#319 – Daniel Levinson

Daniel Levinson has been performing, directing and teaching stage combat professionally since founding Rapier Wit in 1991. Rapier Wit is Canada’s oldest stage combat school and production company. Daniel is proud to be counted among Fight Directors Canada’s Fight Masters. He has had a long history with FDC. He was one of the founding advanced actor combatants at FDC’s inaugural workshop. Daniel has created fights for companies such as The Stratford Festival (5 seasons), Canadian Stage, Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway, Volcano Theatre, Actors Repertory Company, Second City, A.C.T. Productions, Shakespeare In the Square, Factory Theatre, Shakespeare in the Rough, Theatre Aquarius, The Actor’s Repertory Company, Theatre Passe Muraille, The Tarragon Theatre and The Guild Festival Theatre. Daniel is proud of his years teaching at the University of Waterloo, Sheridan, and the University of Toronto Mississauga.

www.rapierwit.com
Twitter: @RapierWitCombat
Instagram: @Rapierwit

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TRANSCRIPT

Phil Rickaby 

Welcome to Stageworthy. I’m Phil Rickaby, the host of this podcast. This is episode 319.

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My guest this week is Daniel Levinson. Daniel is the founder of Canada’s oldest stage combat school, Rapier Wit. He’s also been performing directing and teaching stage combat professionally since 1991. And is a fight master with Fight Directors Canada. He’s created fights for companies such as the Stratford Festival, Canadian stage, Second City Factory Theatre, and so many more. Here’s our conversation. 

Have you guys been doing doing a gun classes?

Daniel Levinson 

Finally got things up and running again. And I’m pleased to say that yeah, that’s what happened.

Phil Rickaby 

Nice. Nice. That’s good. Um, so you guys, you guys are finally in doing classes in person have you? Have you had opportunities during the pandemic to sort of like, come back into the room and then had to shut down? Or have you been like shut down, I only recently got started going again,

Daniel Levinson 

I had the tiniest of window in in November, where I basically did a couple things. This is not including me being lucky enough to be on set, right? Or to do some zoom work, of course, but to actually be in person with people. So we did a couple things in November. But almost immediately, we had to shut down because of course, the new greatest and tastiest of COVID hit again. So yeah, so I’m stuck with it and and both my wife and business partner, Kiersten and I had a lot of discussions about this. And since our our mantras about safety, it’d be pretty inappropriate for it appropriate for me to just sort of, I don’t care about people safety and open anyway, no matter how much I desperately missed people.

Phil Rickaby 

Right? Of course. Did you guys do classes? Like did you do zoom classes? I know it’s hard to do stage combat over a zoom. So So what did you guys do?

Daniel Levinson 

So I should say this. I have peers who did zoom classes and more power to them. I was I was thrilled for them that they would do that. But I gotta be honest, it’s not what I do. I feel my my specialty about stage combat is really about partnering and sharing energy and the intimacy of being in a room together and the awareness of audience and all that kind of stuff. And so because of that, I held back now by directed to show a resume, I helped other people through zoom as, as, as a director or or as a facilitator, or even as a dramaturge. But the actual teaching of classes, I did a couple things and it was more demonstrations and it just didn’t feel stellar. It didn’t feel as honest that I wanted Daniel to be as it were. So I held back and otherwise I was on set for some film work which was really neat. And of course we went through all the careful COVID COVID safety measures and you know masks and goggles and you know, so there was no no messing around. But really theatre and of course the training of the formers and and the engagement on that. that level really had to disappear for two years. And it was heartbreaking.

Phil Rickaby 

That is, I mean, it’s bad enough that we haven’t been able to really be in theatres and things like that, especially, but when your passion is teaching and teaching sort of requires a, you’re in a room together, that’s a really hard thing to give up. I hope that that, that you were able to keep busy enough that you didn’t feel it quite so much.

Daniel Levinson 

I will say that time if there were moments, let’s say the time felt heavy in my hands, I will not lie. And, and the funny thing is that Kirsten and I had a ton to do, physically at the wit, to to, you know, upgrade and deal with things. And we thought all we needed was time. We are liars, liars who lie, because clearly it wasn’t time we needed because we didn’t do it. So So that’s embarrassing as heck. You know, my God, I, I just, I just you when you were saying about not being able to be in the space is the other thing that I realised, if we were having this conversation back in 2019, and you said that you asked me what did I think the future would hold? For what we do at rapier wit, I was really looking at people’s engagement in a different way in the work. And what I mean by that is, we’ll always, I hope always get performers and artists who want to understand what it is to be a performer on a physical level and come to us for that. But I was also having people were talking with lawyers and doctors and and people who really wanted to have some fun on the floor in a safe way but but basically be able to invest themselves in this really, really neat partnering with weapons thing. And I and I felt that as much as people were enjoying interacting on the internet with video games. And in group games, I really thought a major part of our future was going to be people coming together in person learning new skills and being like a teen and that sort of sharing, regardless of if they were using it for professional or not. And COVID through obviously a monkey wrench in that. But I’m hoping as things really start to open up because I feel like we’re, we’re it’s it’s a fool’s errand right now to claim we’re out of COVID. You know, like, we’re on the other side of it. I just couldn’t believe it. Right, you know, but I’m hoping that will happen. Not because I’m not super keen at working with professionals at the highest level, because that’s such a gift. But it’s something there’s something about working with people who are doing it for sheer pleasure, what they bring to the room, it’s remarkable.

Phil Rickaby 

Now, were you surprised that there were groups that wanted to do stage combat as sort of team building? Or was that something that you thought that you that you went out to sort of try to find people who wanted to do that?

Daniel Levinson  

I certainly didn’t chase it. Because where we are, and ironically, we just recently got called from someone asked me if we do that, and of course, we did it, but but in a way, when it’s structured that way, and it’s an organisation and a group of people who know each other from work, there’s sometimes some embarrassment, some ego, like, we had a lot of fun, but, but also, it’s like, this is a chance to get together, eat and drink on the on the on the corporation’s dime kind of thing. And so they want to let’s get through this thing. So you can do the other thing, you know, the partying part, which often when Kay’s, you know, and so when I understood it, there was no hard feelings about it. No, I’m talking more along the lines of, of just individuals or small groups of friends, joining in with the professionals, you know what I mean? And it’s neat. And of course, we’ve had people who claim they’re not actors, because they haven’t had classical actor training, but I’m here to tell you, their understanding of narrative. Creating character, sharing empathy with an audience is profound. And so it comes back to my my thinking often when I’m talking to people about, it’s like singing, right? You’ll hear people say, I can’t sing, and it’s like, oh, no, you can. And the number of people I’ve actually met is practically zero who are truly tone deaf. And that’s usually a mechanical issue within the ear versus, you know, you may not like how your voice sounds and to be fair, it’s not that we want to listen to everyone saying that sounds cruel, but you know what I mean, there’s a reason why we, we cherish specific people that we have albums of right. But acting is such a human thing, especially when we’re talking at the foundational level of, of inventing yourself in a story or placing yourself in a story and, and finding yourself reaching out to another and and sharing have what’s called social emotions. I mean, what is more human than that? And of course, it was religion for the Greeks, right? We know that, that theatre was everywhere for the longest time. without it becoming sort of like, you can’t see my hands, I’m doing little air quotes, classic theatre that suddenly becomes like hard work theatre. Right. And, of course, one of the things I think the COVID really showed was, how much we need entertained. Yeah, you know, and, and I don’t know about you, I have been watching a tonne of streaming services, and really, really amazing things I probably would never would have known about, from Korea, you know, from the Philippines from, you know, like stuff that, that because we live in this remarkable time with Netflix and various other companies that can reach in into areas across the world and bring them to a worldwide audience. Amazing, right. And it has inspired me to, you know, obviously think more about what I want to do when when creating art.

