Get Out of Your Creative Comfort Zone

In any life, working in the arts or not, creative fulfilment is no guarantee, even with an Oscar or a series lead under your belt. That is why more and more artists are turning to or returning to the stage to ignite the fire!

A ton of big name stars such as Sally Field, Glenn Close, and Mark Ruffalo are back on Broadway this month. And everyone in New York is clamouring to get tickets to see Jake Gyllenhaal in Sunday in the Park with George during its limited run.

Cities like New York, London and even Toronto have always been long standing supporters of the theatre which has inspired actors to create their own work and find new collective ways to do just that.

Currently, in Vancouver, some of the city’s top film and TV talent are also migrating to the theatre to push themselves as actors and find new ways to tell stories they love. Casting Workbook recently had the opportunity to visit a rehearsal of The ARTery Collective’s new production of John Cariani’s play; Almost, Maine. The production features amazing local talent including Alison Araya, Alison Wandzura, Broadus Mattison, Craig March, Edwin Perez, Nancy Kerr, Nelson Leis, Sean Tyson, and Luvia Peterson.

We were so inspired by their commitment, so we spoke to the cast and team for a bit of advice on how to lead a more creative life!

The ARTery Collective of Vancouver

Artistic Director, Producer, and Actor Luvia Peterson (best known for her starring role on Syfy’s Continuum) was the anchor that got this whole production together. She had been feeling the desire to work on a play and found Almost, Maine by “literally going to the library and picking up plays!” From there she gathered a small group of friends and colleagues for a simple table read. Now, a mere five months later, the production is going up with full force at The Cultch Theatre’s Culture Lab.

Luvia says her main goal for the project has been to let it “happen organically.” With five producers, five directors, and nine actors this is a true expression of collective theatre, where team collaboration is key. For her, the experience solidified that she “loves working in a true artist collective!” Actor Alison Araya partially credited some of her recent TV bookings with the “accelerated learning experience” of producing this play.

Almost, Maine has nine vignettes, all of which are two-hander scenes. There is no linear story but a clear underlying theme: Love. Lost, found, and often confounded.

Tickets are on sale now!

Alison Wandzura and Nelson Leis are two other members of The ARTery Collective who wear various hats in this production. Not only are they acting, producing, and each directing a vignette, but they are also heading up the marketing and fundraising departments, respectively. For Alison,  it had been seven years since she had done a play. Since moving to Vancouver she was feeling that it was “hard to get into the theatre community.” For Nelson, his whole experience of theatre has been “self-produced collectives” and “so-called indie theatre.”

Artistic Director and Producer Omari Newton started off in the theatre and after years of successful Film and TV work he says this experience was like “coming home.” He also expressed his goal for this production and everything he chooses to work on these days as being about “choosing collaborators who’s artistic sensibilities and general world view align with [his].” Omari is also grateful for the learning experience, sharing that “directing gives you empathy and appreciation for what actors have to do. It’s magic, it’s so hard, they’re working so hard and making it look easy.”

It’s magic, it’s so hard, they’re working so hard and making it look easy.

Director Vanessa Walsh joined the the project with an intention to learn and to stretch herself as a director and actor. She shared details about the rehearsal process and how you “couldn’t do this with a non-vignette play” and that having so many directors and producers on board created an environment that was “more relaxed, and less pressure.”

We asked everyone on the team what keeps them going and grounded and the resounding response was the art and practice of persistence. Actor Broadus Mattison said that “the creation of a routine – the things you do for yourself, not just for the profession. Like reading, volunteering, crafts, or whatever sustains you and gives you a sense of grounded-ness” is his key to staying afloat in this industry.

Vanessa and Nelson both echoed this sentiment. Vanessa shared how for her the importance of a “morning routine” was essential. She urges all actors to “take action and take a big leap!” Nelson swears by daily meditation and learning to practice gratitude when you’re in a rut.

Behind the scenes during a rehearsal of Almost, Maine.

Across the board, each member of the cast was passionate about creating their own work. Actor Craig March offered wise words when he told us how he believes you should “allow yourself to fumble.” Actor Nancy Kerr sang the praises of staying in class and working on your craft, no matter when or how the work comes. While Alison Wandzura gave credit to the book The Desire Map for inspiring her. “Don’t peruse a goal, pursue a feeling!” was Alison’s take away from the bestseller. To stay grounded she constantly asks herself “Am I putting all my work towards how I want to feel?”

Many actors believe that once they get a recurring role on a TV show THEN they will be happier than they’ve ever been. But often as we start to achieve these goals and we check them off the list, it can be a reality check and sometimes a punch to the gut. Leaving one asking ‘why don’t I feel happy? I thought I’d be so fulfilled by this?’

During our conversation, Nelson stressed the importance of evolving, affirming that to succeed in this business “you have to learn the skill very quickly of being an entrepreneur.” He expressed that many actors can “get lazy” because “we want these things given to us, we all want the easy route, the carrot that is dangled, the series lead, the guest star. But for any entrepreneur outside of entertainment, it’s just the norm; you know you have to hustle!”

You have to hustle!

If you’re looking for ways to motivate yourself we suggest following any of the above or check out our blog about being a responsible actor and how to step up to the plate ready to knock it out of the park!

As we wrapped out visit with ARTery, Luvia noted “the work will come or it won’t. So you might as well get busy doing what you love, and then what you love will get busy finding you.”

Leaving us with all the feels, Omari’s main advice is to “spend your life in pursuit of what you love and what inspires you, because our time here is short and nobody knows when it’s done.”

We’re proud of all actors who bravely enter this field in pursuit of their goals and dreams! So go on and put up that play you love, write that feature you’ve been dreaming about, or shoot that short film with your friends just for fun!

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