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#295 – Megan Legesse & Gwyneth McFall-Gorman

by Phil Rickaby
July 6th 2021

Megan Legesse will be playing the role of Katrina in the production of Black Deer in Blizzard. Some of her credits include Lion Womxn (Summerworks 2018), The Breath Between (Summer... More

Welcome to episode 295 of Stageworthy. I'm your host Phil Rickaby. Stageworthy is a podcast about people in Canadian theatre featuring conversations with actors, directors, playwrights and more. If you've enjoyed this podcast, please consider supporting it. You can do that by making a donation either one time or continuing to the tip jar. I've put a link to that in the show notes, which you can find out the website or on your podcast app or you could buy some merch at the new online store shop dot stage worthy productions dot com in the store. You'll find stage worthy t shirts, mugs, stickers as well as merch from some of my other projects, including the much coveted God chose me to deliver his new commandment and all I got was this stupid t shirt t shirt from the commandment. All your purchases and tipped our donations. Go towards stage worthy and help me continue to bring you great conversations in Canadian theater and if you can't donate or buy from the store, please consider rating and reviewing the show. If you listen on apple podcast, you can leave a review right in the podcast app.

And if you don't listen on apple podcast, you can still review the show by going to poach chaser dot com, searching for stage worthy and rating the podcast there. Thanks so much for listening and thank you for your support. You can find stage worthy on facebook twitter and instagram at stage worthy pot. And you can find the website with the archive of all 295 episodes at stage with the podcast dot com. And if you want to drop me a line, you can find me on twitter and instagram at Phil rikabi and my website is full recovery dot com. My guest this week are Megan legacy and Gwyneth Mcfaul. Gorman, Megan and Gwyneth joined me to talk about Black Deer and blizzard, which appears as part of the Hamilton Fringe starting july 14th. Just as a, as a question for each of you, I guess I'll go with Megan first. If you were to describe yourself as a, as a performer or an artist, what if somebody you were talking if you had to give an elevator pitch, how would you describe your artistic practice? Oh, that's a great question.

Um Yes, I would say I'm a storyteller who focuses a lot on movement in my artistry, that's fascinating. Um And movement just like sort of like in a dance fashion or tell me a little bit more about that. Um Sure, yeah, like when I trained in theater in school, like I learned a lot about how to use movement in my body and sometimes that's like through dance, sometimes that's just like through how I feel like how my body moves, I don't even know and I'm not and and I love I love movement theatre, like theater, Gargantua. Um So much movement theatre, I see in like Fringe and Summer Works, I love it so much and um that's a lot of what I do like creation based as an artist, that's a lot of create. Um and that's like something I really like to continue to get better at certainly in this digital age. Yeah, because the digital platforms are so conducive to movement.

Yeah, yeah, we will, we will absolutely get back to that. Gwyneth the same question to you. How would you describe your artistic practice? Well, unfortunately, I'm not nearly as good as a dancer is. Meghan is Oh no, no, unfortunately I have like three left feet. So um I definitely, I find my characters in their voices and Megan would know this because she's heard me tried many variations of Beverly's voice, my character in the play. Um but I was a musician before I was an actor and to me a character's voice, it is both determinant and indicative of their physicality right there posture, the way that they move, the way that they hold their head, the way that they hold their neck. Um So once I've grounded myself in a character's voice, that's where I find their communication styles and their their movements and their physicality. But it has to start with me for the sound of them. That makes sense.

Sure, sure. Because how how somebody, how a character speaks tells you so much about, about their body, about all of them, right, But where they're from, you know, who they grew up with, what kind of music they listen to, you know that all that stuff is, that's what I really enjoy kind of uh one day anyway, I hope to be a very good character actor. So um that that's really where I find the most intrigue for me, it's like a puzzle. Hm. Now would one of you like to give me the elevator pitch for Black Deer and Blizzard mango cook when you got your, I love how you're both like not me, what is the star? So when will I? Um Black Here in Blizzard is an incredible new play about our contemporary relationship with media and media personality. That is what I would say. We've had such a tumultuous couple years.

I think we can all agree um with people redefining what news is and who newscasters are. And as our producer, joseph often tells us there's no such thing as a speech without a personal bias. So, our play really explores the personalities behind what you see on your television and the often unseen drama and trauma that can happen before they're on the camera. Um, so that's what we're really playing with is the idea of what's happened versus what you're seeing. Mm How is that Megan spot on? I think one of the things that are, one of the things that I find interesting about media these days is just in general, pretty much anybody who has the technical know how can create something that looks like a professional news story. Yes. And put that online and claim that it is news. And because in many ways we are trained to see that as, because it looks like news, it must be news.

