#293 – Andre Sills
Andre is a Toronto-based Actor, Director, Producer and Writer.
He has spent most of his career working in the Theatre across the country. This is his 7th season at Stratford where he is playing Bottom in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, opening the new Tom Patterson Theatre Parking Lot under a tent. He also played the title character in the 2018 Stratford hit Coriolanus directed by the World Renowned Robert Lepage, and was in the top 10 shows of 2018 in the Washington Post and The Globe & Mail and more.
In addition, he spent four seasons at The Shaw Festival where he played Tom in The Glass Menagerie and received a My Entertainment World Best Actor Award for his work in An Octoroon and a Dora Award & Toronto Theatre Critics Award for Best Actor for his work in Master Harold and the Boys.
He has also worked at Soulpepper Theatre where he toured with Kim’s Convenience across the country, and also played Othello at The St. Louis Black Rep, and many other companies across the country. He is a Resident Artist with The Actors Repertory Company (ARC). Online: Check out his new web series on YouTube called Private Idiots.
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stratford, people, theatre, conversation, rehearsals, year, thought, stories, pandemic, idiots, festival, big, world, markham, shakespeare, toronto, find, podcast, play, postponing
Andre Sills, Phil Rickaby, Ad Announcer
Ad Announcer 00:00
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Phil Rickaby 00:30
Welcome to Episode 293 of Stageworthy, I’m your host Phil Rickaby. Stageworthy is a podcast about people in Canadian theatre featuring conversations with actors, directors playwrights anymore. Thank you for listening. 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 the show. And if you know someone that you think might like Stageworthy, please tell them about it. Some of my favourite podcasts became my favourites because someone I know told me about them. And remember, you can find it Subscribe on Apple podcast, Google podcast, 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 293 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 Andre Sills. Andre is a Toronto based actor, director, producer and writer. He joins me to talk about his web series Private Idiots, acting at the Stratford Festival in the time of COVID, and so much more. I mean, you just moved to Stratford. Yeah. What’s what’s I mean, this is like, was it were you even in Stratford last year?
Andre Sills 02:19
Yes, I was. I was at the, at the beginning of my sixth season last year. So I was set to do Much Ado About Nothing, which we were in rehearsals for, and Hamlet, which we are also in rehearsals for, and then the late opener that I was supposed to do was Wolf Hall as Henry the Eighth. And we never got to that one, but I never got to any of them. But that’s a shame. But, you know, it was it was a weird year as soon as that first lockdown kind of came into place. And yeah, is a interesting year to say the least. Yeah,
Phil Rickaby 02:57
I really think about how naive I was, for one, at the beginning of that. I thought to myself, we were locked down. I thought, you know what, we’re gonna lock down two weeks, maybe a month tops, we’re gonna be fine. We’re gonna beat this thing. No problem.
Andre Sills 03:12
Exactly. I thought the same thing too. I thought the festival was being very what’s the word I guess generous with their, with their, with their layoffs at the time? It’s like, you know, by June, I think I should be back. And it’s like, yeah, that sounds good. That sounds good. June is good amount of time. I mean, I mean, I mean, the break, the break that we had is just like, this wouldn’t be hard. And it was. But you know, as we got closer and closer to – this is not gonna happen. But I think at that time, they had already said that they’re postponing and even when they did that announcement, I was like, what does postpone mean?
Phil Rickaby 03:50
that’s a great question. Like, that just means we don’t want to cancel it. But we just don’t know when we’re going to be able to do it.
Andre Sills 03:58
Exactly. So yeah, so there was like a weird sort of, like, you know, you’re asking somebody out, and you’re just like, you know, maybe in the future. I was like, Wait a second, are you? Are you actually saying maybe in the future? Or are you just letting me down nicely, so it felt like I was being let down nicely, a little bit.
Phil Rickaby 04:19
I think, you know, in a lot of ways, at that point. We were all being let down nicely.
Andre Sills 04:23
Phil Rickaby 04:24
About a lot of things.
Andre Sills 04:25
Yeah. Yeah. Just trying to think back to the, to the beginning of, of the whole thing last year, and, you know, being in a rehearsal on Friday, and then coming in on Saturday morning and like. Hey, know, everybody’s going back home and we’ve cancelled rehearsals for the day and then a few days later, we all got the news that, you know, where, you know, postponing or not postponing. We’re gonna stop rehearsing until the thing rolls out. And you know, and but yeah, so It was it was a weird time to, to, I guess, embrace anything that the beginning of the pandemic brought. Yeah. And, you know, with with artists, you know, we’re all trying to find some sort of outlet of how to get any sort of artistic thing out there. And, you know, the one thing that Stratford especially kept saying is like, Hey, guys, just so you know, King Lear was written during, during Shakespeare’s pandemic time. And I was like, well, that stresses me out. Now. Now I have to try and create King Lear.