Phil Rickaby 

You know, as you were talking about, about people who who would come in, they’d say, I’m not really I’m not an actor, but then they would turn out to have some chops, I think, I think back to the fact that that, as children, we pretend naturally. And as children, we immerse ourselves in our make believe worlds in our imagination, when we are playing totally. And then at some point, somebody says, well, that’s enough of that, you have to stop doing that. That’s not real. I and so I stop it entirely. Totally.

Daniel Levinson 

I had an aunt who I don’t need to out, out out her. But I used to run around as a little kid. And when my parents were away, she I would stay with my uncle. And I used to sing all the time. Like I always, like I had sort of, I had engagement in that sort of joy of making noise. And you and, and she told me once and I remember like it was yesterday, it’s like, I don’t know why you sing you have a terrible voice. And that pretty much successfully stopped me for singing for like, let’s say 15 years, you get like, I’m by myself in university, and we have to sing because I was I was in a, an acting programme. And they want us to, of course, explore all sorts of things. Or, at the time, right, and one of them was of course, singing. And, and there was some really good singers in my class when I was in university, like really, really good singers. And I felt like I shouldn’t have even been there. And Cheerson. More importantly, the sounds more important. It’s funny. Chris’s mother is a remarkably gifted pianist, and loves hearing me sing and sing along with what she’s playing. And it’s just a funny thing. But, but I think, and this is a whole other conversation, but what you’re talking about us just stopping. It’s unfortunate when someone decides you’re an inconvenience, or they just don’t want to hear you at that moment. And they shut down major parts of your life.

Phil Rickaby 

It’s, it’s a sad, it is a sad fact. Because, you know, I can remember two instances, and I remember them so clearly, of things that shut down creativity. I remember I used to love painting when I was very young. And I remember I would paint all the time. And then I remember one time I showed the painting to someone and I said, Isn’t it amazing? I painted this lion. Isn’t that amazing? And they said doesn’t really look like a lion.

Daniel Levinson 

Thoughtless? Yeah, just thoughtless.

Phil Rickaby 

And I stopped painting.

Daniel Levinson 

Yeah, I mean, and let’s be fair, the person might have intentionally meant to be cruel, but more likely than not. You caught them at a bad moment, or a thoughtless moment, right? Yeah. And it’s, it’s certainly made me want to be sensitive without being disengaging from my responsibility as a teacher, and a mentor. But it’s made me sensitive to be mindful of how I say things. And I’m always working on it, right? Because you also want to be authentic. You don’t want to sound like you’re, you’re, that’s when that like, by removing your obligations, like everything’s great, you know, without Yes, without being honest about it. And people No, I think when you’re, you’re simply not being authentic. But, and it’s funny, I was talking to a person in a different field, who has to work with people with with emotional challenges, and that idea of being able to tell someone that they need to redirect their focus or, or rethink or return to their work because it’s not yet complete. or they haven’t reached the successful outcome they were hoping for. And you want to do it in a way that acknowledges the work they’ve already done, especially when they’ve already done quite a bit of work. But at the same time, encourage them at the same time, give really specific and useful feedback that will allow them to then grow. Right? And yes, and hearing people say, Oh, that was nice. At first sounds nice. But it doesn’t, it doesn’t really explain what was good and what needs to be looked at. Right. And so we’re thinking about what is what is that and of course, we’re also living in a time right now, I think, where we’re expressing and looking at language differently. And there’s a, a real interest in trying to step away from, let’s say, the battle days, and all in all stripping all in all schemes. And at the same time, I would be a liar if I said there wasn’t a tremendous amount that I want to maintain. That was useful from past artistic thought, or, or our our previous endeavours. Right. And so I’m a little afraid of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as it were, you know, huh? Yeah.

Phil Rickaby 

I remember I was working at I think, I think people often tell truth about something, especially with theatres concerned without really realising it. Some of the, the, I worked at one of the really large theatres in the city a number of years ago. And there were a number of there were I worked a few as an usher a few, a few shows, and I, I was one of my shifts was at the door. So I would like be sitting by the door or standing by the doors, people were leaving. And I got to overheard overhear the things that people say, when they didn’t really like the show, but

Daniel Levinson 

and probably weren’t talking to someone in the show, or in or involved with the show.

Phil Rickaby 

No, but they also they paid enough money that they feel like they should feel something about the show. Like they should, they paid a lot of money for this show. They shouldn’t hate the show, but they didn’t really like it. And they would say bland things like everybody did such a great job. Which, which means nothing but it’s true. After a while, you start to realise this is this is people, you start to see the motivation behind and you realise Oh, that is actually really harsh criticism.

Daniel Levinson 

Yeah.

Phil Rickaby 

Well, they’re not saying they enjoyed this show. They’re just commenting on how, what a great job people were doing.

Daniel Levinson 

And I think what you said is also justifying, like, I just, it’s not just treasure you spent the time, right, and talk about your truly finite resource. You know what I mean? It’s interesting, you say that, because I’m also thinking the other side of that coin, where I love being an audience, right? In all sorts of, in all sorts of ways, like all sorts of mediums like I like I love reading and, and as I said, when we couldn’t go out, Kristen and I were watching a lot of really interesting programming. And also we’re talking it doesn’t all have to be fiction, right? There’s some cool demos like cooking shows, like this, and then watching the art of how the really good produce things. Look, right, like Chef’s Table is, is is an education and how to capture beauty and explore through sound and, and music, all the sensory concept of of what’s something you’re supposed to be tasting. Right? But I’m also fascinated when I’m talking about the other side of the coin is we can’t have any nice things. And what I mean by that is, is it there’s there’s people who claim to be fans who clearly hate everything.

Phil Rickaby 

Oh, yes.

Daniel Levinson 

Andthat, that, that, that horrible struggle that I want something new, but it must be exactly what it was before.

Phil Rickaby 

Yes, but not too much. Exactly. Like it was before because I will hate that too.