In many cases, uh you know, sometimes people don't dig deeper to find out what is the source of this. They just sort of think, ah it is news, it is said with authority and it looks it's well produced, therefore it must be news. Yeah, there's a, there's a conviction that comes with everybody's ability nowadays to be the broadcaster, you know what I mean? Yeah, you hit the nail on the head so come see the play everybody. Um Yeah, that's, I mean, I know you're producing it digitally because that's what we got now. Um what does, let's start with this. What surprised you about how about performing in a digital production? Oh, mm, lots of things for both of us. I'm sure you wanna do. You wanna, I'm trying to like, surprised isn't interesting. I mean, I guess it's like, I mean, it's nice that I can still feel things online, if that makes sense.

Like um I really miss just being in the studio and like feeling other people like like when you don't talk like you can just feel other people's energy and like life, I just miss feeling life. Um And it's been it's been interesting like I can I still feel like there's a piece of that we can still find um while working digitally. Especially like me and Gwen have a scene were just like, like um there's so much, it isn't so much energy in it. We really have to look at each other and feel each other and it's amazing that we still kind of do that. I never really thought that could happen. I mean it's not the same, but it's still nice that there's like a piece there still. Yeah, 100%. It's been this game of where in a in a theater space, we'd be playing tennis now, we're playing more like a battle pong, right? It's the volleying exactly what Megan talked about. We have some really Emotionally heightened scenes in this play.

It's only gonna run about 40, minutes as a run time. But the peaks and the valleys are pretty intense. Three characters, three very different relationships. Um and a lot happens in a short amount of time. And in our rehearsals it's been, I have found it almost in a way reassuring. I didn't realize how dependent I was as a stage actor on being able to move in a space, being able to move with my lines and learn my lines as I learned my blocking. Right? Make you feel that, right? Yeah. I think all like our characters, I don't like, are they carry their energy very different. So it's been a strange like kind of not being able to do that because we're so different Katrina and very different people. Yeah. It's it's certainly difficult because I know for me, um one of the things that always helps me to learn my lines is the blocking. Yeah. If I'm on my feet moving around, we do that often enough.

I'll just find those words in my body. Yeah, exactly. And you'll find the moments when the words mean the most and when the person opposite you is giving you something small in their body language that just excites you so much because it's opened up this whole new door and we can only really give each other that and looks glances, you know, maybe changing our shoulders because, and you know, I'm not even gonna lie the amount of times that I end up looking at myself on zoom to be like doing this right. You know what I mean? That is that is literally for me, the biggest frustration of zoom in general. I wish I could turn off my ability to see myself. You can, I don't know what it's high itself. You I've never seen myself in the past. Really, I can't do it if I tried doing it once and I literally got nervous, but but what if I'm not broadcasting the emotion that I think I'm going, oh no, it turned into a film thing in my head and really messed with me. I've been shutting it off when we're doing our full runs, but it bugs me, man.

Just generally, I always find that the problem with zoom is that because I'm there and this is the same with all of the media platforms, is that I'm there And especially if I'm in meetings, I'm always like, is my face when, when I think it's doing, oh, I've got to look angry. Okay. Do something with your face. It's not looking angry or whatever it is, it's so distracting. Mhm. It's been, it's been a wild ride. Yeah. Um one of the things that, you know, for me has been missing from uh digital production is the ability to feel not just your other actors, but the audience to really sense the audience as, as a presence. Yeah. And I, I feel like, you know, as much as, you know, the digital theater zoom theater, however, it is, however much we may, you know, it's what sort of keeping us afloat right now. I don't think anybody is really thinking, I really prefer this over being in a theater. You know, I think that it's that we need, that we need the audience to feel each other and we need to feel them.

Absolutely. It's been, it's been kind of heartbreaking in a way. I know Megan's been working on her own phenomenal show with a french festival. Um, no, and you've got to go through it from the directing side, from a writing and producing kind of side um, several months ago now, I guess in february and March, I did a small zoom series with some theaters in Toronto, I did a play with Night Swimming in a play with Tarragon over zoom and they were like staged readings and stuff, staged zoom readings, right? Yeah. And we had like audiences, we had like 50 or 60 people there. And in one of the places we had a cast of like 15, which was unreal. We did a whole day of rehearsing zoom exits and entrances and it was one of those things, you sit there, it is so surreal. Um, and you know, you're watching it and you've got your screen off, you've got a scene off or something and you're watching the play and you're going, God, I hope the audience is enjoying this, You know, I hope they're understanding what I'm trying to do.

I hope they're getting what I'm putting down, you know, and at the end, you know, people are still saying, oh this was great, I had a great time, I really needed this, but you know, you're so rightful. It's like, it's maybe a B minus as to as to what we're all, you know, wanting what we're all urging for to to be in a space together, experiencing something together. Yeah, it's so hard. There's also this a certain amount of chaos as far as something like zoom goes, because nothing is is an actual real time. You hear me? I mean, the, the natural lag for a zoom meeting is 0.5 milliseconds, which is nothing until I'm trying to do a scene with you and there's always that beat before you hear what I've said and then you speak and we don't know like what's happening or is this a dramatic pause? Did you hear em? I'm, you know what happened? It's just, there's so much potential chaos, the amount of beats that we've had rehearsing the show.