Phil Rickaby 05:44
I completely agree with it. I remember hearing people say things like that. And at first I was like, okay, so I understand what you’re trying to say with that. But it’s not helpful.
Andre Sills 05:54
Phil Rickaby 05:55
Like your don’t you don’t know at what point in the pandemic in his pandemic
Andre Sills 05:59
Phil Rickaby 06:00
he was like writing that. Like, did he have like a year of just weeping and hiding under a pillow while cooking while trying to make a sourdough starter at the same time? Or was he like, oh, finally time to write and he just like, was productive all the way through? Because I spent far too much time doing Doom scrolling in those first couple of months, just to be able to accomplish anything.
Andre Sills 06:24
Yeah, yeah. And I was right there with you with the sour- sourdough starter, like I got a sourdough starter, and might cook a couple of loaves of bread, and I think I killed the sourdough starter. And, you know, I think that phases his has run its course, but
Phil Rickaby 06:39
long since long since run its course. At what point did you start getting the urge to, to create something? what point did you start like that whatever led to private idiots, your your YouTube series? At what point did you start thinking, Okay, I feel like I need to do something.
Andre Sills 07:00
Well, I guess. No, trying to think – no, it’s not really a short answer. Well, I guess as the time started rolling out, and, you know, doing little workshops here and there. And, and, you know, Stratford reached out about doing a Black like me chat, which I was a part of, which was, which was amazing to do, and, you know, help to bring about a lot of change yet. You know, a year later, as we’re just about to start rehearsals, we’re doing a good training session before we even get into rehearsal. But, you know, some of the conversations we had through that. I was trying to think of something and then a friend of mine who had worked with was first time we did well, before private idiots was called private idiots. We It was called sensitivity training, and sensitivity training head to other incarnations of itself. So the first one was back in 2012, and 2012, or 2011. And then the next one was, I guess, 2013. And then we kind of dropped it up, dropped it in, but I guess we all kind of went our separate ways in, in in the types of work we were doing. And I think it was right after. Soon after George Floyd and right after we had done our black like me talk, my friend Oliver award. And Dennis Nicholson reached out and said, Hey, I think it’s time for the sensitivity guys, sensitivity training guys to get back together. And thinking back to, to the type of comedy that these two private detectives had in the car. It seemed like those types of conversations were the conversations that everybody right now was having a hard time having. So thinking about it, then it’s like, you know what, I think you’re right, I think this is the time something that we’ve been sleeping on for about seven years. And now you know, as as creators as he is a creator, as I’m a creator, and Dennis as well, we all came together, or the idea dropped and then we figured out a time to start our zoom writing room. And, and we started bashing a rough outline of all the sorts of topics that we could address. And then it started going.
Phil Rickaby 09:41
well, that I mean, the concept of First off, like as far as as, as the way it looks, it’s like kind of the perfect pandemic shooting situation.
Andre Sills 09:51
Yeah, and it was very simple. Like, yeah, every the for every episode that we did, there was only four people on set. So Me, Oliver; me and Oliver Ward in the car, Dennis Nicholson who is also a sound guy who’s he’s working on Primes The Boys right now. So he’s sound guy on that. So he had his own gear for that. And then we had a DOP. So I think we had three or four different DPs who came in and out during the course of our run, and – four people. And that was it. You know, so it was dialogue heavy for these two actors, myself and Oliver. But like, you know, it was it was about the conversations, yes. And the two of us talking to each other, even if we disagreed, and, you know, I like looking back, the one thing I think we were successful in doing is like, you know, it doesn’t always have to be funny button, I want to see that these two guys are actually talking to each other, and hearing each other.
Phil Rickaby 11:02
Well, to me, one of the things that makes that makes that situation work so well, for what you’re doing is, these guys are trapped in a car together. Yeah, pretty much all night all the time. Yeah. And after a certain amount of time, you’ve exhausted all of the surface level stuff that you can talk about. Exactly. You’ve already talked about what sports team you like your favourite song, all of that stuff. And eventually, you either are going to sit in silence, or you’re going to talk about some difficult, because there’s nothing else to talk about.
