#323 – Natércia Napoleão

Natércia Napoleão is a multifaceted Brazilian theatre artist and community advocate.

Over the past eighteen years, she has had a wide influence within the Albertan theatre community, with experience in site-specific theatre, dance theatre, multimedia performance, television, musicals, and a wide range of classical and contemporary theatre. Performance highlights include the acclaimed Fado: The Saddest Music in the World (JAYMAC Outstanding Production Award) at the Firehall Arts Centre in Vancouver.

Recent directing credits include Hummm (Climate Change Theatre Action/ New Harlem Productions); Orange Skies (Tarragon Theatre’s Young Playwright’s Unit); and the multidisciplinary theatre piece, Threshold (The Lobbyists collective/2021 Chinook Series).

Natércia is an associate producer with Dora Award nominated manidoons collective having recently supported the sold-out production of esteemed playwright Yolanda Bonnell’s White Girls in Moccasins, in co-production with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Natércia is currently developing her first full-length play, Michener Park, alongside renowned Chilean author, playwright and activist, Carmen Aguirre.

As a community advocate, Natércia spearheads and contributes to grassroots initiatives regularly. She is a strategic planner working with institutions and companies exploring equitable practices, such as Musical Stage Co. and Outside the March.

Natércia is the incoming CAEA representative for the Alberta North/N.W.T region.

Intstagram: @natercia_napoleao

Support Stageworthy
Tip Jar: tips.pinecast.com/jar/stageworthy

TRANSCRIPT

Phil Rickaby
Welcome to Stageworthy. I’m Phil Rickaby, the host of this podcast. This is episode 323. Stageworthy is a one person operation. So not only do I arrange the guests, I edit the show I promoted and I also created the music. I also shoulder all of the financial responsibilities for keeping the show going. So if you enjoy the podcast, please consider supporting. There are a few ways you can do that. If you listen on Apple podcasts or Spotify, you can leave a five star rating. And if you listen on Apple podcasts, you can also leave a review those ratings and reviews do help new people to find the show. If you want to keep up with what’s going on with Stageworthy, and my other projects, you can subscribe to my newsletter by going to philrickaby.com/subscribe. And you can also leave a tip for the show by dropping some change in the virtual tip jar. I will put a link to that in the show notes which you can find on the website or in your podcast app. But one of the most important things that you can do even more important than ratings, reviews or even financial support is to share it on social media. Even a retweet helps. You can find stage worthy on Twitter and Instagram @stageworthypod and you can find the website with an archive of all 323 episodes at stageworthypodcast.com if you want to find me online, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @PhilRickaby. And as I mentioned, my website is philrickaby.com.

My guest this week is Natércia Napoleão. Natasha is a multifaceted Brazilian theatre artist and community advocate living in Alberta and creating sites Pacific theatre, dance theatre, multimedia performance television, musicals and a wide range of classical and contemporary theatre. Here’s our conversation

you are a multi hyphenate. Artist.

Natércia Napoleão
Correct.

Phil Rickaby
So if you were to describe yourself to somebody as an artist, how do you do that?

Natércia Napoleão
Hmm. It’s so funny because I’ve I’ve grown to I’ve grown to despise a bit, explaining all the things that I am. And I’ve investigated try to investigate why I don’t like that. And it’s because we it’s tied to this theory that I have that our industry teaches us. I wrote about this in an essay that was published, it teaches us to think of our practice. And more than just ourselves or Outlook to one another in a very vertical fashion. For example, we have an expectation that a performer will spend the rest of their lives perfect perfecting performance. But we we don’t, in my opinion, I don’t think we give enough room to one another to be multiple things at the same time. With full permission. I think we we we hold back on that permission ever so quietly, sometimes to go. How dare you? I do I sometimes I wonder if we give ourselves horizontal permission to travel around meaning that a performer could be the lighting designer, the lighting designer could be the director, the director could be a musical director, or a director could be a performer. Now I travel between all of these things, and I think I’m only starting. So I consider myself a very fluid artist. And when I arrive at each discipline, I’m fully committed and I feel at home. Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
there’s the interesting thing in what you’re saying. And back when I was in theatre school in ancient times when I was in theatre school, they essentially told us not to be like, if you did anything other than be an actor. Don’t tell anybody is essentially what they told us. Like if you were an actor and a writer, maybe just tell people you’re an actor. Don’t mention being a writer. If you are if you’re an actor and a stage manager, don’t mention that you’re a stage manager, like just be an actor. And in fact, pretend that you don’t have a day job. You know, there were all these like things like Just don’t don’t give it Don’t. Don’t allow yourself to have things outside of acting. I think we’ve come a long way since then. But I think you are right about about how we, how we treat the hiphens, right?

Natércia Napoleão
Yeah, I would say so. And I’m, maybe it’s just a product of being older too, or getting older, but I feel, I feel that permission is more and more being birthed out of myself. And I’m less and less reliant on confirmation from the outside. And that’s a very different feeling. It also makes me stand on my own two feet and be grounded in what I’m doing. And while I appreciate discourse, and criticism, I am not as moved, as I used to be when I was in my younger 20s. Let’s say.

