Phil Rickaby
Welcome to Episode 234 of Stageworthy, the LIVE edition I’m your host Phil Rickaby Stageworthy is a podcast about people in Canadian theatre featuring conversations with actors, directors, playwrights and more. And my guest tonight is Franny McCabe-Bennett. Hi Franny.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Hi.

Phil Rickaby
So how are you doing in all of this?

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Um, yeah, great question.

I’m really up and down with it, to be honest, the first two weeks Ah, that I was doing like I was doing a self isolation quarantine back. Back in the old days when we thought if you did like a 14 day isolation after you may have been exposed then you can to re enter the world in some way back when that was happening, mid March, I did those two weeks and then realised no this is just my new life. This is life now. And that was really really tough that time period was really difficult like the adjustment into something that I thought was temporary and to something being vaguely permanent but also vaguely we don’t know was really really hard. I would say this last week and a half so it’s beginning of this week is oh god it’s only Tuesday. I would say the last like week or so I’ve been much more normal feeling like feeling like okay, well this sucks but I’m not as troubled by it as I was originally so I don’t know but then every once in a While something will hit me in a wave that will be really crappy. So, I don’t know, how are you? How are you doing?

Phil Rickaby
You know, I have an advantage that I’m an introvert. And so in some ways, I’m doing pretty well. I would like to have the option to, you know, go for brunch or go to coffee with a friend or something. But yes, I’m pretty good at at spending many days on my own. That said, video does not replace face to face conversation. And so, here I am and videos pretty much all we got.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Yes. Yeah. It’s really hard and weird. Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
yeah. And of course, as you mentioned, like those first that, first little while thinking oh this is just two weeks and then we can Off we go back into the world. How naive we all were though. In those old days so long ago in what feels like last year?

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Yes, I know. I know.

Unknown Speaker
Time is completely irrelevant. I feel like I i on my best days, I’m already someone who like I can turn like into a nocturnal vampire person like but in on the drop of a hat, like if I stay up past midnight I’m like, Okay, and so I’ll just be up until 7am. And I’ll sleep all day. And this is my new life. Like that happens to me very quickly anyway. Right. So that plus this like, vaguely, I haven’t had this much disorientation around time, since I think being like a kid and when it’s like summer, and you’re just like, I know, eventually school will happen, but it’s not today. Yeah, that’s as much as I can gather and then suddenly, one day someone’s like, we’re buying pens. You’re like, Oh, I guess it’s happening soon. Like, I feel like a tiny child. And then I have no idea what it what is happening every day. It’s bizarre.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, there are no markers in there. None of the things that would normally tell us what day of the week it is. And I feel that way and I’m working from home my day job is still going. And yet I, since I don’t really leave the house, except maybe a walk in the morning, there’s nothing that tells me. Ah, this is a day when I don’t work that it all feels the same.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Mm hmm. Yes

Phil Rickaby
Now you have- you. I mean, you have the additional thing that that you were expecting to be getting sort of slowly ramping up the the Hamilton fringe as as an associate producer there?

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Yes. Yes, exactly. Correct. So I’m in a funny spot now. So we announced exactly week ago last Tuesday, that the festival as we know it would be cancelled for this year because we just there’s no way of At this point, honestly, I don’t think it’s realistic that group events will be happening in late July anyway. But at the point where we made the decision, we were thinking, you know, even if those events can happen, we won’t know what that reality will look like until it’s far too late to plan for it. So even if, you know we were able to somehow have people do stuff, it would be far too late to actually put anything together and our artists weren’t able to rehearse because they’re not you know, unless they’re doing online rehearsals or whatever but they it’s just super bonkers and and weird for everyone. And it seems like it’s just dominoes of, you know, the earlier festivals, fringe festivals cancelling, and just as time ticks, it seems every day that it gets closer to a festival opening another festivals like well count us out. So yeah, it’s very weird and and sad and I’m also in this kind of funny spot personally where my day job is right now, being the associate producer for Hamilton fringe, I’ve been in that role for just about a year, it would have been last April I started, but I am also an actor and have performed in fringes and so I really have this tearing up of me. You know, that being the producer side and, and trying to look at everything logistically, but then also feeling awful for the artists and then also the majority of my community, like just people in my life are connected to the arts, either professionally or, you know, passionately has a passion and seeing everybody cancel having to cancel and not able to do their work and it’s been really brutal. And I’ve got this funny thing. So we took a week to like, we made our announcement and then we all were like our brains are broken. We’re very sad. We’re going to take a break off like far away. Week. And then we’re going to start to think about what maybe if there’s another version or format, and I have no answers about that we still don’t know. But we’re starting to kind of dip our toes back into the world of like, Is there something we can do? Or do we just spend all this time and have like, you know, we’re not the most smoothly run festival in 2021, then we’ll never be and it’s impossible. Because now you know, we’ve got all the time in the world do you plan and get everything organised? So I don’t even know yet. What I’m supposed to be working on like, and I have this weird like, kind of survivor’s guilt of like, okay, we cancelled the festival and all my friends who were actors, no one can work and no one can do anything. And then I opened my email today to try and start to do some fringe stuff in some capacity. And part of me is like, Oh, I feel bad doing this, but also, I need, you know, to survive and I live the fringe and I want the French to survive and grow in Do well, but Oh, it’s like everything is so complicated now.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I feel like all of the things like this, for me fringe and fringe all over the country is something that, that I look forward to. I look forward to hearing about shows that are happening somewhere else that I might not be able to see. And I look forward to having those shows come to the city where I am or being driving with distance and hearing people’s triumphs and stories about about fringe and all that and life on the in the fringe circuit. And as every day goes on, it seems like that’s not even going to happen, especially when you look at like an Edmonton fringe not happening, which is one of the tentpole fringe festivals of the Canadian Fringe Circuit.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Hmm. Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
at what point did you I mean, I think that everybody sort of has been suspecting and it doesn’t really come as a surprise to anybody that these that the festivals are having to be cancelled. There’s some are calling it’s postponed. At what point were you up until when were you like trying to hold out hope that the festival would still happen?

