Theatre Conversation in a Covid World
Ian Brown Photography
Eliza-Jane is an actor and singer based out of Hamilton Ontario. She is currently on "pandemic hiatus" from Come from Away where she plays Beverley Bass in the Toronto production. She has had an extensive career in the theatre in Canada, with some highlights including playing Maria in The Sound of Music at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Donna in Mamma Mia! The Musical at The Confederation Centre for the Arts, and Hold Me, Touch Me in the Canadian Company and First National Tour of The Producers. She is Dora nominated for her work in The Musical Stage Company’s Elegies and is a founding member of both Theatre20 and The Montreal Young Company.
Eliza-Jane is director and producer, having worked on such projects as B!TCH ISLAND at the Hamilton Fringe, A Misfortune which has its world premiere at the Confederation Centre for the Arts, Laura Secord at Festival Players of Prince Edward County, Les Belles Soeurs at St. Lawrence College among others.
She received her teaching degree in 2008 with focusses in both vocal music and theatre. She was Head of Theatre at Asbury College and has taught at St. Lawrence College, Carleton University, Randolph Academy and Sheridan College in their Musical Theatre Programs and courses. She received her BFA in acting from The University of Windsor.
We conducted our conversation via email, and you will see from her responses her bona fide sense of humour emanates strongly.
Thanks, EJ, for taking the time to add your voice to the conversation:
Many professional theatre artists I’ve profiled and interviewed have shared so much of themselves and how the pandemic has affected them from social implications from the Black Lives Matter and BIPOC movements to the staggering numbers of illnesses and deaths. Could you share with us and describe one element, either positive or negative, from this time that you believe will remain with you forever?
One element is the loss and grief around my Mother dying. She headed into long term care a week before the shut down. She died this January. When you are so intimately connected with grief and spend your days caregiving, you don’t have much left for anything else. Except maybe binging ‘Arrested Development’. Again.
Have you learned anything about human nature from this time?
I’ve deepened my belief that we are more the same than different and that it is our nature to empathize and listen to others. Wait, what did you ask me…
How has your immediate family been faring during this time? As a family, can you share with us how your lives have been changed and impacted by this time?
Well, sometimes loudly and with bluster, but mostly just tiny squeaky parfs that oddly can travel the entire house. Oh, wait. I thought you said farting.
But seriously speaking, my family is doing really well. We are healthy and lucky and are deeply appreciative to spend this time together.
I know none of us can even begin to guess when professional theatre artists will be back to work. I’ve spoken with some who have said it might not be until 2022. Would you agree on this account? Have you ever though that you might have had to pivot and switch careers during this time?
Oh, geez, all we do as artists is pivot. We are well versed in this technique. I’ve pivoted so many times in my career that full circle isn’t just an idiom. It’s all or nothing, feast or famine (OK, those are just idioms)
Half the time you are working, you’re not actually working…you are just trying to get work. I’m constantly thinking about pivoting, and already am…at the moment I am teaching online education which has been a challenge.
How do you think your chosen career path and vocational calling will look once all of you return safely to the theatre? Do you feel confident that you can and will return safely?
Alright, for a brief and I said brief moment, I will be serious here. If the industry rebounds I will as well. I am a theatre person. It’s just who I am.
I love the theatre and everything in it…weellll…except the people. (I said I would TRY to be serious). I will run to it with open arms and hug the stitches out of it. I will never stop acting in the theatre…unless I get a series.
This time of the worldwide pandemic has shaken all of us to our very core and being. According to author Margaret Atwood, she believes that Canadians are survivors no matter what is thrown in their path. Could you share what has helped you survive this time of uncertainty?
Donut Monster, water paints, Covid testing, nature walks, Meditation, cottage porn, free farting, Ultra docs, SSRI’s, camping trips, running, baking, teaching gigs, sleeping, yoga, judging my cats, skiing, biking, Wah Sardaarji snacks. ALSO, taking my relationship with my pyjamas (co-dependant) to the next level and doing my son’s homework (also co-dependant). AND FINALLY, taking an online chemistry course and quitting an online chemistry course.
Imagine in a perfect world that the professional theatre artist has been called back as it has been deemed safe for actors and audience members to return. The first show is complete and now you’re waiting backstage for your curtain call:
a) Describe how you believe you’re probably going to react at that curtain call.
It is likely I will have a good cry. It is also likely I will flatten the first four rows crowd surfing.
b) There is a crowd of people waiting to see you and your castmates at the stage door to greet all of you. Tell me what’s the first thing you will probably say to the first audience member:
“So…I was your favourite, right…No hold on, that’s what I would be thinking. What I would say was, “Thank you”.
You can connect with EJ on Instagram: elizajanes and as ejfromaway.