The Funny Voices

"What comes from the heart goes to the heart. The rest is Funny Voices." – D.M.

Book Of Mormon Is Selling Something.

Book of Mormon is spectacularly performed, wittily written, tightly and effectively choreographed, and beautifully composed and orchestrated. It’s also a two-hour advertisement for a flawed product that the audience eagerly invests in even before they get off their seats for the inevitable standing ovation.

Can you guess what BoM is selling? I’ll give you a hint: it’s a musical about a bunch of white missionaries who go to Uganda to convert black people. The 2011 National Household Survey tells us that Toronto is 53% white and 7.2% black. The Princess of Wales theatre has a nice round capacity of 2000, which means if n reflects N then n(w) should be 1,060 and n(b) should be 144.* If the theatre was a perfect microcosm of the GTA there should be 1,060 white people and 144 black people in the audience. So how many black people did I see at the theatre? Four. Yes, I was keeping a running count, and no I do not have perfect access to the racial demographics of the Princess of Wales theatre for 06/04/2013, but I do have eyes and I was sitting on the balcony. The audience was an ocean of white. That’s your clue.**

Need another one? Ok, I’ll bite: I’m willing to go 100% all-in on the fact that there wasn’t a single Mormon in the theatre. Now raise your hand if you’ve got it. Still nothing?

The answer is: your life.

I bet you thought this was going to be a racial thing, didn’t you? No no no, in this case race is only a symptom, it’s the shell game that dazzles you so you don’t feel the hand on your wallet. What’s really important is creating otherness.

BoM is being watched by “white people that will happily drop $100-$150 on a musical they know will make fun of Mormons”, in other words 0% of the characters represented onstage. The whole thing is a brilliant pageant of schadenfreude in which everyone onstage has a worse life than the people in the audience, but they’re singing and telling jokes so no one has to feel guilty. We see people who say they have terrifying medical conditions but none of them have any symptoms. We see 18-year-olds giving their lives to a religion they don’t even understand but it’s cool, man, they’re singing. It’s the perfect balance: you get to see people whose lives are worse than yours, but the jokes free you of responsibility so you don’t have to feel bad about it or do anything. You get all of the superiority and none of the responsibility. As I left the theatre people were buzzing. Suddenly our lives don’t seem so bad!

BoM hit in the sweaty middle of the economic recession and it’s no wonder why, it’s the best thing to happen to North American capitalism since Wealth of Nations. You enter the theatre carrying the ten thousand tensions that compose your life’s decisions, and you leave with those decisions totally validated. Your unconscious hates change and is always trying to preserve the status quo and BoM is your unconscious’ all-you-can-eat buffet. “These people who are nothing like you are having a terrible time”, it whispers, “so you must be doing something right, and I bet if you get three more subprime mortgages you can see the show again”! The whole show is a glorification of how bad your life isn’t compared to Mormons and Africans, it gives you joy because it validates your own mediocrity.

What are people more likely to buy: something that shows them how flawed they are, or something that tells them they’re already great? Book of Mormon is selling the latter, and people are buying it like bad debt.


*NHS 2011 is here, and the Princess of Wales seating capacity comes from google.

**”Race” is fake. “White” and “black” are meaningless terms, but the census is structured like that, we culturally still give them power, and the otherness created in Book of Mormon uses those mental labels, i.e. “those people are not like me because they are Mormon, and those people are not like me because they are black”.

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And The Wiener Is…

So politics has been almost literally on fire in our country for the last few weeks (“our country” is Canada, by the by), and what with the electoral upsets and the shameful resignations and the thick veil of crack smoke hanging over everything you may be forgiven for missing this little tidbit about how Anthony Wiener hired a playwright, Jessica Provenz, to help him Write A Thing in anticipation of his bid to become New York’s mayor. The Thing in question is a 21-page document entitled Keys To The City that outlines 64 proposals intended to be the triumphant raft that carries Wiener from the horrors of the foundering Medusa to whatever that other ship is in the distance in the Raft of the Medusa. Or wait, did the horrors take place on the raft? I’m drunk, don’t judge me.

