#286 – Caroline Toal
Caroline Toal is an award winning actor and a graduate of George Brown Theatre School. Theatrically, Caroline has performed in Seattle, Montreal, Toronto, all across southern Ontario, and has originated roles for multiple new Canadian productions. Caroline has been nominated for six awards, winning Dora Mavor Moore awards for ‘Outstanding Ensemble’ in both Casimir and Caroline produced by The Howland Company in 2020 and for the world premiere of Selfie by Christine Quintana at Young People’s Theatre in 2018.
Caroline co-wrote Single Thread Theatre Company’s immersive production of Ambrose in 2015 and she is currently writing her first play, Survivors, supported by Studio 180 and Workman Arts. She is passionate about mental health awareness and the environment.
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Caroline Toal, Phil Rickaby
Phil Rickaby 00:00
Welcome to Episode 286 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. If you want to support stage where they consider dropping some change in the virtual tip jar, you can find a link to that in the show notes. Your support helps me continue to bring you great conversations and Canadian theatre. If you’ve 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 or review your ratings and reviews help new people find the show. And if you know someone that you think will like Stageworthy, 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 a website with the archive of all 286 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. On this episode, Toronto based actor and writer, Caroline Toal. Let’s start with your origin story. What made you want to get into theatre?
Caroline Toal 01:48
Well, I grew up in Orangeville, Ontario. And it’s a pretty artsy town, especially now but even when I grew up, it was I mean, it was much a much smaller population, but it was artsy even then. And there was we have a professional theatre theatre Orangeville we have a pretty like serious community theatre, if you can, yeah, you can say that serious community theatre who, like they do musicals. And through Orangeville theatre, sorry, through Orangeville theatre, they had a young company, and it was run by different people all the time. But this was a summer camp. And this particular year that I auditioned was run by Pablo, Felicia Luna, who used to run carousel and now I think is the artistic director, I want to say somewhere out west, and I’m kicking myself for not knowing this. But anyway, he’s fabulous, amazing, amazing theatre practitioner. And I auditioned when I was like, I think I was 12. And we were doing the Hobbit and I got in and he directed us and it was for the summer. And he treated us like real actors like he truly like we went through everything with objectives and all this and kind of learning that and being treated like a relaxer when you’re 12 was a was a big deal for me. It was so cool. And I kind of fell in love with it that way. Although i’d also been taken to like, my parents took me to like Mirvish and stuff when I was like 5,6,7. I saw theatre then too, but I think the Orangeville theatre young company really, really did it for me.
Phil Rickaby 03:38
Was there. I mean, you mentioned going to see shows, was there something that that sparked your interest in theatre? Or did your parents just say, well, maybe she’s, she’s, she’s, we should send her off to this theatre Orangeville thing? or How did you even get drawn to that?
Caroline Toal 03:52
I mean, Oh, my gosh, I don’t even know to be honest. I mean, I know I asked to go, but I don’t know why. So I obviously was showing some interest in it, but I’m not really sure why, to be honest, to be completely honest.
Phil Rickaby 04:11
I mean, there are some people who have a moment. They can very distinctly say, I went to the theatre, I saw this and that was it. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Yeah, I I don’t remember that. Why? As far as I can remember for myself, I was always making people put on plays with me. And I don’t even know how I knew what a play was. But I was always making people put on plays with me. So it was like it was always what I was going to do after you know policeman, astronaut, that sort of thing. But once it once the childhood What are you going to do when you grow up thing sort of settled into into actual stuff. It was pretty much always going to be theatre
Caroline Toal 04:58
where you like, um – Were you like at outgoing child?
Phil Rickaby 05:03
Um, so here’s the thing. I am an introvert. And I’ve pretty much always been an introvert. That means that at home when I was comfortable, yes, absolutely outgoing. I talked a lot with the friends that came over, I could be, I would make things happen, I’d be like, Alright, we’re gonna do this play or whatever, but send me to school and I would be quiet and, and, and, and sort of keeping to myself in a lot of ways.
Caroline Toal 05:32
Yeah, I think same for me. Sounds the exact same as me to be. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 05:37
And what was funny for me is that when I, you know, was a person getting out of theatre school and or even through Theatre School and trying to trying to get into the world, I thought, well, obviously, since I’m an actor, I am an extrovert. And I put, oh, I lied to myself for so long. Like,
Caroline Toal 05:55
yeah, I feel like people do that, because they expect, I don’t know, there’s an expectation that you’re supposed to be an extrovert or something. Because just because you’re in an entertainment job, and because it’s kind of part of the job to like, be able to talk to not that as an introvert, you can’t. But it’s kind of part of the job to be able to be social. What you told me as an introvert, but it’s, I don’t know, I always found
Phil Rickaby 06:25
that it’s like people, I think confuse introvert with shy. Yeah. So they’re like, oh, how can you stand to get up on stage? If you’re an introvert? I’m like, No, I’m not shy. Yeah. And I’ll be honest, I, I’m fine. If there’s an audience, I can even improvise and like, make stuff up and make it seem entertaining if there’s an audience. But if it’s a roomful of people, and they’re like, Listen, you have to go and talk to five people just to just to make sure that you’ve made this party worthwhile. I’m like, I’m just gonna go home.
