Journey of a Lifetime

We’re nearing the end of our run of Journey of a Lifetime at Heritage Park. The show is a collaboration between Heritage Park and Quest Theatre Society.

I was cast to play a part in Winn Bray’s beautifully crafted play on immigration to Canada. I got to work with the imaginative and inspiring director, Kevin McKendrick. And now I get to share the Canmore Opera House with some incredible folks- bringing to life the Colonist train that took courageous and hopeful immigrants across Canada.

This show is going to tour across Canada- from Halifax to Vancouver, starting in September. How many times in our lives do we get to travel across our country? The last time I did, I was 22, or 23? I was living in a van and doing 5 fringe festivals. The trip was four months. We slept in parking lots and bathed in lakes. It was a great way to see the country. I’ll never forget the time we took out our set (which was a table and a couple of chairs) used it for fine dining on the side of the road; in one of those truck driver turn outs. We made soup on a Coleman stove and drank wine out of the bottle as trucks passed us on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Living the dream. Or a dream.

Orwell

I’ve decided to spend the summer working on a new show. A solo show that has shadow puppetry and I’m doing it in both official languages, oh and I’m gonna play live music.  No. Big. Deal.  I have no idea why I do this to myself. I get an idea for a show, apply for the grant, then when I get the grant I’m both ecstatic and terrified. Who the hell do I think I am to pull this off? Pressure makes diamond…. or hard shit.

The show: Animal Farm Treatment. Yup, good ol’ George Orwell’s classic animal allegory. However, I’m doing an adaptation, bringing the animal farm metaphor into our current economy of the have and have nots. About inequality, neoliberalism and globalization.  The hope is to bring the show to high schools, get students inspired to vote and question authority.

I didn’t read Animal Farm in High School. I read it about a year ago when my Dad handed me a copy, “I think you’ll like this Al”. He was right.  For the study guide to go along with the adaptation, I’m learning about George Orwell.  He died at 46. Of TB. But before he left this world, he had an extraordinary life. He was a police officer in Burma, joined an antifascist movement in Spain, got shot in the throat, lived as a poor writer in Paris and London, and published several books on all these experiences. When he wrote Animal Farm,  it was turned down by four publishers (mainly because British firms, sometimes on government advice, declined to offend the country’s Soviet allies).

I often wondering why I do shows with social or political messages. I mean, of course I know; I’m passionate about fighting for change. I’m pissed off about injustice and this is the way I want to raise awareness. But I wonder sometimes, because I’ll look out and see 5 people in the audience. Why am I not doing more commercial work? I’d have a better shot at getting an audience (and making a buck) if I just did the original Animal Farm.  From reading about Orwell, I am in awe of his ability to stay true to himself. And to tell the truth.

New goal for the show- be more like Orwell. Truthful and brave.