Or Megan and I are like, holding eye contact, that should be like, did you say your line? I'm like, no, did you freeze? That's the other thing is, you know, you kind of have to, because you know, it's one thing when somebody drops a pen in a scene in a theater or somebody misses their, their entrance, we can handle that. But if somebody freezes or is disconnected, what do we do? Yeah, it takes you right out of it. Yeah. Megan. What is the show that you're directing? Please tell me about uh, yeah, being nervous. I'm gonna mess it up for everyone on my team. Um, so I'm directing uh, an audio drama for Toronto Fringe Festival, it's called swallow this skin. Um, and I created it in my final year in theater school with a bunch of bipac women by park women, career women. Um, and it's kind of a collection of stories, monologues, poems, um, memories all set in a nightclub in downtown Toronto.

Yeah, and it's, it was like, we originally, we wrote it um, to be staged, like I said, like, I love movement and I really wanted to incorporate movement. That's why we wanted it set in a club, but it's cool because turning it into an audio player, like has taught me a lot and how to play with, like what Gwen said like, voice and sound and what that means in theater. That's been fun, fun. Audio drama is such a fascinating thing to try to work with two to build a scene so that people are hearing it, but just to put in just enough so that they can kind of see it too. Yeah, it's been a lot of learning, especially because it's not like the show is a truly like devised show, like it's not like a standard play. Um all the actors, like, it's written by about 20 people and with 20 stories all stapled and glued together um within these, like, within like all these different voices. So it's been hard, like trying to find, okay, how does this scene shift?

How can we show the audience are in a different room because they can't see, or I see a stage direction that says light switch and I'm like, we don't have lights, how do we tell what a different room stuff like that has been something. But yeah, it's been a lot of learning, a lot of yeah, there's a lot of learning. I did, I did an audio drama for christmas last year, sort of turned a solo piece into an audio drama and it was a thing so much to do, So much to learn. Yeah. Uh speaking about about theater school, I think this is like a great opportunity, great moment to talk about for each of you, your theater origin stories. What is it that that made you want to become a performer, A theater artist? What is it was your gateway drug? What was it that brought you into the world of theatre and made you want to do it? Spicy question, Phil spicy question. Uh do you wanna go first? You have a cooler story. I do, I don't know what what story that is so trying to um for me, I mean I always loved uh stories in any capacity um like poems, books, theater um yeah, I don't even know how, I think, I mean I was the most annoying theater kid in high school probably and and I think we did that standard english class thing where you go see Shakespeare play uh and I was like, oh this is what is this?

I like this obviously had no idea what was happening because I was in 10th grade and didn't know Shakespeare very well, but like it was the first time I ever saw theater and then um I was lucky enough to participate in a lot of the youth training that Soul Pepper offered when I was in high school and I actually trained with them for a summer and I was like, I really like this, I really, really like this. Um and I really needed to do it and I really, I learned that like in my year between high school and then actually going to unique for theater, like I really needed to do it and I really knew that my voice needed to be heard through this medium. Um Yeah, fun ride. Since do you do you recall your first exposure to theater? There must have been some moment when you realized it was a thing. Mhm. When I saw for Colored Girls at Seoul Pepper probably, I didn't even know that. I had never I didn't know theater could be for me like that until until I saw that play.

I didn't know that. Like I thought was for me, like theater was like for me and not just me like who are like my identity or like no but like me like Megan. Um and then I saw the plane, I was like oh this is for me, like this was written for me, this is a director for me, like this is mine and I was like oh I wanted like this for me so I can keep doing that, I keep doing this. So so in essence it was I mean just to just to come out and say it like a lot of the theater that you had maybe seen before that was was was white people. I mean I think it's a lot more complicated than that is like yes, I mean that's most of Shakespeare which I like was my first kind of knowledge of theater um like in school. But yeah like I didn't once I started hearing like not just black theater but like black women theater like for colored girls, Harlem duet. Like I like changed my life and I read it Harlem duet. Um Yeah, like when I heard like like really specific stories to me like was I think it mm and you went to, you end up going to, you went to york.

