#282 – Caleigh Crow
Caleigh Crow is a queer Métis writer, musician, and performer from Calgary. Her work tends towards themes of metaphysics, class struggle, magic, and joy. Previous topics include: a talking crow with magical powers who transforms a grocery store clerk into the agent of her own freedom, the Antifa Supersoldier, the intersection between 12th century Franciscan nuns and Britney Spears, witch revenge, and a landlord musical.
Playwriting credits include HEXEN, The Order of the Poor Ladies, Kill Time Before Time Kills You, and There is Violence and There is Righteous Violence and There is Death; or The Born Again Crow, most recently performed in partnership with Gwaandak Theatre in Whitehorse. Her latest play, Hucksterland: The Musical, is in development with the support of Chromatic Theatre’s inaugural BIPOC Playwrights Unit. She wrote and performed in Betch-A-Sketch at the St Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival, and was the assistant director for Gender? I Hardly Know Them’s HTTPEEPEE this summer, marking her entry into sketch comedy. She has performed in the Revolution They Wrote: Feminist Short Works Theatre Festival, the Montreal Anarchist Theatre Festival, and Sage Theatre’s Ignite! Festival. You can hear her in the Alberta Queer Calendar Project’s Without You by Elena Belyea, in the role of Andrea, wherever you get your podcasts. She also plays bass guitar in the band Pope Joan. Her work tends towards themes of metaphysics, class struggle, magic, and joy.
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Caleigh Crow, Phil Rickaby
Phil Rickaby 00:00
Welcome to Episode 282 of Stageworthy, I’m your host, Phil Rickaby. Stageworthy is a podcast about people in Canadian theatre featuring conversations with actors, directors, playwrights and more. Thank you for listening. You know, just over a year ago, I celebrated my birthday. It was a milestone birthday, and I had some big plans that obviously had to be cancelled. At the time, I thought, well, it’ll all be worth it. Because we’ll take care of this thing quickly. And it’ll all be over by the fall, and then I can look at revisiting those plans. Of course, that didn’t happen. And it’s been a year now have plans postponed uncertainty and wondering when it will all end? And for a lot of us in the theatre industry, we’ve been wondering big questions, questions like, do we even have careers anymore? Or is it worth staying in the city while all of this is going on? Or do we go somewhere else? And will we be able to find a place to live when we come back? If we come back? And what about when this is all over? What will theatre even look like? In the coming weeks I am going to examine some of these big questions. I’m going to talk to people who are struggling with their theatre careers and wondering what to do. I’m going to talk to people who live where theatres have been opening back up and talk about what that looks like. And I’m going to have a live roundtable discussion about theatre and how to come back from all the shutdowns. I want to talk about the future because I think it’s important that we start to think about the return of theatre and not just a return to the status quo, but how to make our theatre industry better. So watch for those conversations in the coming weeks. If you enjoyed listening to Stageworthy and you listen on Apple podcasts, please consider rating the podcast with five stars. If you’re so inclined, you can also leave a review your ratings and reviews help new people find this show. And if you know someone that you think will like Stageworthy, please tell them about it. Some of my favourite podcasts became my favourites because someone I knew told me about them. And remember, you can find and subscribe on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify and everywhere you get podcasts. You can find Stageworthy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @stageworthypod and you can find the website with the archive of all 282 episodes at stageworthypodcast.com. And if you want to drop me a line, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @philrickaby and My website is philrickaby.com. My guest this week is Calgary based playwright and performer Caleigh Crow. when you’re when you’re not obsessing or listening to podcasts about scammers what’s your What are you what are you doing?
Caleigh Crow 03:08
I’m I’m freelancing in theatre right now. So I’m doing you know, I have like six or seven jobs that I cobbled together and and call a career that the thing that’s sort of holding me down right now is in a good way is this job I have with making treaty seven cultural society here in Calgary. Really awesome, indigenous theatre company that has been working here in Calgary since 2013. And I just started with them in January. So there’s new leadership there, and we’re all kind of like embarking on this journey together to like, figure out what our vision is for the for the company and by our vision, I mean, you know, artistic directors vision, but it’s really wonderful to be a part of these conversations and, and see what goes into those decisions.
Phil Rickaby 03:59
Now with new leadership, there must be a lot of conversation, like the leader has to make their choice about about how it’s going to look so it’s great that they’re involving other people. But what does that what does that look like so far?
Caleigh Crow 04:13
Yeah, I mean, the, the new artistic director came in like last June, so they had some things already going when it came on board. The big one is, this workshop series called is stone Tse, that ran from March or sorry, just ended here last Saturday and started at the beginning of February, so February to March. Every week, we had like a guest artist from previous iterations of the show come in and run a little workshop but seems like a lot of it is it’s really, I think artistic is a good adjective to put towards. Like before that word because it seems like Michelle thrush, who’s the ad here. Like, is able to just dream. And like, she will come into our staff meeting and will literally be like, you know, I had a dream about this. And I think that we should really try and accomplish this. Or, you know, she’s had such a, like a long, and you know, storied career in Canada. So she’s had touched like many communities across the country, she picks up little things. And she’ll be like, I worked on this project, like 15 years ago that had this like, nugget of an idea that I’ve been carrying in my back pocket since then. And I think making treaty seven is a good place to like, plant that seed, like stuff like that. So it’s really like, yeah, it’s really interesting. To watch that process.
Phil Rickaby 05:48
I always find it fascinating about theatre artists, how, generally, you know, we learn things, just for each particular project. And so we become these like, repositories of knowledge. of like, I learned this, I learned how to ride a horse for this one. So I studied this, this strange subject for another show. And these things all go with the mix up into our mind. And then one day, we’re like, here’s an idea for a show that mixes all of these things I studied.