Caroline Toal 06:55
Phil! Me, too! I’m the exact same way if I have to stand up in front of people as myself. I mean, if I had, I guess, a speech that I was going to say, then maybe it’ll be different. But if I’m just speaking off the cuff, oh, my God, it’s it’s nerve racking for me. I also don’t feel like the most eloquent person. I always. It’s funny, like, I read so much and always have and I feel like I should have this like, huge vocabulary for the amount I have read. But I I’ve always felt that myself that I’m not the most eloquent. So I think that’s also part of the my fear of speaking in public as myself without a script.
Phil Rickaby 07:33
I mean, it’s it’s funny, because the whole idea of being eloquent, it’s like, you can write eloquently, but but you know, you have to talk like a person. I think sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves be like, No, I have to use a lot of big words. And you don’t because that’s sometimes a dick move, you know. True. Now, out of theatre school. First off, as far as choosing George Brown, did you audition for a number of other schools? Or did you did you know what school you wanted to go to?
Caroline Toal 08:06
Yeah, no, I okay. So in high school, I was truly choosing between going to theatre school or going into journalism. And I chose theatre school. And I auditioned, and I knew nothing like I didn’t go in – I knew nothing about Theatre School at all, or even training at all. I – my teacher kind of pointed me in the direction of auditioning for NTS, Ryerson and George Brown. And I did all those and the only one that wanted me was George Brown. Bless you, George Brown, thanks so much. And so I went there. Because I didn’t get into the other two, but I only auditioned for three for three schools. And that’s just because I wanted to stay in Ontario. I was also really young, like, I was 17 when I went to George Brown.
Phil Rickaby 08:57
Caroline Toal 08:58
I know. And then I turned 18. Like, right at the, at the beginning of school, obviously. But I yeah, I was super young. I didn’t know what I was doing.
Phil Rickaby 09:05
Yeah, no, I mean, I was 18. Right. I was like, like, read the I remember, you know, we are the head of acting when I was there was Peter Wilde. And he would look at our entire class of like, 18 year olds, and he just be like, I wish you were older.
Caroline Toal 09:21
There’s, there’s a part of me that wishes I could go back now, because I actually really enjoyed theatre school. I really loved the structure. I loved being able to work on my craft, if that’s not too nerdy to say, every day, and I would go back, but I would go I wish I could somehow go back yet be older because I think I would have gotten a lot more out of it. Obviously.
Phil Rickaby 09:44
I know 100% I would have got more out of it. Yeah, that said, I mean, I don’t know when you were in school, but they were still doing cuts when I was in theatre school became apparent at the first Christmas break and from that point on, and Because there will be people and I was one of them that was like, well, you’re just scraping through like, like, Alright, you walk into that, that, that that interview, and they’d be like, we’re going to cut you and you’ve struggled to convince them to let you to stay and they let you stay. I spent the entire time in fear. Yeah. But I also as much as I want to go back because I think I would get more out of it. I wouldn’t be this punk ass kid who is like, like, like fighting against what they were trying to teach me. But I think I would also have not accepted a lot of the bullshit.
Caroline Toal 10:32
You know what? That’s so true. Yeah. That part of it? Yes. You’re right. There’s definitely parts of it that as an adult, you would be like, um, No, thank you. No.
Phil Rickaby 10:49
Caroline Toal 10:50
Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 10:56
When it’s just I want to I want to like you, we’ve done a little bit of a little bit of, of chatting about your origin story. But there’s another origin story I want to talk about. And that’s what was happening for you. A year and a month ago, when the pandemic started, what was your situation at that time?
Right. Um, okay. So, right at the beginning of the great pause, God, I, okay, so I was, I had a gig and I was really excited about it, I was going to go to do the Melville boys at the foster festival. And Cam Laurie, who I had just done a show with the show that I just done in January, 2020. January, February was Casomir and Caroline, and cam from that show was cast in the show as well. And we were going to go out to St. catharines and do our show. And that was going to be this summer. And then at the beginning, you know, everything shut down. And, you know, I heard talk of people’s gigs being gone. And, and then of course, that one, you know, was gone. So I was pretty bummed from that. And and then Oh, god, it’s so hard to talk about, because there’s so because I’ve had, I’ve gone through so many emotions, I’m sure as we all have,
Phil Rickaby 12:21
Caroline Toal 12:22
through this whole thing that it’s like, hard to remember exactly where I was. But I know the beginning of the pandemic, obviously, I went into major anxiety mode because of the virus and because I was insanely afraid of it. Yeah. Um, but also because of the, you know, being our industry being completely shut down. And I mostly work in theatre, it’s like, true, I really don’t work that much in in film and TV. So it’s mostly theatre, and that is that is still pretty much gone. It was really scary and made me kind of Yeah, go into a low key depression, not even low key depression.