When I found out that Wiener had hired a playwright in the overture of his grand bid to re-enter public life, my first reaction was something like “ooooooooooh!”, the same noise you made when you found out that Joss Whedon was directing The Avengers or that Netflix had resurrected Arrested Development, the feeling of something that Made A Lot Of Damn Sense making a lot of damn sense. I’m a pretty simple guy, I like my theatre and I like my politics, so for me this collaboration carried the potential excitement of Alien Vs. Predator, only good. I had high hopes for that document and surprise, surprise, I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, Keys to the City is very concise and well written, I would even be so bold as to say it is the best-written municipal policy package for the city of New York that you will read this year. But there’s enormous potential for the union of theatre and politics, and Keys doesn’t exactly Step Up 2 Tha Streets, so to speak.

Wiener thanks Provenz on the last page of Keys “for assisting with the words and the numbers”, but that seems to be the extent of their collaboration so far, and that is a shame. Provenz is clearly a good writer; there are some subtle-yet-poetic flourishes in the text that I’m 100% certain came from her that really keep the momentum of the ideas chugging along, but getting a playwright to help a political campaign by writing a good policy document is like getting an iPad to use as an alarm clock: I mean yeah, it works but dude did you know you can get Fruit Ninja on that thing? Writing words real good is a part of what playwrights do, but one of the other things that they do is arrange a series of events to be witnessed that simultaneously convey information and also connect on deeper emotional levels in a sophisticated sequence that brings the audience through an experience and leaves them at the end having perceived a number of independent moments as a unified whole called a “narrative”. Does that sound like the kind of thing that could maybe be of use to a political campaign?

Ok, let’s peek through the looking glass for a second.

Your brain is constantly bombarded with sensory information as it intakes the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, proprioceptions, electromagnetic proximities, whispers from Satan And His Hungry Devils, etc. that make up this thing we call life, and when your brain intakes inputs from the 10,000 senses that you actually have it does two very crazy things (well more but I’m gonna say two to make this point).* The first thing it does is synchronize all of the information into definable moments so that, for example, when you drop a plate on the ground you hear it shatter and see it shatter at the same time, even though sound and light travel at vastly different speeds: you receive the sound and the sight separately, line them up, and then you perceive them happening at the same time and please don’t have an aneurysm quite yet because I have more to say.** The second crazy thing that happens is that your brain creates this vivid moment, you perceive that moment, and then it immediately creates another moment for you to perceive, and it is the difference between these two moments that is what we call reality. You are perceiving an independent series of moments but you interpret the changes between them as having logic and, to some extent, predictability, and this is why we have airplanes and poop in a special room instead of spending our lives adrift in a hurricane of sensory insanity. Stringing potentially unrelated inputs into a digestible narrative is the most basic thing that your brain is always doing. It is literally how we are wired.

Political campaigns are narratives, and they are often very, very poorly constructed narratives. I have never seen an example of a winning campaign that had a less focused narrative that its competitors. In fact, I’ll even say that clarity in narrative trumps content. It doesn’t really matter what you’re saying, if you say it more clearly than everyone else you will win. There are a lot of reasons that I think this and the full slugfest about what those reasons are is for a different article, but let’s take a second to reminisce about, I dunno, Obama vs. McCain, or Obama vs. Romney, or Harper vs. Dion, or Harper vs. Ignatieff, or the success of the Tea Party vs. the success of the Republican Party. When you see the word “Obama” what’s the first thing you think of, quickly don’t think just answer. Was the first thing “Obamacare”? Congrats on finally getting the internet in South Carolina. No, the first thing you thought was “Yes We Can”, and that, people, is what we call a clear goddamn narrative.

