Recently, I found myself in a particularly arduous tech day on a show. During a "hang tight, everybody" moment while a lighting and sound cue were tweaked, the cast and the creative team lounged about the stage and audience area in a deliciously dramatic "ugh i'm so EXHAUSTED" kinda way. Not wanting to have another bleak conversation about the imminent Trumpocalypse, I asked a question to the group that always elicits the most fascinating and thrilling answers - "Have you had a mentor in your career and, if so, who was it and how did they help you?" Thrillingly, everyone answered Yes to having a mentor.
Most incredibly, though, everyone's mentor was a CALGARY theatre professional. A person who had made their career working in this community. Most, in fact, were STILL working in this community. Names like Joyce Doolittle, Grant Reddick, Bob White, Johanne Deleeuw, Brian Dorscht, Denise Clarke, Michael Green, Karen Johnson Diamond, Keith Johnstone, Kathleen Foreman, Chris Hunt, Vanessa Porteous, Rebecca Northan to name a few.
Mark Bellamy and Natascha Girgis are mine.
This conversation leaked into every break we took that day. More and more names falling out of our mouths as we waded through our memories. This is that thing about our community. That thing that sometimes feels so hard to put your finger on. The thing that keeps world class creative and administrative talent in Calgary. We're like a village (with many idiots...myself included...said with love).
Making bridges to each other is one of our greatest strengths as a community. Fostering young talent and seeking out opportunities to work together is something that truly sets us apart from other communities across Canada. We're welcoming to other artists that come here for gigs (too welcoming...we should build a wall), and we celebrate each other's successes as well as toast each other's failures, because it's all a learning experience blah blah blah (said with love). This is a community built on the backs of those who came before us who still had the generosity and foresight to reach their hands down and pull us up to join them.
I was overwhelmed with pride to hear my fellow castmates and creative team rattle off name after name of someone in this community who had helped them in a meaningful way during their career. And the prevailing sentiment among us was how important it is for us to do the same for a new generation of artist entering this community. I take this responsibility seriously and I relish the possibility of some young artist actually following my hysterical advice. Get ready, yyc.