Phil Rickaby 13:06
I think we have to be able to talk about that. I think that, you know, we can’t go through pretending like, Oh, yeah, I just, you know, kept doing projects and everything was fine. I think we have to acknowledge that. Yeah, it’s been a difficult time.
Caroline Toal 13:20
It’s been hella difficult. I, I would have anxiety dreams, I’m not even joking every other night. And one night, it would be like being chased by dinosaur but then the next night, it would always be an anxiety acting dream. And I’ve had them pretty much this entire time for like, a year and however long it’s been. And it would, I would have anxiety acting dreams that that a lot of us get, you know, not being not going on stage not remembering your lines, or being locked out of the theatre, or it was that all the time and I was like, oh, man, I like I knew I cared about theatre, but I really care about theatre. I frigging care about it.
Phil Rickaby 14:03
Caroline Toal 14:04
I really miss it. Yeah, yeah, that was the beginning. That was like the first and then I went into major anxiety mode and kind of like to off put that I would work out vigorous vigorously, which wasn’t a bad thing. It was good for me mentally. And I started to like, be like, Okay, well, what else can I do? What else I’ve got to be doing stuff or else you know, I can’t just sit around because I’m going to start feeling really bad. Can I swear on this podcast?
Phil Rickaby 14:33
Yeah, you can fucking swear.
Okay. I was, yeah, I’m gonna, you know, I was kind of went into like, not manic mode, but a little bit more like, Oh, well, I gotta, I gotta do stuff. So I started taking classes, which were really great. I took Haley McGee’s quarantine challenge, I think that’s what it’s called. And that was really, really fun. And it was just a doing A short commitment of like writing every day for a certain amount of time. And then about half, like six months in, I took through Ghostlight Theatre, they were offering free classes. And I took I was lucky enough to get chosen. I don’t know how they chose, but I was lucky enough to get chosen to do a playwriting 101 course with Aaron shields, and that I’m so grateful for that class. Because it was a long period of time. It was like over I think, like seven weeks, like one class a week. And it got me into writing, which truly has kept me going through this. Because I really haven’t worked like in 2020. I, I worked. I think maybe five days total. And it was, it was rough. Yeah, like that. It’s still a little rough. But at least I have better kind of coping mechanisms, I think, question mark.
Caroline Toal 15:59
Phil Rickaby 16:01
Now. So for you writing is really new.
Caroline Toal 16:03
Yeah. Well, I’ve been writing all my life. I’ve always, when I was a kid, I wanted like, I wanted to be a writer. That was what I wanted to do. And I always wrote stories, I would always be writing like fan fiction when I got older and stuff. But I know we’re always writing in journals. But until recently, like maybe the last five years, I kind of stopped journaling, and I didn’t write as much for pleasure. And then through the quarantine has got I’ve got more into it. And I wrote I wrote my first play during this time, which has been great. And it’s been like a struggle, but it has, it’s like the only thing that’s kept me going, so,yeah, yeah. I felt like I had to do it out of necessity more than like, oh, I’ve got to create something to further my career is like, no, I got to just like, put my artistic need into something. So I’ve gotten back into writing, which I really love.
Phil Rickaby 17:04
Yeah, yeah. No writing is is I mean, as far as like, you know, it can be both wonderful and torturous. Yeah. It goes, it has those cycles, and sometimes at the same time. I’ve had moments of, of just being completely unable to, to write anything. And then other times of like, Oh, no, no, I can write something. And it may not last long, but at least I’ve written something.
Caroline Toal 17:33
Yeah, totally, totally. And I kind of like, like, I don’t know, there’s something about those. Like, there’s something about the struggle of writing that I really like, I don’t know why, because it’s really hard. And you one day, read your stuff. And you’re like, this is absolute trash, what am I doing? And then another time you read it, and you’re like, Okay, that bad, bad. But I kind of I know, there’s something about it that I really love. But I guess it goes without saying that also, like the reason I started writing during this time, too, is because I needed agency over something, I needed an agency over. Something. And writing is such a good way for like, especially actors to just even if it wasn’t quarantine, even if we didn’t have this virus, it’s such a good thing to do. Because you are you can, you don’t have to rely on anyone else, which is literally, like the whole part of our it’s like a lot of our job, which is really which something I struggle with, it’s always, you know, it seems like someone else is the gatekeeper of your career.
Phil Rickaby 18:36
That that’s certainly true, which is why you know, self producing becomes attractive to a lot of people and totally, and that sort of thing. And, and, and, and writing sometimes goes hand in hand with that. Yeah. Now, having having started to write this play, do you feel like that’s something? First off? Sorry, I lost my entire train of thought, to remind myself that I lost my train of thought train of thought. This play does it have a title?