I mean, look at what just happened in British Columbia. The pre-election Angus Reid forecast had the Liberals at 36% and the NDP at 45%, and when the dust settled on election day those numbers were almost perfectly reversed, what the hell happened? Well, in this Globe and Mail article Gary Mason identifies all the right ingredients and then spectacularly fails to reach the right conclusion; it’s like he delicately blended the perfect cake mix and then hurled the bowl through his kitchen window. Mason in his headline says that “negative campaigning” was the clear winner in the B.C. election but he’s wrong, the actual winner was clear campaigning. Look at the two narratives that Mason describes: one is the story of a freight train of mismanagement by the former NDP government that the current leader Adrian Dix was riding shotgun for, the other is faint, positive promises about “skills training”. The difference between these things is that one of them is a story and the other is a grocery list. Voting for a grocery list is about as sexy as a dental check-up, but when you vote for a story you become part of the story. Mason even notes Obama as an exception to the negative campaign rule but Obama’s campaign isn’t an exception at all if you look at it as the clearer campaign. Tone doesn’t matter. Content doesn’t matter. What matters is the story that you’re asking voters to take ownership of.

Anthony Wiener has a hell of battle ahead of him if he wants to re-enter the spotlight as something other than a penis that made mistakes, but he has the ingredients to tell one hell of a story. I’ll be watching to see if Provenz takes a larger role in shaping his campaign as things progress. In the meantime, maybe the B.C. NDP should think about putting out a notice on the E-drive. I have lots of talented friends who could use a job.

*the idea that humans have only five senses is a myth, you can get a little primer on the idea of the other senses that we have here.

**if you want to go further down this rabbit hole, check out the work of Dr. Benjamin Libet. I recommend starting with his very well-sourced wikipedia page.

Keep The Spider In Your Sight.

I got two comments on my last post (which you can find here) that I want to respond to in-depth. Let’s dive right in.

Robin Kerr: “…The feeling (sic) that you are describing are real, and accurate – but I don’t think you should be looking for someone to blame (whether it is us onstage, or the culture of your audience) Even challenging ourselves to try harder is still just an expression of your emotions – rather than an insight that you can use to bring about change.”

Anonymous: “…I wonder: do you ever notice the non-bored looking ones in the front? The ones that can’t stop staring straight into your eyes in admiration? What would you say to them?”

What would I say to them, indeed.

I

In Vancouver where I was raised there are a lot of spiders. Generally the ones you see are garden spiders that make big pretty webs exactly at face height so you can walk straight into them while you are going to your car in the morning and wake the neighbourhood with your screams, but once in a while you’ll see what is soothingly known as a wolf spider. Wolf spiders are large, hairy, and fast. They don’t spin webs which means they like to be low, on the ground, and they hang out almost exclusively in The Last Fucking Place You Want Them To. I’ve found them in sinks, in hallways, in my room; I’ve turned around, then turned back one second later to find one sitting three feet away from me like it’s auditioning for Scream 8 (get it?!). But here’s the thing about wolf spiders: when you first see them they are never moving. They are hunters, and they hunt by waiting. The moment that you see the wolf spider is always a shock. Your brain will immediately think something like oh my god that is my hallway and there is a monster in my hallway and the monster was there all along CALL THE POLICE

At this point you have two options.

If you’ve dealt with wolf spiders before you know that it won’t move if it doesn’t have to. You can calmly keep it in your view as you back away slowly, slowly, and then you can slowly roll up a newspaper and swat it, or drop a bowling ball on it, or walk outside and drive your car through the wall of your house to crush it, or if you own a lot of Lululemon and eat at the Naam you can trap it under a glass with a piece of paper and sing to it or buy it tiny dresses or whatever it is you people do. The point is that the first option is to keep it in sight and deal with it calmly.

