre characters and I hope when I get to put them together, people don’t recognize me part to part.

NG: One of the weird characters I had to ask you about, and I watched the whole thing last week, is on The Neddeus of Duqesne Island.

KM: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. That show is probably one of the most proud things I’ve been a part of in my life. I produced that series and it’s written by Aaron Schroeder who came to me a couple of years ago with this crazy idea of making a faux NFB documentary. We shot it in the fall, and I also had the opportunity to be in the series as Eloida, the demonic twin. It was so much fun to be in. The whole point of the series was to mimic that ultra-naturalism from the documentaries, so it’s not about what you’re saying, it’s about the action and what you’re doing with your hands in the moment. The director Sam [Zvibleman] was really good at making sure the actors were not performing. I had this badass 70s costume that made the twins looks like the twins from The Shining. We went up into the woods in the fall and made this weird-ass show. The director would have us do the scene over and over again and improvise and by the end of the day, it didn’t feel like we were performing.

But yes, she was weird character. The dialect was weird and the way she stood was weird. She’s another interesting character where her motivation is actually world domination. That is Pinky and the Brain right there. Her interests are simple: she wants to rule the island and kill her brother. And going back to the roles I want to play, I don’t want to recognizable. I don’t want them to say, “Oh that’s Kelly McCormack.” I want them to say, “Who’s that weirdo? Oh, it’s Kelly!” Laughs. “Who’s that weirdo?” Those are the roles I want to play.

NG: If there were to be a brand, that would be it.

KM: Yeah!

NG: So with all the excitement this year, and with everything happening, where do you see these projects going?

KM: Oh my gosh good question. You know, as busy as it is, I have a constant fear that it will just end. As great as all this is, the upkeep is something that will require all of my energy. Killjoys got picked up for two more seasons, which is incredible. I don’t know what the means for me, but I didn’t die at the end of season three, so…

NG: That’s always a good thing in sci-fi. I didn’t die!

KM: Exactly, so who knows? Sugar Daddy is in the works and I have a couple of other TV shows I’m writing and pitching. I’m always upping the bar for myself. My standard and bucket list is growing. In terms of what’s next… I really want to focus on my production company and the types of films I’m developing. Because for me, I always say, I wanted to be an actor when I was seven and having this life of art was a dream. Then it became my life. It suddenly happens where you work hard and don’t have to do any more part-time jobs, you’re just supporting yourself off of your art. To me, that’s making it. That’s it.

Interview has been condensed for print. You can follow Kelly on Twitter here and Instagram hereContinue following our fashion and lifestyle coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

A Conversation with Tazito Garcia

In life, and often from a young age, we are often taken with the idea that we must map out our life. We are expected to know what career path we want to follow and wholeheartedly put everything we have into achieving our goals. When was the last time you reflected on your personal dreams and hopes for your future? Can you remember? We lose sight of what we first intend to do with our lives, pushing it aside for a more realistic career paths.

Actor, director, and pro-athlete, Tazito Garcia knows exactly what he wants in his life, and he does everything possible to achieve his dreams. Since he was very young, Tazito has been involved in many different high level sports, while maintaining an urge to perform at any given moment. He was born for the spotlight.

We had the opportunity to get to know Tazito and discover where he comes from, what he’s up to now, and where he plans to be.

Kimberley Drapack: Can you tell us a bit about your early years?

Taz Garcia: Where do I start? I travelled around the world, thanks to my parents. I have a big mix in my family, so it was inevitable that I would go and visit my cousins and then visit my other cousins. They were on two completely different continents, not even countries.

It was fantastic. I got to see the different cultures, different food, different religions, and different architecture. It was such a great experience.

K: It’s fun being on the road, but did you ever feel like you wanted to settle down at certain points?

TG: I did. I did my pro-sports, that was one of the reasons that I had to travel around a lot when I was young, and it was a little tough when I was in junior school. You make friends in your early years, and then you have to say goodbye, and then you go and meet brand new people.

It came to a point where in 2002, I landed in Toronto and I decided to start University here, and I’m going to settle here for at least the next ten years. I’ve seen enough of the world, for now.