Daniel Levinson 

Oh my god. Yeah. And, and I will fully admit, I’m totally a fan too. And there’s again, we will unless you definitely want to talk about it. But there’s some stuff that came out that is tremendously nostalgic because it because because yes sequels to things that had a major impact when it first came out because they were the first of things and or not just the first of a series, but like often they were stuff that changed how we looked at comedy or filmmaker, whatever it was right. And it’s really hard to capture lightning in the bottle again. And, and you’re watching something in afterwards. And it’s funny you exactly what you just said so So Chris and I are sitting there and there’s this sort of well, it wasn’t what I really wanted, you know, it’s like, you know, the ice cream truck is ringing, you run out into the street, you’re super excited. And they have vanilla, you know, vanilla to be really great. But this is sort of the low grade vanilla and you’re like yeah, so Ice Cream and I still liked it. But I kind of was hoping for sprinkles, you know? Right? And I’m a bit embarrassed by it, right? I used to never leave off watching a show or a movie, I had optimism right to the end, even if I wasn’t liking it, that it would have something better. Like, like, you know what I mean? Like, it was worth it. But COVID also sort of changed me in that, like I could, I could leave things. And yes, and it didn’t feel like a betrayal or something. But that’s kind of funny.

Phil Rickaby 

What’s interesting, because now if you’re watching, there’s so many things that you could watch.

Daniel Levinson 

Oh, my God. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby 

That Do you – Is it worth sticking with this thing? This clearly terrible? Yes. And the chances of this being redeemed at the end for all of this terrible is very slim. So is it better just to turn it off and go on to something else? Or do I stick with it?

Daniel Levinson 

And so you’re, you’re with your talk with your friends. And no doubt, there’s things that you all like together, and you’ve won, but I’m constantly making suggestions to other people and vice versa. It’s physically impossible, especially with so many different streaming systems. So I’m gonna pull out my walker and talk about the old days when I was a young man. The, like, there are people like they have three channels, right? Like, I remember, you knew what you were going to watch. But you rushed home to get it? Like there was no, there’s no way to record it. And if you missed it, you’re going to see it. Right. And so there was a social experience about getting the school the next day to talk about, about it, right. And

Phil Rickaby 

I can remember planning out we could we would plan out our weeks with a TV guide, right? Really, okay, so we’re gonna watch this, we’re gonna watch this, but we would have to negotiate it, but we’re going to watch if somebody is a hockey fan, it’s a hockey game on at the same time, it’s a thing. But if you missed it, you missed it.

Daniel Levinson 

And, and there were we I distinctly remember, when the first VCR came into my childhood home. And we’re talking, it was like, like, the top one. Like, it came up like, like, like a missile launcher, like it was. It was hard. It was it was a machine, right? Digital, you know, and and she needed a slide rule. For those who aren’t old enough to know what a slide rule is. Look that up. There was a slide rule kind of thing I like how did you How do you manage to, to record and you could mess it up, and you could totally record something else by accident. And it’s really funny, the the that that, Oh, my God, this is totally gonna get us to talk about something else. But that idea now, would you say, I’m gonna put you because you’re okay, I’m gonna ask you, would you say you have lost your endurance for patients? Because you can to all intents and purposes, get whatever you want, whenever you want it out, practically?

Phil Rickaby 

Oh, that is a tough question.

Daniel Levinson 

Because the idea of having to wait now there are some TV shows now that have returned to dropping them weekly versus they all come out, you know, so you can all stream them at once. Or the idea that films were coming up both in cinema and on demand, right. And so obviously, we’ll always have moments where we you need to wait for things. But there was that thing I was saying that we had to as you said, you planned out it was like a military. Plant, right? Do this, this this. And that joke about? You know, someone’s watching the TV as you’re racing to the bathroom or the kitchen to grab a snack. It’s all like dive across the room.

Phil Rickaby 

Yes, yes. I can remember I remember you know, there’s a couple of things that I like I can remember. The I remember which season it was of Star Trek The Next Generation with the with Picard becoming one of the Borg and then having to wait.

Daniel Levinson 

Oh, yes.

Phil Rickaby 

untilthe fall. To see how that that resolves like this show? And is like 20 Something episodes, it ends in like the end of winter, early spring. And then you have to wait through the summer totally to find out what happens.

Daniel Levinson 

And there was a series called V, which was revisit

Phil Rickaby 

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Daniel Levinson 

Do you remember that? Okay. And

Phil Rickaby 

oh, I do

Daniel Levinson 

and they had a huge ensemble cast. And they would just be killing people. Like, someone went out for a coffee and got struck by a cat. Nothing to do with the science fiction, or the monsters of the show. Right? It was like, yeah, oh, my God. And you. It was really disorienting. But you know, you’re invested in this character, and all of a sudden is like, Well, that one’s dead. Like, yeah, like, and there were these shows like that, that that really kind of threw you for a loop, you know, and uh, yeah, I can’t explain why that doesn’t happen as much now. I think people maybe would lose their minds. Like I said, the fanboys like sending angry letters.

Phil Rickaby 

I think I think that streaming has because I think the value in streaming early on when Netflix was making its own shows was we’re dropping this whole thing. And now you can binge it. Yeah. And you could sit down, you can watch this whole series in a weekend, whether it was oranges, the new black or Stranger Things, or whatever it was, you would watch the whole thing. And then that Monday, you’d come back and you would like, everybody would talk about it totally. Now, like, I think, like you mentioned, there are shows that are dropping episodes, or maybe they’ll drop a few episodes, and then make you wait, and then drop a few episodes and make your way to week. And in some ways that kind of if you do it, right, you can build that tension in the way that we used to have. But totally, you have to properly build that tension, or is just frustrating. And people will be like, Well, I’m just gonna wait until they’re all out.

Daniel Levinson 

And I’m just gonna propose this to any of the listening audience seeking a doctoral thesis. I think there should be a study as to what we’re talking about, like, do our patients dropping? Or, you know, is there is there more commitment or a more beloved sense towards the product and the experience, when you had to wait for it versus when you can just do it all, because that’s the other thing I’ve noticed, like you’ll, you’ll see things that you were looking forward to, I should say, you me, I was looking forward to seeing and I watched it, and it didn’t, it didn’t stick with me as long, where there will be a time where I have a perfect example. A long time ago, I watched a French film. And I mean years and years ago called City of Lost Children. And I could not stop thinking about it for weeks, it was just so just the images and the storytelling. It was just amazing. And that happens less now. But I will say this as a pro as just sort of, if you have not yet seen Turning Red, a lot of love for Toronto in that I say people should watch it. It’s great.

Phil Rickaby 

I haven’t it’s all my list and I’m 100% gonna watch it.

