By BRUCE DENNILL
Live performance is both one of the main drawcards of being a performer and one of the most stressful parts of it. At one point in the process of being involved in a new project do you cross that line?
I always seem to go through the same motions, which are excitement, followed by absolute panic and questioning how I even got into the rehearsal space, let alone the show! Then all of a sudden the production becomes part of who I am, and it is magical and hugely exciting again. This is usually the routine for me until the show opens. When the show moves onto stage, and I feel the audience and the excitement of opening night, it is the most incredibly fulfilling experience. I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude for what I do and the opportunity presented to me, but that’s usually only after I have switched off my brain…
Do you have techniques to improve either scenario – consistently enjoying the performance aspect (it is a job, after all) or mitigating the stress (of all the issues – from iffy pay to annoying audiences)?
I don’t really have a technique, but I have learned to allow myself the space to be irritated or unhappy. We often forget that, even though we have built who we are around being a performer and like to think of it as our lives, it is a job, and we are allowed to treat it as such. We don’t have to be sunshine and rainbows doing high-kicks and going for drinks after work. When I give myself this space, it became a lot easier for me to deal with the more difficult aspects of performing and all that goes with it. There are going to be good shows and bad ones, just like they are going to be good days and bad. The one thing that always helps in trying to remain happy is by simply trying to be in the moment. When you are in the moment, especially on stage, everything seems right with the world, and that is such a special feeling.
How do you choose projects? What needs to turn you on before you audition for something?
I like to audition for as much as I can when given the opportunity. I can usually feel whether or not it’s right for me, but sometimes, as my mom always says, one has to show the universe you’re sincere. Everything goes in circles. You must show up no matter what and honour yourself and the opportunity, even if it doesn’t necessarily translate into your getting or taking the job. I love to travel, and that has been quite a big drawcard for taking work, but I also love work that is new and exciting, or work that I know will make me grow and make my heart happy.
What are the hooks in a script that you like to hang a performance or the generation of a character on? Depth, dialogue, nuance, reality versus fantasy – what speaks most profoundly to you?
I think it’s finding the truth in the script. In all the pieces I have done I’ve made sure through everything – the dancing, the dialogue, the singing all of it – that there is truth in it. I believe it is in finding the simple, uncluttered truth that you discover the delicious depth that creates the nuance and dynamic that makes characters, and performances, relatable and engaging.
The lifestyle of a working actor is a difficult one to square with family life, or a day job, or half a dozen other aspects of a traditional routine. How do you make it work?
It really is. However, it is so much easier to maintain a routine when working, ha-ha! I think you get so used to balancing everything when you are in the flow of things. I am fortunate that I have friends and family who are hugely understanding of my career and willing to help when they can. You do miss being able to do normal people things like brunch on a Saturday, but I would much rather be working!
Touring a show can be the holy grail for an actor – long contracts, plus the excitement of seeing new places and performing for new audiences. It’s also arguably the biggest challenge to relationships – distance, communication and so on. Where does it fit in your list of priorities?
I have loved touring. I have been so fortunate to have opportunities to tour internationally. It almost sounds cliched. I get to see the world and do what I love – it doesn’t get much better! However, that being said – it certainly does have its downsides. You are away from the people who are often your main support structure, your family and friends. You also live and work with your castmates, which adds a different dynamic to life, as lines aren’t as defined. Being away is also a huge challenge to relationships. Long-distance is incredibly difficult, and nobody wants an ocean to hold space between you and the person you love, especially for extended periods. Please don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that I have been able to tour and I would like to tour again at some point, but right now I am happy to be back and focusing a bit more on life at home – friends, family, driving, and owning plants.
As a performer, you’re often asked to deliver on a set of expectations – the playwright’s; the director’s; the rest of the casts’; the audiences’… What sort of input do you prefer to (demand to?) have as an actor?
I don’t really say much, I don’t think. I always try and trust that the creatives have the production’s best interest at heart. I, for the most part, will always do what I am told unless it really doesn’t feel right, then I will try to make shifts within my performance. However, I do try not to think of anyone else’s expectations, because that would make me crazy.
What other roles do you, or would you like to, play in the industry – now or in the future? Writing, production, direction? And what about each or any of those excites you?
I am super interested in all facets of theatre-making. I haven’t really thought about what other roles I would like to play in the industry. I think if the opportunity presented itself, I would like to direct but only if I felt I could serve the piece and the people in it. I love costumes, so that would also be something to consider!