I had a little breather to sit and settle and when I get bored of the snow, I guess I’m going to fly out again.

K: I’m sure the first winter here in Canada was a shock for you?

TG: It was really interesting when I got to Toronto. It had the taste of Europe, and it had a mix of the U.S., and some of the other cultures all meshed into one, so it was really cool.

Weather-wise, I don’t know if I’m really fond of having six or seven months of winter… I like my sun. Other than that, it’s been really kind to me.

K: What was the first sport that you played? When did you realize you were such a gifted athlete?

TG: Since I was a kid. I can almost envision myself coming out with a jumping kick out of my Mom. Or rolling out, or some kind of stunt.

Fortunately, I’ve had very athletic parents and they always believed that having two boys, if they could channel that energy into something productive, they found a certain outlet for us, which was sports, we would do well for ourselves. We wouldn’t use that energy for something bad.

I got enrolled into tennis and soccer. I always had something for martial arts, which they declined for a big portion of my life and kept saying, “no, you’re hyperactive the way you are, so if you learn to kick and punch, we don’t want you doing that in school and then getting suspended.”

I was committed, and in a way, stuck doing tennis and soccer but it turned out to be really amazing for me. I ended up playing with a lot of the tennis pros. Nick Bollettieri, who was the trainer of Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras. He took me under his wing and I went to his academy which was very militant, but very awesome.

When I was thirteen, I ended up playing for Manchester United, and it was really fun. I grew up with my “older brothers”: Kasper Schmeichel, Dwight Yorke, and David Beckham. Not just myself, but all the juniors, really hated the first team. It’s the older brother syndrome, where they say, “no, no, no, we’ll do it ourselves, and when we’re tired, and we feel like it, you can sub for us.” It’s 88 minutes, and in the last two minutes they would let us on. I was like, “shut up!” (laughs).

Funny story: I saw David Beckham get famous in front of my eyes, which was really cool. Before that, he was just known as “Becks.” He was sitting on the bench, and it was just like acting, sometimes you have to be at the right place at the right time, and you get that one opportunity, that one shot. It worked out for him, he ended up becoming a starter after scoring a very long-range goal. It was really inspirational in a way, sometimes if it feels like the right thing to do, and you just do it. I’ve taken that and translated it into my acting or directing. In this industry, it’s really hard at times and you get people asking why I don’t just go and get a normal job, something routine, something safe. But that little voice inside you tells you to keep going.

K: With all of your successes, I’m sure it just pushes you to keep going and to get rid of that little voice and say, Look at what I’ve done and look at what I’m about to do. 

TG: You’re absolutely right. I get this all the time. They’ll see a certain award that I’ve won and ask why I don’t just chill, or relax. I’m up here right now and if I don’t keep going, you’re going to have someone that’s going to pass you because they’re just as hungry and where you were a few days or a few weeks ago. If you go into cruise control, someone is going to pass you.

K: What transitioned you from sports to acting? Was it a big change?

TG: I was born a performer. I strongly believe that some people were born to perform or entertain, whether they’re mimicking actors or cartoons, or something they’ve seen in a commercial. That was me. I told a lot of my family that it was eventually something I wanted to do. I was probably seven at the time.

It wasn’t hard at all because as an athlete at a very elite level, you have to perform. It’s the same mechanics. You have to have your fans and you have to be a good performer in order to maintain your fans or gain new ones. You have to push, or you become old news, and someone who is better, faster, and stronger than you will out perform you.

K: So, you have to keep a lot of energy up.

TG: On point, you have to be. You’re on your toes all the time.

K: The Briefcase (2011) was your big-screen debut in Hollywood, as the director and star of the film. It earned you several nominations and awards, notably the “Breakout Male Action Star” (2013) at the AOF International Film Festival in Los Angeles. Can you tell us a little about this experience?

TG: The Briefcase is a homage. You go back and you want to relive some moments from a certain time. That’s exactly what I did with The Briefcase. There are people that sit back with their hands tied back and wait for the phone to ring, and there’s people that get up and make things happen. I didn’t go to film school for it, it was my second production as a director and said: “let’s make this happen.”