Andre Sills 11:32
Exactly, exactly. And I think that was, that was the whole aim. And, you know, one thing that Oliver started doing, because he was the one who initially wrote all of the episodes beforehand, and I guess after the George Floyd murder happened, he started to think to himself, he’s just like, you know, what, I’ve been writing this particular voice in my head, but I think I need to actually reach out to the person who will be speaking it to, to get his input. Because like, you know, it’s, it’s interesting how, you know, after the me too movement happened, that conversation change. And after George Floyd happened, a different sort of conversation changed. And, and so, you know, were trying to figure out how to navigate these issues. And the way to do it is to, you know, ask a perspective of, of somebody else who doesn’t, who can’t? who wasn’t? What, what’s the speak? Words, words? You know, ask an opinion of somebody that you might not have have, that you don’t know.
Phil Rickaby 12:50
Andre Sills 12:51
you know, so. And I thought, I thought for the three of us a, it, it brought up some interesting topics, and some things that they didn’t know about, I definitely was willing to let them know, like, these are things like code changing is things that that I do on a regular basis? Of course, you know, and yeah, so it’s, oh, yeah, it’s it was an interesting sort of gateway for us to have have that creative discussion about the type of content we want to put out, but also, what our intent is, like, Sure, we might offend some people from time to time. But the intent is also to let us let the world know where we actually are right now. Yeah, you know, we still have a lot of ground covered to cover. And, you know, we can make up some sort of perfect world where these two guys are living in harmony, but I don’t think that’s doing the world any sort of favours, because we’re not there yet.
Phil Rickaby 13:59
No. And it’s sort of a false narrative, that I think sometimes a lot of films will try to portray that everybody living in harmony, nobody argues about anything. It gets to the point where, like, it’d be great if that was the case, but we in the real world, there are difficult conversations, people saying things and they don’t know that they are committing micro aggressions. They don’t know what they don’t know. And either one person lets it go or you have the difficult conversation.
Andre Sills 14:31
Phil Rickaby 14:31
I sometimes in watching the series, I wondered, how many times did did did he let that go? And this is like, he’s done now. Letting that go.
Andre Sills 14:41
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Like, well, there was there was another discussion was like, okay, when is when does Boise go too far? And like, I think he goes pretty far a lot of times. And, you know, there is a certain discussion about you know, as we’re writing some of these episodes is like, Is that too far? Or is this? If Boise says something, Steve has to address it, and I was like, I don’t know, you know, because I think he picks his moments is like, is this. Is this something for me to address right now? Or is this a moment in time where, you know, not today? Just don’t have the time. To me. I think he tries to do that in our episode five, which is May the 25th of like, No, I don’t want to have these conversations. And it still happens anyways. But yeah, no, just picking your battles. Sometimes you have to pick your battles. And like, you know, I’ve had moments thinking back of, you know, moments of, of, you know, being in the in, in a gym dressing room where somebody is like, the post Me too, is, you know, seeing seeing a woman and you know, this is something that I’ve heard from another person say, is like seeing another woman, you know, he can’t even say what nice breasts she has is like, in that moment, that was like, there’s like eight o’clock in the morning. Yeah. I’m going to let this one go.
Phil Rickaby 16:17
How do you explain to somebody at that point? Why those are some nice breasts you have is not the compliment you think it is?
Andre Sills 16:25
Exactly. And like, I guess in my mind, now, I’m just like, I should have said something button. at eight o’clock in the morning in the gym when I was just in my underwear. I was like, I don’t? I can’t. Yeah. And it still bugs me. Right? Of course, it bugs me because I probably should. I should have said something. But I I didn’t.
Phil Rickaby 16:46
Yeah, no, I think we’ve all been in a similar situation where you’re like, I don’t know that guy. Yeah, I’m in the gym. I haven’t really even had coffee yet. I’m in my underwear. Is this the time for the conversation? And because you don’t know that guy, it’s like, how what kind of impact is your word? Like? Sure. You’re gonna say it? That’s for you? Is he gonna take any of that in there? That’s like, Who knows?