Caleigh Crow 06:14
Yeah, yeah, exactly. It’s, I guess theatre is great at creating little worlds, right? So you can have I don’t know I I’m writing a play right now where I know I want there to be a scene that takes place in like a 1940s newsroom, because I just love the like, the banter, the pitter patter, and got to get the scoop, you know, like, I just want to write that. And like with theatre, and writing and performing whatever you’re doing in theatre, you get to like, really build that world from whatever little piece of inspiration that grabs. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 06:53
What is it? I mean, I know I know exactly what you’re talking about, about that, that that banter that? That 1940s you know, the quick banter the always see in the movies, and there’s something about that, that just feels so snappy. It’s is, was there something in particular that you heard that grabbed you or just like, just like the image of the whole thing is, is is what you’re digging?
Caleigh Crow 07:16
Well, a couple years ago, I saw that Cary Grant movie, his girl Friday, and, like, on a random date, so this would be more than this must be like six years ago. Anyway, I love that movie. And I just, it seemed like a play. But I know, I think there have been some companies, theatre companies that have done a play version of that movie. But just like, Yeah, I just thought it was just so it’s so specific. Right to that time in place that like, and so evocative. The urgency, the like, there’s like a weird humanitarian aspect to journalism that I find quite fascinating, because it’s wrapped up, you know, modern day, journalism anyway, for sure is wrapped up in a bunch of other political and capitalist you know, traps and that sort of thing. So yeah, I don’t know. I it’s hard. It’s, I think it’s hard to explain. inspiration. Sometimes they just grab Yeah, but I think, yeah, it’s their urgency. I really love the like, the urgency that that I got from that film, which is like, we’ve got to solve this mystery.
Phil Rickaby 08:33
And only thing about, there’s something about that there’s like a physical deadline, like you’ve got to get the story done before the before it goes to press, and it goes to press at this time. Yeah. And if you don’t have it, that story is dead. Yeah, exactly. It’s all like, thing. Yeah, it’s great. Yeah, I think that we don’t spend enough time looking back at some older like, like, like you say, like his girl Friday is, you know, it feels like a play. And that’s something about this, the way that they were shooting films at the time. And we can look back at like, all of these old films, even back into the silent era and see these things that they will just blow our minds that these are things that that that they were doing, and the limitations that they were working with, and yet still creating these amazing things. And it feels like something that, that they today would be innovative if you did that, but it was done like 100 years ago.
Caleigh Crow 09:30
Yeah, it’s it’s funny how it like circles back around where like, what was kind of done out of just necessity and available resources. So many advances get made that then you be like going back, you know, so to speak to the roots is like, you know, a strong aesthetic choice, right? And not just like the tools that you have around.
Phil Rickaby 09:54
Yeah. Now I saw a sort of a little bio, they described you As a playwright and a performer. Is that how is that one of the is that? Is that how you describe yourself where there are more commas in in the way that you describe yourself as an artist?
Caleigh Crow 10:14
Yeah, I usually throw musician in there too. That’s usually Yeah, playwright, musician, performer, performer covers musician, though, I think that probably was something I said about myself. as a performer, I, I don’t do a tonne of acting, not in my own work. And so I feel like actor doesn’t fully sort of encapsulate the work I do with my Theatre Company. But performer seems more right, I guess. Yeah. I play in a band. So
Phil Rickaby 10:51
yeah, there’s it’s funny, because, you know, I talk to, you know, talk to a lot of people, but the number of people who, who have described themselves as performer rather than actor is on the increase. And I feel like it’s people who create their own work who are describing themselves as performers. Over just an actor. There’s something about the I am engaged in the act of creation that is that sets apart from from, quote, unquote, just an actor.
Caleigh Crow 11:20
Yeah. Yeah, I would agree with that. I think. I think a lot of our artistic people, I think young people generally can’t just have one one, you know, marketable skill anymore. I think everybody’s diversifying everything and commodifying every hobby to within an inch of its life, you know, it for reasons I totally understand, you know, it’s survival out here, man, you got to do what you got to do. But um, yeah, that’s what that’s sort of why I switched to performer was I was doing mostly like, festival shows, where I would be Yeah, creating that piece. I don’t usually do solo performances. So creating it with other people are, as well as performing in it. So
Phil Rickaby 12:12
it’s interesting, though, because I found, you know, and for myself, I, I’ve added many different hyphens and commas over the years. And the thing that I’ve that I’ve noticed that’s changed is when I was in theatre way back in the olden days, it was that we were basically told, don’t ever admit to doing anything other than theatre. Right? Don’t put anything else in your title. don’t admit to doing anything else. it you know, nobody will take you seriously if you’re not just an actor if you’re not like an actor singularly focused. But that doesn’t hold so much today. were to have a career in in theatre today means having to do many different things. And I think there’s that’s been a fundamental shift in the scene. Is that is that now? It’s, it’s really rare for somebody to just to say, I’m an actor, and that’s the end of the sentence. There’s usually so much more involved in that.
Caleigh Crow 13:13
Yeah. That rings true for me, definitely.
Phil Rickaby 13:19
Now, one of the things that I noticed I saw in his in his bio, is that is that you were researching the magnetosphere? Yeah. So what? What is it that grabbed you about the magnetosphere? Okay.
Caleigh Crow 13:33
So that is just, you know, sometimes you smoke, the good stuff. And the good stuff, makes you think about things in a new way. And one night, I just was curious about, like, how exactly, magnets work? And how is it that one physical object made of matter can affect matter? That it’s not touching? And is also is not? It’s not? Like radiating energy onto how does how does that exactly work? went on Wikipedia and Wikipedia page for magnetism, which is quite long. There’s a lot in there. And I was quite surprised to find out that like, this is still a very big question in science is how do magnets work? So I’m not alone in asking that question. And there’s actually quite a lot of very, very smart, highly educated scientists who are looking into this right now. So we’ve got good people on it, don’t worry. Yeah, and I and I, just the, the, the Magneto sphere. I mean, it’s got Magneto in it, which is, you know, tells you where my loyalties lie in the x men fandom.