Daniel Levinson 

It’s just

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah, I wanted to ask you about a stage combat and how you first started? How what was your first exposure to it? And when did you decide that you were both going to whether you were going to learn to be a fight director and start teaching it? What how did that how did that all come together?

Daniel Levinson 

Well, I I guess my first real experience was at university so there had been minor little things I would have done cuz I was I was acting as a kid growing up in Ottawa, and it was, you know, all amateur stuff or school stuff, right? I I wasn’t I wasn’t, you know, found child actor with a huge career behind me or anything like that, but I really liked it. And, and in a very real way, I I just followed my muse and went to York University and became, I came out of the I graduated with a BFA honours and, and I came out as an actor. And while there, we took stage combat, and I graduated in 91. And it wasn’t a great time to come out of school, meaning that there was work but it was, it was it just the world didn’t seem flush, right. And I realised I did not want to wait for the phone to ring. So I started but we’re talking card table start of rapier wit. And I thought I was going to do some comedy, hence the raker with and I would do a little fighting. And I was doing writing because it because I was I’m writing now as well, but it was writing at the time. And in a very real way. It was a calling in that. It found me I would be attached to projects like like, like really small shows for the fringe or, or, you know, we’re doing, you know, backroom theatre, you know, stuffs, small stuff. And lots of shakes, because it’s free, you know, and therefore there were a lot of fights. And despite the fact that came out of school with other people all trained the same way. I think people really liked how I treated them when creating fights. They liked the stories I created. And the creativity I brought to two character meeting violence meeting the story and progressing story. And I found myself doing more and more of it. And then in 93 The person who taught me at York was Bob seal, and JP Fornia, who was at West decided they were going to start five directors Canada. And I was asked with a small handful of people to be the first class at the time it was advanced things have changed and grown a lot since then, because we really were inventing it on the fly. Meaning all of us like and all of us who participated in the creation of this thing called firecrackers Canada, but It helped me a lot because I was at that point, working on what I had learned was very much self taught. I had a fantastic friend Simon fawn, who presently is now in DC. And he’s, he’s a flight master. And he’s amazing. And so I worked with him and another, another excellent friend Mark has been. So I had really excellent people who were peer teaching with me to allow me to grow. But it’s like all things like going to university as an example, is an opportunity to do a tonne of stuff all at once. That’s what FTC did for me, where I got to meet a lot of people. And not so much. Often learning is not so much about picking up other people’s work, which is true as well. But more importantly, seeing what is you and what isn’t you? Does that make sense? Right? Yeah. And, and so there’s a tonne of stuff that I took when this is really neat. And other people do it well, and I’m proud of them. But it’s not me. Right. Other things like, wow, you know, I really see, I think clearly what this is and how we should approach it. And other people are having challenges with it. I think I think we’ll do that. So an example is I really like what we call found weapon or environmental weapon where you’re using mundane objects in scenes where frequently normal people lose their minds and go violent, right, as opposed to classic fight scenes, hell and Hotspur, let’s say or write or you know, in Romeo, that the various fights are clearly fight set pieces that are important for the story. And also married to my my pleasure at creating, writing and creating the entire scene about it because because in a very real way, I also was directed, right, not just by directing, but directed. So right as this progressed by really bit the bullet in I want to say 96. Basically, I moved into what could laughably call a studio, which meant like it was it was really small, but I had a space now, because otherwise I was going into, you know, church basements and back back back rooms and schools and going where where people would would hire me. But this will allow me to start planning and, and then my next studio was double the size. And that allowed a lot more growth. And in that place, I really was teaching in a way that I started feeling good about and thinking I was helping people were the first point I was like, figure out what it was I What was my voice, right, as a teacher. And then. And then the best thing in the world to ever happen to me was running into a friend of mine from school named Kiersten, who I knew from university who had gone to Japan for five years, came back and completely surprised the two of us started dating and now we’re married, boom. And she really helped me progress to the studio we’re in now, we moved into just a much better space. And she brought a professionalism to the office that I simply was unable to do, because I had so many balls in the air. And quite frankly, she was so good at, at, at finding that quality. And so I really have to give credit where credit is due. And it also by this point, I had taught so many people that I now had co teachers I could hire, and the day of being the sole person in the room was gone. It was fantastic. And, and, and the whole role kept growing, which was really neat. And that’s how I found myself here. So at risk of like saying the thing that, you know, it’s everyone always says I am standing on the shoulders of giants, and it’s my peers who make me great. And I the community. And, and I will say this going back to what we were talking about with COVID the single most painful thing wasn’t the loss of income wasn’t that horrible artists question that we all have, like, Is this my last thing I’ll ever work on? Like, like, Am I no longer wanted, you know, I mean, no matter what the single most painful thing was the nourishment you get from watching your your, your, your, your peer artists create amazing things that you could never have imagined. And you’d be able to participate in that was like losing a limb. Which sounds extreme but I realised how much of my social life was part of my business life. And, and not being near these really creative, intelligent, engaging people was really hard. And the and the irony I would say is if you asked I think I’m I’m more of an introvert. I have this I’m a very successful introvert. I play an extrovert you know, but it was On one hand, the COVID has in has allowed me unfortunately, to really lean into all my bad habits, staying in, you know, not doing the things I should be doing kind of thing. But I also realised that, despite the fact, when I’m teaching or fight directing, I’m using performance energy, and therefore I am exhausted at the end of whatever that is. I really missed it. And, and seeing people again, it’s more than one person when we finally saw each other in the studio in the space, a crashing hug, because they were in tears, like, like, the sounds that over the top, I know, it’s like you did not survive the sinking of the Titanic, right. But we lost something. And I’m hoping we have found it again. And it has been a terrible two years for a lot of people. I’m not going to claim I’m really, but yeah, just like, I’m lucky, because I have family and I have Kiersten and I have a cat who is if you hear snoring, it’s just beside me right now. Now, who is is is like the perfect life study on how to deal with all sorts of things that I share as a teacher, and a director because she’s like, she’s always doing something interesting. But the idea that two years could just go. It’s horrifying.

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah. Yah, yah, I physically remember, you know, for most of the pandemic, you know, the only person that I hugged or was really in physical contact with which was my girlfriend, and I remember distinctly, the first person that I hugged, that was not my girlfriend, old friend, I saw them we were all vaccinated finally, and able to be in the same space safely. And I and, and being able to hug this person was like, there were tears because I think I think a lot of us experienced that. I don’t think it’s over the top to say so.

