Self Isolated Artist
Since I’ve been reviewing for On Stage Blog, I’ve seen many, many solid Canadian professional and performing artists who can rightly call themselves a ‘triple threat’. To be able to act, dance and sing naturally and believably certainly requires a skillful discipline which must be carefully nurtured.
Beau Dixon is one of those artists who is a ‘triple threat’ on stage as I’ve seen his work and, yes, this term is an appropriate one for him. I’ve also learned something about Beau during our online conversation. He is a self-taught actor, musician, playwright, music director and sound designer. Additionally, he is also Artistic Director of Firebrand Theatre, a performance company committed to giving life to stories that inspire the lives of Canadian youth today.
He is one busy guy.
I was first introduced to Beau’s work as a playwright at 4th Line Theatre in Cavan during summer 2019 for his production ‘Bloom: A Rock and Roll Fable’. During a pre-dinner discussion, I recall how moved he became when he spoke about the premiere of his play and how important it was never to forget one’s roots or those small Canadian bands from rural towns that never had a chance to shine.
I also had a chance to see Beau’s fine performance in a stellar production of ‘The Father’ at Toronto’s Coal Mine Theatre. A tremendously moving production. And then just this past year, I saw ‘Ghost Quartet’ at Crow’s Theatre where Beau and the three-person cast magnificently performed a surreal story of sight and musical sound. Absolutely wonderful.
Beau’s last appearance on stage was in ‘Marjorie Prime’ at Coal Mine Theatre.
When Beau agreed to be interviewed, I was thrilled because I am looking forward to seeing him perform in the future. When I checked out his personal website, I am even further intrigued with this gentleman’s background and resume.
1. How have you and your family been coping during this crisis? What has been the most difficult and/or challenging for you and your family?
What has been the most challenging for me is not being able to have physical contact with my family and friends. I count my blessings every day knowing my father's safe in Regina, along with my brother in Calgary and my sister and her family in Peterborough. It is our plan to meet at our cottage on Lake Simcoe this summer. But who knows? We can only hope...I live alone in the Beaches in Toronto. When I get stressed about our current situation, I take walks along the water with my girlfriend and check out all the baby foxes running around. I'm just so thankful the people in my life are safe.
2. Were you in rehearsal, pre-production, or performances before the quarantine and everything was cancelled for the moment? What has become of this/these productions?
We were one week away from starting rehearsals at Tarragon for the world premier of 'Orphan Song'. After that, I was going to jump into rehearsals at Soulpepper for 'Behind the Bars'. In fact, I had all of 2020 and most of 2021 booked up in my calendar. Heck, I was on cloud nine before the lock down happened. Not a care in the world! Then, everything just shut down. It's bonkers how much everything is really just...up in the air.
3. What have you been doing to keep yourself busy during this quarantine and isolation?
Surprisingly, I've been quite busy. And it's not like I'm looking for distractions or trying to keep myself busy out of fear or boredom. I'm never bored. I do my exercises in the morning, meditate and try to catch up on reading (there's a pile of New Yorker issues that I still have to finish!) I'm trying to take advantage of doing all those things I never got around to doing because I was so busy hustling for work.
4. Do you have any words of wisdom or sage advice for other performers who have been hit hard by this pandemic? Any specific encouragement to newly trained actors/performers from the theatre schools who are having trouble?
The most important thing right now is taking care of yourself. It's important to eat right and have a healthy mind, body and spirit. What's inspired me is waking up in the morning and saying, “Today I'm going to create something” whether it's writing down two lines in my journal or trying out a new recipe. Creating things keeps me motivated and inspired! Or...Don't do anything at all. Just lay back and binge on all five seasons of The Wire.
Own it. It's your life. You do you. Forgive yourself then move on. This is a whole new ball game. The goal post keeps moving. Rules no longer apply. I think it's safe to say that no one in the theatre industry has any idea what's going to happen tomorrow, next month, let alone next year. So, take this time to make sure you're doing what you love to do. Hang on to what you love. The rest doesn't matter.
5. Do you sense or see anything positive from COVID 19?
I see a lot of positive things coming from all of this. Whether the good outweighs the bad... Time will only tell. But for now, I sense Mother Nature is finally able to take a deep breath and get her bearings for a moment. The environment needs some healing time. As for us... I think this has taught us not to underestimate our own fragility. We are sensitive and expendable beings. It's important that we step back and take stock in what gifts we've been given; time and inspiration. It's up to us to decide what we're going to do with those offerings.
6. In your opinion, will COVID 19 leave some lasting impact or effects upon the Canadian performing arts scene?
I think it's going to take a few years for the theatre industry to get back to 'normal'. It'll take a while before patrons will start to feel safe sitting in a dark theatre with a bunch of other strangers. But when we do get to some sense of normalcy, I think artists will be trying to achieve greatness in their work. There'll be less mediocrity clogging the industry, and the performers that finally hit the stage will be acting their butts off! Artists and performers will be showing more teeth and guts in everything they do.
7. Some artists have turned to streaming or online/You Tube presentations to showcase their work. Do you see any benefits of doing this? Again in your opinion, will or could streaming/online/You Tube productions be part of the new ‘normal’ for theatre and the performing arts scene?
I've been participating in online theatre and music sessions that I would never consider joining if I wasn't forced into lock down. I think streaming online makes the work more accessible. It's not the ideal situation, but theatre practitioners and fellow artists are making it work.
Personally, I have my doubts about performing theatre online. It's not theatre. It's something else. You need that live audience. I'm recording a lot of music and sharing it online with other artists around the world. I'm also enjoying posting live stream concerts of my own music.
I think independent musicians and songwriters will start making more money performing online. I see it happening already. This may revitalize the music industry as we know it. Since the iTunes generation, we could only make money by touring. Now, there's all of these live streaming platforms that are allowing musicians to perform from their homes and charge admission directly to the people that want to see them perform live. What's now happening are a few positive things; artists are no longer relying on agencies like Ticketmaster or Stub hub to profit from hard earned ticket sales. Musicians can now sell directly to the consumer, making it easier to pocket their earnings.
As well, someone from the other side of the world who always wanted to see/ hear a songwriter from Canada- but could never afford to fly over- can now see the artist virtually dropped into their living room at an affordable price. The performer is now able to interact with their audience- which in turn allows the medium to be more of a viable and accessible service of entertainment while fostering a sense of community among the viewers.
8. What is it about performing that you still love?
I have two answers to this question. The first one: I love being loved! I'm not ashamed to say it. It makes me feel good, and I just love sharing my gift.
The other answer is: I love serving people. I just want to entertain and make people happy. I posted a song the other day on Facebook, and a stranger messaged me privately saying how much it meant to him to hear that song during isolation. It was apparent that he was dealing with some feelings and he just needed to hear that specific song. Whether it's acting or singing; if I can touch one person’s heart, it's enough to know that it's worth getting up and pushing on.
As a nod to ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ and the late James Lipton, here are the ten questions he used to ask his guests:
1. What is your favourite word?
2. What is your least favourite word?
3. What turns you on?
4. What turns you off?
5. What sound or noise do you love?
Waves lapping at the shore.
6. What sound or noise bothers you?
7. What is your favourite curse word?
8. What profession, other than your own, would you have liked to attempt?
9. What profession could you NOT see yourself doing?
10. If Heaven exists, what do you hope God will say to you as you approach the Pearly Gates?
“Well done. Now, grab an instrument. Prince and Miles are waiting for you backstage, and your Mom has front row seats.”
To learn more about Beau and his work, please visit www.beaudixon.com.
To learn more about Beau’s work with Firebrand Theatre, please visit www.firebrandtheatre.com.