Phil Rickaby 14:53
I do I do I respect that. brotherhood of evil mutants, cooler coolest mutants.
Caleigh Crow 14:59
I mean, I think you know, it’s I think we need both approaches. I think we need the Magneto, we need the professor Xs. But, you know, on recruitment day, I think I’m going with Magneto, if I’m honest. Anyway, I just like, yeah, it was just, I saw this beautiful ad like animated GIF of like, you know, an artist’s rendering of what the magnetosphere looks like. And it’s just so beautiful and flowing. And, like, this is hard science. But it to me just seemed like, I don’t know, it just seemed like there’s, you know, there’s all kinds of invisible forces that connect us all this, this is true. We know, we know that. We’re all related in some way. And, you know, I just dove right into the research. And yeah, that that plays the same play that’s going to have the 1940s newspaper rooms
Phil Rickaby 15:59
that that play is holding a lot of stuff in it.
Caleigh Crow 16:03
Yeah, I want it to be like almost like a cycle. Like maybe there’s 415 minute plays in this play that take place. One, this one’s in 1859 1940s. And then I have seen written in in 2335, as well. So I need one more. One more and around.
Phil Rickaby 16:24
Yeah, it’s, it’s, I think, sometimes looking back at where we’ve been is kind of fascinating. To me, and to look at, like, you look at the 40s and that’s a particular thing, because you’ve got that whole like 45 onwards, it’s that post war boom thing. And you look at that period between between World War One and World War Two and there’s so much going on. And there’s the awesome like, I think there’s so much fascinating stuff in all of those all of those areas. And I’m really partial to a lot of the clothes from those periods. Absolutely. Well, yeah, I would 100% if I could afford it do nothing but wear clothes from those periods.
Caleigh Crow 17:07
I I love clothes I love clothes from all areas every I say this about every decade there’s something something in every decade that I think is like so cool, a style or a hat like I do I think I missed the hats and gloves. I think there’s some like slightly sexist reasons why the hats and gloves were a thing but i think i think we could reclaim it in an interesting way.
Phil Rickaby 17:35
I fully agree I I love a good hat and I think it’s you usually you have to go to like that that one store. It’s like it just exists and like there’s one spot in your in the town that you live in. And it’s like this dusty old place or something like that you could buy like hats they have we the only place in like their area that still has a haberdasher who’s making apps like this this last art?
Caleigh Crow 18:02
Yeah, absolutely. I went into that hat store here in Calgary and they are very eager to sell you a hat. It’s it’s, it’s amazing. There’s all there is still all kinds and there’s like there’s there seem to be a real a real drive for these people to sell me a hat. I mean, the hats I want are far too expensive for my budget currently, but one day one day.
Phil Rickaby 18:34
It’s always tough to have that kind of tasted in any
Caleigh Crow 18:37
Yes. Well, I’m always threatening to felt one out of my cats for from the vacuum cleaner. So we’ll see.
Phil Rickaby 18:45
I mean there’s probably enough of it.
Caleigh Crow 18:47
Phil Rickaby 18:48
The only place I’ve ever been that had an abundance of hat shops was New Orleans. Okay. And there were so many hat shops that it came and massive hat shops. Interesting. So if you ever get to go there, plan to buy a hat.
Caleigh Crow 19:03
Okay. Yeah, I never have been there. I will keep that in mind.
Phil Rickaby 19:10
Um, now, one of the things that I like to talk about is a person’s theatre origin story when we’re talking about x men, and all the x men have their you know, all the superheroes they have their origin story, but I think it’s interesting to think of theatre performers and theatre makers as having origin stories. So how would you tell your origin story? Okay.
Caleigh Crow 19:39
I’m in grade six. I go to a French immersion Elementary School in northeast Calgary. And I am not that great at school. I am not very good at math. I’m left handed. My penmanship is poor. I have Low organisational skills. But I am. But I have, you know, decent amount of friends. So I quite enjoy school even though I’m not good stuff in it. My grade six teacher was a really awesome teacher named Mr. Dornan, who introduced me to drama class, he Fridays were the best day in grade six, it was like he would, we would do music, we would do art, we would do drama, and he set up like an hour of like, chit chat chatting through world and life problems as a class hour. So Friday was the best. And that was when I first was introduced to drama, class and improv. And I just took to it like, like a fish in water. Like, I just finally felt like, there was something that I was good at, you know, and I think could just get up there and make the other kids laugh and like, take on these crazy accents. And you know, do like the old lady voice and do like a duck voice. And these were good things in this context and not distractions, as in other contexts. So like, then I was just was like, Mom, I gotta take improv class, I gotta go to drama camp in the summer, like I’m taking this all through Junior High High School is is what I want to do. And then that’s, then it just went from there. But I really owe it to that one grade six teacher.
Phil Rickaby 21:34
Do you remember a point where it sort of struck you that this was like a vocation, it was just a thing that you could grow up and do?
Caleigh Crow 21:47
I don’t know. I don’t I, I don’t remember a specific moment, I think, I don’t know, I did go to a really good amount of theatre when I was a kid, my mom was very. She, you know, she came from sort of pretty humble beginnings, and live the sort of Alberta dream of getting an awesome accounting job at in OMG. And so, you know, was definitely going to take me and my brother to theatre and to put us in piano lessons and swim, and all that. So I had a really awesome childhood that did involve a lot of art and art, and extracurriculars. And I think my mom just wanted us to find something we were interested in. So yeah, so then once I started taking drama and stuff in junior high, I thought, there what I did try to be a teacher. I’ll disclaimer, I did make the attempt.
