I’ve known Jacob’s family for a couple of years through the school board where I worked before I retired from teaching.
The first time I saw Jacob onstage was in a wonderfully campy performance as the evil Puppet Master at Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre in ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio.’ Just like all of us who were missing live theatre in person, I saw Bad Hats’ Theatre production of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ produced by Soulpepper which included Jacob.
Jacob MacInnis is a Tkaronto-based non-binary performer and visual artist. After training for three years at Sheridan College’s Music Theatre Performance Program, Jacob has gone on to entertain audiences all over Turtle Island in countless musicals, concerts, and cabarets. In 2014 Jacob was nominated for a Dora Mavor-Moore award and won the Toronto Theatre Critic’s Award for best supporting actor in a musical for their performance in James and the Giant Peach (YPT).
This past summer, Jacob made their Stratford Festival debut in Play On! in the festival’s summer cabaret series. They currently work part-time at Sheridan College teaching acting tutorials.
Jacob will next appear this month and next month at London Ontario’s Grand Theatre in its production of ‘Home for the Holidays’.
We conducted our interview via email. Thank you so much for the conversation, Jacob:
Could you share one teacher and one mentor for whom you are thankful who believed in your chosen career as a performing artist.
A mentor/teacher I greatly appreciate—that is so tough to answer. Every contract I do, every show I perform in, every tutorial I teach, I am constantly inspired by my colleagues, directors, and students. The lessons I have learned over the years from each special person I look up to have served (and continue to serve) to shape the artist I am today.
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 eighteen months on a personal level? How have you been changed or transformed on a personal level?
The last eighteen months (as I am sure they’ve been for many) have been tough to say the least—The emotional ups, downs have been enough to give a person whiplash! However, there have been a few silver linings: The first few months of the pandemic brought my family of five back together after so many years of living apart, throughout the lockdown I was able to come out to my community as proudly non-binary, I wrote and produced my first pop single ( In My Dreams), I became a teacher at Sheridan College, and I was blessed enough to be a part of a handful of online workshops, and magical projects like Bad Hat’s Alice In Wonderland. Making my Stratford Festival debut was certainly near the very top of the list of blessings!
How have these last eighteen months of the pandemic changed or transformed you as an artist professionally?
With the murder of George Floyd, we watched as the world was set aflame with anger, disgust, and a cry for justice. We started to listen to Indigenous people and people of colour talk about their lived experiences and the racism they have endured in this colonial world. We finally started to see and understand the atrocities Canada and the Catholic Church inflicted upon Indigenous people with the barbaric Residential “school” system.
And now we are starting to see a shift toward anti-oppression in the professional Theatre landscape. We are starting to see stories of people who, until recently, have been ignored altogether. We are starting to see a move toward kindness in the rehearsal space with a focus on mental health. And we are starting to see how art can be made while avoiding trauma. We still have a long way to go, but we must not go back to how things were…. I am a human before I am an artist.
What intrigues/fascinates/excites Jacob MacInnis post Covid?
What intrigues me is seeing how theatre will be shaped as we start implementing more and more of the lessons we are learning … I am intrigued to see just how much we can decolonize this beloved art form and make it of use for the world we want to see.
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 and teachers who encouraged you to get to this point as an artist, what would it be?
To my mentors—thank you for believing in me when I wasn’t able to myself.
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?
To any naysayers, I say nothing! —“If they aren’t paying your bills, pay them no mind”
What’s your favourite swear word?
What is a word you love to hear yourself say?
What is a word you don’t like to hear yourself say?
What would you tell your younger personal self with the knowledge and wisdom life experience has now given you?
Save your money and lay off the sugar!
With the professional life experience you’ve gained over the years, what would you now tell the upcoming Jacob MacInnis from years ago who was just in the throes of beginning their career as a performing artist?
What is one thing you still wish to accomplish both personally and professionally?
I would love to pay off my debt, do a show on Broadway, star in some film and television, and own a house complete with a wiener dog named Dijon.
Name one moment in your professional career as an artist that you wish you could re-visit again for a short while.
I don’t think I would go back to a time in the past even if I could… I have had so many beautiful experiences, but I am always looking ahead!
What is one thing Jacob MacInnis will never take for granted again post Covid?
I will never take my friends and family for granted post Covid.
Would Jacob MacInnis do it all again if given the same opportunities?
I don’t think I would do it all again! Like I said above: what’s next? Bring on the future.
You can follow Jacob on instagram @jacobmacinnis. You can check out their visual art @jacobmacinnisart, or listen to their original music on Spotify, Apple Music, or anywhere you listen.