Andre Sills 17:12
Phil Rickaby 17:15
Um, one of the things you were talking about the the Black like me conversation I was following. When when Stratford did the, the in the green room takeover. Yeah. And a number of the Black artists who’d worked at Stratford, were telling their stories. And first off, to hand over the keys of the official Twitter and the official, the official social media and say, have the difficult conversation I thought, you know, as far as like, organisations go, that was a that was very brave of them, and very open of them. And so, you know, kudos to them for that. And stories were told and changes were promised, just like it most are to organisations changes were promised. Yeah. And as things are starting to open up, I think some people are watching I know, I’m watching to see like, okay, so you made your Black, your Black Lives Matter statement in June a year ago? And what are you doing? Like you just doing another production of grease or something like, like, or are you doing? Are you gonna stick to the promise that you made? Because we remember, Mm hmm. You know, is that as for I don’t know how much you can say, but does it feel like Stratford is, is adhering to the promise that they made?
Andre Sills 18:36
Well, for like we had our first day today. And, you know, the one thing that has changed is that like, before we officially start rehearsals is we have these training days and the training days are to, to basically open up the open up, how to have a dialogue about these particular issues, how to address these particular issues, the steps that they are, that they have put in place, and that they’ve been working on over the past year with with a committee, a committee of artists and administrators to make the festival a better place to work. And, you know, a lot of people have done a lot of hard work. So when I think right now, we’re in the testing ground of seeing how that will roll out. And, you know, I think they’re taking it upon themselves to do it. Yeah. And I applaud them for doing it. And you know, it’s going to be a learning curve. You know, we’re still figuring out how to have those conversations. We’re still figuring out how to, you know, as I’m saying, we’re in day one, right? So I’m still trying to, I’m still noticing or seeing how it will all roll out. But I think The men the hope of the mentality shift is, is moving. You know, and you know, so I’m interested and excited to see how things will change. And, you know, for me, it’s, especially with a place like this. I think the more you can work in the world of theatre and see it as a team sport, the better we will do, right, you know, and I think the Eve, as I keep saying this, Michael Jordan, he would had to learn how to play as a team for the Chicago Bulls to really become a contender in the playoffs, right? Because he couldn’t do it all by himself. And right, and sometimes with our star, our star system, sometimes I feel that some people can think that they have to do it all by themselves. And I don’t think that’s the case. I think we all though, or the one thing that my rugby coach used to say in high school is, we move as fast as our slowest person. And you move as fast as your slowest person, when you do that. You create a, like a fortress that is impenetrable, right? And if somebody runs ahead, to try and be a hero, then the fortress is then vulnerable. Yeah, so the more you you work as a team, you try and figure out a shorthand between each other to, to to have that sort of cohesive sort of nature of like, I know where you are at any given time, just because we work this thing out so nicely. Where is number one, playing the leader of this place still need the servant around the corner? though, this is not doing too much, because like, you have something to offer that you might give me. And you never know, you never know what each person has to offer in a play. And if you’re open to, to all all of that sort of energy, I think all that it will do is help propel the show even further than than you expected.
Phil Rickaby 22:25
Yeah. I think one of the things you mentioned how, you know, this is new, and everybody sort of trying to feel out how this is gonna work. I think in some ways, that’s, that’s a good thing. Yeah, that organisations will show what they’re made of when they get it wrong. Yeah. Like, if they get it wrong, and they, they sort of throw up their hands to go, well was never going to work anyway, then we know something about that organisation. But if the organisation is willing to say, Yes, you’re right, we did get that wrong. And thank you, here’s how we’re going to fix it moving forward. Here’s what we’re going to change. There’s yes ability I think, in in, in, in the conversation and the changes that need to be made. And they will, they’ll stumble. But the ones that get back up and keep running the race are the ones that will, I think, grow and be better places and be doing more interesting work.
Andre Sills 23:19
Exactly. And I think like that’s, that’s one thing that we do in rehearsal, we fail, we fail, we fail a whole lot. Until we get to that it’s like, that’s a good choice. Mm hmm. I’m gonna hang on to that one. Right. But we have to go through the failure enabled to be able to find that, that success. So yeah, it’s, it’s, I think it’s gonna be a tough road. But I think if any particular industry should be able to take it on, it’s it should be the world of theatre, where we are always I think, trying to do work of so social justice and trying to, to create change in the world to make it a better place. Because I think that’s what theatre is about. Is is about building people up about making people laugh, but also the hope of making the world a little bit of a better place, day by day, huh?
Phil Rickaby 24:17
Yeah. Now, one of the things that I’m always curious about with with everybody who comes on is I’m a fan of asking people about their theatre origin story. What is it? What, what made you want to get into this work? What, what is the story that drew you to, to being an actor?