Phil Rickaby 22:48
Now, did you go through Teacher’s College? Or did you like, What do you mean, you have made the attempt,
Caleigh Crow 22:52
I have a BA in drama, and I have a B Ed that I got from the U of A. And I spent about five years subbing and doing a little bit of teaching, I was a substitute teacher in Canada, and I had my own classroom for like a maternity leave in England. And that was my, that was my attempt – I tried.
Phil Rickaby 23:17
to call it an attempt, like, what was it that made you decide that? Well, that’s, that’s the end of that, um,
Caleigh Crow 23:23
I moved to Montreal with with my husband. And because of the bureaucracy out there, I couldn’t actually apply for my teacher’s licence until I was physically in the province. So then it takes time to turn around that paperwork. In that time, I got a job working for the Quebec drama Federation, as a marketing communications coordinator, and I was doing a lot of blogging and, and interviewing artists in town to like, do sort of promotion for the membership. And I just said to my husband, like, I’m going to be really sad when I have to quit this job and go back to teaching. He was like, do you hear yourself? Yeah. He just said, like, who is forcing you to do that, you know, I just, I just honestly didn’t have thick enough skin. Like I just couldn’t. I was 22 years old when I finished university, and 26 when you’re 27, or whatever, when I quit teaching, I was like, subbing was was really hard. But I just, I realised I had these kids had to like me, like, there was something in me that was like, if these kids don’t like me, it’s the end of the world. And I was like that. This can’t work with that going on inside me. Like,
Phil Rickaby 24:45
probably not the best way to be a teacher.
Caleigh Crow 24:49
No, no, and I was becoming super like, I was like, Well, if they’re not gonna like me, then they’re going to definitely like, follow my rules and be good kids then and so then I was becoming this like, really mean, strict kind of defensive person that I just, it was no good for anybody. Like I was trying to when I was subbing I was trying to get a job, like a teaching job in a classroom, and I did interview after interview, and it was just going nowhere, you know, so I just was like, I think this is for the best for everyone. Now, what
Phil Rickaby 25:24
was it after spending all this time, like feeling like, like theatre was your thing? Why did you do? Why did you become a teacher?
Caleigh Crow 25:34
I think that I have a lot of teachers in my family, I think. So it was always sort of like, oh, you’re into drama, you want to be a drama teacher was sort of like the first question. And it was like, Well, I guess, you know, I can always try that I can always have that as like my, you know, in my back pocket or whatever, or that can be my, you know, what’s, what pays my bills and my summer time off, or whatever, I’ll do some theatre. But honestly, the real honest truth was I, I was scared to commit to being in theatre, like I was really scared to, to fail at theatre. And assumed I would not fail at teaching. So then I failed the teaching instead. And so then, you know, it, it was, it was like a, it was definitely an insecurity thing for me, where I thought this will be my safety zone. But like, it had to happen that way. Like, I really feel like, I had to go through all of that, to really get comfortable with being vulnerable. Generally, I’ve had a lot of walls up, like, in my 20s, I just like, was really closed off, and didn’t want anyone to, like really look at me that much, you know, so had had to go on and get over that.
Phil Rickaby 27:04
Because it’s really, I mean, even even having gone to Theatre School. When I did, I spent several years, the fear of failing was was really huge. I know, I look back at how I how I started out and how I pursued acting in those days, in those early years of my, my acting career, and I know that I didn’t put everything into it that I should have out of fear of failing, there were all kinds of things I didn’t do, because I worried about failing at it. And that’s, number one, fear is no way to be creative. And when you’re afraid, you’re closed off, and you you you can’t open up, which is not what what the business and what the craft needs. And so I think in some ways, I had to go through that I had to, you know, eventually burnout and take five years away from it, to learn how important it was to me. And it sounds like for you, like you had to try to do something to something else to really realise what the arts meant to you.
Caleigh Crow 28:17
Yeah, definitely. And, and, and just to be like, Okay, well, you know, you’re already failed at the thing that you don’t really want to be doing. So what like, Is it gonna do to you to fail at the thing that you actually really want to do? You know, like, and my life didn’t end, you know, like, no one was injured. I wasn’t thrown in jail. I like there was no big catastrophe or anything, right. So it’s like, and I picked myself up, I got the job. I acuity F, you know, like, that little bit of confidence really took me super far. So, yeah, I think you do, that’s just growth, right? There’s those periods of struggle where you’re like, why is this happening to me? Then, you know, five or 10 or 30 years later, you’re like, Oh, that’s why I had to learn something there.
Phil Rickaby 29:13
Yeah, I mean, I it’s funny because I always I often think about how, when I was in theatre, school, or head of acting would say things like, some of the things I’m saying to you are not going to make sense to you today. But one day in the future, you will suddenly realise what it all meant. And at the time, I thought, listen, old man, why don’t you just tell us what you need? And then like, you know, I’m going through life and like some point like 10 years after theatre school I’m like, all for fuck sake. That’s what it was. Yes,
Caleigh Crow 29:45
totally. Yeah, I was I think I was like a probably handful in theatre school because I was like, to deflect from whatever I was doing would always question these professors would be like, why are we doing this exercise? Like what’s the point of this? Like, how How is this gonna, like, make me good. And like, you know, it’s like your hat, you’re going to have to buy into it, Kaley if you want it to do anything for you, and I’m like, this isn’t working. Like, why isn’t this working? And then I’m like, yeah, you really weren’t buying into it.