You can also take the second option, which is to do what years of being sheltered from the primal terror of predators makes you want to do. You can let out a sound like WAAAAAAAAAEOEOOOEAOEEEE!!!!!!!! and do a headfirst dive through the nearest window, which means the spider is going to run incredibly fast into some one-centimetre crack between the floorboards or into the wall or if you’re really lucky under your bed, and at that point your day is ruined. You know the spider is there, it’s in the room, but you can’t see it anymore. You’re going to have to spend the next hour chasing it around trying to get it out in the open again, or worse, you’re won’t find it at all and you’ll have to go to sleep hoping you don’t wake up to find it setting up a rec room in your right nostril. You can’t do anything in your house without looking around every five seconds to see if the spider is making its move. The spider owns you now.

II

Let’s go on a little thought experiment together. You’re an actor. You’re in a show. You’re at places. You’re standing in the wings. What is it you want? I’m not talking about your character, I’m talking about you, the human being, right now.

If you’re a less experienced actor then maybe what you want is to act really well, which means you’re going to go out there and try to do stuff, or worse, pretend to do stuff instead of just doing stuff, and at that point no one can help you. However, if you’ve huffed and puffed your way through enough shows you’re probably a little less selfish/insecure/afraid, so instead you want to go out there and communicate the play to the audience.* Your job isn’t to “act well”, it’s to communicate the play. That’s what you intend to do when you step foot on the deck.

So you step foot on deck. You’re going through the actions of the play. Then, during a Very Important Scene where you are really giving it you look out in the audience and see someone texting with a bored expression on their face.

Stop. Close your eyes right now. Vividly picture this moment. Anyone who has ever performed onstage or anyone who has ever spoken in front of people knows this moment. See the glare of the bright lights, feel the heat of those lights, see the small glow from the phone screen palely illuminating this person’s face, see their heavy eyelids, feel the exact moment that you realize they don’t care about you. What’s your first reaction?

I’d be willing to bet that 95% of you felt anger, or annoyance, or one of the hot, red emotions, the kind of thing that you feel when you see someone yelling at their dog in public or when some shitty teenager doesn’t give up a bus seat to an elderly person, the kind of scalding white fury your body gives you when there is a wrong to be righted. I feel it sort of behind my eyes, like someone has just tugged my entire scalp backwards. You don’t control this reaction, it happens to you, and now it is in full swing. You turned around and saw the spider, and now you have two options.

III

Here’s the million dollar question: why do we get angry when the audience isn’t paying attention? Why does our autonomic nervous system think that “getting angry” is the best reaction to someone ignoring us? What does “getting angry” help us accomplish, what goal does it help us attain?

The answer is obvious, of course: getting angry will be incredibly useful if we are going to lose our shit on that person. Our anger will quiet the small, reasonable voice in our head that says “do not throw that audience member out the window” and will send energy to our rage centre so that we may with more strength and speed throw that audience member out the window. It doesn’t prepare us to confront that person in a rational discussion of minds, it prepares us to destroy that person.

This is the fun part: if we did take a second to throw that person out the window, dump a bucket of ice water over our heads, and then flawlessly resume the show, did that help us communicate the play? No, it didn’t, and in fact it probably seriously damaged our ability to communicate the play, as the rest of the audience is now scared of us/calling an ambulance/picking glass out of their scotch mints.** So if our bodies’ natural reaction isn’t helping us achieve our stated goal, what is it doing? Again, the answer is clear: we are attempting to preserve the status that our position onstage gives us, which this person and their BBM habit have undermined. We get mad because we’ve been put in a lower position than we think we deserve. We want more respect than they’re giving us. What’s revealed by the anger isn’t the bad behaviour of the audience member, it’s the bad mentality of the actor.

We think we deserve to be watched with that quiet admiration that anonymous very beautifully described above, but we feel we deserve it from everyone, all the time, and it is the audience’s problem if we’re not getting it. We actually have the balls to call an audience that laughs at all the right places and sits in their seats and doesn’t cough a “good” audience, and an audience that is restless and tired a “tough crowd” or a “quiet house”, and we always rush to qualify with something like “but I think they’re still with us”, but in none of these terms we use to define the quality of the audience do we allow our own performances to enter into the equation. Oh sure, we get insecure and frustrated with how we’re doing “that night”, you often hear people say “I’m really not feeling it” or “I’m really feeling it” when they’re giving the exact same performance you’ve seen dozens of times, but no one ever says “hmm, I don’t think I’m getting through to those younger guys in the front, they’re bored, I’m going to try to include them more”, and that is fucked up.