Andre Sills 24:39
Well, I guess it started for me as a kid. I grew up in Markham. And growing up in Markham, my my whole family went to a church in Scarborough called ageing court, Pentecostal church. And it’s a big church. Like its its capacity, I think holds like 2200 people. It’s It’s big. And as a kid, I recall their wealth and not call there was, there was Christmas and Easter productions that they did every year. And you know, in this big space, they would put on a production. And I think the first time I saw it was, they were doing an Easter production. And like, you know, Jesus was going through the crowds, healing the sick, and all that sort of stuff. And this little boy ran into the arms of Jesus. And I was like, I want to do that. The next year, and, you know, I was I was just shy kid. So I think that surprised my parents. And the next year, that kid was me. And, like, from that, I caught the bug, and I wanted to do more. And my mom keeps telling me the story about you know, there was one of these areas where you went, and you audition for a bigger part, and you didn’t get it and, and crushed you. And, and, and Roman said just like, you know, you just got to try again, you never know what will happen next year, you just got to keep at it. And, and the next year, by addition, I got that bigger product. Oh, yeah, I want to do more. And I kind of from there, through like all throughout high school, I was doing these Christmas and Easter productions, doing a little bit of stuff at school while playing sports and playing rugby, basketball, and all these sorts of things. And then coming to the end of high school trying to figure out what I wanted to do. And I was like, like, thinking of going to college university for business was just kind of like, Oh, please, no, I, my brain like I was I was always a kid who was like, if it didn’t interest me, I wouldn’t do it. So I needed to find something that I was really interested, really interested in, that will propel me and keep me driven to, to, to work, to search and to do whatever it was. And I decided on theatre. And I remember going back to my parents, just like I think I want to act. And then my mom sat me down is like, Look, if you’re going to do this, you got to do it full out, you got to go to school, you got to get your training. And, you know, for a young, young Black kid from Markham, that’s, that’s big for your parents be like, Okay, if you do, but you got to get your training, once you’re just going out there and just try to, you know, be a background personally, you know, a lot of people do that, but they wanted me to get a firm foundation in the craft to, to build on it. And from there, you know, I went to George Brown, and then it’s three hard years there and, and, and then after I graduated, I had a year in Toronto, where I was doing the grind. And then the year after that I auditioned for the conservatory and was able to get in, which was amazing. I think it was like maybe 22 at the time. But you know, I think that year in Toronto, before I got in gave me an idea of who I was as an actor already. So by the time I got to Stratford, I was like, I can do this stuff. And you know, I spent four consecutive years there, trying to hustle and work my way up, but it wasn’t happening. Hmm. And after that fourth years, it’s like, you know what, I got to step away, I gotta get back to Toronto, and I gotta hustle hard to, to, you know, let everybody know what I can do. And yeah, it was the right decision for me. Because I’ve see, I see a lot of people who can be satisfied with with, with the long contract at Stratford, and, you know, the money is pretty good. And, you know, they can they can settle into that, and I didn’t want to settle. No, I wanted to, to play these parts. And, you know, I think for me, one thing that was really, that really kind of opened my mind to a lot of these guys, and Shakespeare was playing rugby, and seeing what adrenaline does to to a person and how can make you super human. And like thinking back to a couple years ago when I did Coriolanus is like, that’s exactly it is a guy who lives on adrenaline. And then you try and put them in an office and his he’s tapped into his adrenaline all the time. It’s like it’s not gonna work. Yeah. But, yeah, so it was it was sports really opened the world of a lot of these warriors for me, and it was, is really cool. So yeah. Being an instructor for those four years like I know what I Do I need to step away need to come back to Toronto and make my way up and you know, get to a place where it’s impossible for them to ignore me for anybody to ignore me. Yeah. And, you know, one one place that ended up being a champion for me, which I did not expect was the shock festival. Oh, yeah. So it was, it was nice to get in there and, you know, get some amazing parts like a master held in the boys and then an octoroon, where the two shows back to back were really, really got a sense of what the power of theatre can do. You know, and those are two plays who are based that are basically trying to do the exact same thing. But one has a little bit of a lighter touch to it, and will tear at your heartstrings. The other one has a lot more frustration and anger. And but we want you to see the same thing. And I feel like from those two performances, coming back to private idiots is just kind of like, yeah, our intent might be to offend you from time to time. But at the heart of it, we still have so much ground to make up because this is where we still are these stupid conversations that we’re having is where we still are.