It does. It’s called Survivors. I got two grants. Another thing I’m really so I’m proud of myself for writing the play. Because I’m the kind of person who starts stuff and are sorry, I should cry. I’m not correct myself. I was the kind of person who would start things and end them because it was too hard time or have like, tonnes of ideas for things or creative things and then would start it and be like, I can’t do this, I can’t do this is too much. And I would get overwhelmed and stop. And this is truly the first thing self like self generated that I’ve finished. I mean, I’m only on my second draft, but I’ve finished those drafts and I’m really proud of myself. But another thing I’m really proud of myself for is grant writing. I didn’t I wrote my first grants to get money to write this and I go And I ended up getting two grants and big shout out to Aaron. Jan is amazing. And he, like hopped on a zoom call with me. And I like threw him a small amount of money, um, for all his wonderful information. And he’s like, the reason I got grants. So if anyone’s asking you, yeah, so yeah, I got some grants from Studio 180 and workman arts. And that was so cool. Cuz I was like, wow, someone actually, like, maybe cares and thinks this is like, cool, or like, worth something. That’s, that’s neat. So, um, yeah, it’s called survivors. And it’s, do you wanna know what it’s about?
Phil Rickaby 20:47
Sure, please tell me.
Okay. So, um, it is the story of two sisters who were kind of like low key, a stranger at the time, the play begins, their mother has died suddenly by suicide. And so they go back to the house that they grew up in, to stay there and try to figure out kind of how to go on and to, to deal with it to didn’t to try to deal with it and to try to figure out what next. And it’s about. There. It’s a, it’s about their different complicated griefs, and the way they deal with it, and they both have opposing ways of dealing with it. And of course, they clash, and they struggle, and they come upon their own mental health struggles within the play.
Phil Rickaby 21:52
It’s interesting to me that at a time when you are working through your grief about theatre, that you’re writing a play about, about grief.
Caroline Toal 22:02
Yeah, yeah. I, I, that was not lost on me. Because when I started writing, I actually, when I started writing, during this time, I did not start on this play. I started on something way lighter, I wanted to write and no one’s steal this idea, although it’s been done before, but so maybe steal it. But I wanted to write like a zombie apocalypse play, I wanted to write something really fun, really silly. Um, but it just wasn’t working. And I felt like I needed to write this other one. Also, because I was working through grief of my own that was didn’t have to do with the quarantine. So that’s me. I just felt like I needed to tell this story. And it’s been, it’s been definitely hard to do during during a time that is also a dark period, which is why I only work on it like one an hour a day. Because I can’t work on it more than that, because it’s because it’s painful, but also because it’s just like, so dark in such a dark time. Yeah. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 23:07
It’s funny how writing can be helpful when I, you know, for years, I was like, I’m gonna write a solo play. And then I had an idea, and I just couldn’t make it work. I was like, it’s gonna be about this guy who’s an atheist. And he, you know, he, God starts talking to him. And I was like, that’s great. No, and it’s gonna be hilarious. And first off the you can’t really say that right then. But also, for at the time that I started reading it, there was something missing. And it wasn’t until I started putting, you know, fictionalising, but putting my own grief from that I was still dealing with years after, after losing someone I loved very much to suicide into the play. Yeah. And through that, somehow being able to have this catharsis that I hadn’t been able to have before that,
Caroline Toal 24:04
really, and you found that through your writing?
Phil Rickaby 24:06
through the writing and performing it.
Caroline Toal 24:08
Wow. Wow. I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised. Um, that’s, that’s really cool. That, that, that, that that happened, that you’ve felt some sort of catharsis from it and writing and performing it. And and yeah, I mean, I’m a new wish. I’m a new writer, especially. I’m a new playwright, for sure. I’m really learning as I go. But, um, what was I gonna say? Oh, had something really good to say. Hold on, hold up. It has escaped me. It’ll come back to me. It’ll come back I think. I’m sure it will. Yeah,
Phil Rickaby 24:48
I’m sure it will. Um –
Caroline Toal 24:51
Oh I remember, I remember.
Phil Rickaby 24:52
Caroline Toal 24:54
It’s, um, I really feel like from from everything that I’ve read, because I’ve been reading books on playwriting as well. I’m doing like what watching some masterclasses, like David Mamet’s masterclass in whatever I’m writing, and just seems like yeah, you really, you can’t have to put yourself you don’t necessarily have to write about yourself at all or your experiences. But you got to, there’s got to be some heart in it or else it just doesn’t maybe or else Yeah, exactly. Or else you won’t want to finish it. Yeah. Because you don’t you know, you’re not super connected to it. I don’t know, maybe that’s extremely obvious to say. But
Phil Rickaby 25:30
no, but I think that a lot of people you know, it, it’s not necessarily intuitive, because you could go through this, I’m going to write a play or whatever. And it’s going to be it’s going to be funny, or it’s going to be moving but unless you’re really connected to it. Yeah, you know, the unless you are you’re, you have a connection to the emotions that are happening there. You really, the audience feels it, I think.