If your real goal is to communicate the play to the audience, the real people who are really in front of you, then seeing someone answer a text message is a gift. It is a clear signal that this member of the audience is not receiving your play, and you simply need to adjust accordingly. It’s the first rain of the year showing you where the holes in the roof are. If, however, you’re up on stage to be stared at by rapt admirers, then a person texting in the front is an abject failure that shatters your own perceptions of your performance. A play is a living thing, it’s not a sculpture, you don’t unveil it in front of an audience every night and let them passively look at it. It’s an active pursuit, and adjusting for specific audiences that have vastly different temperaments and attention spans is not just part of our job, it is all of our job. The hours of rehearsal time, the hours in makeup and wardrobe, the hours promoting ourselves, all of it is just to put us in the position where we can tell an audience a play well. If we allow ourselves to show up on the night and not use 100% of our capacities to communicate the play to those people, then we have failed. We do the play so that the audience can see it. There is no other purpose.

IV

When you turn around and see the spider you have two options: you can attempt to save yourself or you can calmly deal with the problem at hand. Here’s the last thing: even if the spider scares the shit out of us, the spider is at its least powerful when you can see it. When you have it in your view, even if being near it makes you uncomfortable and terrified, you have the power. When you let it out of your sight, when it comes upon you by surprise, it takes the power back. If you can keep the spider in your sight, you can do what needs to be done. If you can keep the spider in your sight, the spider can’t hurt you.

And to anonymous: The first thing I would say is I’m sorry. The second thing I would say is that I will do my best to be worthy of the attention that you are so good to give. And the last thing I would say is thank you, truly and sincerely, thank you.

*This phrase and much of the attendant assumptions about its importance come directly from David Mamet’s True And False, which I have also written about here. The idea of communicating the play to the audience runs throughout the book but the exact phrase can be found on pages 4, 9, 48, 80, and 89.

**Note: this does not apply to audience members who are actively distracting the rest of the audience, as humiliating them will make you look like a hero, eg. this and this.

We Can See You.

I

Theatregoing audiences of the world: this is not television. This is not Youtube. This is not Netflix. You can’t pause us and you can’t mute us and you might think that you are in relative safety out there in the house but the truth is that we can see you.

We can see you.

II

Yes, you, you in the front putting on the lipgloss with the glazed expression on your face, we can see you. We can see you’re bored as hell and I get it, it’s dark in here and it’s the first warm day all year and yet somehow your mom or your volleyball coach or your parole officer dragged you here, I get it. But here’s the thing: even if you had the best excuse in the world, even if you had a degenerative disease that made you allergic to plays and the only symptom was fatally and tragically unglossed lips, it still hurts us when you don’t care.

I mean who do you even think can see your lips? You’re in a dark box, 99% of the people in this room can’t possibly be checking you out, and guess who the remaining 1% is? That’s right, it’s me, up here on stage, and when you start putting on lipgloss or checking your snapchat or firing up your kiln in the front row, it makes me want to not have sex with you, ever, because I can see you and you are making me crazy, and not in the way that will win me fun awards. It hurts to see you because we want you to like us, no fuck it we want you to love us, we want to move you to tears, we want to give you the strength to Divorce Your Husband or Tell Her You’ve Always Loved Her or Beat Your Nyquil Addiction, or at least we want you to pretend that you have a pulse and your blood is warm. Because we’re trying to do a thing up here, and we’re desperate to feel like what we do isn’t a bunch of pretentious wankery, and we can see you.