Daniel Levinson 

No, no. And, and then as we were easing into classes, no surprise, I was focusing, like what we do is so in contact, so physical, I tried doing some sword and spear work and staff work, which gives some distance, but it just wasn’t, people weren’t on, they weren’t ready for it. What I did find people wanting to do and sign up for was I do firearm training, both getting comfortable holding a gun when firing a blank. Because for a lot of people that’s really intimidating and off putting an uncomfortable and whether you use blanks or not in a project, knowing what it felt like is useful. Like to you know, what a gun going bang is versus CG or or you you simply mining the movement. But on top of me we have other classes where like, what do you what are you supposed to look like when you are playing a character that is proficient, if not excellent at moving a firearm, and playing video games as an example of seeing these shapes that we’re starting to really recognise. What is someone supposed to look like, versus your instinctual thing that often sadly, is wrong? Right? So I’m leaving guns recite. But like you watch people, let’s say, who’ve never worked with tools before. And watching someone swinging a hammer, you realise, wow, that’s actually it’s both instinctive, most people can kind of get most of the shape, right. But watching someone do it well, and realise there’s actually an art to it, like everything we do. And that goes back to what we were saying before, I guess about singing where and acting. I think the vast majority of us can do it. But the people we wish to watch obviously have that extra special something. And that includes the ability to create the look that we need to be able to suspend our disbelief and really participate his audience. Because because it’s funny, you were talking about things that were terrible to watch. Example, I can’t remember what it was but watching something going, that person is not a lawyer. Or that person is not that doctor, you know what I’m talking about? Right? Like you just I don’t believe for a second. Someone would put a scalpel in that person’s hand. And then No, it’s much worse when you’re talking about that is not someone who can sword fight. No, and the cut between the actor who has the right look and is obviously the star and the stunt person who’s like super physically proficient and you’re just like, wow, they’re not even they’re not even the same height. You know. It’s so yeah, so here’s an

Phil Rickaby 

I think, I think about I think about that, you know, that that the big duel in The Princess Bride, for example, where the two actors worked for the hire shoot, yes to look like they were proficient like, like really good sword fighters.

Daniel Levinson 

And it’s why everyone loves that scene. Regardless if it’s the most complicated or whatever this means whatever the best fight scene is actually, you know what I mean? But it’s just a perfect example of a scene that really speaks to us. Right? But you know, the the Mystery Science 3000 series of movies, things. Like whether people watch and they and they, and they basically make fun of the movie, right? Well, yeah, I hate to admit it. But despite the fact that I love being an audience, and just being an audience, Yeah, that happens to when I get together with some friends, and we’re just tearing into something that’s terrible. But to be fair, we also learned a lot from terrible. And I think you know, the sin is, this is actually good. I’m dying to hear your opinion on this. Things can be fantastic. Or they can be terrible, and still be worth watching. It’s the mediocre in the middle. That makes me angry that I don’t want to watch. Yes. Because the terrible is like, it’s like jaw droppingly. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Phil Rickaby 

Yes, yes. They’re the thing like with both for me that like if something is that terrible? A Yes, you watch it, you’re on the edge of your seat, like, how bad is this going to going to be like, I don’t know. Like, if it was a stage version of the room or whatever. You know, the music or something like that. But like, like, if you were when something is mediocre, or is just not working? Yeah. That’s when, like, My instinct is just to get so angry. Like, especially when there’s clearly a lot of money behind it. I’m often like, why is this having this much money behind it? And, and it’s not working? And then I have to I have to sit back and and say, okay, so if you’re gonna sit through this, which obviously you are you your job now is to identify why is this not working? Yeah. Yeah, what’s missing? Why is it not working? Make it constructive.

Daniel Levinson 

And it’s interesting, too. And this is going to happen everybody who’s listening to this regardless of their age, but you’re gonna reach a point where you are, it’s not so much that you’re old enough, but you’re experienced enough as an audience member to start recognising. Well used tropes, right? And, and it’s like watching that famous like the monster movie thing where, okay, so the person is going to they personally open the bathroom mirror, and when they close, there’s no monster behind them. dunk dunk, like and, and that’s why it’s such a gift, when you are in fact, knocked knocked off centre by something that’s excellent or terrible. Right? And, and it’s such a gift. Because what we’re talking about, I always say that the the thing our goal is so simple, as artists is to create an emotional feeling in the audience. And it could be as simple as getting a laugh, right? And that is a gift when when people aren’t engaged, then that’s that feeling you were exactly talking about? Where you’re just like, you know,

Phil Rickaby 

yeah, I want to I want to throw through one of my one of my least favourite tropes that happens in so many movies so pleased that you it’s when the best friend is introduced, best friend of the hero or whatever. And as soon as you see that friend, you’re like, well, obviously, that guy’s the bad guy.

Daniel Levinson 

Totally. Yes.

Phil Rickaby 

Then when it happens, they treat it like it’s it’s like a revelation who could have seen this coming. And the entire audience is like, well idea, because you made it obvious.

Daniel Levinson 

And to make it even worse, even if they’ve done everything they could to smokescreen it, right. They’ve really pulled every cinematic and writing trick. Sure. Like, that is a well established character. And they haven’t given that character actor much to do. Yeah, that’s the bad.

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah, exactly.

Daniel Levinson 

So So I actually really liked the first Wonder Woman movie. Right? Yeah. And spoilers. If anyone hasn’t seen it, let’s just say the big bad guy. And like, I know, that has to be the bad guy, because he’s such a good actor, and he hasn’t done anything yet this movie, right? And I knew immediately who the bad guy was going to be because it had to be right and you’re just like, Do you know what I mean? It’s because I do. Yeah, I do. It’s the reveal. Right? Yeah. And I can’t I can’t remember but there’s an interesting movie. So the calendar, man, calendar boy, it was from some time ago, and they finally capture the serial killer and it’s known you’ve seen in the movie earlier, and the lead actor literally the character looks and goes out another this is like they figured out pattern and they they trap the person but it wasn’t like what we’re used to in watching like the various procedural is where you either there’s two ways to do it right? Either the audience is in on the beginning, that was the old style of Quinsey. And those shows where you watch the murder happen. And you’re, you’re wondering how Colombo was going to figure it out. Then there’s the law and order thing where you know, only what is released by the discovery of the police in the district attorney. Right? Right. And so therefore, you have a very different moral feeling about solving this crime, right? That you because when you’re watching the Quincy one, you know, the person’s guilty, and you need closure to see them were the other one. The law and order stuff, especially the old ones, was incredibly in a good way. dissatisfying watching what you felt with all that person was guilty, but they got away with it, but there’s no proof. You never saw them do the crime. Right? And right, and I think this is really valuable. When I’m approaching what we’re trying to create with state I know, we’re not even talking about stage combat. I’m a terrible, terrible person interview clearly, but but I want in a good way to have the audience not confused or to drive away or No, but you want them challenged, so they feel like they’re participants. And it makes them really interesting on our side challenges. So for instance, we I think, as creators of violence, the illusion of violence, have almost carte blanche to do whatever we wish, provided. We do it in a way with the audience’s acceptance. Does that make sense? So there are really horrible things that can happen. And if no audience have bought in there with you. So for instance, again, using classic Shakespeare, the murder of Lady Macduff and her children is epically horrible. And it’s clearly there for a reason. And you can portray it either realistically, or not show anything. But if you do it realistically, whatever that means. The audience is there because they want to have the outcome where the murderers or Macbeth, few centimetres are punished, let’s say. And there’s something really amazing using actually, I got another one, the movie Alien when it comes out of the stomach, that at the time when that movie came out, people practically fainted. Like, and now yeah. And now it’s like, yeah, you know, because we like we’re pushing the envelope as creators all the time. But that monster gets destroyed. Yes, yes. You know what I mean? Like, there’s, there’s a, there’s an outcome to that, that is earned by your you’re like, I want to see this thing punished, where there’s other monster movies where the monster kind of wins and walks away. Yeah. And it’s, and it’s the sequel machine, right? They want to make all these sequels. And so when I’m creating a scene of violence, I want in a good way for the audience to either be rooting for the hero, or to be so disgusted with how the villain has gotten away with it, because there’s usually more to it, right? Like the play continues into the event of whatever the outcome is going to be. And it’s also okay to leave at the end, a sense of complication, that the idea is complicated, so that the players like I don’t know who was right and who was wrong, the pendulum has been swinging, and I like this is all excellent stuff. But the audience has to buy into it. If the audience is left, as I said, confused, you’ve lost them. But if you if you do something, and they’re like, that was just gross. And, and, and gratuitous. Again, you’ll lose them. Right. But it’s so interesting that if you have them along the way, in a good way, that’s what I mean, where you can do almost anything. Right? And this, do you follow what I’m saying?