Phil Rickaby 30:15
Well, that’s the that’s the thing is I remember I remember, like, sometimes I think, oh, if I could go back, knowing what I know, now, now, I would also be a terrible student, because I would fight back a lot more. Because, you know, theatre school can be a terribly abusive place. And again, I spent the entire three years of theatre school in fear, but, like, just knowing about how to just give in to some of it to trust a process to to just sort of like buy into it. Which at 18. Like, I was too young to know any better. I was still worried about being cool. Yeah. Oh, yeah. I hadn’t given up on that dream yet.
Caleigh Crow 30:58
Right. Yeah, it’s, I don’t know. It’s tough. Going to school when you’re that when you’re that young I and I was like living in a dorm, like in resin my first year. So there was like, all kinds of amazing life drama that was way more important, like, Who’s gonna win the, like, comp, the tower competition? Who can like that stuff I really cared about. Ah,
Phil Rickaby 31:29
yeah, all of these all of these strange places that that our priorities go. I mean, we had, you know, in the school I was in because it was a conservatory programme. And we were part of the college and the college kept sending out these notices about like, ads pop night, and we would be like, well, I guess I’ll I, you know, I’m a theatre school. So I don’t get to go to pub night because we’re here until nine or whatever, you know, and it sort of felt like we were at college, but really dedicated to this one aspect. And we couldn’t like, right, participate in the tower building contest. Yeah, that sort of stuff. Yeah. So we kind of missed out on on that. But it was a whole different a different kind of ballgame. What what theatre school did you go to?
Caleigh Crow 32:09
I went to the University of Alberta, and I just did the BA I did not do the BFA Hmm, yeah.
Phil Rickaby 32:19
Now you you ended up in in both England and then in Quebec? What can I ask what took you to England and then we’ll take you to Quebec.
Caleigh Crow 32:31
Yeah. It’s not that interesting of a story how I wound up in England, I was. I’ve fat like, discovered that there’s these, like working holiday visas, you can get four European countries. And I was graduating university had just dumped my like, crappy boyfriend from high school, have like five years, and I was like, I’m free. I’m going on my Europe trip of my dreams. There’s a friend from thier school who I was going to go with. I wanted to get a visa for Germany, because I took German in university. So I was like, this would be so cool. She didn’t speak any German. So we compromised, we decided to get these visas for England. So that’s, and then when I was in England, the the, like, easiest thing to do is to sub right, because you can kind of say I’m not working today or I am working or you can kind of pick your schedule, right. So that that that was why England was just that was the visa country that we both wanted to apply for. Yeah, and then Quebec was, um, my husband’s from Vancouver, and I’m from Calgary. He didn’t want to live in Calgary. I didn’t really want to go to Vancouver because it’s crazy expensive. So, so we compromise and went to Montreal, which seems like this, you know, of all the places in Canada where we wanted to live. That was the one we both were like Yes, let’s do it. Let’s give it a go. Yeah, we were quite young. We got married we’re 24 and 26. So so you know, we had we were like, what an amazing honeymoon to move to Montreal. Forever.
Phil Rickaby 34:20
Now, did you guys did you guys speak French?
Caleigh Crow 34:22
I speak French. My husband’s mother is Quebecois herself. She’s a real for real French woman from Quebec helps. Helps. Yeah, yeah. So we are that’s that was a situation where we moved out there. I like so lucked out getting this job at Qd F, which is like for the English side of things. So I was working mostly in English, which is good. My French is it’s Alberta French, isn’t it? So? Yeah, not it’s not if I
Phil Rickaby 34:58
be a teacher. if I had retained any of my French – See, I made the mistake. Like I learned very quickly that the French that they taught me in school was not Quebecois French. And the reason I knew that is because when I met people from Quebec, and they, they, they, they asked me a question and I thought I was being very polite by answering them in French. And I said, We, and they went “ohhhh OUI” , and I was like, Oh, shit, I’ve messed up somehow
Caleigh Crow 35:26
Wrong. Wrong already
Phil Rickaby 35:27
Wrong. Wrong, right from the start. And then I learned it when that’s right. And then I learned they taught us everything wrong.
Caleigh Crow 35:34
Yeah. Oh, yeah, for sure. It’s it. There’s a lot of subtleties to that. Like, I really think you just don’t get until you till you go over there. All these little like. And Montreal is such a, like, such a diverse city. Like there’s more. There’s like more languages being spoken in, you know, one neighbourhood in Montreal than in the whole rest of the country. I feel like so. You like the accents? There’s so many different little tricky little nuances out there. Yeah, yeah.
Phil Rickaby 36:11
Yeah. But then eventually you find your way back to Calgary. So yeah. Did you did you did you find some some work in Calgary? Was there something that that brought you from Montreal back to Calgary?
Caleigh Crow 36:20
Yeah, just um, there’s a illness in my husband’s family. Okay, so not like nothing exciting there. Really?
Phil Rickaby 36:29
Nothing? No, nothing. Good. You’re back to Calgary. Yeah, I understand. Yeah. Sorry to hear that. Now, in terms of of the work that you’re doing, when when did you begin to to create your own theatre?
Caleigh Crow 36:47
The first show I wrote was in 2012. For a Fringe Festival, I wrote it with my brother, Colin Wolfe. And we started thumbs up good work theatre, that at that time, which was sort of just meant to be like, the name that we had to put on our fringe application. Went to Saskatoon in Edmonton with that show, it was like, it was like both of us trying to make sense of our lives, little vignettes of like, millennial anguish. Because it was 2012. And so we were just finishing University, you know, like, I started University in 2007. So then, then the economy was destroyed. And it was like you graduated, you know, like, I don’t think that’s a unique experience in the world. But that’s it seemed you seem really unique and really important to us. And so that was what that show was about. And that was, yeah, yeah.