III

We can see you, but that doesn’t always mean that we do see you, and that is our fault. Those times that we could see you but we don’t? Those are the times that we talk at you but not to you. Those are the times that make men in Ottawa wearing mediocre business suits think that our lives consist of standing in perfect triangles at openings saying “well really I thought the piece was almost Brechtian in its ability to hold me transfixed in a state of both Commenting and Not Commenting, and wasn’t the Bordeaux sooooo much better last year, oh well it isn’t easy swindling the public out of their hard earned tax dollars, HA HA HA”. Those are the times that fear beats us and we slam the blinds shut in front of our eyes and we recite the script and we bow soullessly and we get out of our costumes and we take off our makeup and we go to the bank and we cash our cheques and weeks pass until one late afternoon we look up at the lingering light in the sky and think “where the fuck did the winter go?” And then all of a sudden we realize just how many snowflakes we didn’t feel, how many thousand thousand moments between the dressing room and the deck we have forgotten, and how many people we didn’t see. How many people we missed the chance to talk to, to actually talk to, and no maybe it would not have been Perfect but at least we could say that we tried. Instead we got scared. It’s easy for us to get scared. It’s easy to pretend we’re seeing you. We have spent a huge portion of our lives pretending that we are not pretending. We are excellent liars, especially when we are tricking ourselves.

“I was really feeling it tonight,” someone says backstage. Then you probably weren’t listening. And when you’re not listening, we can see you.

IV

I did a show this week in a junior high school gym that was brutal. I’ve heard touring school shows described as “theatre’s trench warfare”: this show was Passchendaele, or at the very least Ypres. The four of us in the show were pummelled with the worst ideas that the grade 9 mind can concoct, and this is an age group that secretly thinks you can use a Snickers wrapper as a condom. We got very frustrated and all of our defences flew up. We quietly insulted the students backstage as they audibly insulted us onstage. We took deep breaths and ploughed through. We got to the end. I had written off the entire audience. I knew they weren’t listening to us and I felt like they had gotten nothing out of it. The students filed out and I started packing up and I was angry to have been treated the way I was treated.

One young man lingered behind as his classmates left and came up to me. “You know how you said that stuff about how you’re gay and you told one person and then everyone else found out?” he asked, “that happened to me in September.” Were things okay now? “It’s alright, I’m in the GSA here at school and I go to a group in town also. But I live with my grandma and she doesn’t really support me. She always asking me if I ‘want to go down this path’.” I remembered suddenly that he had started nodding his head during the show when I said ‘some people will just never accept it, there’s nothing you can do’. I remembered he had been looking at me with a lot of compassion. Well it sounds like you have a lot of support and that’s good, I said, just keep reaching out and I wish you luck. Hey, I’m Richard. What’s your name? “Chris”. Thanks for watching, Chris. “Thanks for the show.”

V

Shame on me.

Shame on me for forgetting my job. Shame for feeling entitled to a “good” audience. Shame for thinking that there could be any other reaction but to look those people in the eyes and be there with them in all their hostility and fear and aggression and say no that’s right I’m talking to you, because the worst thing I can let them do is make me hide from that room where they are my audience, make me wish I was somewhere else, make me want to stop talking to them even though they are right in front of me, but I let them do it. I cared more about having a good show than doing a good show and the difference between those two things is so unbelievably important I want to scream. I was lucky that Chris was there. I should have thanked him more but I probably would have just freaked him out.

VI

We can get angry. We can get bored. We can get hurt. We can get frustrated. We can get wronged. We can get ignored. We can get bullied. We can get insulted. We can get threatened. We can retreat. We can hide. We can run on autopilot. We can think of our laundry. We can still bow. You’ll still clap.

We can also refuse to hide. We can take the hit. We can push through the pain. We can take in the person laughing at us. We can show you that you can hurt us. We can not give up on you. We can not give up on you. We can not give up on you. We can need you more. We can dare you to listen to us. We can dare ourselves to talk to you. And if we’re doing our job right…

We can see you.

Beginnings

It’s December 11, 2012 and I’m awake at 6:45 AM. I’m thinking of the job that I learned I lost last night. I’m thinking of the Thing I have to do today.

