i. My name is Andy. I work as an actor….which is a bit of an umbrella term that also includes singer, tap dancer, director, choreographer, music director, arranger, videographer, teacher, globetrotter, moment-maker, food-taster…
ii. I do this creative work because I want to. And thus far have been lucky enough to live off of it, without a ‘joe job’ external from the industry. I started doing theatre and learning music as a kid and eventually got my BFA in Acting and have been doing it ever since.
iii. Art is just a reflection of society, and there has been a shift in demand to watch performance that pushes traditional genre boundaries. From hybridized genre, to performance that seems to defy it altogether, no quirky, minor, seemingly incongruous skill is out of bounds any longer. There are more and more shows demanding extra skills from their performers….singing, dancing, acting, instruments, arranging, improv, mask work, puppetry, multiple languages, circus, shoe shining…. (I have had to do all of the above…to varying levels of success of course). So to answer the question, personal qualities that help are resilience, resourcefulness, and a desire to learn random things just because you want to.
iv. There are so many challenges in this business. Rejection, the amount of unpaid work hours it takes to actually GET work (hunting for auditions, preparing material, paying for coachings, going to auditions, etc), trying to maintain a work/life balance, trying to save money as a freelancer to still be able to enjoy life, trying to explain what it is that you actually do to people outside the business (I have given up to some degree, and made my peace with that), the emotional, physical, and mental strain from certain show’s material, understanding the Canadian tax code….but every industry is fraught with pros and cons. All that glimmers is not necessarily gold, but when you find a project that is, there is nothing like it.
v. As a kid, I did theatre, choir, took saxophone lessons in public school band (and can’t even tell you how much paid professional work I’ve gotten because I played saxophone in Grades 6 and 7, and then not another note for 20 years…), piano, sports, I liked to cook and bake, learned French, went to Hebrew School….I was a super busy kid (of my own volition) and loved it that way.
vi. So many people inspire for different reasons. I’m often inspired by my wife Anna Kuman with whom I often collaborate on new projects. Inspired by lots of folks we work with when we do mass movement work for stadium ceremonies, like the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Opening & Closing Ceremonies, or the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games Opening Ceremony in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
I’m inspired by seniors in our community who have witnessed incredible change in their lifetime, inspired by watching my friends start to become parents for the first time and how these mysterious ‘parental instincts’ I’ve heard lore of kick in….there is no shortage of inspiration in this world. And the great thing about being an artist is that ANYTHING CAN BE INSPIRING.
vii. I’m a big advocate for post-secondary training (of any kind) before entering the arts with the endeavour to do it professionally. I studied at UBC and got a BFA there. I have also done summer programs abroad in London at Guildhall. I’ve taken private and group voice lessons (choir) for many years, training in piano and saxophone, tap dance, jazz, ballet, hip hop (all to varying levels), I think sport training helps a lot as well for fitness and physical longevity and I played rugby and volleyball throughout high school.
I also advocate for young people to go travel around the world…especially solo if they are adventurous. Go to a country that is nothing like where you’re from, where you don’t speak the language, where you aren’t familiar with the culture or food or religion or music…and LEARN. Learn as much as you can about what makes people around the world unique but also unites us all. And then see art and performance while you are there and begin to develop your own gauge of what you think makes ‘good art’ (which seems to be an ever-changing quest).
viii. I think the biggest trap in this industry is complacency; resting on your laurels. Sure, not every project you do will have a life-changing impact on you, but it is often the most challenging ones where you grow the most as a person and artist. Also, be genuinely nice. To everyone. Even that person that always gets that part that you want. Play the long game…good karma always comes around.
ix. I feel fortunate to have a lot of proud career moments. Following school, I had my first professional contract right out of the gate. My first Arts Club show was a big deal to me. Working with Catalyst Theatre on Hunchback at the Playhouse was a big deal for me. Co-Directing my first show with Anna was a huge deal. Working on the Rio 2016 Olympics was an insane experience. Working at the Sydney Opera House on the 2018 Invictus Games Opening Ceremony was another huge moment. And I’m about to head to Europe for my first job over there so am quite excited about that!
x. If you want to work in the field — Good luck! It’s not easy, but it can be incredibly fulfilling. Train. Get lots of training across the spectrum from a gamut of different teachers, studios, and countries. See lots of shows in every discipline and language. Question them all — what would you do differently if you were in it/writing it/directing it? Find friends outside of the biz who love you for you and hang on to them. Find friends inside the biz who love you for you and hang on to them. Find things outside the arts that you love just as much as the arts and pursue passions with as much fervour as the arts (not to detract from a potential artistic career, but to give yourself some balance).
xi. In the future, I would love to work at Stratford or Shaw. I would also like to be able to say that I’ve worked on every continent. I’m not there quite yet, but it’s on the bucket list…
xii. If you want to see my work, I’d love you to. But you’ll have to catch me around town. I just finished Singin’ in the Rain with Royal City Musical Theatre. Up next I’m off to Toronto to rehearse the new chamber-musical-opera-play-hybrid Charlotte: A Tri-Coloured Play with Music that is bound for Europe this spring.
Header: Matthias Blonski