Last time I saw Adam Paolozza perform on stage was during his years as a student at Father Leo J. Austin in Whitby. He was part of an amazing ensemble who performed ‘The Serpent’.
That was in the 90s. Adam has gone on to do many things since then.
From his personal web page:
He is a graduate of École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, Ryerson Theatre School and has studied Corporeal Mime with the Decroux company Intrepido in Paris. He also studied Commedia Dell’Arte with Marcello Magni of Théâtre de Complicité.
In addition to creation work, Adam is a dedicated teacher. He's been a sessional instructor at the Soulpepper Academy, taught at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto. He has given independent workshops in Scotland, France, India, and China as well as all over Canada, using his own unique interpretation of the Lecoq pedagogy. Adam's goal as instructor is to help students develop a spontaneous mind and body connection through a coupling of formal technique and improvisation.
In 2014 Adam created BAD NEW DAYS to produce his own projects and explore his vision of a contemporary poetic theatre of gesture. He states: “I believe theatre has the potential to open up new space for radical thinking precisely because it is an art where meaning is held 'in suspense', so to speak, as pure potential."
Adam and Bad New Days have been nominated for 18 Dora Mavor Moore awards, winning one personally for performance.
We conducted our conversation via Zoom. Thank you so much for your time, Adam:
Could you share one teacher and one mentor for whom you are thankful.
Tony Labriola and Jim Shea, (two of my teachers at Father Leo J. Austin Catholic Secondary School in Whitby) were a good combination. They introduced me to Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, existentialism, absurdism, all different kinds and aspects of theatre history.
They really supported my exploration and journey into becoming an actor.
They definitely opened the door for me.
I’m trying to think positively that we have, fingers crossed, moved forward in dealing with Covid. How have you been able to move forward from these last 18 -19 months on a personal level? How have you been changed or transformed on a personal level?
I really took it as a chance to stop and pause and focus on personal change that was not happening at the same rate as some professional change. I wanted to line up some personal goals and professional goals.
It was an existential pause.
I had more time to exercise and got in better shape than I had been before which felt good, especially for being interested in physical theatre and to prepare when things opened up again.
It was a time to re-examine things I really cared about and say goodbye to some things and create space for new things. It was a time to get myself together before coming back.
How have these last eighteen months of the pandemic changed or transformed you as an artist professionally?
(Adam laughs) Well, I’ve yet to see the full results.
I have been lucky to have performed twice already. A friend of mine who lives in Estonia, we’ve been working on a show for the last couple of years which got delayed by Covid; then in August – September I was able to go there and perform in this puppet show we were working on.
I just got back from Montreal two weeks with a show I’ve been working on.
I thought a lot about art and theatre during Covid, and you start to realize when you’re in your forties like me, life starts to move fast and you start to realize how long things take, and you have to do things that you want to do.
I thought it’s good to go back to basics after Covid. It’s made me decide what do I love? What kind of work do I want to make the most?
Instead of worrying about what I ought to do rather than what my passions felt, I thought it’s time to follow that and let people follow if they do.
In the show we did in Montreal, at the beginning I have a moment where I come on stage and stand in front of the audience in silence for quite a long time. I really felt the personal work I had done during Covid was very useful in that moment, and it allowed me to be more present and enjoy it.
You can’t think too much when you’re performing, and I’m really trying to absorb as much of this as I can. It’s such a pleasure to be back on stage, and it’s left me with more gratitude and sense of wanting to slow those moments down.
We’ll see how that transforms into the practice and the technique.
There’s definitely a renewed sense of spirit, of purpose and enjoyment.
Hopefully, we’ll be doing the Montreal show in Toronto soon as we were supposed to do it back-to-back before Covid. We’re planning to do the show at the end of April, and it’s called “Italian Mime Suicide”.
In your professional opinion, how do you see the global landscape of professional theatre changing, adapting, and morphing as a result of these last 18 months?
I think it’s still happening.
I can tell you what I hope will happen.
My big “concern” about theatre in Canada is being so focussed on the text and on a certain way of a certain kind of Canadian naturalism. My friend, Jacob Zimmer, calls it “upper Canadian naturalism” because I’m not speaking for all of Canada but Ontario and Toronto-centric which is the place I’m coming from.