I wrote the story, directed it, cast the actors, and starred in it. It’s sometimes hard to star in it, because to direct yourself, you have to break out of character, but it turned out really well and was well received by the audience. All the funds that we made for our screenings I donated to Sick Kids Hospital.

K: Do you prefer one role more than the other in terms of either directing or performing?

TG: I’ve worn many hats, but at the end of the day, I think everyone would call one hat their favourite, and I call acting my favourite.

I can’t deny that being behind the camera has made me become a better actor. You have an idea and a vision and know why you’re standing this way, and you know why it may take a little longer for someone to set up the lights, because you have been on the other side. You know how to get that perfect picture that sometimes takes a little bit of a set-up.

As an actor, you can sometimes get a little impatient, and ask, “what’s taking so long? You just move the camera from the left to the right. Just hit that rolling button.” But when you’re behind the camera, you see. Just two degrees can make that massive difference between lighting and how it’s hitting your face, whether you have your marks, the depth of field. You learn a lot and you get to appreciate everyone’s role from behind the camera to in front of the camera. Everything makes that complete picture in the end.

K: Did you feel as though you had a team behind you that could help you spot those little things, or was it a little hard to get into at the beginning?

TG: One of the toughest things is when you are directing yourself, but once you have a solid team behind you and have a good Director of Photography, or a good First Assistant Director, that’s there when the actual director is not available for whatever reason, it’s one of the easiest things. It’s smooth sailing and you trust their opinion and their vision and you share it. You don’t want someone to come up with their own version of what you want.

K: You starred in Lost in the Pacific (2016), one of the largest Hollywood/Chinese co-productions where you were the sole Canadian actor selected to join the international cast alongside Brandon Routh (Superman Returns), Russell Wong (Romeo Must Die), and Vincent Ward (Walking Dead). Tell us about this experience.

TG: It was amazing. They called me up and said they had a mercenary role for me. I wasn’t sure because I’ve done way too many army/mercenary/police roles, and I asked if they had anything else. They called me back and they had a prince role, and I thought, “sure, I’ll play Prince Charming.”

It was a really fun cast and crew to work with. We shot it in Malaysia at Pinewood Studios. I’ve never been to Malaysia, so it was another experience of culture and food and everything that makes Malaysia beautiful.

K: Working in film, you’re often on set in various locations around the world. Is it ever too much? Do you ever feel like just being at home?

TG: I’m not going to lie, if you’re in this industry, it is expected that you’re going to live out of a suitcase some of the time. I always say that I live at 22 Suitcase Avenue. My friends understand why, they will call me up and ask if I can come out, and I’ll reply with, “sorry, I’m in Vegas.” It’s really cool and a blessing. It’s something positive.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have said they’ve never been out of town except to go to Niagra, or Montréal. I’m not going to bash it.

K: You are known for performing your own action scenes and stunts. What are the challenges of this, or do you see it as just another part of your character?

TG:  It’s always part of my character. I love it and I always look forward to the action.

I never see it as a bad challenge, but as a positive challenge and an opportunity for me to grow. If in every movie I do something that I’ve done before, it’s boring for myself and for the audience. You always have to create something. They’ve seen you jump out of a car, and then they say, “ok, let’s get this car moving.” Or, let’s jump out of a helicopter. You always want to push yourself that much more and not only is it a challenge for yourself, but it’s that much more pleasing for your audience and your fans.

If you keep doing the same thing, it becomes like a bad joke that you keep repeating, or, it was really good back then, but now it’s not funny anymore. It’s the same thing with the action, you always want to reinvent some of the older stuff; put it in a blender and come up with a new mix.

You have to listen to the fans. They are your compass.

K: What is the best way that you get input from your fans?

TG: Social media right now is huge. It’s one of the easiest ways for us to connect way across the oceans and borders. I can just hop on social media and check their feedback to see what they like and what they want less of. You’ve got to deliver it because that’s what they look forward to.

K: What can we expect from you in the near future?