Phil Rickaby 37:58
Now was when you created this fringe show, and you did it not in Calgary. You did it in Edmonton and Saskatoon. Were those fringe festivals that you had initially had targeted? Or they’re the ones that you managed to get into
Caleigh Crow 38:12
the second one? Yeah, we, I think we applied to the Calgary fringe. But it’s quite small there. So there’s not very many spots. So yeah, we just, I think we applied even to like all across the country, we applied to a bunch and then gotten to those two. And so then that’s where we went.
Phil Rickaby 38:33
Now remember, I was I was at the Calgary fringe A number of years ago with a show. And it was we thought it would be like a warm up to Edmonton. And we’d done our show or we’d done a couple of other festivals, but it was not quite the warm up to the Edmonton fringe. We thought it was it’s so much smaller. We went from from Winnipeg to Calgary and it was like this. It was very, it was two very different experiences. And then to go into the Edmonton fringe, which is Yeah, I think Yeah. Had you done much fringe theatre before or seen a lot of fringe theatre before that?
Caleigh Crow 39:10
No, no, not at all. Not a single thing. I had some awareness of the, the festival and what it what it was when I was kind of in university, obviously, but I came back to Calgary every summer. So I was never in Edmonton to see that like spectacle. And then in Calgary, there, there’s no like grounds or anything, you know? No, like so. It’s, I would I would see it in like the newspaper But no, no,
Phil Rickaby 39:43
no, and because Edmonton has like this area. Yeah, it’s like, like they block off the area and Winnipeg is much the same. But like most other cities are like it’s at a bunch of other theatres. Calgary is like that. Yeah, like it’s in a bunch of places. And it’s it that sort of makes it hard to like the experience of going to fringe in Edmonton and like in Winnipeg, because there is this this area that’s like, dedicated to it is very different from like going into Calgary because it’s just like you kind of almost have to stumble across it if you didn’t know. Yeah, where you were going?
Caleigh Crow 40:18
Yeah. Yeah. And like, and Calgary, so spread out and it’s usually in like, Inglewood is the area, which is kind of like a really sort of small, it’s like, I don’t know, it’s maybe like five blocks long this area and it’s kind of a low traffic, like quiet older neighbourhood. So you don’t really go there unless you’re like going there here. I mean, like the the fringe grounds in Edmonton are like, smack dab in like the middle of the party area. Right.
Phil Rickaby 40:51
I hearing from people who are from Edmonton about how, you know, yes, now that’s the party area, but like when they started the fringe area was like this rundown nobody would go there area. It’s kind of like okay, so if you do something big with theatre, you could like revitalise all neighbourhood interesting. at a certain time.
Caleigh Crow 41:13
I love a grounds a fringe. I mean, I’m from from Calgary, aren’t I so Stampede grounds? I’m been I’ve been training for grounds my whole life. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 41:29
As you work on theatre, and with stuff that you’re working on now, like with this whole, like, magnetosphere, 1940s newsroom, sort of thing. What is you? Can you describe what your writing process looks like? Or is it is it like one of those like, all over the map kind of things.
Caleigh Crow 41:47
It’s changed a lot in the last year, as has, you know, most things for most people. Pre pandemic, like, when we came back to Calgary, I just sort of had to take whatever job I could get. Because we came back, you know, kind of in a hurry. I was cleaning houses. And then I was working retail. And so I was just writing whenever I like had to. So like deadline for this proposal is whatever, or we have our first read in one week. So yeah, you’re going to finish it, because I just found it. Like damn near impossible to work. Like this cleaning job, which is really physically demanding. And then retail, which is like, soul sucking. Yeah. Then like, come home and be like, Okay, put yourself in like a beautiful vulnerable, like Zen position to like, channel, you know, what your ever you’re trying to say about humanity in this play? And like, it was like, no, what I need is like, garbage television and garbage food. And for No, you know, like, just to like, and then I’m going to sleep. So I really didn’t have a very, like, I didn’t have a practice, really, it was like, okay, we managed to get a grant. I’m taking time off from work to do this play. So I guess I have to write it. Like, it’s not that and I want to, you know, I applied for the grant, I have people around me who I have hired to do this stuff and who, like, are committed to this project. So it’s like, yeah, you you got to do it. Like for these for the good of what we’re all trying to accomplish here. And regardless of how tired you are, or whatever. And it since I left retail and have been starting freelancing like that, it’s totally changed. And it would take me a long, long time to take me three years to write 60 pages, like I could write if I was in a festival and it was like a 10 minute piece or whatever, I could probably write, write that but like, anything bigger than that would take me forever. So now, now it’s like, I feel like they like let me out of my cage man. I can totally decide the stuff for myself and, and I’m, I have time to for me. I’m a researcher. I’m like a reader. I got to find and identify for myself each inspirational thing. Like and they take different forms. So I have to really always be on the lookout and I have to go down the rabbit hole to find what I’m what I what really gets me going and then I then I can take that and then I hate marinate. I’m like cooking myself in the bathtub. I got like carrots and potatoes in there. And I’m marinating and thinking and then usually what happen Because it’s like I can think of, if I can picture a character with, with what I determined to be an appropriate amount of clarity, then I can start writing, I usually will know sort of what the plot is what I’m trying to go for, in terms of story beats and that sort of thing. But I can’t really get into the groove until I figure out who the who the people are, who are, who are in the story.