I wish, and what I try to do in my work (successfully or not) is to create theatre with what is possible theatrically, not what is just possible with text but with all the meaning that escapes text or is under the text, above it, beside it.
My experience in working with theatre schools and with younger people is that we don’t see a lot of that work in English Canada. I always thought in Quebec that theatre is more visually or physically engaged with those aspects, but even there when I brought the work, I was told it is refreshing to see that work relies on gesture just as much as it does on text.
I don’t know if it’s an anglophone thing or a British repertory model that has come down to us. I’ve always been inspired by commedia dell ‘arte. In a historical way, I love masques and how they organize things but what I take in a more contemporary way is the philosophy of when we’re in the space we improvise together. We usually have a plan, but it’s about that ‘liveness’, that danger (if you want to call it that), and we had that autonomy and anything can happen, really.
I think that’s why theatres have been dangerous places during revolutions or traditionally there was talk to shut theatres down during times of social unrest. I think only focusing on text…hmmm…I can get that from a newspaper article but what can you give me from the theatre that’s different.
I love that we’re talking about important issues and I never want to stop that. I want to encourage more of that, but I wish there was more theatrical thinking about that.
I have always hoped and continued to hope that kind of meaning is only created by ‘liveness’, by being in a room and having the experience of being together of gathering. My sense is that people feel the loss of that and are really craving that, as I am as a spectator and as performer.
I hope that more work starts to be created with that in mind of what is possible when people are in a room together. I hope we can use theatre to open up different ways of thinking for people more. A lot of inequality and shitty things became very clear to people during the pandemic, and then when things break down it creates a new space and new way of thinking or new ways of organizing.
I’m hoping that kind of echo with people start re-organizing and coming together again in order to create work inspires that, and there is a sense that things don’t have to be the way they were before in broad strokes.
What intrigues, fascinates, and excites Adam Paolozza post Covid?
I just saw a concert at the Danforth Music Hall the other night, and just the moment when the lights go dark and a body comes on stage, you’ve hooked me already.
That’s my favourite moment. I just want to see what are we going to do with that now? How are you going to take me on a journey?
That’s the thing I love about theatre – that it’s extra and surplus from life, that we don’t need it “per se” but we do in a sense that we examine who we are by representing ourselves in the flesh.
It’s a strange metier to work in.
I’m just intrigued and hope that more companies don’t just reflect reality in a verisimilitude kind of way, but I want to see the response to reality. I want the imaginary world that I feel is connected to what’s going on that allows me to dissociate from the harshness of reality and enter into the space where meaning is held in suspense, and I can think about things at a distance rather than really just presenting things in a realistic way which has a place.
Yes, there is a great tv, theatre and film representing this, but to me it’s just one choice of many so I would be intrigued to see more people looking for other ways, and other choices.
What frustrates Adam Paolozza post Covid?
I’m not into the online shows.
To me, they can be cool but they’re not theatre. It’s a necessity for sure, and I love that it gives access to people with physical accessibility issues or neuro-diverse people where it’s hard to be in public.
I hope that it doesn’t go away, but I was kind of frustrated. You could take a risk by stopping what you were doing for a little while if you’re lucky and privileged enough to survive which I was economically and all that.
I just wish theatre creators wouldn’t rush so quickly into the next thing and think more about how you could use Zoom in a way that is more interesting???? I don’t know.
I’m tired of the online stuff. That’s my frustration but more stuff is opening up.
I hope we can go back into spaces and be safe. I understand why the world needs to recover but that hustle that people complained about before Covid (gas prices, groceries, and prices) is starting to return in a worse way catching up for lost time. Let’s stop and re-examine and not blindly go back with the horse pulling the situation rather than the person controlling the horse.
I hope more positive change comes rather than reaction or people digging their heels in on the right and polarization.
A sprawling answer, Joe, I know.
Try to answer these in a single sentence. If you need more than one sentence, that’s not a problem. I credit the late James Lipton and “Inside the Actors’ Studio’ for this idea:
If you could say one thing to one of your mentors or teachers who encouraged you to get to this point as an artist, what would it be?
