Self Isolated Artist
I’ve known Carey Nicholson for over ten years. As an actor, director, adjudicator and teacher of the arts, she has been engaged in performing arts for over thirty-five years. Carey began her love affair of the arts with community theatre in St. Catharines, Ontario. She moved to Toronto to pursue professional dance studies with Lois Smith, O.C. at George Brown College and becoming a faculty member at the School of the Toronto Dance Theatre for fifteen years before moving to Durham Region.
Carey has been involved with community and professional theatre companies ranging from work as producer, director, choreographer, set and costume designer in Durham and York Regions.
Carey is Artistic Director of ‘Theatre on the Ridge’, a not for profit, professional, collaborative company in which committed artists can produce high quality work in a broader scope of theatre and storytelling in Durham Region, just outside of Toronto. Theatre on the Ridge is unique to the Durham Region in that it uses theatre as a tool to engage, to shift complacency and to provide growth to its participants into the world and human nature whether they be from the professional or non-professional/amateur circle.
This summer 2020’s season by Theatre on the Ridge includes Drew Hayden Taylor’s ‘Cottagers and Indians’, Edmond Rostand’s ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’, a remount of TOTR’s successful production of Yasmina Reza’s ‘God of Carnage’ and Beverley Cooper’s ‘Innocence Lost: A Play About Steven Truscott’ all staged in Port Perry, Ontario (50 kilometers east of Toronto).
Recently, I had a chance to interview Carey via telephone:
How are you and your family doing during this time of worldwide upheaval? Have your lives been changed or transformed on account of Covid?
Our lives haven’t changed dramatically on the outside with no real shifts. Like everyone, we’re shifting inwardly. My husband, Andy, and I live in a rural area so social distancing has not been a problem. My family unit (which also includes my mother) has been involved in a regular routine. We’re doing more walks, eating healthier and we are more mindful of what we practice daily. We’re being reminded that we don’t need as much as we thought. I’m also baking more which, while being personally stress reducing, makes everyone happy.
What have you been doing to keep yourself busy during this tumultuous time?
I run the company (Theatre on the Ridge) from my home. I am an optimist and keep working at a moderated level. With too many unknowns during this tumultuous time, it is a perfect opportunity for me to complete ongoing and needed maintenance and planning for the company compared to the active stage of rehearsals and performances. I’ve also been doing a lot of ‘webinaring’ to stay connected to the cultural and tourism sectors. This current crisis will pass at some point, and I’m trying to keep myself ahead of that curve when it does.
In your estimation/opinion, will the value and place of the performing arts in the professional and non-professional communities change as a result of COVID-19?
I can only hope. As much as one doesn’t want this crisis to last long as it takes time to instill new habits, it will. It has been said that new habits can become installed in three weeks, so maybe performing arts will become a new habit for more people.
Even though the performing arts is considered a ‘non-essential’ industry, it’s amazing how essential we have become to the communities. In our world, it appears that value is often measured quantitatively, not qualitatively, in tangible numbers and dollars. The success and value of the arts cannot be measured simply in finite dollars or numerical data. We do need to make some money along the way, but there’s also an intrinsic value of the arts in a community and other more experiential rewards for active participation within theatre.
I’m hopeful that the sheer volume of arts activities during this crisis will weigh past any emergency response funding and influence future funding and support.
Once life returns to its normalcy or a sense of a ‘new’ normal, explain how and why you think it’s important for audiences to venture out to see these four productions this summer in Port Perry.
My first thought is that people should get out to see any theatre this summer. We’re going to need that after being shut inside for this length of time we are now experiencing.
We’re going to need that live experience connection because, as humans, we need to share something together. Even the internet, Skype and Zoom are having trouble keeping up as we try to provide ourselves that human connection. We need to be in the same place, sharing the same experience and breathing the same air at the same time.
Forward is the only direction we can go. Let’s just keep going forward as much as we can.
Your upcoming 2020 summer season looks exciting. You have selected four plays that will offer opportunities for actors and audiences to learn more about the world and human nature. At this time, in your role as Artistic Director, are you planning to go ahead as scheduled? Have you been preparing in the event modifications may have to be made?
We’re prepared for anything that could happen, but realistically some things are out of our control. I’ve had informal conversations with some of the artists involved this summer. We‘ve had structured brainstorming sessions regarding what a ‘reimagined’ summer season could look like, should that occur.
There are a number of possible doors and it’s difficult to decide which unlocked door to open as we do have limitations. It’s not the performance dates that pose the challenge; instead, it’s the fact we don’t own and control our own space as the theatre is in a municipal building.
As we also know, the current provincial law states that we are not allowed to get more than five people together to rehearse.
Moving forward is the only way to go and, yes, we are holding our breath as we do so. We’re continually focusing on many ideas of how to deliver as much as we can regarding our performance and educational goals for the company while serving our emerging artists’ goals and our audience. As Dory, the fish, says, “Just keep swimming.”
Many artists and some companies have been switching to online and/or live streaming their work in order to share it with audiences during this time of COVID-19. Given how our world is changing daily, has Theatre on the Ridge given any thought to live streaming any of its summer productions if necessary?
We’ve looked at and considered live streaming if the need arises; however, there are technical logistics involved. For example, how would the performance rights be affected if the production was streamed.
I’m also carefully watching how the other professional companies are handling this idea. Thankfully, the technology is there should the need arise. We wouldn’t have had this opportunity to stream our productions online twenty years ago.
Theatre on the Ridge wants to keep connecting to our audiences and communities for growth and development, so online performance or live streaming is an important opportunity to discover how we can continue to serve and expand our audiences.
Why do you and your artists love to perform?
Tony Nappo says it well in his profile. I like his distinction between acting and performing. Our artists act and we love to create and communicate. It’s comparable to building a machine, piece by piece, where we plug it in at the end once it’s constructed and assembled for the live performance, and the light goes on for everyone.
As a nod to ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ and the late James Lipton, here are ten questions he asked his guests at the conclusion of his interviews:
What is your favourite word?
Is it alright if I use a phrase instead? Under ‘normal’ circumstances I would have used the word ‘curiosity’. For the time being under this pandemic, I’m now using ‘tenacity with grace’ as I have to trust the universe ultimately knows what it’s doing.
What is your least favourite word?
Can’t (Note: Carey said this word with uproarious laughter)
What turns you on? New ideas and possibilities from a theatrical sense and on a lot of levels.
What turns you off?
Working from pre-determined outcomes. I’m very processed driven. I like to stay open that I might arrive somewhere different from where I thought I would be.
What sound or noise do you love?
Words hanging in the air on stage which develop weight and shape. These hanging words are those wonderful rare moments that become a hologram in space.
What sound or noise bothers you?
Sound for sound’s sake. I dislike extraneous noise. Don’t clutter with sounds that aren’t needed. I compare this to skilled painters who don’t waste their brushstrokes on a canvas.
What is your favourite curse word?
Fuck – it is extremely effective when used appropriately and accordingly. I love the consonant sounds in the word.
Other than your own at this time, what other profession would you have liked to have attempted?
I’ve been a dancer and choreographer, basketry artist, B and B operator and gallery owner. I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do. With theatre, I am home.
What profession would you not like to attempt?
Anything where you rely on numbers or tangible outcomes to let you know you’ve succeeded. I like to measure value and success on how you’ve been of use to the community and to others. Helping others on their own journey through theatre is something that touches me.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear as you approach the Pearly Gates?
“Well done. If you’re not too busy, we’ve a rehearsal down the hall if you care to join us.”
To learn more about Theatre on the Ridge, visit www.theatreontheridge.ca.