Phil Rickaby 31:22
Mm hmm. Now, when you were at George Brown, which which building were you in when? Because you River Street? were you when you were in the transition?
Andre Sills 31:32
Phil Rickaby 31:33
Between River Street and Soulpepper the the young centre, right?
Andre Sills 31:36
Yeah. So I Well, I broke ground actually for the for the young centre. So I was at river and King or and between river and King and the dentistry basement at George Brown.
Phil Rickaby 31:52
Andre Sills 31:52
Up by Casa Loma.
Phil Rickaby 31:54
Andre Sills 31:54
So I find it very interesting that I was able to break ground for that theatre and then never work in it for a very long time. Hey, guys, you remember me, the guy who broke ground for you that you have a picture of me in your office? Can I come work on the stage at some point? I mean, I would love that.
Phil Rickaby 32:13
Andre Sills 32:15
But yeah, so I was I was able to after a little while and you know, getting Kim’s convenience was another thing that opened the doors to get back into that theatre. But yeah, it was good. Oh, it was at 540 King Street East.
Phil Rickaby 32:32
Andre Sills 32:32
Now a brand new condo is
Phil Rickaby 32:35
no, it is a condo, there is a coffee shop that just closed their doors, approximately where the front door of that warehouse was, oh, man, when we all went in there. And if somebody walked in there with a cold Five minutes later, we all had it. But when I was there, I don’t know what the makeup of your class was, when I started. Our class was predominantly white. And we had two to two Black students that were brothers who were in our class, but they did not last the first year. And so we were largely a white class. And the class ahead of me was largely a white class. And the class behind me was again, predominantly white, they had one student of colour, and they they did make it through the whole time. But the school had not had a great track record of graduating students of colour. Yeah. was what was the What was your class like?
Andre Sills 33:39
Um, I think pretty similar. I’m trying to think back to my class I while the year ahead of me. They had Ryan Fields was, I guess, their token black guy. And in my class, it was myself. There was a an Indian gentleman at the time, who also didn’t make it through. But I think we started at 32 and then ended up at 17. Yeah, I have people left or we got kicked out. And yeah, so by the time I graduated, I think I was Yeah, it was all white class except for me. So it was interesting going to theatre school because Theatre School was a bit of a culture shock for me. weird enough being in Markham. White people were the minority. So you know, we had everything. So it was it was weird to to go from growing up in a neighbourhood that had everything, to all of a sudden being the one single doubt and the one thing I I keep coming back to is that I’ve heard a lot more ABBA than I ever thought I ever would. And I still don’t understand Why people were so into ABBA. So much. Any party is like,
Phil Rickaby 35:07
It is an excellent question and one that I think will go down as one of those mysteries is, is why do white people like ABBA so much?
Andre Sills 35:14
Dear White People?
Phil Rickaby 35:15
Andre Sills 35:16
What’s with ABBA?
Phil Rickaby 35:17
Andre Sills 35:20
Yeah, so it was that was strange. But, you know, it gave me if anything, it gave me an idea of, of the world I was stepping into. And you know, one thing that was interesting over that period of time is that every year we went to the Shaw festival to see to, to see shows. And it wasn’t until my third year that I actually took a list, a look at the list of artists in the festival lobby, and saw that they were all white, too. So this was September 2003. Right? And then at that time was like making your lists of goals that you’re going to accomplish. I was like, Yes, Stratford, Shaw, lead in a movie, lead in a TV series, all the big things, right, and then looking at that board and just be like, Wait a second, is this one goal actually possible? Yeah. And, you know, as I said, the one place in being a champion for me was the Shaw festival. But that was, what, six years ago now. And even they themselves had a, a learning curve over between 2003 to now. You know, so everybody’s trying to figure out how to figure out how to, I guess, reach the masses, but also, you know, with with these theatres, like their Stratford is attached to Shakespeare. The Shaw festival is attached to George Bernard Shaw. So, you know, in my mind, where where these companies go, is, yes, they I think what they’re doing right now is opening their programming, but I think at the heart of it, Shakespeare is always going to be at the heart of Stratford. Don’t expect that to change. And for the Shaw festival, Shaw is always going to be at the heart of the Shaw festival. And, you know, as for myself, I decided not to be a part of the, the committee’s of, of pushing things forward, because something was really ringing in my head that Philip Akin said, as he was stepping down from Obsidian was, you know, I wish I had spent more time making Obsidian a, a, a Toronto, or, or a national superstar, as, as I’m paraphrasing, but, you know, a bigger theatrical beast than it was. And, you know, he’s like, yeah, there needs to be white theatres, there needs to be Black theatres. Everybody has to have their, their place. And but, you know, we’re trying to, right now find a way to tell each other stories. And I think right now is just a time where, now, on these stages, they’ve given us permission to tell their stories. Now, the doors are opening for us to be able to tell her Oh, and I think were making like, you know, we’re still trying to figure out how to do that. And, and, but at least we’re having that conversation now of the, the validity of our stories are just as important as Shakespeare as show. Yeah. And can be just as universal as we look back at Kim’s convenience and what that’s done across the country and the world
Phil Rickaby 39:06
and the world. Yeah.