TG: I’m at the Action on Film Festival right now in Vegas and I’m returning as the youngest recipient of Dr. Goldman’s Icon Award from last year. This year it’s huge for me and a for a lot of the stunts in the action community because they are commemorating all of the action stunt heroes and performers. It means a lot to me to be here. You may have recently read what happened on set of Deadpool and Mad Max. You hear about all the accidents and these performers and talented people who put their skill, sweat, bones, and sometimes even life on the line and then they just get a pat on the back. This is one of the few times that someone actually stood up and wanted to give them a proper thank you.

K: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

TG: In five years from now I see myself as the next top, or highest paid action star. I’ll make Canada proud, because I don’t remember the last time the highest paid action star was a Canadian. I would use that to inspire the younger generations and help the younger generations.

K: Do you have any family members that come with you on big trips?

TG: I travel with friends and family and a crew. If I can have fun, why can’t I share the fun? There’s no point in success if you keep it all to yourself. There’s no true happiness unless you can share it with people. It’s that family feel that I love.

K: That must be really exciting.

TG: It is. This is why I always tell people, and I tell them all the time, to remember that you are going to hear that people find this industry unorthodox. It’s not your typical doctor, engineer, sales position. It’s tough. You have to listen to the little voice inside and give it a thousand percent. Not one-hundred percent. You have to go all in, have that thick skin, and show them that it can be done.

K: Do you feel as though you often have to fight to prove to people why your dreams are valid and prove to them why this is what you are supposed to be doing?

TG: It’s kind of like a hiccup. If I run into someone and they say they’re a doctor, or in sales, and I reply that I’m an actor, they don’t know how to follow up with it. To them, it’s unorthodox and usually hits them in the head.

I always felt that you should listen to your voice. If you can give up the typical path, the nine to five, if you stop for one little second and go back to when you were a little younger and remember your dreams, what would have happened if you pursued that? Maybe you would have been phenomenal or one of the top ten people in the world within that field.

K: Of course. You don’t want to be ten years down the line and feel as though you haven’t pursued what you wanted most.

TG: I strongly believe you never want to look back and wished you had spoken to someone, or played more of a certain sport, or spent more time with family. Do it right now, just do it now.

K: Do you have any films in the works at the moment?

TG: I have something that is still in the preproduction stages and is something we want to be camera ready early 2018. It’s based on a short film called First Bust. It’s an action-comedy with a touch of fantasy. We’re looking to have A-listers and B-listers, but my main goal is to have it as the biggest Canadian-Chinese co-production.   

We are finalizing everything with the script, locking in producers and locations. I don’t think there has been any Canadian-Chinese co-productions, but I know that Hollywood and China have done a couple in the past year.

We’re looking at shooting in Shanghai right now. They just opened a brand new mall that is the size of ten football fields. It has an indoor beach and the entire thing is marble.

To stay updated with Taz Garcia, you can follow his many social media accounts on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and continue following our arts & culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

A Couple of Storytellers: a Conversation with Andrew Shaver and Marie-Ève

A synopsis of Ivan Viripaev’s Illusions on Crow’s Theatre’s website reads, “Passion and death, loyalty and betrayal, truth and fiction, hope and despair, Illusions is a deceitfully dark comedy that playfully unravels the paradoxes of the lives of two couples.” To watch the play, for couples in various stages, seem equal to attending an event where so much self-consciousness and suffering is foreordained; the disparity between rom-coms and life is disheartening, but the similarities, the moments of recognitions in art is a downright catalyst. Perhaps for the better; perhaps for the worse. Imagine the conversation on the ride back home, the late-night not-quite-sleepy thoughts.

Now imagine you were a real life couple delivering the unraveling of ‘paradoxes of the lives of two couples.’

Andrew Shaver and Marie-Ève Perron, who are partners in life, will do just that as partners in storytelling. Andrew, who is also a co-director in the production, plays Man 2 while Marie-Ève plays Woman 2, infusing their voices that carry their personalities and experiences into Viripaev’s text. I called them up the other day to ask about the production and the creative process in talking about a subject in such proximity to their lives.