Franny McCabe-Bennett
we had been starting to put like contingency plans together in from early March, like as soon as things started to get kind of weird or we’re hearing rumblings and, you know, health public health measures were getting more strict we, we knew that it was possible. So we had that planning of like, this is version A of the festival totally normal. This is version B of the festival. Maybe we do only local artists and the capacities are way smaller in the venues. This is version C of the festival like we had all these different plans with the last one being a cancellation and it seemed like every hour, there was news and updates and changes and information coming to us from our venue partners and artists asking questions and what if we had new policies and we were, you know, being as proactive as we could, but then also responding to, you know, we had like a plan, we were gonna send out a newsletter came over when at some point a couple weeks ago. And then we’re like, No, we certainly can’t send out a newsletter because, you know, Trudeau just made whatever announcement about whatever thing and it would be completely bananas like to send out that messaging or we were gonna, you know, have we had a social media plan that we were going to be promoting our family friend shows during March Break, because that makes sense. People are looking for fun games, and we were like, great, we had this whole little thing rolled out. And then the Ontario government announced that March Break, the schools were going to be closed and everything was starting to get ramped up. We’re like, Oh, well, we clearly can’t. Like that would be totally unprofessional and bizarre to be pushing messaging for kids programmes when people are scared to have kids together in groups like that we can’t do that. And we also thought if there’s a chance any of these artists choose to pull their shows before we had officially cancelled anything, we also thought we can’t be like false advertise or make these artists feel compelled to, you know, either stick with us or make a big show of like, why did you say we do a show if we might want to get so we It was really like every hour that we were reevaluating and going through everything, everything everything. And then the official announcement happened on Tuesday of last week. And we had come to the decision. I think we all saw it coming like no one was surprised. But by the end of the like invite near the end of the week before we were like we think this is fairly likely and we have a very close relationship with the Toronto fringe because the cities are so close we have so many crossover artists, a lot of you know, like I personally like we used to work for Toronto fringe now I’m at Hamilton fringe and still have close relationships there and our exec director and the exec director in Toronto are very close and they’ve been super helpful with lots of different things because we’re, you know, on the smaller side and we will often can like idea, share with them and resource share and they are always very generous with their resources and, and positions on things. So we also knew like if Toronto is not going to go ahead, then that’s a cue for us because we just have so many shared things. And we really do find that in the artistic community. It’s usually very helpful for us but as soon as Toronto decides to introduce a new initiative or having Way of programming or is making a policy change whatever, artists immediately come to us and say, Are you doing that? What are you doing? Or is anything changing? What do you think about that? So we knew that even just if Toronto was unable to go ahead, and we were undecided, we would be bombarded by people asking, okay, there, what are you doing? Like we knew that, that we need the immediate response. So we were also in conversation with them about what they were thinking. And it just became very clear to both festivals that it was, it was not possible. But I mean, we saw it come in, like we saw the horizon from afar. But we really were holding on until really within days of the announcement it we were really hoping that it would be doable. So

Phil Rickaby
I think that’s the case. with pretty much everybody is that is the hope, oh, if we just wait long enough, maybe it will. It’ll go we’ll be able to go ahead. I had my suspicions that this was might be a summer without theatre when Broadway. Hmm. Shut down. And as soon as I started to hear, you know that as things started to go on and, and thinking about the idea of like this finishing, let’s say that we, you know, in early June everybody is able to go back out into the world. Will they be comfortable in an audience?