Phil Rickaby
I think there’s also something about about as we get older, we are less what’s the right word? I think honestly, as we get older, we give fewer fucks. And eventually, we want to claim who we are for ourselves and not play a role for somebody else. I don’t want to pretend that I am not all of the things that I am anymore that I can do all the things that I want to do. So as I as I have gotten older, I am unabashed, unabashedly, I unabashedly talk about all of the things that I do that I want to do, rather than than just hide them. But it took for me, that was a journey to get there, because I spent so long, you know what, as I was in theatre school, like I said, being told, don’t talk about those things that are not acting.

Natércia Napoleão
Wow. And you know, what I was about to ask if we can swear on this thing. And I’m so glad that you read them,

Phil Rickaby
when the host models, the swearing so that we can do it

Natércia Napoleão
thank you.

Phil Rickaby
But there is something about about, I think, also, as we get older, modelling the behaviour of being able to claim all of these things, for people who are younger. Yeah, right, just like being able to be all of these things and just sort of show them that you can do it, and you don’t have to hide it.

Natércia Napoleão
And the other thing that I would add to that, and this is a conscious discovery that I made, I just wrote my first play. And the reason why I don’t think I could have written this play, or even been in a place where I’d want to, is because and I think playwriting is really just an example of a discipline discipline within the umbrella of theatre. But these, these extra curricular activities, I’ll call them that these that these extra disciplines were always put in my way is something someone like me would have to do. So you know, not that see if you want to get here in your career, I’m sorry to say, but you’re going to have to become this kind of artist. And you’re going to have to do this in order to be taken seriously, or to get this person’s attention, this company, this institution, and over time that created resentment for whatever that thing was. So it didn’t really, I didn’t have this natural wonder or curiosity to direct, to be a dramaturg, to be a choreographer to be a playwright, to be a producer, because it was always something positioned that I had to do. And so my, my biggest thing for when I’m teaching now, and mentoring others is I never I never put it that way. I never put it that way. And I think I’m now undoing that for myself. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
I think that we and it’s kind of sad, but but a lot of us spend a lot of have spent many years undoing the damage that theatre school did to our psyches in some way.

Natércia Napoleão
Absolutely, no, absolutely. But it’s also I think of, I think of previous mentors that I’ve had as well. I think of of individuals in the industry who and I’m not blaming them because I think they only they only regurgitate this mantra because it was the same mantra that they were taught, and from maybe from their point of view that they achieved success through. So it worked for them? Well, they’re repeating it now to others, so I get it. But for me, it had the exact opposite effect. And, yeah, it really held me back. So yeah, I’m proposing that we see different things. And to see how that lands and how it’s different.

Phil Rickaby
I think it’s again, it’s funny when I was in theatre school, they told us, like they, they, we, they talked about, you know, self producing, as though it was for people who couldn’t make it, like, oh, maybe you could self produced if you couldn’t do like it was the detrimental thing. And now, creating your own work. And all of these things, like you said, are often positioned as this is what you’ll have to do to make it in the business or to, to be seen to do this sort of thing. Again, the the attitude towards this has has changed over time. And it is fascinating to me, how our discourse about it is changing. If I was to describe to somebody and say, you know, if they were like, I don’t know, what I what I what I have to do, I think telling somebody that they have to do something in order to get seen, or this or that or to be in the industry. Like, I think that’s that’s detrimental, tell them that they can do it, if they choose to. Right, you can do all of these things. If that’s what you want to do. There are other paths, there’s so many ways to, to exist in this business.

Natércia Napoleão
Absolutely, look, because one is positioned from from a place of inspiration, while the other is a position of lack and scarcity and fear. You know? Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
Now, I, one of the things I love to talk to people about is, is their theatre origin story, and what first drew them to the theatre? What, what sort of made them want to do this. So for you? Do you recall when it was or what it was that that made you want to do? Theatre?