Due to scheduling conflicts, we could not conduct a three-person interview and instead I spoke to them separately and asked some similar questions; I have conflated portions of the interview where appropriate. 

Hoon: What drew you to Ivan Viripaev’s Illusions

MÈ: I actually saw a production of Illusions and I really liked the text. And I was really excited to come and work in Toronto, in English. It’s my first time playing here, and it’s a big challenge for me as a French Quebecer who spent like 10 years in Paris not speaking English at all. I also really like the space at the Crow’s and it’s exciting to do a production in a new theatre. The group that we are, those who are playing with me, I like them and I thought it’d be fun to play the show together.

A: Marie-Ève introduced the play to me. The initial impulse came first but when I read it, I felt a lot of exciting theatrical potential in it. The text has an interesting and layered storyline. I was drawn to the potential dramatic and comedic possibility of the text. I also knew I wanted to work with Marie-Ève on a piece. She wanted to act in something in English in Toronto and this was an opportunity. So when I was considering texts to do that with, it became obvious that Illusions would be a really interesting fit because it speaks of two women and two men on stage speaking about lives and love and death and betrayal and sadness and illusions. I thought it could be a really good fit for Marie-Ève and I to be actively doing together. Initially, I was thinking of just directing but then I thought, Well, no, it would be nice to act with her, especially on this piece with such a thematic resonance. And it was from there that I thought of Brett Donahue and Laurence Dauphinais who are also a real life couple composed of an Anglophone and a Francophone.

H to Marie-Ève: Describe your character for us. How did you prepare for your role? 

MÈ: It’s interesting because it’s not a usual play — we are playing storytellers who are mostly telling a story about two couples, Danny and Sandra, and Margaret and Albert. I’m Woman 2 and there’s a Woman 1 and there are Man 1 and 2 as well. The author is really funny. At the beginning of the play he wrote, These four people come onto the stage just to tell the story, as if we have no other purpose than to tell the story. But of course we are telling a love story — one couple’s been together for fifty years and the other has been together for fifty four years — so of course what we are telling will be influenced by our perceptions and the way we tell it.

H to Andrew: Were there any difficulties working with a translated text? 

A: I got my hands on the English translation, the one we’re presenting and truth be told I think it’s a fantastic translation. But I also had the French translation that was helpful in cross-referencing ideas. The French translation came second and there are subtle shifts in the text. I think it’s more than just shifts between sensibilities in English and French translations. The French translation happened two or three years after the English one and the play evolved over that time. You know I haven’t spoken to the playwright about this but I can only assume that the shifts that happened in the translations are something he condoned. So his evolution in seeing the play has grown, rightly. So we’re not doing an adaptation by any means, we are presenting the English translation. But it is informed by our access to the French translations and its sensibilities.

H: I know this isn’t your first project together but it seems that Illusions may be the first one that deals so directly with relationships. Could you tell us what it was like working alongside each other on this production? 

MÈ: It was interesting because the first time we worked together he was directing and I was on stage. It’s a different perspective with a different relationship because there’s the director and there’s the actor. But this time, he’s the director but he’s also acting and we’re playing a couple together. It’s a different process with a different way of talking to each other. Usually in life we like the same things; artistically speaking, we have similar tastes. It was easy on that part — we agree on when some thing is working or when some thing is not. It is challenging in the sense that we speak more directly to each other than we would to, say, a coworker. But mostly I would say that it was fun trying to create together. Of course we all share different stories together and some of the things we are telling remind us of what’s happened to us or what could happen to us, which makes it a good reflection of our own lives.