Phil Rickaby 

I do. I do. Because I think one of the things that the benefits of stage combat on this stage in the theatre, as opposed to on screen is because it is happening in front of an audience. Because the violence is happening and they’re in the room. They’re like physically in the room. There’s it’s not on screen. This isn’t something that is that we know has been recorded. We’re not separated from it. They are more there. Yeah. Completely there. I remember years ago I did. I did a production of of Macbeth and I was I was one of the murderers. And Lady Macduff had a baby. And we had that we were going to obviously she knew that she was really played it. Like she knew she was going to die. She knew her son was going to die. But I took her baby from her and held the baby as though you know, don’t worry, your baby is going to be safe, and I looked her in the eye. And then I gave it a twist. And we had like in the in the swaddling. Were like two pieces of balsa wood and the audience in a way that an audience wouldn’t react on film. I think just shutter Yeah. And make an audible noise in a way that that that people don’t when it’s filmed violence.

Daniel Levinson 

And it’s interesting that right because on one hand, a film can put, you can put the audience’s eye within millimetres of the event where theatre, you really have to fight if you think about it, to keep the attention where it’s needed, right? Because you look anywhere in theatre, right? Like there. Yeah, inevitably, especially when you have a crowd scene you can like, Boy, I’ll tell you that stuff. It’s super interesting. Look at that service. You know, so you could really write, you know, I would say one of the challenges, and I’ve talked about this with my friend, Todd Campbell, who’s another flight master who works with me and is in Toronto, listen to me named drop. But the challenge is, our perception is audience at what the speed of violence is. In because of film, we have been trained, the fights are very, very fast indeed. And there are human beings, I’ve worked with him, I’ve seen them where the fights live, can be very, very fast. However, not everyone can do it, they may do an excellent job, they just, they’re not moving at, at, at at. Because there’s lots of tricks in film to make things faster editing, a bass taking out every fifth frame, when they actually filmed on film, cranking the camera speed, there’s all sorts of great tricks for making where you are literally dealing with the sweat, and the breath in the space when it’s live with I’m with you on that, and I find it super exciting. And if you ever watch a fight, live, and then watch a recording of that. So for instance, on on my YouTube video, channel, I, I have locked cameras, single shot fights, because the idea is to give people an idea of the entire shape so that future, participants can see what’s proper stance and moving. So the fights inevitably look a bit slow. But they were much faster when you were in person. Yes, about the the arm’s length that a recorded? Medium does, then so as I said, a single lock thing really does us a disservice of what we think speed is and that. Yeah, and it’s a challenge. And so sometimes what’s Daniel, what fights Don’t you like? So in a superficial kind of way, I don’t like movement that’s disengaged from either intent or desire. Right. And I don’t like things that are fast for fast sake, that don’t, because it because the thing is, we still are human beings and the performers, we’re just going as fast as they can be, unless they are remarkable. And they are and the NIT, like I said, there are some remarkable performers, who can do everything you want that fast. But most people are human beings, who are like, I don’t want to hurt someone. And so all of a sudden, the fight becomes a fight, sort of, in between the people and not with each other. And it’s it stops being and again, whatever this means real, you know, and real is very, very flexible, like you can have something cloudy, and you can have something kitchen sink with real right. But what I mean is it it lacks an authenticity, that the character means what they’re doing, that their intent is there, and that there’s a danger to the character. Oh, and that’s the other thing when I was talking about the audience buying in, if for a second, the audience thinks it alive performance, the performer is going to get hurt or wizard you have lost them.

Phil Rickaby 

That’s the thing. That is the fascinating thing is they can they will suspend their disbelief up until the point somebody actually gets hurt.

Daniel Levinson 

Yeah, and rightly so. Right.

Phil Rickaby 

Yes.Yes.