Phil Rickaby 45:27
I can’t help but think about your, your description of, of working retail and working these these jobs and, and just coming home and not having really the the strength to write that after the soul sucking experience of working in a retail job. It’s so hard and a lot of people with their subsistence jobs they have this too is like, you finish that how do you make yourself be a creative person after a day of Karen’s yelling at you, for whatever reason? Did you were you at any point able to, to write while during the like to really feel like it flowed during those the retail years or is it only, like once you’ve been able to leave that behind that it’s really, it’s really been like a real flow. As far as the writing goes,
Caleigh Crow 46:29
I think I would sometimes get really lucky when I was writing, when I was in retail, or I would have if I could get a date. Like if I had a day off and I had a good day off where something happened to make me happy. Then I could do that. I could ride that wave. There was definitely some sometimes there when I was writing the board again, crow where I felt like it came really quickly. And and it all sort of fit and which is which is awesome. Because I didn’t have like a tonne of time to edit but but then sometimes it was just like get it out girl like get it on the damn page. like someone’s got to say something next guts. And then now that I’m now that I’m doing my own thing, it’s I takes a lot away a lot of the pressure, I also found it hard to be like you have one day to write. So if you don’t get any writing done, then you’ve wasted your chance.
Phil Rickaby 47:33
That’s so much pressure to put on any kind of writing, I sometimes find myself and still do sometimes it’s like, okay, it’s a busy day. But I have an hour that I could write in and it’s like, an hour. But then like, what if what I write in that hour is no good. Or I can’t come up with anything like that’s a wasted hour. And then I end up playing a video game instead. Ever, you know, because sometimes it feels like you just like it’s not worth the time.
Caleigh Crow 48:05
Yeah, it takes me at least an hour to really get into a groove with him getting into a groove. Hmm.
Phil Rickaby 48:12
I’ve enjoyed like the sometimes I’ve been able to take myself away from home and go away, like for a weekend with and like, then it’s like, I’ve done nothing. Like there’s all of my feet familiar, everything is is gone. And I can just sit and write and then you have that, that hour of like wasted time and then suddenly, the Muses take over or whatever, and you write this really good stuff, because none of your usual distractions are there and you’ve got no choice but to write. Yeah,
Caleigh Crow 48:41
yeah, that get pre retail. I felt like I was just like throwing darts at a dartboard to see like what was going to make the stars aligned to make this work. Whereas like now I feel like I have a lot more control over it. Nice.
Phil Rickaby 48:57
Now you’ve sort of alluded to the the pre pandemic times. Were you working on anything at the time when you know a year ago when everything stops that had to be put on hold? Or what was that that period of time like for you?
Caleigh Crow 49:13
Yeah, I was working. I was working retail when it all went all shut down. And I was the big thing I was working on was I was in a playwrights unit with chromatic theatre which was the first playwrights unit I ever applied for and it was my first experience in a playwrights unit. So I was I was in I was super into it like I love talking to writers about writing i think it’s it’s so juicy like so there’s I just get so much from it. And I was working on him. Musical bottle landlord. So, like we had plans to do like, a workshop read like a stage read, and we’re going to get like, we’re going to get a choreographer to choreograph the dance number, like a dance number for her for that, you know. And we ended up shifting it to online later. I mean, we, we were supposed to present in April, or may, and then we got, we’ll push it to September. And we’ll, we’ll see if it’s all over by then. Oh, my
Phil Rickaby 50:31
God, I remember. I remember those days, surely by the fall, this will all be over.
Caleigh Crow 50:37
Yeah. And yeah. And so then when the fall came, we were like, We got to just we got to just do it. I just do it online. And and that was, I don’t know, I, I know everyone’s I don’t know, okay, I’m just gonna say it. I like the online stuff. I’m not tired of it yet. And I think it’s awesome and great.
Phil Rickaby 50:59
You know, I don’t think that’s a bad thing to say, No, I, I, I’m not a counter that but like, I work in an industry where I spend a lot of time in online meetings. And so when I find it difficult to go from this, this zoom meeting is his work. But this zoom meeting is entertainment, it’s it can be hard to switch. But I am fascinated by the innovations that people have made, and the things that people who I swear a year and two months ago, were saying, I could never do anything technical. I’m just a theatre person have like really sort of become innovators. As far as as far as the theatrical stuff goes, and doing it online. Absolutely.
Caleigh Crow 51:54
I think the whole industry became, like, 20% more accessible. When we switched over, there’s tonnes more captioning, like, financial bear, like a lot of people were doing their online stuff for free, like, just sign up, like, you know, no one’s having to call a theatre and ask about like, elevators or ramps or stairs, you know what I mean? So I think, I don’t know. It’s good and bad, I suppose.
Phil Rickaby 52:25
But I really hope and this is sort of like a thing that I I sort of cross my fingers and hope that this is what we can keep, is that when theatres reopen that, a lot of theatres, consider wiring up for cameras, and selling a, like an internet ticket, to keep it accessible, and also to open up our very siloed theatre worlds. Like, you know, I’m in Toronto, you’re in Calgary. Unless I travelled to Calgary, I can’t see what you’re doing. But what if I could? Yeah, what if I could, I could buy a digital ticket, and I could watch it, that’s not going to prevent an audience for wanting to be in the room? Because how often do we buy an album, or buy, like, you know, listen to music online or whatever. And then we want to see that act live, right. And so it can be an augmentation, and keep things accessible, but open and also open up the entire world of theatre, to an audience that can’t necessarily travel to see it.
Caleigh Crow 53:38
Totally. I think I mean, I think I think we owe it to all of our essential workers over the past year to like, really connect with these communities and make them a prior like a number one target audience. I think they’ve been left behind by our industry for a long time. I know, when I was working retail and cleaning. My co workers had no concept of theatre beyond, like Dinner Theatre, and there’s a reason for that. And the reason isn’t that they’re too stupid, or that they just don’t get it like there’s, we got to dig a little harder and find out why, you know, like, the retail industry is one of the biggest industries in the country. And why don’t these people choose to come to theatre is like, a question that I think really needs to be answered. And I think a lot of people will maybe not like the answers. But I think, you know, we, like I said, I think we really owe it to these people that like, keep our economy going literally, to like, make their inclusion a priority. And then that that would include, like, essential workers or like the most diverse group of people. You would be covering like, we would be bringing so many new people in like it’s something that I really think about a lot with our industries like why don’t we Make our audiences from these groups from specifically from people who work the least the lowest paying jobs.