Andre Sills 39:08
So your voice that everybody needs to hear can come from anywhere. Right. So I think we have to be open. And you know, you never know who you’re going to be surprised by.
Phil Rickaby 39:21
Yeah, I do think that, you know, the voice can come from anywhere. I think that that one of the problems is that for the longest time, the gatekeepers have only allowed specific voices through Yeah. But all of the voices like there’s so many voices that we have that haven’t been heard on those stages. And like you say, like if we open the door, what work will come if the gatekeepers stand back and stop, favouring one group over another, right. Yeah, I think Kim’s convenience you mentioned Kim’s convenience and you were in the original fringe cast of that and I think you’ve continued on through Through Soulpepper and did did the first tour? i?
Andre Sills 40:04
Yes. So, yeah, so I was in the fringe, and then their first stint at Soulpepper I wasn’t able to do. But I came back I guess the same year my son was born. So hear me enough 21. So there’s 20 or 20 – jeez – 13. That year was when I was able to come back and you know, take it across the country and end up doing close, like, I think over 300 performances across the country, which was amazing. But yeah, like, people attaching themselves to that show, and depending on what city we went to people, like, can you change the references to the cities you’re in is like, Oh, it’s a Toronto story. You know, so somebody from Winnipeg, or whatever, can write something about here? Yeah. And you know, and that could be a new story, right. So you know, just also, like, encouraging young people coming up through theatre school, or any sort of training that they’re doing right now is like, if you want to create if you want to act great, but also get in your mind now, to think as a creator, the think as a person to add, to start thinking that your voice is just as legitimate as everybody else’s. Because we haven’t heard your voice yet.
Phil Rickaby 41:35
Andre Sills 41:36
You’ve heard a lot of other voices. But we haven’t heard yours yet. And that might be the one we need.
Phil Rickaby 41:41
I think it is important that the idea that like if you changed, honestly, if you change anything, like the location of Kim’s convenience, it changes Kim’s convenience. Yeah. And I remember being in the audience at fringe. And just the feeling that you were watching something incredible, right. And I don’t think I’ve ever It was really one of the first times for me as the as the lights fade on that show that I knew that I had no choice but to stand up and applaud. Right. And you know, in the theatre, a lot of times we see audiences where the curtain call happens, and the couple of people stand up, and then some other people sort of look at them and say, Oh, we have to stand up, please stand up in sort of a slow thing. But that’s one of the few shows that I’ve been out where the entire audience just like everybody’s stood. And that’s what it looks like. Because it was, there was some magic happening in that show.
Andre Sills 42:45
Right? Kind of so very simple. It’s just a desk with a couple of items on it, and a doorframe with a doorbell sound that our stage manager hit every time before anybody came in the door. So it’s like, it was amazing to see it go from that to the false to the full store, look. But you know, remembering those very basic humble beginnings was enough to you know, as you’re talking about the magic at the end, from the fringe was enough to touch somebody’s life.
Phil Rickaby 43:23
Yeah. Yeah. And just seeing how that show has has continued on like on TV, and how the show itself has touched. So many people now that once it got on Netflix, especially and was seen outside of Canada, people seeing these stories that they hadn’t seen on TV before.
Andre Sills 43:41
Yeah, yeah. This is really special for them. It was special for them. And and I’m glad the success that they’re able to have and yeah, we’re waiting for whatever enjoy has next. Mm hmm.
Phil Rickaby 43:57
Now, the project you’re about to start, or you today was like the first rehearsals for Is it A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Yes. Yeah. And this is going to be like an outdoor production. Is that correct? Yes. You say that there’s a little bit of trepidation. As you say, yes.