Daniel Levinson 

The it’s interesting and and I talked about this, when when when teaching and directing all the time that audiences are not stupid, right? They might not have the training or awareness of what we’re doing so we sometimes have to this sounds really condescending I don’t mean it to but like you’re educating them and to understanding the world you’re creating or what this bike needs because you might be using science fiction weapons or things that like they have no knowledge of right but they absolutely know what’s believable what isn’t and what’s connected and what isn’t right. And I’m there was a period of time it’s happening less now. I actually made his a COVID thing, but it was a period of time where I would get what can only be described as extremely upset phone calls. Please come in and fix our fights. We’re opening in a week and we didn’t think we needed a fight director or something like that. Right. And right and it was like Are you’re kidding me, right? You’re literally doing again Romeo and Juliet. You didn’t say Get into the fight director. And I show up right? And and it’s like you’re slapping each other are slapping each other’s plates and you’re running around the room. And I’m like, why don’t you just kill them? They’re, they’re back was to you? Like, what are you doing? Right? And of course, I don’t actually say it like that, because I want them to succeed. And I want them to listen to me. And if you make people feel small and stupid, they’re not really conducive, you know, there’s no, they’re not conducive to your suggestions, right? But my inner, my inner voice, right? That is an absolute fucking snob when it comes to what I do. And my craft is appalled. Right? And yeah, and though, you know, what I actually have to say this, for people who are interested in being fight directors, or fight teachers, is something one must always remember, is what you know, took you time to get, and then develop and create, and, and the people you’re meeting, especially who are novices don’t know what you know. And yeah, and I have certainly seen teachers or directors be little, or abuse, the people they’re working with, because they don’t have this inner knowledge that this other person has, and ran makes them feel, and it never works. Right, you know, ever. And, and it’s it’s upsetting. The other thing, you know, how people talk about fake it till you make it right. And we all bought into it, we all bought into it at the top bar, because I’m sure people still do. But as I get older, the more I realised that that can be very detrimental. Because what you might be faking, are just bad habits. Yeah, or, or what you think, is the performance, quality technique, whatever you think you’d and all you’re doing is a pale, pale reflection or photocopy, that photocopy. Exercise, or know if you’ve ever done it, where you take an image and you photocopy and photocopy and photocopy. And the ideas eventually get something that is so away from the original, right? And, and it happens a lot, right? Where I’m asked to give my feedback on something I haven’t worked on, or, or you know what I mean, because of people who want me to make suggestions on how they move forward in their career, stuff like that. And, and as I said, I want to be honest, but also productive and kind. perhapses is a good word to use. But you know, when you’re looking at something, and you’re thinking, I, I don’t think you understand what you’re doing. And other people are training with you, or you’re directing them. And you’re, you’re not helping them because you’re leading them astray. And this might be coming from a good place you think you’re right, you think you’re and by the way, this sounds incredibly arrogant. I’ve no doubt there’s a bunch of people who know me who their eyes are rolling, listen to don’t elevens have hoity toity knows everything. But but there are some things I somewhat learned and understood, and perhaps have a better understanding than others. Maybe, right. But there’s something very sad, I think of missed opportunity. Does that make sense? You know, it does. And I talked about really the resource that’s finite is time. And it’s, it breaks my heart. Especially now with COVID. People using time poorly, and ending with a result, be it training or production of of art or you know, whatever it is, and you have this, this thing, that’s okay. But it could have been great. But you needed to invest more into it either your time and you or you, yeah, you and you needed to be humble and allowed other people to help you. And listen to them.

Phil Rickaby 

Two things, two things that I think people always think they don’t need to put a lot of time into until it’s too late. One is stage combat, always, and the other is marketing their show these things that people tend not to think about until it’s far too late.

Daniel Levinson 

And to be totally fair, the marketing thing is almost none of us are marketers. It’s just like producers, it’s like, like, I entered this profession. Because I’m a creative. I don’t want to produce even though I have to, you know all the time or So again, I’m saying Kirsten has been such a huge resource. And really, all intents purposes has been my general manager. If I take the let’s say my titles artistic director, she’s a general manager. But when it comes down to it though, I still have to do the scheduling and figuring out who to hire and and And it’s exhausting. And it’s, and I’m not the best at it, except it oh my god, I’m just like democracy. I’m the worst at it, except for everyone else got to know, like someone has to do it. Right? And why would anyone produce for somebody else when it’s such a tedious, awful experience, and there’s no money right in it, no way to make ends meet. And so I’m not surprised with what you said, but about stage combat, what frustrates me with that is, and again, I’m totally out on a limb here. But I think, Oh, our peers and other arts, right, like, if you’re a musician, you, you work with your instrument, every day. And if you’re a dancer, all the dancers I know, go to classes all the time. And if you’re a painter, you paint if you’re a writer, you right now there’s people homeright going, I wish I could pay them, right, I hate myself, please don’t take that from me in a negative way. But actors are one of the few artists Sanko that, you know, they hit, they’re making ends meet and they’re in their bartending or, or or they’re waitering. And then it’s like, and now I’m ready to play Hamlet, you know, right. And, and it kills me because obviously, there’s lots of actors who take training, but let’s just say frequently, when I’m called into work on a show, the actors do not have the level of physical training you want to see, right so they they can really run with all aspects of the show. So I’m going to another name drop, I have friends of mine on the West Coast, fair Ivana, Jackie Nathania. And they are exceptional, exceptional in almost everything they put their hands to, and they, they shame me with how little I deal with physical building of myself, because they they are they, they they walk the walk, they talk the talk and in building their physical company, their performance company, they really train with their people, and put them to a place where they can physically perform what they wish to, to portray. That is not the norm. Another really excellent pier, in Mississauga, Colleen has Froggen hand again, really puts her money where her mouth is, and trains and trains and trains and trains and brings people along and, and puts them helps them to a place where they can really capture the quality of movement she’s looking for in her dance company. And, and I’m, and I get it for my other peers who are actors who, look, I need to make a buck, I don’t have money for classes, I get it, I get it, I get it again. But when the time comes and the bell rings, and you’re going to be playing someone who has a very special set of skills, you know, and has to be able to accomplish these things. It’s heartbreaking how often we don’t see it. And by the way, leads to a statement someone once made to me, which made my heart sink, and it’s never quite come back. The person said, Oh, I hate stage combat, because it always looks fake. And I looked around the room, to the to the, to the person to people he was talking about, nobody in the room had trained. And I was given, I don’t know, four hours, six hours, right? That really, really needed 20. Like we have that statement about for every minute of performance time. It’s a mantra, right, every minute of performance time, you should have 10 hours if you’re highly trained, and you need actually 30 If you’re learning and training, but no one gives you 30 hours, 30 hours is the entire rehearsal process now for a play, right, practically, right. And I get it because I’m not a fool. But we’re also allowed to be a bit utopian in our in our passions and our art, right. And that really was what I think in a nutshell why I started raker wet, I wanted a place for people to come and train COVID as as you know, really knocked the legs out from what we were doing that we had dropins where people could come in weekly, and you know, come in for a couple hours and learn a new skill or or re reinvest in a skill I had. And I also have what I love to say we’re able to hire all the teachers in town and give them a chance to keep their skills sharp in directing and teaching and, and the whole goal was to to create a community of people that would help each other Shine, right and grow. And that’s the goal going forward. But it’s a big world, right? And I know that not everyone has had the time yet to train. And I guess I sound harsh, but it breaks my heart to be in the audience and see someone clearly uncomfortable as a person, not as a character, get through the fight bits so they could get back to the acting. Which, right until brutally sarcastic on my part because the fight bit is the most honest part of the character, because you’ve stripped away. Yeah, all of the social niceties, and it’s them raw. Right.

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah. I think that we still, I think we still do see people who I mean, I think I like to think we see it last. But that’s probably more the circles that I move in. Very, it’s less likely that we see people who are like, oh, yeah, this is we don’t need to fight director for this, we’re just going to

Daniel Levinson 

I’m hoping that it’s going away.