Now it’s 7:30 and a bad cup of coffee is spilling on to my fingers and burning me as the bus I’m on hits an unexpected bump. Now it’s 8:30 and I’m approaching the door to the Young Centre. I have no idea what I’m doing but there are signs that say “Soulpepper Academy Auditions” so I know I’m in the right place. Nobody I need to talk to is around. I sit on a bench and wait and wait and wait and now it’s 9:00 and a woman comes in and walks up the stairs to the Soulpepper office. She and I make very brief eye contact and become acutely aware of each other’s presence. Something in me knows that she is the woman I need to talk to and something in her appears to know that I am about to make her day Complicated and she hasn’t even made it up the stairs yet. I chicken out of talking to her. I don’t know for sure who she is.

Now it’s 9:44 and the building is starting to come alive as the day begins. A man with a beard comes into the lobby and warmly greets somebody. That’s Albert, I think, that’s definitely Albert, if he’s here then it’s starting soon so I have to do this now. I get up. I go to the office. I explain. I get led to some chairs. I wait. I wait. I ask for help. I wait. Then the woman from the lobby comes down and she is very polite and understanding but she can’t help me because there actually aren’t any auditions today at all. But what if? No. Well could I? No. It shows a lot of dedication that you came, she says with her words, while her eyes say now don’t make trouble. I don’t make trouble. I am led outside. It’s cold. I’m sad. I have no jobs and I failed.

I go to leave. I stop. I stand in the middle of the walk. I turn around. Through the window of the lobby I can see Albert, still talking to somebody. I don’t have time to think. My arm reaches out and opens the door, my feet walk across the lobby floor, my mouth opens and I hear the words come out. I am shaking with desperation. His response is immediate. He buys me a tea. He reads my resume and my cover letter. We talk. He introduces me to 120,000 people. He introduces me to Ins Choi. I am led to a room. They sit. I stand.

I audition with everything I have.

They ask for more.

I show them more.

We sit down. They tell me I’m coming back in February for the final callbacks. They say nice things. I say nice things. They lead me out. The woman from before is very nice to me. It’s 11:30. I’m on the street again. I stand in the middle of the walk. I start running down the street at full speed.

I run straight through December, through January, into February. I am at the Young Centre again. It is Friday. There are young artists everywhere. We have lunch. Albert recites every single person’s name from memory. We split up into groups and work. We come together and work. We watch pieces. We create pieces. We play music. We move. We sing. We wait. We joke. We laugh. We act. We learn. We are watched at every step. Sometimes we sit in complete silence. Sometimes we roar with laughter as one. Raw talent arcs through the air like electricity. I am surprised and delighted and inspired and impressed 10,000 times an hour. The rooms feel sacred. The work feels sacred. The work feels scary. The work feels like nothing, we are too busy working.

Suddenly it is Sunday morning and I am listening to Albert explaining what will happen if we get into the Academy. Suddenly it is Sunday afternoon and I am watching Peter sing a song I wrote. Suddenly it is Sunday night and I am holding all of my bags and walking through the lobby. I am at the airport having dinner with Marshall. I am at home in Edmonton.

It is Monday morning and I am in an elementary school gym setting up for my show, waiting for the call. It is Monday night and I am sitting at home packing and waiting for the call. It is Tuesday morning and I am in a truck driving to Saskatoon, waiting for the call. I am half an hour outside of Lloydminster and I get the call. They ask me to call them back when I get to Lloydminster. I still don’t know. Three hours go by and only one minute has passed. Nine hours go by and only three minutes have passed. 900 hours later I am running through the parking lot at the Lloyd mall and my phone is ringing. Two minutes later and I am standing completely still in the middle of the mall as Albert tells me I am in.

Albert tells me I am in.

One day later I find out Peter is in and I leap for joy.

Two months and three weeks later all my things are in boxes. I am running again through the months towards the Young Center. Running to the place that felt sacred. Running to what comes next.