Caroline Toal 25:56
Phil Rickaby 25:59
Now, one of the things that I did want to talk to you about is is is about how you’re doing now, as far as theatre goes, how are you feeling? How are you hopeful for the future? How, what is your current state of mind?
Caroline Toal 26:18
Did you hear that big sigh I just get I did. I
Phil Rickaby 26:20
did. There was a lot in that side.
Caroline Toal 26:22
It was really, that was involuntary? Um, I feel like that sigh I feel so many emotions. I feel lost.
I know, it’s a dark way to start, but I feel lost. I feel okay, what was your question? It’s, it’s the state of the state of theatre. Sort of,
Phil Rickaby 26:47
like, I just want to I want to let you go where your brain takes you. Okay. I think that that’s really important, because we’re talking sort of esoterically about theatre and your relationship to it right now. Yeah, let your let I want to, I want your story. I want you to talk about how you’re feeling.
Caroline Toal 27:05
Okay. Okay, cool. Cool. Cool. You’re great. This, Phil, good job. Okay, so, basically, right now, I go through so many ups and downs with theatre right now. I’m so sad that it’s that it’s not a thing right now. Physically, I know it’s a thing sometimes online. I’ve watched a couple shows online. It’s been cool. No, I haven’t loved all of all of them. But some of them were cool. But it’s just, it’s just not the same. It’s not the same being, being without being there and being present. In we’re seeing living breathing people in front of you being with in a dark room with people experiencing it and hearing people’s little chatter and comments and gasps and stuff. I’m getting literally emotional talking about this.
Phil Rickaby 28:03
That’s okay. That’s okay. Because this is big stuff. And so it’s fine.
Caroline Toal 28:07
Yeah. I because not only do I love performing in theatre, even more, I love watching theatre, I love everything about it. I’m so I’m mourning like, I’m mourning my career right now. And like not having it not be maybe feeling useful at all times. Which is a whole other thing. But I’m also mourning like, not being able to witness my favourite pastime, which is like seeing theatre and, and it’s, it’s, um, the theatre is so it’s cathartic. It’s just like writing. It’s so cathartic to, like, sit and be told a story in real time. And I know a lot of people have talked, there’s so many conversations around this around, like, why that is a thing. And some people say it’s because like, you know, we’ve always been told stories from the beginning of time I don’t I don’t know what it is about being in a room with other people being taught told the story and being taken away. But it’s different. It’s different from movies is different from anything else at different from music. It’s just like, there’s something about it that that I just connect with, on such a deep level and I care about so much and it’s it’s been really hard to not not have that going on. And then on the other side, it’s been it’s been hard not to be acting, and then it gets into more like, kind of career worry and career thinking like, Oh, shit, oh, shit, like,
should I just should just do something else. And it’s also been hard. There’s so many things I could do. We could talk for hours, really. But it’s also been hard to have seeing, you know, the people who work I know this is a theatre podcast, but I’m going to get a little actor into film. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Like the people who work Film and TV a lot like I have a lot of friends who are working constantly, consistently during this time, different completely different worlds than I’m in, obviously. And that’s been I’m happy, so happy for them. But that’s been hard as well. And it’s a different heart than when then if this wasn’t happening, I mean, there’s always the difficulty of, you know, your whoops, sorry, there’s always the difficulty of when there was no COVID when you know, you’re not working a lot in someone else’s working a lot. That can be hard, and you’re hearing about it, of course, but there’s a whole nother thing when, you know, your career is there, your your theatre is shut down, when you work in is fully shut down, you cannot work in it. And other people are able to do kind of their passions. That’s hard. And I know that sounds I don’t know what it sounds like, but it’s just been difficult. And-
Phil Rickaby 30:54
I think that we have to be honest about about that and not discount the feeling behind it. Because, you know,
Caroline Toal 31:01
I’ve been thinking, you know, okay, do I now that you know, auditions are online? Do I move out of the city? Do I go back to school for something else? because who knows when this is gonna come back slash, you know, even before, you know, even before this, I was having, like, as we all do, as actors, doubts of being like, okay, is this gonna give me is this gonna pay me enough to give me the lifestyle I want? And that’s specifically with theatre, I think too
Phil Rickaby 31:29
one of the questions, the big question is, is,is, you know, the idea of whether, you know, you’re thinking like, do I leave the city? auditions are online? I don’t know if they’re going to stay online. I think this is one of those questions like, Yeah, when theatre opens up whenever that is when we start doing those auditions again, are those gonna stay online? Because I kind of feel like, those work better, especially for theatre in the room?
Caroline Toal 31:53
Oh, yeah. I hope to god that they are not online for theatre. That’s too much. It’s too rough there. So especially for theatre. It’s just not needed. Now. You got to be in the room.