Natércia Napoleão
Yeah, I think I do. And I would parcel it out into two stages. One of them when was when I was really young. I’ll mention later a play that I just wrote called Michener Park, and it’s based off of a real place. And a memory that’s not in the play that I hold really dear to me is when I was about six or seven years old, I remember the exact spot I was standing in the weather outside my surroundings. And in a very innocent way, I looked up to the sky, and I think I was addressing God, or what I thought God was. And I actually tilted up my head to the sky. And I might have put my arms out and I said, I would like a voice. Give me a voice. And I remember that, I really remember that. And I, I feel like something happened in that moment. And, of course, as you know, I’m a theatre rat when I describe something like that, and it’s very theatrical. But it truly is how, how I remember it without any embellishment, I It really felt powerful to me. So anyways, but however, I was also a late bloomer in terms of theatre, and oh, and this, this is such a cheesy story, but it’s the truth. I was set to go into post secondary to be a visual artist. I really loved collage work. I loved Robert Rauschenberg work. And I was doing really well as a visual artist in high school. And I thought that this was my pathway. And let’s see, so Moulin Rouge had come out. This was like, beginning of like, the, the era of movie musicals coming back. This was a long, long time ago and, and Chicago, the movie musical had just come out. And there was this scene of, I think it was one of the Roxy numbers. And she was being held up in the air. And I feel I looked at that I looked at this whole thing that was happening right in front of me, I think I was at the movie theatre by myself too. And I sat, it was like, a lightning bolt hit the top of my head. I don’t think I slept that night. Because the thought was, oh, I could do that. I could do that. I don’t know how. But I’m going to do that. And I was very sure about it. Resolute, in fact, and so I dropped my application and I put in an application into a musical fee. programme and Phil I had nothing on my resume. Not really. No, I’ve had nothing. Yeah. I got into the programme and the rest was history. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
You know what’s interesting about that is when I was in theatre school, you know, everybody in my class had been doing theatre in some way for years, whether it was in high school or amateur theatre, all this sort of stuff. There was one guy in my class who came in, he’d done nothing. And our acting teacher loved him. And our acting teacher loved him because he had not, he didn’t have bad habits he hadn’t. He didn’t like you hadn’t developed any like mugging for the audience or, or bad acting habits. He was like this pure thing that could be moulded into a good actor and nothing had to be broken down. So there’s something something about the actor that hasn’t done anything. But going into a musical theatre programme. Did you feel that that was something that without having anything on that resume? Was that treated as a detriment? Or was how was that treated when you were in school?

Natércia Napoleão
I don’t, I don’t know. I feel like there was a lot of new people around me too. I didn’t have anything on my resume. That’s true. But I I recognised a natural storyteller ability and I was, I was really, I’ve always heard had the value that I’m an actor first in everything that I do. And I believe that this is the last this is the secret to musical theatre that a lot of people don’t realise is you must be an actor first. Or else you’re, you’re just going to be there was just, I think it was Kelly Robinson, who used to lead the theatre department, the programmes at the bounce centre, and I attended a short lived programme that was there. And he criticised a lot of training institutions for musical theatre because they they, in his opinion, at the time, he said, they just breed showmanship and not and not actors, you need to be an actor first. And the minute he said that, I was like, Oh, my gosh, this is exactly what I’ve always thought. And so I always considered myself a performer first. So I feel I felt when I attended school for the first time doing musical theatre, I felt very affirmed that I was on the right path. Within my first year, I was shortlisted to play Tracy Turnblad for the Mirvish hairspray. Production, I didn’t get it. But things like this kept happening. I mean, my path from there on was not perfect by any means. But again, within a year of deciding to be a performer to have that happen to you is quite, is quite surreal. So yeah, I don’t know. I found my way. Yeah. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
That idea of being an actor first performer, first, I think that that’s, you know, I think we’ve everybody has worked with either a playwright or a director or producer who has not done what an actor does. And then they’ve also had the opportunity to work with one of those positions where they have been an actor, and the experience is always so much better with somebody, no detriment to some very successful people who have made their careers never being an actor. But there’s something about having been an actor that allows you to understand what’s happening on the stage in a way that you wouldn’t if you had never acted.

Natércia Napoleão
Oh, 100% Yeah, absolutely. It just, well, I’m starting to feel this too, as a as a, Phil Aiken would say, don’t say emerging, say early in craft. So in honour of Phil, I’m gonna say early in craft as an early and craft producer. I’ve taken away a lot from that because yeah, it’s quite a humble position to be in, right. Like the let’s think of a company and the managing director in the Office who, who’s you know, probably one of the one of the people who doesn’t get an opening night card because the company doesn’t think of them yes, as being a part of the process but in fact, they’re integral to the process. So I highly recommend and I would inspire anyone to to explore producing because it really gives you this well rounded bird’s eye view of the industry and all the people that make things happen. And but anyways, going back to performing Yeah, I carry that with me in every role and I’m very grateful for that.

Phil Rickaby
I think that you’re right about being a producer and I think that the that all Though producing for a Fringe Festival, for example, is not like producing a, like a full play without the festival behind you, it is still a really excellent way of getting a producing experience under your belt and the things that you don’t know, when you are an actor. You know, I think everybody should everybody should should I think just to build on what you were saying everybody should take the opportunity to try everything once.

Natércia Napoleão
I think that’s so great. I, yeah, I’m having a lot of fun. I’m having a lot of fun. Picking up my chair and sitting in a different little spot on the table. And just seeing how that feels to write assessing whether you, you quickly find out if it’s for you, if you could do it again, what you would improve upon next time. And maybe there might be some roles that I would try out for the first time and go, thank you. But no, thanks for the future. I have yet to find one of those because I really truly love them all for separate reasons. But I don’t know, it’s possible that something in the future might make me think that way.

Phil Rickaby
Sure. I think it’s great to give it a try, though. Like, then, you know, that was certainly not for me. Yeah. Let’s, let’s talk about missioner Park. Tell me about about about that play. And it’s your first full length play. So I want to talk about not just what it’s about, but the writing process.

