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Jonathan Wilson

Moving Forward

Joe Szekeres

It was great fun to reconnect with Jonathan Wilson once again after I had profiled him over two years ago. If you wish to read the first time he and I spoke, please go here:

We both agreed on how important it was to try to remain positive in the changes once again regarding Covid. Jonathan's doing all right these last two years and adds:

“Life is good. You’re always reinventing yourself even when you think you’ve finished the work. It’s always a new challenge. The other day I was speaking with someone about starting at zero periodically. That’s not meant to sound negative in any way, but it’s a reminder we’re always learning and always moving forward.”

For the first time in forty years, Jonathan doesn’t have an agent. The agency changed and moved on, and he thought this was a good time to self-represent, really go solo and really create his own work in a way that has been “fantastic and very empowering”.

During these last two-plus years, Wilson says the positive side was concentrating on solo writing as a self-creator. Back in his Second City days, he learned that as a writer he could hire himself. Additionally, Studio 180 has also assisted him in developing a new solo piece entitled ‘A Public Display of Affection’ that was filmed and, just this past spring, there was a public screening of it at Toronto’s Paradise Cinema on Bloor.

Wilson says the lockdown has provided new learning opportunities for himself and his craft regarding digital capture of a theatre performance without an audience.

He recently re-visited The Rivoli on Queen Street, one of his old haunts, where he did sketch comedy and improv. He got to perform a section of his upcoming show in front of a live audience, and he was thrilled he had the chance to do that.

With the upcoming production of ‘Gay for Pay with Blake and Clay’, Wilson is looking forward to having a live audience in front once again.

A press release stated the following about the upcoming production:

“Every actor knows there is nothing more prestigious than bravely playing gay. But is your pesky heterosexuality getting in the way of booking a one-way ticket to award season? Join Blake and Clay, two seasoned gay actors, as they teach you to play gay and make LGBTQ about YOU. Go from straight to straight-up booked! Let their lived experience get your acting career off life support! Because representation matters, but their representation hasn't called in ages.”

The Toronto Fringe sellout of ‘Gay for Pay’ won the 2022 Second City Award for Outstanding Comedy and Patron’s Pick. It opens on November 16 and runs to November 27 at Crow’s Theatre.

Wilson worked with co-creator/performer and actor Daniel Krolik seven years ago on a Studio 180 piece for the PanAm Games. They became friends and Daniel encouraged Wilson to continue writing and self-producing. This past spring, Daniel was writing a Fringe show with co-creator Curtis Campbell and approached Jonathan to ask him if he would ever consider doing a Fringe show. They produced some online material. Jonathan saw the online material and it made him laugh.

Curtis does a character named Alanis Percocet (and I had a good laugh over that). Jonathan started his career in Fringe shows. He only had to think for what he calls two seconds to agree to do the show.

According to Wilson, Krolik and Campbell went away and wrote the show, a fake fun acting class. The premise? Two theatre performers have found an assigned gig and are teaching straight actors how to play gay. When he read the script, Wilson said he laughed so much and considers the rehearsal process and performance a real gift as an actor. He has a chance to continue honing his comedic skills as an actor.

There’s improv in the show as well. There’s a community group effort with a lot of give and take with the audience in responses only. Wilson says:

“It’s been a lot of fun and a reminder that in the theatre world comedy is overlooked. If anything, we need laughter right now.”

Jonathan reassures that audience members will not be pulled up or ‘picked on’ to participate in the action of the production. As an audience member, he doesn’t like when that happens, and he doesn’t think it’s right for him to do that to an audience.

At the Fringe, ‘Gay for Pay’ was sold out every night and Jonathan had a fantastic time doing it then. He credits and thanks Crow’s Artistic Director Chris Abraham for opening the door once again to perform it in the east end.

Was there a reason the title does not use the names of the actors?

Jonathan was looking for significance when he got the script wondering why the two characters are called Blake and Clay. Co-creators Curtis and Daniel said they both thought it sounded funny. Jonathan plays Clay so he wondered if he is supposed to be able to be moulded like clay in helping the students in this class take new forms. Director of the production, Curtis Campbell, told Jonathan: ‘Whatever! If that works for you, Jon, go ahead.”

Jonathan then jokingly poked fun at himself by saying to give actors some seed and off they go to grow in whatever form they want. He’s having a great time with the production.

Performances of ‘Gay for Pay with Blake and Clay’ run to November 27 at Streetcar Crow’s Theatre, 345 Carlaw Avenue (Toronto) in the Studio Theatre. Running time is approximately one hour with no intermission. For tickets, visit, click the WHAT’S ON tab and purchase tickets online. You can also call the Box Office at (647) 341-7390.

I’ll be reviewing the production this week. Look for my review to follow shortly thereafter.

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