A: That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do the play; the real life resonances in the text. It’s not without its complications, for sure. Any creative process, from my perspective anyways, with your partner involved is potentially — not necessarily, potentially — fraught with frustrations and miscommunications, arguments. Truth be told, we’ve managed to steer clear of most of those. When you wake up with a person, you go to work with that person, and you are creative with the person then you come home with that person… there’s not a whole lot of relief. It can become more agitated than it needs to. The fact that Brett and Laurence go home together — they have their own dynamic, which Marie-Ève and I aren’t a part of. So any pressure that might build up during the rehearsal day or in any process [between us], when everyone leaves, it sort of escapes and the next day you just start again. But when you are working with your partner, you have to be really vigilant about not bringing that tension home because it will become a pressure cooker. We are two people who, when we go home, will continue to talk about the work. For me, for Marie-Ève, for us, we had to learn to leave the work where it is and to be partners again. We had to try not to affect our lives as partners affect our working relationship. But then again, the lines are intentionally blurred in this play. So I think we are just gluttons for punishments, so to speak [laughs].

H: You both work across film, television, and theatre. What would you say, as an actor and a director, makes theatre different from or exciting in ways not found in film and television?

MÈ: It’s the audience. The fact that we play in front of real people and it’s about communication; it’s direct and raw. I think that makes it thrilling and exciting — nobody will edit anything at the end. We’re responsible from the beginning to the end to what we’re bringing to the stage and giving to the audience. I really like that part, which is something film and television don’t have.

A: I love TV and film. I love them but theatre is my first love and when you have your first love, it’s hard to kick that. But what I love about theatre doesn’t exclude my love of tv or film, because they have their own things that make them wonderful. But with theatre, a lot of it for me is the process, the fact that you actually get to dig in for weeks on a text with the artists and the creative team. In film, that’s just often not the case; there’s neither time nor money for that. But the process is sort of part and parcel of what makes theatre theatre; the fact that you spend weeks working on something with people; then you have to bring that night after night after night and bring the work to light over and over again to the audience. The creative process for me and the rehearsal process is for sure about understanding the text and characters and the arc of the piece, but it’s also about living and breathing as an ensemble. Again, I don’t mean to say that this is not necessarily the case in film or television, but it is true of theatre for me. It’s about teamwork and the ensemble. For me I think that came right from playing sports and loving collaboration, being on a team, and doing something as a unit. I love the fact that we get the chance to try again and again, and totry something new: it’s like a baseball or a hockey team, ‘the power play is not working, we gotta do something different tomorrow night.’ That’s what theatre is for me.

Hoon to Andrew: I’ve asked the same question to a few directors and I think you’re the first one to speak less about the audience and more about the process behind the stage and what goes on it.

A: So many of us talk about the audience because we love the audience. But I also think it doesn’t need to be binary like that: theatre is about audience and tv and film are not about the audience. TV and film are also about the audience. It’s on a spectrum. It’s ultimately done to share with an audience and the way we share is different. But in all mediums, the work is shared with the audience.

Hoon to Andrew: How would you describe your style as a director?

A: I think my approach changes every time, given the new material and new stimulus, new teammates. Like a coach — a coach brings in a system and the players execute the system. But I don’t think the system can exist in a vacuum, it can’t just exist in a coach’s head. He or she needs to be able to communicate that to the team for them to execute it. And I think it needs feedbacks need to come back to the coach and there’s going to be a back and forth. I think, for me, that’s what it is: I have a strong idea of what it is that we should be doing, an aesthetic I gravitate toward, and a lens I look through and come back to at moments of confusion. But ultimately it needs to involve the imagination, intellect, and instincts of the entire creative team. And not just the performers but also the designers and stage management; the development of a true creative ensemble voice. It needs to come through, I think, for it to be cohesive, a single lens’s end but I don’t think it needs to begin and end with that single lens. In fact, for my money, that’s limiting. To have the opportunity to have access to many imaginations over one single imagination is a gift.

Hoon to Marie-Ève: What are some roles or ideas you’d like to explore in the future? 

MÈ: I like to sing, so I would like to play with that, something where there’s more singing. I watched really great documentary plays lately that I really enjoyed. I like this kind of theatre and it intrigues me.

Crow’s Theatre production of Ivan Viripave’s Illusions, directed by Andrew Shaver and Paul Flicker and starring Brett Donahue & Laurence Dauphinais and Andrew Shaver & Marie-Ève Perron opens on Friday, April 21st and closes on May 7th. You can purchase your tickets here.

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