Natércia Napoleão
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I want to be careful because I don’t want to give away. I’ve decided that I don’t want to discuss this play, like maybe other plays would be discussed in terms of plot characters, you know what’s in it, I think that needs to be experienced. But what I can say is that Michener Park is in the process of being demolished. Since 1967, I think that’s when it was built. It was the social affordable housing unit for the University of Alberta’s graduate students with families. And over time, this space became a very important and international landing pad for the first home for many newcomers here in Edmonton, who’s who’s new, you know, kids, kids like me back in the day who, who had a parent that was studying at the U of A. And so it was affordable. And that was a huge reason why people could come and have their start. And in 2018, the University of Alberta decided to shut it down. This was after many years of neglect. And in 2020, they began the demolishment phase. And, and that’s where we’re currently at. So I mentioned our park is also on the route back home for me in Edmonton. And my partner kept tugging at me, every time we would drive by and saying, you know, if there’s a person who’s going to write a story about this place, it is you. And I would brush him off and say, Are you crazy? I barely even read get out of here. You’re just That’s insane. I’m sorry. And I Oh, what else can I say I started to be haunted by it. I started to have, I’m not making this up. I started to have visions of Michener Park as I would fall asleep at night. And I started to really feel haunted by the place as if the place had a spirit of you know, of its own. And I didn’t start to feel better until I actually started to write the play. And before I started to write the play, I wrote grants, because one of the pieces of advice that I got from people in the industry was, well, honey, if you’re going to write your first play, you better be ready to write it for free. And I said, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think I’m going to try to get funding so that I could build a lab for this process. And I wrote grants for the first time in my life. I wrote. I wrote to the Edmonton Arts Council, the Edmonton Heritage Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. And I got all three grants. Nice. And, and then maybe one of the most important artists that we have insole called Canada Carmina Giri, who’s a huge figure within the Latina X theatre community agreed to be addressed Turn on the play and to direct the workshop of it. And I began a year long process of conducting interviews, researching Michener Park, and slowly but surely piecing together the pieces of what would become a play. And maybe two weeks ago, I finished a workshop. And on April 2, I had my first public reading, which was a massive success. And Carmen McGarry for those who don’t know, is one of the Stratford play development associates, there was another associate by the lovely name of McKenzie Lucio key, who was there at the reading. And both of them said to me, after that they read hundreds of plays for their jobs, and not every play, as well constructed as they are, hit the mark, or make make you care. And they both looked at me and said, we care about this play. So good job, you know. And so and then Carmen said, you know, as an elder, I would consider Carmen an elder as, as would many people. If this play gets produced on a major stage, it could be the first Brazilian play in Canadian history to be programmed, because I can’t think of another play. And so I’m, I think that the future is bright. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
Nice. In terms of the writing process, you talked about about interviewing people and talking to people. As the as the play, gained form, what surprised you about where it was going that you didn’t expect?

Natércia Napoleão
I would say that I felt guided, I felt guided towards a certain direction, and it’s a one person show, but it also feels like a full house on stage. And I don’t want to explain further than that. I just feel like I’ve achieved. I mean, this is, this is not a new concept, right? That, you know, there’s a lot of established playwrights that say, right, and get down to the specifics in your play. And the more specific you are, the more universal it will be. Mm hmm. Yeah. And so I think I had moments, probably a classic rookie mistake when I was writing the play thinking, Who’s going to care about this. But that’s not up for me as a playwright to deem. I discovered it’s really not for me to say it’s just my job to write it and present it. And the audience will let me know. And so far, the feedback I’m getting to, to, to my surprise, is that this this goes well beyond Edmonton, University of Alberta. Alberta. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
The idea of specificity is, is I think, like you said, the rookie mistake of thinking Oh, who’s gonna care about this and you to make this universal quote unquote, and that dilutes the the idea that it dilutes the connection because we, we want to connect and only by really knowing a character and knowing a situation can we connect, I remember hearing somebody say that, for example, Fiddler on the Roof, which is a musical about about Jewish people. That everywhere it plays the audience sees themselves in it they’ll they’ll see this play that’s very specifically Jewish But Korean see Koreans and Chinese the Chinese in it and it’s so it’s, it’s like it because it’s so specific. Everybody can see themselves in it and relate to it. And it’s a fascinating facet of the human psyche.

Natércia Napoleão
Absolutely, you think of by you know, I don’t know if most people know that. I hope this is accurate. I’ve always heard that Kim’s convenience is the most successful solo pepper play of all time. And I don’t know about you, but I when I saw Kim’s convenience, I saw my family in that family. Carmen and Gary’s the refugee hotel. This is a story about Chilean refugees. It’s one of the in my opinion, refugee hotel is one of our best Canadian plays. I’m not a Chilean refugee, but I see myself in her play. So I have countless examples like these two, but it’s true what what those two players have in common though, is that those two writers got it down to the very specifics of those folks. Right. And those stories, yeah. And I think that that’s just so great. So I feel so overjoyed to to get it. I can, you know, you can learn this maybe in a class about playwriting, or you could just write the play and feel the lesson through the work. And I’ll never forget that now.