Phil Rickaby 32:05
Yeah, we got to really get the sense of whether somebody has that. That presence. If you’re online, you can really get the sense of what’s there. How does their voice fill the room online? You need so many tactile things. person for theatre? Yeah. years ago, I struggled with many of the same things as you and there was no pandemic at the time. Yeah, but it was the whole you get to a certain age and you’re like, ah, roommates, ramen for dinner, like, all of these little things like, is this? Is this the life I want? And, and you have to start to make choices to go back to school to find something else. And if I find something else, does that mean that I am no longer an actor? Yeah, if I’m making the sacrifice, to, to stop doing this, does that mean that that, that I’m no longer an actor, which is the thing that I love being?
Caroline Toal 33:06
Yeah. And it’s hard to specifically with theatre, because it’s like, I would love to go back to school to learn to study, because I love learning. But, and you could do if I was just focusing on TV and film, I might be able to do that. Because it’s a short days or whatever. Like you have short little stints. But for theatre, it just seems like maybe I’m sure people do it. But I’m like, Oh, God, like I would I feel like I’d just be out of it for for however many years and –
Phil Rickaby 33:38
Yeah. And I mean, if you’re going back to school, definitely, yeah, definitely, that becomes a thing. If you’re doing self produced theatre, then you get to make your own schedule. But if you’re doing work with other people that you know, then you have to, like start hoping that your boss is flexible and things like that. There’s so many things to balance. And I know I’ve been really fortunate, but also I’ve been really, personally very specific. Yeah, like, some people. And this is really easy to do if you enter like the business world are like in the office world, as you get can get sucked into that. I have to check my email all the time. Yeah, I have to answer that at all all the time. And you don’t. Yeah, you know. And once you start putting walls around it, you know you and insisting on No, once I leave, this is my time, then it becomes a little bit easier. But it’s it’s not an easy choice to make. And I know the things that I sacrificed in in deciding to take a full time job.
Caroline Toal 34:44
Yeah, it’s really hard. And, you know, I’m sure so many people listening will feel be like, yeah, that’s me. I mean, I’ve talked to I talked to actors about it all, all the time, literally all the time. If you don’t question it, I’m like, That’s weird to me,
Phil Rickaby 35:01
no its totally weird. It’s totally weird. Especially, you know, like, I think I started to question it. Okay, question everything when I turned 27 I’m 21 I turned 27. That was a lot of people hit. They’re like, Oh, 30 is when you have your big crisis. I always do my crisis, like a couple years before the big milestone for 27 I had the crisis 30 was like, whatever. But 27 was like this big crisis year. Yeah. And it was so weird to be doing it that time, but also just like, how do you not question like, your, the choices that you’ve made, especially when you know, people who are like, oh, who bought a house? They What? You know, they’re having kids, they’re doing this, they’re like, how is that even possible? It’s hard to see that happening.
Caroline Toal 35:53
Yeah, it’s such a sometimes it feels like it’s just sometimes it feels like we live such a different life from like, from the only example I can give us like, from the people I went to high school with, yeah, don’t have jobs in the arts, or just are actors who just go to work nine to five do their thing. You can buy a house and have family and like, just do their thing. And yeah, it’s sometimes it feels like you’re like an alien, you’re like, wow, I’m really living a whole other existence here.
Phil Rickaby 36:27
I mean, even going into an office situation. And, and, you know, I know that the world that I inhabit, when I’m not at that office is completely different from everybody else who’s at the office. It’s one of those weird things like, we work in the same place, but we’ve moved in different worlds.
Caroline Toal 36:44
That’s how I’ve always felt in every single job I’ve ever done. And I’m also I just a side note, I’m horrible at every single job I’ve ever done. Truly, I can’t stress that enough. so bad. But yes, I’ve also I know, I know that feeling. I know that feeling.
Phil Rickaby 37:04
Now, with all of these these emotions about about theatre, are you are you leaning in a particular way? Or is it just like sort of like these things that are weighing on you right now?
Caroline Toal 37:17
I grapple with it every single day. I know we do. I know I want more than just being an actor. I would love to do like I would love to branch into directing and dramaturgy. I’m so interested in all of theatres. So I would love to try as much as I possibly can. But even outside of that I’m interested. I’m interested in like psychology, I’m interested in, I want to, I’m really interested in mental health advocacy. And I’m like, my dream job would be like, I would love I just love learning, I would love to study I never went to you know, I’ve never went to an actual University, our school was very hands on old sort of theatre school, you know, rolling on the ground, good luck. Not that I didn’t love it. I absolutely loved it. But it didn’t have that kind of university thing. And I and I feel like I would really like it. So I know, at some point in my life, I want to do that. But I’m not ready to. I don’t think step away from theatre and acting. There’s I don’t know, man,
Phil Rickaby 38:26
I just I want I want to say that, that. Because you do other things does not force you to step away from acting. And I want to make that super clear for anybody who’s listening is that you can get a job in an office and work full time and still find time to do theatre. Yeah, you can go back to school and study something else. You can do psychology, you could become a life coach, or you could like whatever it is that you want to do, doesn’t take away the fact that you are still an actor.