Andre Sills 44:15
Well, we started today on zoom. Right. So I think well, you know, before the the lockdown extension, we’re like, yes. Now today, we’re gonna be in the rehearsal hall. Then with the extension of the lockdown. That’s all like, Yes, question mark. So right now our rehearsal hall is via zoom. So but they are committed to making sure that this show happens. Yeah. We have, I guess a certain chunk of time that we have to do the show in. I don’t think they’re they’re able to push push the performances past the days. We’re supposed to close but whatever they’re they’re they’re committed to make it happen to make it happen. So we’ll do it somehow.
Phil Rickaby 45:08
There is a certain flexibility that this pandemic has required from theatres that are not used to being that kind of flexible. Yeah. I just scheduling and how do we rehearse? And how do we do a show? And out doing a play outdoors? Is it? Is it an attender? Is it what it will be like,
Andre Sills 45:31
it will be an attempt, I think there’s two types. So there’s going to be one outside of the festival, and I will have the lucky joy of breaking in the Tom Patterson parking lot. So there’ll be like a, a sort of like a runaway style stage, almost like a smaller version of the parison stage. And then on either side of it, 50 seats, so a max of 100 100 people with a tent cover. So I think, as from from the designs that we’ve seen, the all four corners are opened, so it isn’t enclosed. This just covered. So, yeah, like, it’ll be interesting to see how it is. But you know, it’ll it will have the the energy of having audience members on either side of us. Once we get there. Yes. So as I say, like, I’m here in Stratford right now, I got here yesterday. And, you know, the, we’re looking at the possibility of rehearsal in person. I guess maybe as soon as this lockdown is done, and as far as I know, the Ford has has a new lockdown, or phases of how we’re opening back up, I haven’t had a chance to look at that yet. Which, you know,
Phil Rickaby 47:10
there’s always always new things, always new things surprises, always surprises. And then sometimes not the surprises, you want eggs, there’s always surprises.
Andre Sills 47:20
Yeah. So we’ll see what all that information has to do for us and how we move forward. But you know, we’re figuring out how we do it, either, you know, on stage six feet apart, or I’ve had my first shot already, so I you know, we’ll see how we move forward. I think everybody in a lot of people today raise their hands in regards to if they’ve been able to have their first shot. So we’ll see what that means. As I say, there’s so many variables as we’re stepping into this new world of returning to Theatre in Canada. And I think we’re all very anxious and excited and hopeful and frustrated all at the same time. It’s all of the feelings all at once. And it’s and it’s it’s a lot, right, yes, thanks for everybody. And, you know, I’m grateful for the opportunity to to be back, doing this play back doing Shakespeare and back in the original sort of sense of Stratford being under a tent. But we’re just hoping that we can do it. So
Phil Rickaby 48:36
that’s kind of where we are. I’m crossing my fingers for two, everything’s grasping. Yeah. Just to bring things back to private idiots. What’s the best way for somebody to find Private Idiots online?
Andre Sills 48:51
We are on YouTube. So if you search private idiots, you can just google private idiots will come up, you’ll see a cartoon image of while you’ll see a cartoon image of myself, and all of a reward. Or you might see thumbnail images with a bright yellow outline of private idiots. episodes, one to nine plus our trailer, nice. If you have kids watch it when they’re in bed. One thing I did tell my very Christian mother is that just so you know, we use a lot of strong language. And for me, I think it was carrying a lot of the frustration from 2020.
Phil Rickaby 49:37
Andre Sills 49:37
and yeah, so like, I’m a guy who generally doesn’t curse or swear, but I sure let some loose in that one.
Phil Rickaby 49:46
Sometimes you got to sometimes you got to.
Andre Sills 49:49
Yeah. Yeah, and yeah, so yeah. Google private idiots. Watch this on YouTube. You can follow us On Instagram private idiots series. And yeah, like and share and let everybody know that you’re watching and hopefully we can get some money to do a fuller bigger, better season too.
Phil Rickaby 50:15
Nice. That is the hope have been that’d be fun to finally get out of the car.
Andre Sills 50:19
Exactly. That is the hope to see what happens when these two guys get out of the car. But I think that’s our home base is sure is being in the car and that’s where the most of the work happens. And that’s where the hard conversations happen to. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 50:37
Well Andre, thank you so much for this conversation. It’s been wonderful.
Andre Sills 50:40
Thank you. My pleasure.