Phil Rickaby
You know, that’s that statement is like one of those, it took me years to just stop reading books about writing, and realise that yeah, you can keep reading books about writing, but the only way you’re ever going to learn about writing is to sit down and do it. And get it done. struggle through that, and then find out what an audience thinks of it in a workshop or something similar.

Natércia Napoleão
Yeah. I know. I know. It’s, you just got it. You just got to do it. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. Yeah. Now, I hear that you’ve created a theatre company.

Natércia Napoleão
Oh, my God, Phil, don’t we have to keep this between ourselves.

Phil Rickaby
Okay. Just between you and me, just between you and me, please. Okay. Okay. Tell me about it. Tell me about your theatre company. And we won’t tell anybody else.

Natércia Napoleão
Okay, please. Um, so when I was producing this workshop of Michener park, there comes that moment when you receive your contracts from Canadian actors, equity, and associate designers of Canada, and there’s this little line that says, artist or company, and I thought, Ooh, this is interesting. If I were to put a name here, what would it be? And it just lives in this tiny little line with some people in the offices, but really, I don’t have to tell anyone about this. And I’m Brazilian, I’m from huger Nehru. So if you think of, I call it the poem just suka. But it translates to the Sugarloaf. Sugarloaf Mountain, is that what they call it? I don’t know. But I was always really entranced by this whimsical little contraption, this gondola that travels between these two humongous rocks. And for what and why. And as a child, I always looked up and thought, Well, isn’t this fascinating, and ensure there’s a pretty view up at the top. But this is the image that came to me when I was thinking of what my company name would be. Because I also thought about at the same time, what it’s like to be an all Burton artist, and to be an immigrant artist, and to have tufted out here for close to 20 years, and in 20 years, you see a lot of people come and go and in my time I’ve seen a lot of marginalised artists leave and for good reason. I also see a lack of elders that live here. I think Karma is a great example of that. We don’t have a Carmen in in Alberta. And so I’m not going to call it a mandate, but a value that sugar low Theatre is a theatre company that brings people back to do work here. Or it brings elders in to affect the quote unquote, theatre industry here. And let’s face it, Sugar Loaf, sugar, love. I’m a, I’m an original sugar loafer. That just sounds like a 90s punk band name that I really like. Like, I could see that on a t shirt. I also would, I

Phil Rickaby
would 100% get that t shirt. I would 100% get that t shirt. I

Natércia Napoleão
know. I’m an original sugar loafer. i That’s I like the sound of that. So there you go. Don’t tell anyone

Phil Rickaby
we won’t talk. We won’t we won’t tell anybody. We won’t talk about that again. But I am curious about about you know making theatre in a challenging community as as a person of colour working in Alberta, and you mentioned like people leaving and things like that What do you see in the future for the future of the year in Alberta?

Natércia Napoleão
Who I hope it gets better and but I honestly don’t know if I’ll if I’ll be around. If I’ll be around enough as I have been in the past because my I’m getting a lot of opportunities elsewhere. But I do wish that the circle can be widened. Hmm. Because I can only speak for myself, I think a lot of the reckoning that we’ve been experiencing in theatre for me, my own values about it have been to widen the circle. I have never intended to extinguish anyone from a community. I don’t think that that’s right. But there’s, I feel a keen resistance to do that here. I feel like there’s a lot of gatekeeping tendencies that still happen in Alberta. And we could really benefit from from letting that go. I just don’t know. I just don’t know, on an individual level, how ready individuals are here to do exactly that. But I have a hope that it will. We will get somewhere yeah.

Phil Rickaby
It’s years ago, I toured a show across Canada, we went to the Edmonton fringe. And as I recall my time at the Edmonton fringe, I don’t recall a show at the fringe. They had people of colour in it. And I don’t know if that’s changed since I was there. Because like I said, it was a lot it was quite a while ago. But my sense of of fringe in Alberta and some other places, too, is relatively white. Yeah. I know, my brother spent some time in Alberta. And it is the only place in Canada, where he was really called the N word.

Natércia Napoleão
Oh, wow. Yeah, I’m the only place. Unfortunately, I’m not surprised about that. Yeah, I would say that we have some really backward

points of views here. And also just there’s a lot of fear, I think of Yeah, and I’m sorry to be so repetitive, but it is there’s a fear of just widening the circle, pulling up some extra chairs and genuinely showing people the way and letting them in. You know, and it’s very unnecessary. And some days, Phil, I find it very comical, because I think that a lot of my colleagues would really benefit from working with different people and not being so segregated. This is a this is also appeared in the same essay I referenced earlier. But you know, it’s a very colonial mentality to say, oh, okay, Phil, you want to do this great. There’s this patch of land on the edge right over there. Why don’t you go pitch the tent of your theatre? And do what you need to do right over there. Great. Have a great day by, you know, instead of meeting people in the middle space in creating together, and so if I had to describe the Edmonton theatre, I won’t call it a community. I’m just going to say Edmonton theatre, I would say that everyone is in their own respective club. And, and that’s anathema to a community. That’s why I don’t call it a community, because that’s not how you build a community.