Yes, I went, I'm just about to finish ha ha you're york about to finish my BF an acting in like two weeks. Oh well, congratulations. Thank you. It was in terms of like choosing the school, did you, did you aim for york or were you casting a wide now? That Was I actually only applied to York like one theatre school and that was York because uh because it's hard to go into the arts is like I mean like I'm a first generation Canadian. Like I had to push and being like, this is what I want to do. And I applied to like a bunch of other different schools for like, you know, psych or english or the traditional route And then I was like, if I get in and if I get into the acting program, which is, you have to audition again, which only takes about 16 folks. I was like, this is for me. And so that was kind of like the bet I had with my family. Um, so that's how it went. Did you feel any pull to those other programs at all?

Not for the right reasons, not for me. Yeah. What if you've gotten into like the theater program and one of the other ones I did, I got into every school I applied to with scholarships to all of them like ships telling me she's a genius. You know, like I think I got a full ride to one school and or you know, a full ride. Well they can't promise all four years but maintain um my family was like, have you lost your bike to be core at theater school? And I was like, no, I promise I'll figure it out there. Super, super supportive. But I mean like I totally get it like that's crazy. Um So it was, yeah, there was definitely some pull but I mean so far I stand by my decision and I hope I stand by it forever. I'm sure. I mean there's, I mean, I think with most families there's going to be some kind of push around for sure thing.

Um I think also it's a little bit harder for, for, for kids who are first generation Canadians. There are other things tied up in that I mean like yeah, it's just, it's like there's so much privilege to be an artist, like, like so much like I am endlessly humbled that I'm able to do, like even to study, like I'm so humbled, especially like, like I'm so humbled um and so like it's, it's like just teaching, like my family to learn that and and be excited about it is great. It's been fun watching like teaching each other art and stuff now. Were you doing device theater while you were at york or is that something that you were sort of doing on the side? Yeah, so I'm like uh like trained in action, was in the acting conservatory. Well I'm still moved on the actor through Tory and um yeah, like what happened was as I was training as an actor, a lot of the text we were given um I was like, I need something more, something more, something me, I couldn't find my voice enough and um I, that's how I kind of like bothered the other theater students who weren't enacting and was like, tell me about what you're doing and then I learned about what device theater was and then within my training at york through acting, like I learned about movement, I did movement work with Erykah Badu or who's phenomenal.

Um not opened me a lot to movement work and then I started creating shows and directing shows like outside my degree for york um which has been great, like I would have never found like creation or movement or directing without like without going to a wide theater school rather than just the specific conservatory. Yeah, no, absolutely, absolutely, that's great. Mhm Gwyneth, would you like to share your uh theater origin story with us? Oh, goodness, yes, yes, I can um see I told you, Megan is just super interesting and super smart and she could do anything she wanted to, why are you getting nervous? Class? I adore you. I I had a had a very non linear path to theater um in the way that I made the mistake that Megan was smart enough not to make, and I went to school, I went to university for a different program um and for the wrong reasons. Um I grew up just outside of new york city actually um in Connecticut and my mom was Canadian and my dad was american and we kind of spent her whole life, you know going up to visit Canadian relatives and going back down to Connecticut and that she went to school and everything.

Um and I really can't pinpoint a moment. I think as soon as I was young enough to know what an actor was, I wanted to be one and I had this, I loved making people laugh, I loved making people feel things, I loved writing funny jokes and um testing them out to the great annoyance on my parents, and uh they were always so supportive and they said, do whatever you want, as long as it makes you happy and you know, you grow up and your priorities change. Um and I thought, you know, this is something I'm supposed to do, so I actually was in pre engineering and high school um doing theater, doing drama club, but doing it because it was something I love to do. Um I didn't think I was going to have a career in it, I didn't think I'd ever be that talented would be that lucky, and uh so I ended up going to Queens in Kingston Ontario for engineering. Um and I was there for about 2.5 years, um and I got back from an internship uh in Alberta, working as a as an engineering intern, and I just kind of sat there and I'll never forget the day it was a Tuesday in second week of first semester of my third year of engineering, and I'm sitting in class, listening to my professor tell us that our final exam was going to be 80% of our final grade.

Um and I just remember sitting there looking at this going, and it was like a light bulb clicked and it went, oh my God, it doesn't have to be like this, my God, my soul was drained. I knew what I wanted to do with my life, I knew who I wanted to be, and the things that I wanted to accomplish and the stories I wanted to tell and the lifetimes that I wanted to experience all in my own. Um, and I realized that if I died tomorrow, I asked myself this question, if I died tomorrow, would I be proud of the life I had lived thus far? And the answer was no, there was really no way around it. There was no like lying to myself about it. Um, and I just got up from that class on that Tuesday and I walked to the registrar's office and I said, I'm switching into drama and that was it. I think I told my parents two months later they, you know, they handled it pretty well. I gotta give him credit where they pleased. No, but um, they handled it pretty okay and they said, all right, if that's what you're going to do, do it and we're here for you if and when it fails, that was kind of that I was like, okay.

