1. Where do you work/what do you do? Can you sum it up in 3 sentences or less?
I am the Founding Editor of Mooney on Theatre. I built the publication up, and now provide general strategic direction and keep pushing my beliefs of ‘accessible writing’ about theatre, and being kind and respectful in our reviews. Some people think this means we only give positive reviews, which is absolutely not the case. In fact, I feel like lying, and saying we liked something when we didn’t, would be disrespectful. But you can be kind while saying you don’t like something.
2. Why the arts? What’s made you focus your extra energy on theatre?
I’ve always had a passion for theatre. And I mean always. I was one of those kids performing for her stuffed animals before graduating to an audience of my parents and their friends.
Also, my Dad read out loud to the family every night so it meant that our house was filled with performance of one kind or another. As I got older my Mum was really the driving force behind me seeing shows; living in Guelph meant there wasn’t a ton to be seen, but she made sure that every year on my birthday we headed into Toronto to see something. Theatre has always been a part of me. I marvel at what it can offer, and I revel in the opportunity to participate in that however possible. Plus, I think it’s what keeps me sane(ish).
3. The arts have a reputation for being lots of work and little pay – true or false? Care to elaborate?
I guess with everything it depends on your situation, but I’d have to say in my experience and observation, absolutely true. No one gets into the arts to get rich. Well, maybe some people do, but they haven’t done their research very well.
I’ll use Mooney on Theatre as an example. When I first started it many years ago, during the BB (Before Babies) period of my life, I was easily working on it 60 or 70 hours a week, with no compensation. When I look back on that time I have no idea how I did that.
It’s amazing what you can do when you’re fueled purely by passion.
These days I have pretty much stepped back from the day-to-day operations of MoT. I’m lucky enough to have a fantastic Managing Editor, Wayne Leung, who has taken the reins and runs the site with the help of an excellent editorial team. But it’s a labour of love for all of them too. MoT brings in enough revenue that it can support its own marketing and hosting costs and so on, but it can’t pay anyone.
The writers and editors are passionate about the arts and about spreading the word about theatre and are willing to offer their valuable time for free to do so.
4. What’s the best thing about working in theatre in Toronto?
People tell me I’m Pollyanna about this stuff, but I love the variety we have in Toronto. I love that I have to opportunity to see such diverse theatre. The fact that we have places like Passe Muraille, contrasted with Soulpepper, contrasted with Mirvish, contrasted with Clay and Paper, contrasted with Unit 102 and so on, makes me happy. Let’s not forget the amazing festivals, there’s the obvious Toronto Fringe Festival, and SummerWorks, but there’s also Lab Cab, New Ideas, Paprika, and the list goes on. None of that begins to touch on the little productions happening in random garages and sheds around the city. Plus, Tina Rassmusen brings me a taste of the world through World Stage at Harbourfront, just in case my appetite isn’t satiated yet.
Because my theatre job is basically to go see theatre, all that stuff makes it awesome for me. I really truly unabashedly love theatre in Toronto. I mean, I love theatre in general, but I feel like I *really* love theatre in Toronto.
5. What’s the worst thing about working in theatre in Toronto?
I feel like people don’t connect enough. I wish there was some central watering hole or something, where people just regularly went, chatted over a pint, and found out what folks were doing. I’m a big believer in the power of all being collaborators rather that competitors, and I think people in the industry are too, but the mechanism isn’t in place to make that an easy thing to do. My dream is that I will win gazillions in the lottery and be able to buy some big building and fill it with places for artist to gather for free to work, collaborate, drink coffee, drink beer, play Scrabble, all that stuff. That’s my dream.
6. What’s an adjective that can describe most of your days at your job?
7. Describe (in 3 sentences or less) what your favourite memory is from your current job.
I’m gonna go the cheesy route and say my current job is being a mum to two adorable kids, and a favourite moment is hard to choose. Most recently I think it was when my one year old was startled by a dog barking and crying, and I went to comfort him and my 3 and a half year old was sitting down on the floor next to him rubbing his back saying “it’s okay Desmond, it’s okay”.
8. What’s the last play that you saw that really made an impression on you?
This is a hard one for me to answer, because the truth is, I haven’t been to nearly as many plays as I’d like to lately. It would be easier to give a list of the plays I was heartbroken not to have seen… I think the biggest impression of late was “Kim’s Convenience“, not because of the show itself, although it was excellent and I really enjoyed it, but because of the reaction to it. That’s a whole essay in itself though. Bottom line; it’s a great play that’s going onto great things, which makes me pretty happy.
9. If you could do any other job, arts professional or not, what would it be?
I’m not being glib when I say, I have no idea. I have a really diverse range of interests and loves and abilities and limitations. I really enjoyed my foray into Dramaturgy, I have in the past really enjoyed directing, I’ve also really enjoyed acting. I also like planning, and organizing, and career coaching and and and…
10. If the Toronto theatre scene was a woman, what advice would you offer her?
Stand tall, be strong, trust yourself.