Phil Rickaby
No, I think I don’t think that that’s unique to to Edmonton. I don’t think that’s unique to Alberta. I know, you know, I did a an essay on this podcast a few weeks ago about about the quote unquote, theatre community and how we would talk about it, but it doesn’t really exist. I think that there are some places where people cross paths more often, and are more likely to work together. But those don’t stick. It’s, I think, in a lot of in a lot of places, the what I think that keeps you from widening the circle, is this outdated attitude of, if I include people that’s less for me, I have to keep my circle small. And then I can have the bigger piece of the pie. Because the more people we add to our circle, the less pie we get, and it’s just so limiting.

Natércia Napoleão
Absolutely, yeah. And again, we returned to, to fear and scarcity, right? Yeah, absolutely.

Phil Rickaby
What’s the scarcity mindset? And I think that sort of lies in the heart of, of the idea of of competing. Sometimes people will go into, say, a Fringe Festival and look at other companies as people they’re competing against and I, for years have refused to see The the theatre world that way? Because I don’t think that that audience member for me means one less Audience Member for you. I think that that that there is audience enough for everyone, we just can work together to share those audiences together.

Natércia Napoleão
Absolutely. And it’s also just how we conduct ourselves to one of the principles that I would say I’m proud of, for the lateen X diaspora is that typically, these are people that really value discourse. And discourse can can also mean that sometimes we’re in conflict, that we agree and disagree. But that that’s okay. And so, we, we talk a lot, and we get passionate about what we talk about, but we walk away, still as colleagues as friends. And we all speak for myself, now I really value people who think differently than me. I mean, I think it’s the reason why I’m partially a theatre artist, you know, we’re in an art form were part of our practices to develop plays, study plays, put them up on its feet, discover the nuances and characters. A villain is never just a villain, it’s a three dimensional being. So how can we create more nuance? How can we infuse it into any scripts how to make a script better by discovering how much more nuanced it can be. But then we forget about all of these values in our real lives with how we treat one another. And I think we’re reaching a really dangerous point with this in not just in theatre, but in society at large. And I think it’s really contradictory to what we’re trying to do as theatre artists. And so I really, really value a mentor like Carmen, who I have seen with my own two eyes, viscerally disagree with someone or having someone viscerally disagree with her. And she will still call them a colleague, and she will not counsel them. And she will keep them in the circle. It doesn’t mean that she won’t try to debate and create discourse around whatever it is, but she will not exile people, because she knows what it’s like to be exiled herself because of her history of being a political exile. So I really, I want to put forward that value. And it’s one of the reasons why I honour someone like Carmen.

Phil Rickaby
I have been that idea of I think, I think there’s this this the idea of discourse and the idea of debate and these sorts of things are things that that we’ve, we’ve lost. Yeah. And I think, I think we started to lose these things when we decided or when it was decided, because we didn’t decide it was decided that in polite company, we did not discuss religion, or politics, or, you know, there’s this list of things that you don’t discuss in quote, unquote, polite, polite society, in which case we’ve unlearned by avoiding these things, how to have difficult conversations. And that just essentially keeps us from having them and throwing up our arms and refusing to have them because now we’re uncomfortable.

Natércia Napoleão
Oh, yeah, yeah. And we’re weaponizing that word to I’m uncomfortable, can quickly shut down a process that needs to happen, right. So I, I’m one of those people, that I I try to stay away from saying that we’re going to create a safe room. I don’t really think I believe in in trigger warnings for shows. I think we’re starting to approach a time when we’re forgetting our own agency as human beings. I don’t walk down the street with someone beside me saying trigger warning. You’re going across the street and there’s cars and one of them could hit you trigger warning. This is like a sketch. By the way. If I ever had to pitch a sketch for SNL, this would be at the trigger Warner’s. So I shy away I’m shying more and more away from using this language that is unrealistic and feels more and more performative to me.

Phil Rickaby
See, I had that idea for quite a while. I actually my my solo show that I performed and will one day perform again is a show that the in which there is a character who who dies by suicide. And for many of the performances, I did not have to have any kind of content warning or anything like that. At anywhere, I thought, You know what people just going to deal with it. And then I spoke with a number of people for whom they, when that event happens in that piece, there are people, they, you know, their own trauma from people that they have loved and known who’ve died by suicide prevented them from experiencing the peace now they were taken out of it. And so for me, it became important that because I’ve been in that spot, to let them know that to let people who might have difficulty with that, that this is going to happen, you can brace yourself, I don’t have to tell you when it’s going to happen. I don’t have to tell you exactly what happens. But you should know coming in here, that something that may take you out of the play, if you’re not prepared for it is going to happen. Because I don’t think that that it serves anybody to have to be taken out of the performance in that way.