But yeah, so I I jumped right into drama and I finished my Bachelor's at Queens and Drama in about 2.5 years and um popped right out and just exactly touching what Megan was talking about, I I went in because I was obsessed with people and and different stories and living different lives and being different things. Um and once I got there, I realized just how many stories there are and I know that sounds funny or naive, but um some of my favorite classes, actually, I will give props to this class. One of my favorite classes in my fourth year was indigenous playwrights at queens. Um and I read some of the most incredible pieces of, of theater that I have ever read to this point. Um, and it just constantly as a craft, it's constantly making me fall back in love with it, even when I'm frustrated with it, even I'm angry, you know, um, I'm constantly falling back in love with it because there's always something new, there's always something, even if it's a small something.

Um, and yeah, that's, that's kind of in my path. And now, you know, I live in Toronto. I'm a full time, I work in film and theater and just got my actor card. Like we're just, we're going um, yeah, All right. So question for you, Why engineering? Oh God, don't I ask myself that every day actually I'm going to pop in and say because sometimes people like I wasted so much time. No, you were, you you try, you were out and you you lived among this is something that I think sometimes I think a lot of actors need to do, we need to live among regular people. You need to see the other side, You need to be with the other people for a bit. I did the math and science, think it was terrible. It was God, it was like a room full of people who were so smart and didn't know how to talk to each other and didn't know how to write things and it was so sterile. The environment was just so sterile. And the truth is is that I was a huge and I still am a massive nerd and I'm so proud of it.

I built robots in high school, I was one of those kids, I was on a robotics team. Um I was like uh you know girl captain of the of the of the women engineering club? I was I was all gung ho and for it because it was, it interests me and it still interests me. I really do like math and science, but at the end of the day um it was not what I wanted to devote my life to and I really did feel like I was wasting it. Um but you know, it sounds silly as well, but when I'm acting, there are certain things that having a bit of a math mind helps me with. Um there's certain scenes, certain characters, certain tempos of works that being able to dissect it and almost look at it like a formula can be really helpful. Um And and sometimes just sitting there and thinking about it from an artistic lens and then taking a breath, stepping back and going, okay, let's look at this from an objective lens, right?

Or as much objectivity as I can render. Um, it has given me a perspective. I feel like that is a little, a little unique, a little of my own. Um, so I have absolutely no regrets about any of the time that I spent. I don't, I don't consider it time wasted at all. I feel like, you know, I got good at something that I'm not going to use every day in my career, but I can, I'm really proud of it And it's, it's taught me some really important lessons as well as, uh, oh, and also a big engineering thing is business and finances and statistics and I cannot stress enough the value of that as an independent artist. Yeah. There's something that they didn't teach us in theatre school. Now. I have, I have two questions for you. One is sort of not a serious question and one of them is actually a serious question. So I'm going to go with the Bullshit Question 1st. Yeah. The bullshit question is of all of the robots that you built. Which one was your favorite? Easy. My favorite robot was named Oscar the Grouch. It was 2015.

The first robotics game was recycle rush and I was a world champion level human player and computer aided design. Uh, leader of the team. I put the whole robot into cat. It was water jetted. I was very proud of him. He did so good. He was a beautiful purple uh, steel alloy. Thank you for asking. Perfect, perfect. And I say perfect because that is the most, I'm so satisfied with how nerdy that answer was. It's beautiful. Thank you. I used autodesk inventor pro 2013 suite in case you're wonder. Thank you so much. That's so awesome. So the serious question is at what point, even before, before you left the class, At what point in engineering school where you're like, this might have been a mistake. Oh God. Do you want the sad answer? Yes. I want the honest answer the day that I accepted my offer to queens. Oh my God. And I was applying for universities, I spent weeks looking at theater programs and I didn't even know where to start because it was so out of my wheelhouse.

At that point I had friends and like Not that Toronto isn't this incredible theatre scene because it is. But growing up in the tri state area, 90 minutes from New York City, your competition is weeded out amongst you by the age of like 10, right? Like I have friends who I went to school with all the way up until like grade eight and then they dipped and they went to the best performing arts high schools for a grade nine through 12, you know what I mean? Like they went to Hartford, they went to new york, a lot of them went to new york for university for theater. And like, I never thought that I would ever, ever, ever be comparable to that, that I would ever be able to candle to, that. I had not, to me. It felt like the olympics. It was like, well, I didn't start training when I was a kid. So, you know, that chapter has closed. I didn't realize how wrong I was of course, but I didn't know where to start. So yeah, when I was applying to universities for engineering programs and getting, you know, getting accepted places and it was really, it was kind of heartbreaking in a way and I just swallowed it.