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah,

Daniel Levinson 

our cousins who do intimacy design, have had huge, huge success in getting people to take them seriously. And to bring them in. And and to go, I’m sure if if we were talking to someone, at this moment, they’d say now they don’t give us enough time either. But right, I’m still struggling to get the time I think needed, because there’s the conflict between like, just we need them on their feet, they need to work on their lines, we need to get them logging in, runs, runs, runs, runs, runs, so they can get it working. And then you know, God help us, we got to do the tech. And it’s like, this takes forever. And we have to do entrances and exits and lights. And like anyone who’s never been in the profession and then is hypercritical doesn’t understand. And this sounds like I’m talking gets everything I just said a moment ago, but doesn’t understand everything we had to do. So again with film too. So So KEARSON said to me about how sad she feels when people just have the knives out for a show or a movie. And really show a lack of awareness or respect for all the stuff they did to get it there. And even if it isn’t your cup of tea, because I’ve seen many things I went, I can recognise the art in this even if it doesn’t speak to me. Right. And there. I know, for a fact there’s some movies I really appreciate. But other people don’t. Right. What I’m seeing the craft put into it maybe and and I’ve been there, right where you’re like, Oh my God. You know, just give me one more minute, whatever, okay, it’s not gonna happen. And, and I’m not an editor, like, like, I’ve put together some, some videos, some small stuff during COVID Just but I’m not an editor and, and the painful tooth pulling it took for me to get what I got out, let alone trying to get a much higher quality product, much like you will get because you’re going to do a masterful job on what we’re doing. You know, is like I’m trying to, to give people the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact what he said about mediocre right.

Phil Rickaby 

I think there’s there’s something about the the when we are, you know, those those moments where they don’t give, say, for example, the stage combat that time. And you know, we’ve all been in those situations, because there’s not enough time. Yeah, totally, you know, yeah, but but we also, like, at a certain point, you also knew that you were doing Romeo and Juliet, which has a number of scenes with people waving swords around. Which, if you’re really respectful of your actors, you know that there is a great potential for somebody to be hurt

Daniel Levinson 

100% And, and, quite frankly, the audience is going to leave with the memory that physicality long before much longer than they they have in other aspects of the show frequently, right? And more than once, I have shown up for rehearsal, and been told we’re just finishing this one thing. And I’m watching the minutes turned into 20 minutes, a half hour and I’m like, I really need this time. You know, and yeah, and it’s the I remember a director once telling me that I think your fight I think you’re too was the word he used. Not optimistic, but he was he was like, basically, he you know, your fight was was too long or too hard. And I appreciate what he was saying. But at the exact same time, we had booked a 15 hours for me to work with the actors from training all the way up to polish in the tech. And I only gotten six of those hours. Right now. thought that I knew that was going to happen, because every time I came in, something would have happened. And so I kept showing up without having actors or not having the floor or not having the weapons. And, and so it was a series of things, but being told that, and also from my side of it, knowing full well at risk of sounding defensive, my the length of fight, and the and the challenge of the fight was appropriate to the show and to the actors in the show, right simply was sabotaged by the reality that the time wasn’t given. And also that the you knew for a fact you could tell if you were there with me that the actors weren’t doing their homework, either, right? Going home and working their lines and working and like, then doing the the mental casting of like walking through the fight by yourself. And I remember once having an equity actor telling me like, Well, I’m not being paid for that. Right, which I understand. But we all do things to prepare for our lives. Like, I remember hearing about someone talking about the, the, the argument practice that people often do in the shower, when they’re gonna go ask for a raise, or the, like, these things that, you know, we actually do it all the time. And, and this actor in a rather dismissive way, saying that to me, when I basically told them that they weren’t ready. You know, like they weren’t, they just weren’t where they needed to be. And, of course, the worst being that their partner would clearly had done it. Right, you can see that they had put in extra time. And it’s, and there was a lot of projection on my novel, that guy is hard to work with. Yeah. Where it’s like, Well, He’s busting his tail for you. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby 

The thing that gets me about that statement, you know, I’m not being paid for that as I that person is, is, is likely working on their lines in those hours,

Daniel Levinson 

I would think so. I would hope so. Because, yeah, speaking as someone, so I’m very dyslexic. And and so I really when I was working as an actor, and I had to make a choice, right, like all things, some people that do many, many things, but to focus and I think, really craft, what I want it to be, I had to make a decision. And I decided to focus on five directing and instructing. And so I did much less acting. Right. But I had to put in the hours. Otherwise, I never would have gotten off book. Right. And, and, and we’ve all experienced the actor’s nightmare. Yeah, my lines don’t know what play I’m in. Right. And, and I cannot imagine purposely doing that to yourself. Right, though? That’s interesting. Have you worked with an actor who insisted things always had to be fresh? So their their thinking of acting was always about reacting to spontaneous events. So I’m not talking about improvisation, which is amazing, right? That’s something else are games of improv and stuff like our performances? I mean, literally, like, they would always change blocking, and of course, makes it impossible for fighting, right? Yes. And the idea that, that this is the only way they felt alive as an actor, totally neglecting all the other aspects of what it is to be in a partnership when performing be with your other actors or with the audience. Right. And it couldn’t be a shit show, because this person just might not have felt it that night. Have you had that experience? Have you been on stage with one of them?

Phil Rickaby 

I’ve had, I’ve absolutely been on stage with them as people. I’ve definitely done that. I’ve also had on the, on the other side of that where somebody is out if it’s over rehearsed, but there is no spontaneity in anything they do. It’s like when it is it is it is places, they press play on the tape recorder. And everything is exactly the same as it was the night before. So then you find that that is good. They’re so rigid and also like, they’re not actually reacting to anything. Because acting you know, it’s both it’s like

Daniel Levinson 

totally and it’s one of the reasons why we find it so magical being in it and also being audience right. And as much as I love film, I love television, like love recorded medium. But there is something supers so human about the live event and I think that’s one of the reasons why I don’t think we’re ever going to see the death of live sporting events, live musical events, live theatre, because people want to experience that high. That risk of the immediate happening in front of them. Right. That’s super cool, right? And I I I remember Burn The Mousetrap in Toronto that was going on and on and on for years. Yes, yes. And someone I knew who was in it said there was another person who had been in it for forever. And they would kind of stand a line on stage mouthing the lines of other actors. Like they were almost like czar like a zombie. Right. And and it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, there’s an acting exercise kind of what’s the name of it, where you basically say a word over and over again until it loses its meaning and it rediscovers its meaning. Yes, you know, so this guy was like living his life that way, you know? And that’s, that’s kooky. That’s gotta be very kooky.

Phil Rickaby 

Yes, absolutely. On the other side of that I remember hearing a story about somebody who was in the in the mousetrap. I don’t know if it was the Toronto one, or the the one in London who’ve been doing it for so long, but they kind of weren’t all there. And so you never really know which part of the show they were going to be in.

Daniel Levinson 

Oh, my God, how’s that for a heart attack?

Phil Rickaby 

Oh, my God. I don’t even want to think about that. Oh, my goodness. Damn, we are out of we’re out of time. I want to thank you for this this great conversation. This has been it’s been wonderful. Thank you so much. It was a huge pleasure.

Daniel Levinson 

Thank you for having me.

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