Natércia Napoleão
This is so fascinating. And remember when I just said that I love discourse, and I love finding people who disagree with me on something, this is perfect, Phil, I would argue this is and thank you for explaining that. on your end, I feel the opposite. When I when I am given a trigger warning. I feel like that takes me out of the show. And by the way, of course, I’ve also seen shows where I didn’t know what was going to happen. And there’s one in particular that that really did gave give me the not just not just a regular cry, but I’m going to call it a scary crying momentum, you know, billowing from me, and to the point where I didn’t know if I could contain it, and not disturb the people around me. But to be honest with you, I look back to that show and other shows that I’ve done this to me, and I wouldn’t have changed the thing I really wouldn’t have. So I’m open. But I still have not been convinced fully about trigger warnings.

Phil Rickaby
I do think they can be overused. Yes, yeah. But I also, I had some very frank conversations with a number of people, because I was I went back and forth over the idea of trigger warnings. And it was a very fascinating debate and conversation that was had with a number of people about it. And eventually through that I landed on the necessity for some kind of content warning for this particular play. And I do feel like, you know, it’s there, it’s on the poster. It’s, it’s in the programme, it’s there. That the people who come to the play, are better able and better prepared to experience the play without essentially being ripped out of it by being shocked by that moment. And I’ve I feel like the audience that I’ve had, since I included the content warning, have been a better more reactive audience for the play. Then before I had that, that content warning.

Natércia Napoleão
Oh, interesting. You just made me think of an experiment that I would love to do. What if we, what if we created a show? And in the lobby, we had one of those big, maybe drawing pads that has a cover to it. So you can flip it over to see who’s on the next page? What if we presented trigger warnings in that covered page so that audience members could flip it over? If they wanted to know? Or it could remain concealed for those audiences that don’t want to know?

Phil Rickaby
See, that is that is a fascinating thing. And it has I’ve I’ve seen shows it fringe that do that, like they have like, there’s content warning, if you want to know what that is. There’s an envelope over here you can go and see it. The only reason the only difficulty that I have with that is that not everybody needs the same trigger warning. So for example for myself, I don’t need a trigger warning for sexual assault in a plane. But I know people who do I appreciate a trigger warning or a content warning about about suicide, and therefore that’s something that I want but now if you tell me there’s a trigger warning if you Want to know, you can go over here? Now I’m, I’m like, Okay, do why do I like what do I want to know? What do I need to know? Is there? Does that mean that there’s a suicide in this? Does that mean that there’s there’s sexual assault? What does it mean that’s in this? I can I can put myself into a bit of a spiral trying to figure out? Do I go and look at this? And will it add to the performance? Will it? Will it? Will it insulate me in the performance? Or will it take me out?

Natércia Napoleão
I have a question for you felt when you watch Netflix? Do you look for trigger warnings? Because for myself, I’ll just click on, I’ll click on a show, and I don’t think I ever looked for it. But I’m honestly asking if you do.

Phil Rickaby
I don’t. But when I’m watching something on Netflix, I can stop it. Right? Can you remember watching something on Netflix and I’m an I am affected by something and it is affecting me adversely, I can stop it as soon as I feel that coming. Oh, this is so interesting, Phil posit, and I can walk away and I can take a breath and I can’t do that in the theatre.

Natércia Napoleão
You can’t you can’t get up and get out of a theatre you feel stuck,

Phil Rickaby
I can I can but then also, like I am, I in many cases, I would not because I am also thinking I am affecting all of these people around me. As soon as I get up, and I walk out now the the actors are aware of me, the audience is aware of me. So I am going to sit in my my trauma here in this seat, and I’m not paying attention to what’s happening anymore. Whereas in Netflix, I can pause it or I can stop it. And I can take my breath. And then I can hit play again if I’m ready to go on with it. Whereas in the theatre, if I get up and I leave. I’ve I’ve ended my my my experience with that play.

Natércia Napoleão
Right? Oh, interesting. Because people get up to go to the washroom all the time, right?

Phil Rickaby
Sure they do. And you know what the thing is, people do that in, you know, and we have the advantage that went with because of all of our streaming services, we can pause it. If we’re in the movie theatre. Many times we just suffer through where we try. There are helpful websites that if you need to go to the washroom, they’ll say here’s a good point in the movie. When you see the dog stops take a pee on the on the fire hydrant. You have seven minutes nothing really have important happens. You can go to the washroom like there are websites where you can look that up. Me I suffer through until I’m sweating. And then I will go but I have I think there’s something a little a little different than getting up in the movie theatre and running to the washroom. Then getting up in the theatre and leaving in the middle of a tense moment.

Natércia Napoleão
Fascinating that Well, thank you for that. Yeah, I would just get up and go. But I don’t think I’m trying to think of a piece of theatre. Well, you know what, I’ve left theatre when I really didn’t like it. I just didn’t care. Like I really should this I have better things to do. But I haven’t done that in many, many, many years. I think when I was a bit bit less patient when I was younger, a young whippersnapper, I probably would have left the theatre. But I Yeah, yeah. It’s it’s a sense of personal boundary, and a placement and a knowing of what’s happening. And who Where’s it coming from? If I’m feeling this word triggered is also really interesting to me. Because I do feel like it’s also it can be weaponized. Yes. Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And so I don’t know, I don’t I really respect your point of view. I don’t know if I fully agree. But I really appreciate the discourse.