It was, it was not great. Just broke my heart a little by admitting that the day you except about the offer, you were like, no, I'm like, oh my God, just like, pull that heart out and throw it on the ground. It was really sad couple of years, and I can imagine, I can imagine person, Yeah. Um as far as changing as a person. Did you find who you were before that or did you come out of, you finished up that when you left, where you 100% a different person when I left? What? Engineering? Or Queens? Uh engineering? When I left engineering, I don't think my confidence had ever been lower in my life. I really didn't like myself. It's getting deep, but I really didn't like myself as a person. I had no self confidence because I felt so lost and I was so afraid Um, and there were a lot of things at that time that I was like, kind of figuring out about myself. I was, I was raised in a, in a, in a small catholic immigrant town, um, in New England, you know, people were pretty conservative and pretty staunch. Um, I found out that I was queer, you know, like all these kinds of things that started kind of rolling in waves that didn't seem to stop and then, you know, on top of it all, I'm like, well, I guess I'll just uproot my life direction and went to the arts, you know, and there's also this very toxic culture in stem in general, kind of makes fun of arts degrees, right?

I mean, we've all heard it. Um, but it was really, it made it harder to, to pursue what I wanted to because everyone around me, my friends, right. My colleagues, my professors would would absolutely just dump all over arts degrees. Um, it's what's, what is kind of ridiculous about that to me is, you know, there's been all of this focus on, on stem and you know, no, forget the humanities, forget the arts just, you know, all of that stuff. And it's ridiculous. And then when you get into the business world a few years later, since we started pursuing like stem as the be all and end all of the education system, we find business leaders who are like art students really are able to think out of the box in a way that our current people are not. So we're really looking for people who have a background in the arts and you're like, what world is this? Yeah, it's so true. And I mean not to not to bring up dead poets society, right? But that line like those are noble pursuits, but what makes life worth living?

Look at this pandemic artists that have kept us alive. It's the filmmakers and the theatre makers that have kept us safely in our homes and distracted. You know what I mean? Listen, if it wasn't for if it wasn't for one division, uh Falcon and Winter Soldier and now and soon Loki, I don't know what I would do with myself, right? Like, and hopefully, I mean, maybe it's naive and I don't know what you think Megan because it's it's one of those things. But hopefully when we come out of this pandemic, there will be a bit of a reframing around the way that we view those industries who have been kept open like film. Like, I mean, I'm technically an essential worker. Um even though I'm basically just work in a warehouse and work on sets, but we haven't stopped, we're busier than ever. You know, I'm pulling 12, 14 hour days on the regular. Yeah, and it's it's something to think about, especially here in Toronto. Yeah, it's such a huge industry. Yeah, no, absolutely, absolutely. Uh Megan just to come back to you. Um you mentioned the, you know, working on on this audio drama that you were, that you were creating, that you're doing at the Toronto Fringe.

Um as far as creating a play goes, was this something that you had considered doing before this, or were you like driven to by, by searching for your voice while at the program? Oh, wow, that's a really good question. I love that question. I'm like, smiling so hard. Um Well, well, I think I started to find my voice, like in my second year I wrote like we have this thing out, you're called playground. Um And it's like a short theatre festival where there's like 15 minute plays and there's seven of them. Um And it's a good way to kind of test the waters. You're like, is this Good? No it's not okay, never mind, never mind. It's only 15 minutes or is this way like this? Um which is really fun. It's like a really cool way for like like um theater seems to like see what they like in theater. Um But yeah I like row um This 15 minute like pour like pour out piece called concealer where it was like three black girls in a bedroom, they're best friends and they were figuring out what the hell they were going to do when they graduate because they weren't going to have each other and one of them was going to go to queens, which is not the best place, you know?

It's not it's not diverse. Yeah, nothing on. So they were all just like talking with that and and it kind of like, like it was it was a very much straight play, a straight short play, I should say, and then I was like, oh cool, I like this, I want them to move, and then the next year I was like, I devised um a 15 minute play for the next year's playground festival. Um where for where we would hear the stories of the daughters of African women because um I'm an african woman um like tell their mothers stories um and they would move like their mothers and they would sing their mother's song, sing lullabies of their grandmothers and it was like, it was such an important piece to me um and I was like, I want to do this again and I want to make it an hour and um york annually puts on the vagina monologues. Um and they and I applied to be director and I was like, we're not doing the vagina monologues because it was done every year for 20 years.

They had like one maybe person of color on a good year, obviously. Well, like I don't, I theater is very white. Yeah, and I told and and the directors would usually like, they just didn't know how to, like, they didn't know you need to have specific people direct for their specific people, find their specific people right for their specific people. And I really wanted to do that. And I was like, let's just change things up. Like the vagina monologues is an iconic play, everyone knows it, what if we create something brand new. Um And that's what I did. I found like eight actors and we all wrote together on prompts and wrote about our experiences as women and people of color. Um and everything what it's like to grow up, what is as a girl of color to a woman of color? Um and then we just created the script and and we hope to stage the like it took a year. We started in september and we wanted to stage it by summer like in september ha ha when we thought the pandemic.