Caroline Toal 38:58
Yeah, no, you know, I feel You’re so right. And it’s like, I don’t know why I think that. But it’s this fear that as soon as I like, do something else. That That means that I’m going to be out of the community, I’m going to not feel fulfilled. I’m gonna regret it or something. When, you know, I know, it’s not the case. But I don’t know why I have that idea in my mind.
Phil Rickaby 39:27
But these are things that these are narratives that we tell ourselves, right? These are narratives that, you know, and I don’t know when you were George Brown, and it might be different from when I was a George Brown, but they really made it seem like you can only be an actor. Don’t do anything else be an actor, otherwise Don’t bother. And, you know, years later, like people are writer, director, actor dramaturg fight choreographer, there’s so many things. There’s so many hyphens in their titles, but at the time like that was So we drilled into me that when I started to think about about, about getting another job I, I thought, well, that means that I can’t do something. I can’t be an actor anymore. Yeah, and it’s just not a true thing.
Caroline Toal 40:20
Yeah, yeah. When I went there, I felt the same way not to shit on George Brown. But I did feel like he was. I felt like it was training to be at Stratford and show off.
Phil Rickaby 40:33
Caroline Toal 40:34
Which, like, I went to Theatre School and like, yo, learn not hiring me.
Phil Rickaby 40:39
No, that was that was. So my experience as well was that what they were training us for? was to be the traditional actor track, go to the audition, get the job, try to get another addition to that audition. Get the job. That’s your life.
Caroline Toal 40:53
Yeah. Yeah, I think other I mean, I’m sure they’ve moved away from that. Now. I don’t actually know. Because I don’t know anyone going there. Currently. I know people teaching there. So I, I hope they’ve moved away from from that now, just because that’s just not the way the industry is anymore. Like, you just have to do a million things. Yes. Yeah. Unless you’re a super, super, super lucky actor who gets to work constantly. Yeah, but even then those people also sometimes do, you know, directing or whatever other stuff. Yeah, I always kind of, like, whenever I talk to people now who went to Theatre School where they, you know, had devised theatre or got to do other stuff. I’m like, Oh, that’s really cool. I wish I got to learn that. But you know, it is what it is. And I also learned lots of, I learned, I felt like George Brown gave me lots of technique. I learned technical stuff.
Phil Rickaby 41:55
Absolutely. Absolutely. I don’t regret my time there. I do wish we’d done more about like, how to create Theatre on your own and how to self produce and things like that. But I do feel like you know, as we know, the theatre world is all encompassing, right? I know, people who are working five jobs just to keep the theatre career going. And it’s like a little acting job here and a little acting job there. And they do the the medical simulation stuff in there, in there, like so many things, just to keep a roof over their head, and just to work, and it can be all encompassing, to do that all the time. But I would hope that this pause, if it’s taught us anything, if it’s taught us anything, it’s that we can not be on that treadmill. And we can still be actors, we can, we can take a break, and we can still be theatre people, theatre makers, we can do something else. And we haven’t lost our artistic soul.
Caroline Toal 42:58
Yeah, yeah, that’s 100%. Right. And as much as I may, hopefully have, I think I’ve sounded a little negative so far in our conversation, and I don’t mean to, it’s just I go through the variety of emotions at all times, about this kind of stuff, but I will say on a positive note that Yeah, to tie into that, during this time, so obviously, so six months in the hard depression, about all of it, thank you feeling useless, which is no one should feel that way. Because that’s how you get into major depressions not great. feeling absolutely useless, not having a job, you know, all that all that stuff. Um, one thing that I have learned and and that is really positive thing is that you cannot, at least I cannot but I also think this is good for other people. You cannot tie your identity to what you do to being an actor. You just can’t because it’s then as soon as you don’t get a job or God help us there’s another quarantine complication. You feel like a total piece of shit and you feel useless and you feel like, Oh, I am I I’m lost. I don’t know what to do. Because I don’t have any part of myself. I don’t know any other part of myself. But the person constantly hustling to be an actor or constantly hustling to make theatre. That is something that I was like, forced to deal with and grapple with because I was that person working a bunch of jobs to make everything to just to just act and to just be in theatre and now I feel like I’ve it’s actually been a really positive experience, full of growth for me to come to to learn about myself and different sides of myself that actually have nothing to do with me being an actor. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 44:58
I mean, it all comes down to Like if you, if you let other people define your identity, or you tell you have a story that defines who your identity is, then you sort of get stuck. You know, unless I’m doing these things, I’m an actor. I was talking to somebody a while back, who had begun to write. And I was like, oh, how do you feel because they were talking about all the hyphens that they have in their, in, when they describe what they do. And it’s like, we’re gonna add writer to that. And they’re like, no, I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t do that. And it was like, but you’re writing that you get to be a writer, when you choose to be a writer, you get to be a theatre maker, when you choose to be a theatre maker that you’re deciding what that identity is not not anybody else. Yeah, you know,
Caroline Toal 45:42
I went through the same thing. I like wrote this play. And then and then I put it up my Twitter, whatever says, like, actor, and I was like, You know what, I’m just gonna, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna put it right or not. I was like, Oh, no, I don’t know. People are gonna think I’m a no, they’re gonna know it. I went through that whole thing is ridiculous. Like, no one cares. Like,
Phil Rickaby 46:04
But you left it there. Right. You left it there.
