Jamie Mac

Looking Ahead

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Joe Szekeres

Holding these conversations with many professional theatre artists this last year have been enlightening and informative where we’ve also shared in some good laughs and smiles.

Artist Jamie Mac certainly made me laugh in reading his answers for his dry wit and subtle poking that put a smile on my face.

We conducted our conversation via email. I’m quite thankful Jamie made the time to add his voice to the conversation. I look forward to the time when I am able finally to say hello to him in person once we emerge from this pandemic cocoon of the last sixteen months.

He was scheduled to perform at the Stratford Festival last summer when Covid hit. I look forward to seeing his work back onstage there when it’s safe for all of us to venture indoors to sit down and watch a live production.

Jamie submitted his brief bio to me. I’m going to place it here because his wit made me smile on this Saturday morning:

“Jamie Mac was born on an island incorrectly identified by Giovanni Caboto as newly found. He studied the speaking of words and the movement of the body at a university with a toppled statue.

Full time he collects money from the government, helps the neighbours with chores, reads books, plays basketball, makes fun videos with his friends, and auditions into a void of silent apathy.
The majority of his creative life has been centralized around a man named William. He sometimes re-evaluates this decision.

One day he’d like to go to the moon.”

Thank you, Jamie, for contributing to the discussion:

It’s a harsh reality that the worldwide pandemic of Covid 19 has changed all of us. Describe how your understanding of the world you know and how your perception and experience have changed on a personal level.

Apparently, scientists estimate the entire global mass of the SARS CoV-2 is less than 10 kilograms. Something you could fit into a cargo-pocket did all this. That puts a new spin on the phrase “there are no small parts…”

Also, I’ve been thinking, when individuals, groups, communities, political figures, and even whole countries make poor decisions, it really does fundamentally change the course of history forever. If Jagmeet Singh didn’t needle Trudeau to up the funds to Canadians, I really don’t know how I would have survived. If Trump didn’t… well… you can fill in the blank there.

If I didn’t hit the animal on the highway the other day, I might not have been paying attention when the child fell into the road 5 minutes later.

Everything is so brutally linked, and we all have such a responsibility not to make idiotic decisions; the plates of the future are so precariously balanced.

(And I feel awful about the roadkill, still. The child is fine.)

With live indoor theatre shut for one year plus, with it appearing it may not re-open any time soon, how has your understanding and perception as a professional artist of the live theatre industry been altered and changed?

Yeah, live theatre should be the last thing to return. We should miss it terribly, achingly, so we can rededicate ourselves to its value.

Honestly, the world really was not valuing it. We inject Netflix into our faces and doze off into obscurity.
Let’s get back to live people engaging our actual active imaginations. I want to do some beautiful skits in the rubble of lost potential.

As a professional artist, what are you missing the most about the live theatre industry?

Words, man. Woooords. Gathering together and speaking about ideas is kind of the highest function people have.

It’s like, the best thing we do… sometimes. And the great thing is: some writers are actually good, and that’s magic when that occurs.

Oh! And every now and then, some foolish director actually says that I get to speak those words… to other actors… in front of an audience! Like, wow.

What kind of fantasmagorical world is this!? That’s privilege, that is.

So. It’s the ‘live’ part I miss most – like best.

As a professional artist, what is the one thing you will never take for granted again in the live theatre industry when you return to it?

Once, I had an actor absolutely shower me in spit for about 45 seconds, multiple times. It was a close intimate impassioned speech. It was… My. Own. Personal. Hell.

But I would have done that every day of 2020 - luxuriating in the spittle like a shampoo commercial - instead of sitting around in my fuckin’ house.

So yeah… passionate actor spit. That’s my answer.

Describe one element you hope has changed concerning the live theatre industry.

This is just me, and probably not what is going to happen, but I think people should complain less, and argue more. Respectfully. Yes. Always.

But I sense we all tiptoe around too much, and no one really fights for great ideas. It’s very Canadian.
I want everyone to speak up, be wrong, get corrected, learn, and fight another day. If we trust that no one is necessarily wholly defined (as a person) by some previous utterance – and make space for people to grow, they might.

It is a deep form of personal respect to demand the best from each other. Let’s continue to get things gloriously wrong.

That’s the only way to make things more better (as the late, yet incandescent, Ian Watson used to say.)
Explain what specifically you believe you must still accomplish within the industry.

Surprising myself.

Acting faster than I can decide, and really discovering.

Some artists are saying that audiences must be prepared for a tsunami of Covid themed stories in the return to live theatre. Would you elaborate on this statement both as an artist in the theatre, and as an audience member observing the theatre.

It seems an evolutionary imperative for people to do ‘plague stories’. There’s a really weird chapter in one of Moses’ books detailing how to diagnose and treat different spots, and pox, and plague on peoples’ bodies. I don’t recommend it, but I suppose it was helpful at the time, pseudo-scientifically or anecdotally.
Even the phrase ‘opening Pandora’s box’ (or jar) is a warning story about releasing sickness.

Evidently, we have to tell these stories, or we’re dead.

Mercifully, Shakespeare didn’t write about being stuck in his house… and instead delved into humanity, and conscience, and malevolence, and tragedy. So, good writers hopefully know the difference between being ‘current’ or reaching for timelessness. Nothing will suck more than the sound of an audience groaning under their masks at a brutal social-distancing joke.

I’ll probably fall into the trap myself, if anyone ever hires me again. None of us are immune from being relentlessly lame. (See what I did there.)

But there is always a place for a good allegory, just let’s not put Zoom on stage if we can avoid it, yeah?

As an artist, what specifically is it about your work that you want future audiences to remember about you?

I’m still wrestling with the possibility that to serve a story properly is to be forgotten. I don’t know if that’s true or not.

It’s either one of these two: 1) Risk being terrible attempting to be great, or 2) Risk being forgotten in the service of the story.

I probably go back and forth on those ideas, depending on the part.

I would love for people to think I was intensely versatile over the course of my career, but I also would want audiences to feel I was deeply human, whatever that might mean. I just want them to laugh despite themselves, and cry if they needed a cry. But like, the rest is up to the subconscious muse of the writer.

You can check out Jamie Mac’s Twitter and Insta handles: @JamieMacLive.

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