But alas, that's life and that was kind of the process. I just kept wanting to do more. Like once I like achieved something in my creation work, I was like, what's next? What's something next I can do? Mm That's how it kind of came to be. Mm I think that one of the mhm The worst things about our theater system is the fact that our the schools are predominantly attended by and taught by white people. Yes, we are not producing and making theater spaces that are friendly to people of color. Um I know when I was in theater school, we won't talk about how long ago that was. Um my class, when I started had had two black kids in it and by the end of the first year, both of them were gone.

Mhm. Because they had been cut from the program and that was what we sort of saw in several different years. Was that that was the pattern we would bring in diversity and then divest ourselves of it through the program or whatever. By the time, you know, that's how but I mean a lot of that I think is not just like the students don't see themselves and their teachers and the teachers don't utilize them in in in in in in in any way, you know, and that's that's I think one of the things that ultimately is the the the tragedy of the theater system that we've built that really needs to be torn down. I think some theater schools are getting better. Mhm sort of slowly. I think it's a long way to go Phil I know, I know that's why I say sort of because theater schools move slower than the theater world.

It's um it's one of those things that like, and I think it's not just enough to say we need to make this speak the space friendly to buy pack, it needs to be run managed and and boarded by people of color people who are two spirited people who are indigenous. Because first of all, we are on unseated lands as a nation, right? And like if we're going to be telling art on a space, you can't take the space out of the context of the art, which I think a lot of programs have been getting better about. But then you get those insincere land acknowledgment at the beginning of shows that there's so many things and I'm really glad that we're addressing it now, but I think you're very right that it needs to start in the schools with the professorial staff and with the staff who managed the department's because if arts are going to set the precedent as they always have about leading progressivism, that's where it needs to start. And you know, and then what we're really seeing in my opinion is just faculties and people refusing to retire who really should, right?

But then we see that we see that in the leadership at all, like not just in theater schools, we see the leadership in a lot of theaters as well. People who have been in that leadership position for 10, 15 years just holding on and still doing things the way that they are doing, not fostering really the new generation of of arts leaders now Megan you are in the unique position of having started theater school pre pandemic. Mhm And then having to finish it in the midst of a pandemic. How was that adjustment for you as a student? Um It was hard, it was just sad. I think it was just sad especially because it was my final year. So we didn't get our final like mounted shows which would you know we had been looking forward to for four years. Um So that was sad. Um Yeah, I just I mean it's kind of what I said earlier, I just missed feeling well.

I mean I had a hard, I had a hard time in theater school, so I kind of took it as like a way to kind of heal myself sure, like I was like okay what's the silver lining here? And like I got to focus so much more on swallow the skin and um learned who I was as an actor alone, like that was something like two completely train alone, like your movement teachers on zoom, okay, you got it, you got to rely on yourself a lot, which was really, I think actually a really great thing, like I learned a lot of self discipline. Uh huh because it's really you, so I guess that was really helpful, but I mean it was really sad to miss like, you know, the finals of all. Yeah, Yeah. Um So where your class is pretty much all online from like March last year? Yeah, well luckily like we finished right around when it started, so I finished my third year, um we just yeah, before there was like completely online.

Um like but the good thing, I mean the good thing is we've done a good thing, we did a lot of camera work stuff, so it wasn't that bad as like theater because like theater so hard on june like film, like figure it out a little bit better because it's camera already. Um So we kind of just focus on that invoice work rather than like stage theater and then the play that we would have staged, it just became an audio play, which was mortified. This is a difficult transition to make because you know, especially when you're looking forward to the final production that showcase production and then to have to sort of let that go and just make it an audio play. Yeah, that's right. I know, and I was excited. I mean, I got like, we thought we were going to stage it and I was lucky enough to, you know, Yeah, um Mhm But I mean, what am I going to do? I'm going to yell at the sky, I can't really do anything about. It was like, you know what I mean? I was, I talked to my like my artist friends and like there's literally nothing like there's no one to get mad at, there's nothing to do except for breathe and this opportunity to continue your craft and anyway, you can um Yeah, so that's that's that's I mean, that's how it is.

I mean it's looking up from here, but I don't want to jinx anything. Not, no, nobody wants to, it's like, it's like we're talking about like the future in Ontario and nobody wants to actually say anything just in case Megan is school doing anything like, because I know that final showcase is supposed to be where they invite agents and they invite theater directors, Are they doing anything to compensate that side for you guys? Yeah, I think it was like a Canada wide thing. It was still done. It was just in a different format online because everything was online, you know, on fun stuff online. Really, really like, and I can't imagine being in theaters. I'm sorry, what? Oh no, no. I was just saying like, like I'm still trying to figure out what theater like theater means online. Yes. You know, I think, I think that's the question that we're all kind of asking is what is it? It's wild. Yeah, I was, I graduated in 2020, like three weeks um after the lockdown happened is when I was supposed to graduate queens.