Phil Rickaby 55:12
Yeah, I mean that that is a that is a huge question. And it’s sort of, I think that if we were to examine that more closely and how we could bring them in, whether it’s a digital ticket, or maybe our prices are too high. I mean, when people think about when, when a lot of people think about the theatre, they think about how expensive it is. And, you know, if I’m working a minimum a minimum wage job, I can’t afford to see a big show at the the the biggest Theatre in town, and I think that’s all there is. Yeah, a lot of times they don’t know about the indie stuff, because we’re not marketing to them. Oh, yeah. And if we are like, do they even know how to get to our venue?
Caleigh Crow 55:57
It’s it’s rife, isn’t it? Like there’s Yes, that one question spawns 1 million other questions. I think like, I think it’s all those things. I think also. I just think this is kind of unrelated, I guess. But I, when I started playing in a punk band, in Montreal, I was not involved in that scene, really, before I didn’t really, I wasn’t in music, I was like, the theatre person. So I was in theatre, growing up and all that then when I started playing the shows, and we were playing like random, like kids, college kids basements, and like, weird, like, abandoned. gems. You know, there would be like a group of like, 15, like, pour queer, like, really cool. People that I had never seen at a play ever in my life would show up to these punk shows. And, and I was like, Oh, my God, like, these are, these are the people that I want to be doing theatre for? Like, I want to find ways to make this group feel like they can come on down. And we’ve, I don’t know, I, I’ve tried to keep that in mind. And I feel like I’ve had, you know, varying amounts of success doing that there’s a lot like, there’s a lot of candu, and a lot of can’t and and I don’t know, I just found that whole revelation of the underground, like, was really, really important to my theatre practice.
Phil Rickaby 57:35
Yeah, I don’t know, if, if, if if things are the same in Calgary, but in Toronto, we do a lot of hand wringing about where’s our audience going? Right? instead of like, you know, looking at like, Where’s our new audience? And where can our new audience come from? You know, we sort of look at it as Oh, there’s not much we can do about it. But oh, gosh, where’s the audience going? And I think, you know, we need to look at our new audience and try to figure out how do we find them? How do we let them know that we’re here? How do we bring them in? And how do we make it as easy as possible for them to watch what we’re doing?
Caleigh Crow 58:16
And how do we make it interesting for them to watch? Because I think that’s part of it, too, is like, you know, people, my co workers would be like, well, like, why would I want to watch like a play about like, some old dead British King?
Phil Rickaby 58:28
Yeah, like, that’s a great point. It is. It’s an excellent point. It’s also, you know, there’s all kinds of like, barriers in terms of like, you know, what is the play that we’re presenting? And why are we doing these old dead white guys? And why are we doing things that are actually speaking to more people? I know, royalties and all that stuff, but that’s a poor excuse for not fostering new new audiences and new new playwrights and new visions, you know?
Caleigh Crow 58:56
Yeah, definitely. Hey, did did you have deer Johnny deer come out there? Or was that just a prairie thing?
Phil Rickaby 59:03
I think it might be a prairie. Okay. I don’t that that show does not sound familiar to me at all.
Caleigh Crow 59:07
Okay, because it played every regional theatre, like in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. And that that kind of like, the curatorial choice baffled me also, because I was like, Is this an attempt to get the farmers to come?
Phil Rickaby 59:28
It’s a bit cynical. No, I I’ve known people who grew up on farms. And they’re like, there is more to farming the john deere, and you can like bring it up and they will be so pissed off. So the idea of, of a show with that title being like, well, this will bring the farmers out just sounds sort of like this cynical choice. We didn’t actually do your research.
Caleigh Crow 59:48
It makes me laugh. And like, seeing the posters around town, I would just be I was just like, okay, Well, I wish you all the luck in the world with that.
Phil Rickaby 1:00:03
Yeah. Just as we as we start to draw to a close, one of the the questions that I’ve been asking for the last year for everybody just to end off is about joy. Because there have been moments for all of us in the last year and there will be going forward where we could really use some. So lately, what has been the thing or things that’s been giving you the most joy?
Caleigh Crow 1:00:32
Okay. Um, my cat Frank didn’t used to really love me all that much. Now that I am home every day, he is smitten like a kitten. He loves me, that brings me joy every day. I have in this pandemic, taken up my piano practice, after about maybe six or seven years of not playing piano, that has been immensely rewarding. I love it because I struggle with it every day, and I am getting better. Hallelujah. And I am not sharing it with anyone, like I am not. I’m not. I posted. I posted maybe one video of me playing piano on Instagram this whole time. Okay, so like I’m trying to keep it just just for me, not something I’m trying to extract from myself. where like, if I don’t get any better than where I am now. That’s cool. I’m buying sheet music that I want to play for myself non for any other reason that brings me immense joy. bird watching. Always bird watching is so important. I was gifted a pair of binoculars at the start of the pandemic from my grandparents. And I’ve been a birder for a long time. But these these binoculars sit next to me on my desk all the time. And I’d say those are those those things and then my beautiful husband who I live with who lets me just do whatever I want. And he he cooks all the food. So that’s awesome.
That’s amazing. That’s amazing.
Caleigh Crow 1:02:20
Yeah, I could go on but I don’t want to I don’t want to. I don’t want to I don’t want to go on.
Phil Rickaby 1:02:27
No, no, save some of that stuff for yourself. But thank you for sharing those those things that bring you joy. And and thank you for for this conversation. It’s been wonderful.
Caleigh Crow 1:02:35
Thank you. Yeah, it’s it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve never been on a podcast before.