Caroline Toal 46:07
Yeah I did leave it there.
Phil Rickaby 46:09
How long did it take you to put writer on your website?
Caroline Toal 46:13
Do I have it on my website?
Phil Rickaby 46:14
You do have it on your website.
Caroline Toal 46:17
Sick! That was a later Oh, it was later. It was later for sure. Because I feel like that’s like more professional. So like, more professional people would be looking at that. And my Twitter. Oh, sure. So um, so yeah, I’m glad I have it on there. I forgot i put it up there.
Phil Rickaby 46:31
you have a section called play writing, so yes,
Caroline Toal 46:34
yes, that’s right. That’s right.
Phil Rickaby 46:37
It’s, it’s so that everything right now is so in flux that I think that, you know, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about it is because I think that we’re spending a lot of time not admitting to this stuff right now. Yeah. And it’s important for everyone to talk about the feelings of loss of theatre and, and, and not knowing what the future holds. And, and who am I and what am I? And do I do I give up to get a job? Do I move away from Toronto? These are big questions that I think we have to address.
Caroline Toal 47:12
Totally. And yeah, totally. And also, the mental health stuff that has come up from not working, like yeah, that’s a, that’s a really, really hard thing we are We live in a capitalist society, and we are programmed and raised to feel like our worth is our job and making money. And then when that’s taken away from you, you’re like, Who am I? And what do I have? Yeah, not contributing to society, which is so not true. But you know
Phil Rickaby 47:50
But it feels like, you know, we have this, this very, I want to say Victorian, but I don’t know if that’s it, but there’s this attitude towards work and productivity that we have. That is like, no, if you are not constantly going, then something is wrong.
Caroline Toal 48:08
I know. I know. It’s true. It’s true. And I’ve even seen like a lot on like Instagram of being like, just just towards artists being like, Hey, you don’t have to write a play. It’s, it’s okay. If you didn’t write a play during this time. It’s okay. If you didn’t consume tonnes of theatre with, it’s okay. Like you didn’t have to be going and making art if you didn’t want to, like, don’t feel the pressure to pressure to do it. But I you know, that’s easier, easier said than done.
Phil Rickaby 48:38
It is easier said than done. But I think that it’s you know, I don’t think that when when this pandemic is over, and we’re welcomed that we’re going into theatres, we’re going into rehearsal halls, we’re not going to be at that opening night, looking around the room, and thinking, well, that person didn’t do a zoom play. They didn’t that person didn’t do something. Like it’s just gonna be like, we’re back here. Let’s Let’s enjoy.
Caroline Toal 49:00
Yeah, I can’t wait to come back. I Oh, I’m on like, so excited to go to opening nights again. I feel like it’s going to be like the roaring 20s ever, as everyone says, really? I really can’t wait. I want some serious parties. Yeah, I feel like I was joking with some friends that like, even even if you didn’t love the play, you’re gonna be on your feet being like, yes, this was the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
Phil Rickaby 49:28
Those those first plays back, they come back when the theatres are fully open, and you’re having your first full house. They get there. They’re gonna have like, it’s like, we’re gonna be so happy to be there. We are going to give them standing ovations just because because for theatre, yeah,
Caroline Toal 49:43
yeah, for theatre. Oh, fuck, I really hope I’m an actor in one of their shows just like, man we’re rocks, stars.
Phil Rickaby 49:50
Absolutely. Absolutely. Just as we start to draw to a close, yeah, just to sort of lightened things from the serious conversation. One of the Things I’ve been talking about with everybody for since the pandemic started is about joy. Because I think we all need a reminder of the joys in our lives and hearing the joys that other people have are super important. And so I was wondering for you, what’s been giving you joy?
Caroline Toal 50:18
Oh my gosh, well, I’ve I’m at my mom’s house right now. And she has these four big beautiful trees in her backyard. And I sit outside sometimes when it’s nice, and I watch birds so I’ve become a birder and it brings me joy if you haven’t birded I don’t know if you can say birded but if
Phil Rickaby 50:42
I think you can.
Caroline Toal 50:42
Okay, if you haven’t birded I really suggest it. It is so soothing. It brings me joy to watch birds. I don’t know how to explain how they’ve been like it’s just it’s just fucking cool man. Also what brings me joy. Okay, so we did a we did a homemade high high tea that brings me joy tea basically brings me joy birds. Being in nature always brings me joy. All the time. It is my number one thing being in nature. Which is funny that I live in Toronto, but it is what it is and what else getting mail. I love getting mail so much. So those are just some little things that have been bringing me joy lately.
Phil Rickaby 51:30
Thank you so much that those are great. And thank you for for this this conversation. It’s been wonderful.
Caroline Toal 51:35
Thank you so much for having me. Phil.