Um and we we missed out on the pomp and circumstance, but I was actually totally fine with it because it's really just a bunch of people sitting in an overly hot room, right? But it was the it was the grad school kicker, for me, it was the acting school that I had to say no to. Um but I've been so upset about because I spent months, you know, auditioning and I went down to Yale and the whole shebang and things have gone super well and, and then I was just like, I got into one of my dreams schools and just how to say no because it was a year program and I had this feeling like even when they were like, oh, it'll be three months, right, three months of, of a pandemic. I had this feeling that it was going to go really long just in my gut and I it was, it's been a rough go for a lot of these artists. I know again, and I have been lucky to be busy and be involved in our craft. Um but I know so many kids who this was their dream and there, you know, at home doing what a lot of people have had to do, which is just get a quote unquote normal job and and suffer through it.

But even worse than a lot of those quote unquote normal jobs is those are online too. And a lot of places. So you don't even have like the camaraderie of going into an office. Yeah, it's it's so and for people who usually thrive on human connection, right, we're now all stuck at home unable to connect in any meaningful way. Um Yeah, just as we start to draw to a close one of the questions that I've been asking everybody essentially since the pandemic started as a question about joy. And that question is because We've all had our ups and downs during this pandemic. This these 15 months of of this pandemic and I think it's a good idea to share the things that have made us joyful that have given us joy. So if each of you could tell me something that has been giving you joy lately. Mm Uh huh. That's a really nice question. Make do you have anything? Oh yeah.

I mean, I feel like I've just been like, I'm listening to like life so much more. Oh, that's so cheesy Megan. You're such an artist. Like I just No, no, no, it's awesome. I shuddered as I said that I'm so, I don't know, it's wonderful. I don't know. I just feel like I pay attention a lot. Like everything is so a night like everything is just so important. I feel like every time, like every I laugh a lot because I like that feels nice. I love coffee. That's great. Like this scene going outside, breathing air, like with other people though, like seeing my friends, like, you know, even though we're far and you know, we're safe, like it's just to see them. This is so nice and it really like, I think as an artist it's so important to really take in those things and feel those things and feel life because that's kind of our job, especially as actors to like, we just show life in different ways in our bodies. That's been nice to do in this new way.

I guess everything is a bit more heightened, which it's kind of, you know, a silver lining to all this, You know, I was thinking, as I was outside today, I was passing by a coffee shop that was pretty much shut and I imagined myself walking into that coffee shop without a mask on, and having people sitting around at seats and ordering a coffee at that coffee shop. And I had a moment of like, how beautiful that would be to do. It's amazing. But isn't that sad? Like, it's not it's not sad, but it's it's like, it's a very poignant sensation, isn't it, looking? Especially because I just moved to Toronto in january and I've never known the city outside of a pandemic, Oh my God, and I find myself looking at places going, oh God, I wonder what that would be like to walk in there, or to go shopping there, or to meet my friends there, you know what I mean? It's I uh I I think I've been finding joy much like Megan said the the pacing change, I remember before the pandemic and it's that fear that everybody has when they're getting ready to graduate school, right?

God, I wish I could just take a break, I wish the world would just freeze for a minute. Damn. Did I get what I asked for? But it's been I have found joy in doing a lot of inner work on walls that I have put up as a person because of some of the things that I've I've been through in my own growth and letting people back in in a way that I didn't think that I would, like I always fancied myself much more introverted than I think I actually am now, if that makes sense. I have found a lot of joy and new people and new things. Um and just learning to to listen, I guess to to the pace of things, into the heartbeat of things around me. It's been I got a very cheesy line. No, it's wonderful. You know, I have a theory about about introverts as one myself. Um in fact, I I have another podcast about being an introvert with another actor. Um and we've we've we talked about a lot of people misunderstand introversion but that more people are actually and divert.

So somewhere else on the spectrum between introvert and amber and an extrovert, um more people sit there than on either of the extremes. So one can go back and forth in a very uh fluid way. And so even though I think a lot of us during this pandemic have found ourselves a little bit more introverted. When the opportunity comes, we may find ourselves sliding back along that spectrum into a little bit of extra version, even though we normally probably wouldn't have. Yeah, it's it's been it's been like flexing a muscle I didn't know I had or hadn't flexed in a while. It's been it's been joyful. Gwyneth and Megan. Thank you so much for this conversation. I've enjoyed this a lot. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Got it. Yeah.

#295 – Megan Legesse & Gwyneth McFall-Gorman
#295 – Megan Legesse & Gwyneth McFall-Gorman
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