Thank you. You don’t realize so many small gestures, those little, small things you said had such an impact and continue to inspire. Thank you for being generous and supportive in a time it was really important and instrumental.
If you could say something to any of the naysayers in your career who didn’t think you would make it as an artist, what would that be?
I enjoyed this one when I read it earlier.
What I would say would be, “Screw you” to some of the faculty at Ryerson Theatre School when I went there. (Note: this university is no longer called this name) when a young, impressionable Adam went in for his interview at the end of second year and was really excited to talk about art and my work, and they said to me,
“Have you considered jaw surgery?”
I have a bit of an underbite. The staff at the interview told me my work is fine but they were thinking I should get jaw surgery so I could be more palatable for television and film.
I was lucky I had enough self esteem at the time to not be thrown by that. I’m a teacher now at the university and I couldn’t imagine saying that to a 21- or 22-year-old.
Ryerson, the faculty and staff are better now. (Please note this name of the university is changing) When Perry Schneiderman took over, things improved dramatically.
What’s your favourite swear word?
Probably ‘Fuck’. I guess I’m pretty average. Maybe ‘shit’, but it depends on the kind of day. For exclamation or frustration, I would go “Shit”. If I wanted percussive impact, I would use “Fuck”.
What is a word you love to hear yourself say?
Exacerbate. I use this word in rehearsals as much as I can.
What is a word you don’t like to hear yourself say?
Brewery. I have a hard time with those r w combos. I like going to them, but I don’t like saying the word.
With whom would you like to have dinner and discuss the current state of the live Canadian performing arts scene?
This one was a tough one. I’m going to have to make the table bigger, cheat and give you three names: Walter Benjamin, Jacques Tati and Hans Thies Lehmann.
What would you tell your younger personal self with the knowledge and wisdom life experience has now given you?
“Stop worrying about how you’re perceived on what you ought to do and really have confidence and dig deeper into what it is you’re passionate about. Trust that this will bring people closer to you.”
With the professional life experience you’ve gained, what would you now tell the upcoming Adam Paolozza from years ago who was just in the throes of beginning a career as a performing artist?
“Don’t become jealous of the success of others and try not to let that be something that drives you. Think about the connections you make with other people and the collaborations. Hold on to that because that is a source of strength. Nourish that.”
What is one thing you still wish to accomplish both personally and professionally?
Professionally, I would love to tour more and to have my work seen by bigger audiences, bigger festivals. I would also really love to perform more in other people’s work. That’s not something that has happened as much as I would have liked. I would just like to be an actor in other people’s processes more.
What do I hope to accomplish personally? I would like to be in a place where the pleasure of working and the practicing of art is really the main driver. There’s obviously going to be a certain amount of satisfaction gained by praise. But as I get older in my life, I want to focus more on what it is about the work that nourishes me, so my delicate emotions don’t get thrown around by the winds of criticism and opinions.
I just want to have more inner strength.
Name one moment in your professional career that you wish you could re-visit again for a short while.
Maybe in theatre school. When I was there, I was aware that was a special time at that time.
More important in my life would be after theatre school when you start to become idle and don’t have much work right away, I would want to talk to that younger Adam and tell him not to get so bogged down in the negative. Just have faith and all is happening in movement even though you don’t see it.
After Ryerson, I went to the LeCoq school in France and it was just exactly what I wanted to study. I remember sitting in a class and the teacher was teaching something that I had really wanted to learn about pantomime. I just remember thinking,
“I’m here. I made it at the exact place where I need to be as professional and aware and soak up as much of this as I can.
So pay attention. You’re lucky you’re here.”
What is one thing Adam Paolozza will never take for granted again post Covid?
Being able to be in front of an audience. I miss that so much. Not being able to do that during these last 19 months made things difficult sometimes and what’s the point.
This is a privilege and pleasure I never want to take for granted.
Would Adam Paolozza do it all again if given the same professional opportunities?
Yeah, I think I would. Besides certain people, I don’t think I love anything in life as much as I love theatre.
I feel good about my choice.
To learn more about Adam, visit www. https://www.badnewdays.com/adam-paolozza
To learn more about Bad New Days Theatre:
Facebook: @badnewsdaysperformance. Instagram and Twitter: @badnewdays