Phil Rickaby
I think there’s some the whole topic is something that we’ve there are people who will tell you that you have to do it. Soon as people say you have to do it. I’m like, it’s kind of my choice as the producer as the as as the creator of this thing. And if I choose to do it and I the times that I haven’t done it, I look back and I think I should have but I also stand by not doing it at that time. I grew from there and decided that I needed to do it in the future. I think whenever we say the form has to contain this if it we have to have a trigger warning or or we have to have a we have to have a land acknowledgement. Like now we are into like as soon as we say you we have to do it. Now we are putting constraints on the form. And we are trying to we’re sort of taking away A the idea of theatre growing and flourishing, we’re putting it in a box.

Natércia Napoleão
Yeah, and we’re surrounding many aspects with fear. And to the point where we can’t even offer any opposition or conversation around why we’re doing what we’re doing. Land acknowledgments is a great topic for that. And I think we need to talk about it, and we need to be allowed to talk it out. Yeah. When people hear me talk about my views on on trigger warnings, I’m, I’m guessing that some people will will be outraged by what I’m saying. And some people will go don’t she kind of has a point here and there and there’ll be people go, I completely agree with her. And, and that’s all okay. It’s all okay. But I’m just I will always fight for the discourse around this. And as someone who’s slowly and slowly inching into leadership, I would really like to foster a space where we can have these conversations. And as a team as a creative team, we can arrive at our choices mindfully, instead of arriving at them through peer pressure or a sense of, Well, we just have to do it, it doesn’t matter what we think. I think that’s incredibly empty performative, and it’s not doing anything for the art form.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. And it goes back to, you know, us forgetting and not being able to have difficult conversations, the idea of whether to have a trigger warning or not, or a content warning is some people have very strong opinions about. And so it’s important that we learn to have the conversation. Without hysterics, I hate that word, but without shouting, without without being over the top without ultimatums and like, come to like an understanding about whether we are or not,

Natércia Napoleão
of course, and we need to hear each other. Right. It’s like, as I’m hearing you, push back on me, I’m, I’m sitting here going. Thank you. Thank you for the discourse. Thank you for pushing back, thank you for not swallowing your disagreement and voicing it. Because I’m now intrigued, and I’m fascinated. And I trust, Phil, that you’re a person who would do this again, and thank goodness that you would. So I think,

Phil Rickaby
I think it’s like, like I said, when I said that we there was some very lively conversation back and forth about this. When I was talking about it, I’m not kidding. And there were people who had some very good points on both sides. And I think that it is something to be discussed. Like, almost everything in this industry, we should be discussing it and and even if it makes us uncomfortable, we should be having the conversation, especially if it makes us uncomfortable, we should be having the conversation,

Natércia Napoleão
of course. And I think we will get there. When we model and we teach each other through example, after example, that we can do that without cancelling each other without exiling each other. We need to have the space to talk. And you know, I’ll also add this, I think a lot of my current views are from the position of being a creator myself. And so I had to travel through this when I was writing Michener Park, and contemplating maybe rewrites that need to happen, potential rewrites, and, you know, creating a company and going well, what do I think? Where would I like to start? Because as the playwright, I think I have a big voice in that I think I have a huge voice in determining whether my play will have trigger warnings.

Phil Rickaby
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. This has been a great conversation. I want to thank you for having it. And, and thank you for coming on the podcast.

Natércia Napoleão
Thank you so much for having me.

Stageworthy on Google Podcasts

Stageworthy on Apple Podcasts

Stageworthy on Spotify

Stageworthy Twitter Feed

StageworthyPod

- 2 hours ago

@partonandpearl @Toronto_Fringe @partonandpearl would you be interested in a live stream talk about the shows you review sometime in week 2?
h J R
StageworthyPod

- 5 hours ago

@philrickaby: Tomorrow is the start of theatre Christmas, also known as @Toronto_Fringe. Sadly, I'm in rehearsal mode for my own fringe show, so I won't be able to see as much as I want, but I'm seeing as much as I can. follow my coverage on the @stageworthypod insta and tiktok.
h J R
StageworthyPod

- 10 hours ago

This week on Stageworthy, host @philrickaby talks to storyteller and serial entrepreneur, @VikkiVelenosi about her #FringeTO show: 2 Robs, 1 Cup: : What Happens When You’re Done Eating Shit? #TheaTO Listen now at https://t.co/Vx85xxavyd https://t.co/TeMg6wqn8S
h J R
StageworthyPod

- 1 day ago

@itskyliethomps1 I'm doing my best to see as many shows as possible, but between day job and my own rehearsals I'm pretty limited. You're on my radar!
h J R