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Yes. Oh my gosh, that was something we were talking about quite often. And, you know, we’re a member of CAFF, which is a Canadian Association of French festivals. And it’s actually a sort of a North American because we have quite a few American festivals that are part of that membership. And we’ve been having weekly meetings for a month at least now. And just because everyone there was so much happening all the time and from all across North America that it felt essential to be updating with everybody constantly and yeah Like it just it did just feel like this wave, this ripple effect this wave of what’s going to be happening. But then there, there was also an interesting perspective of, you know, some of the like, smaller festivals felt theoretically safer than bigger festivals because maybe you have less people travelling, maybe your venues are smaller, you know, if your event if you’re a festival that has all your venues are less than 50 seats, okay. In some jurisdictions, that’s still allowed, you know, in some spots that still okay. So it just, but as we’re going along and getting more results and more information, and, you know, sort of gleaning information and spying on all of the countries who’ve started this journey earlier in Canada and seeing, you know, and I don’t know all the medical background, but I know that there have been some cases in South Korea where cases have reemerged. Were dormant and then come back. So now there’s lots of questions of, Okay, how what are the waves of this going to look like? And how long are those going to last? And how are those going to impact people? And yeah, I think your original question was about people feeling safe. And that was something as well that we thought, you know, if, if it turns out, we have no idea, like, we have no model to predict what this is going to be like, like, Is everybody going to be desperate to get out and go to a party? I think everyone’s gonna be desperate to like, go hug their closest friends and families. I know that I have a list. But I don’t know. I’m also watching movies and TV shows. And when people are like sitting like going to a party or sitting in a restaurant or holding hands with a stranger on a date, I’m like screaming at them like a getaway for each other.

Our minds have already warped into this vigilance, but I don’t know how long it’ll take to let it go.

Phil Rickaby
I did. I did hear a couple. I mean, people making comparisons with the 1918 Spanish flu. And and you know, there are lessons there about about lifting quarantine lifting the lockdown too early. But also the fact that you know the same thing sort of happened bars, theatres, movie, movie houses, those all closed down. And there was a period of time after that where people were still uncomfortable getting into a room together. Mm hmm. But one of the differences there is that because of the war, newspapers weren’t really printing stories about the flu. And so people who got sick were viewed with suspicion rather than now, as we are walking around in masks and we’re walking around each other and giving each other six feet of space or more. There’s sort of like a camaraderie in doing that. So instead of destruct distrusting others were at least sort of, you know, we’re together in our separateness. In some cases, I sort of looked at that as maybe a positive thing, but even with that, it’s going to be a while before it’s going to be a little while before we’re comfortable sitting in a theatre and hearing somebody cough and not freak out.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
I think at least until there’s a vaccine and everybody has been vaccinated. Yeah, for sure.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. Which of course means that, that that, you know, theatre is evolving. There’s, I think we’re in an early wave of, of theatre. We were talking last week with, with Cass Van Wyck and, and Michael Ross Albert, about about zoom theatre and what works and what doesn’t, and I think we’re in a very early stage of, of desperate experimentation, where we’re having what essentially is an a remote office meeting, but trying to stage theatre that way. I think maybe as as time goes on, we can come up with other other options and other ways to do it. But because we all have a need to create, it’s not just that, you know, no, we’re not all sitting here saying, oh, now look at me, because I’m the actor, I can keep you entertained, we have a need to create and performance, so we’re going to find other ways to do it.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Mm hmm.

Phil Rickaby
And maybe that sort of like leans into what some of the festivals might might try to do, because you don’t want to just cancel the best parts of the summer.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Yes, yes, I got and something that came up in, in a meeting. I don’t know who coined this term. So I would attribute it if I could, but unfortunate, I’m not sure who created it. But there was a discussion of something called panic content, versus, you know, content that’s actually not that it’s like worthwhile but Something that’s being created out of a fear or a desperation or a desire of, you know, I know I can speak for myself personally, when we were talking about all the different options for fringe, for sure I was someone that was like, Okay, then we’ll just do it on mine. And then we’re like, yeah, okay, and how and how does that actually benefit the artist? And okay, so we’ll have to do things like make a worksheet so that we can tell artists this is you know, you need to consider your lighting, what’s your audio source? Are you recording are you going live like they’re all there’s so many more elements to it that that are worth considering. I’m always you know, my, my background as a fringe artist myself has been primarily solo shows or do shows that are like, you know, a suitcase show. It’s stuff that you you know, it’s it’s in my last few shows have been storytelling shows, essentially of me just on stage, talking about stuff. And so I’m very on board for you know, Just just get up and do it and it can be you sitting on a chair. And that’s fine. Like I understand that as well. I don’t think it has to be an aesthetic judgement. But I think it’s the driving force underneath it. Like, is it? Oh God, I have to make a thing. And so here’s the thing I made. And is there a self awareness around that? Or is it just, you know, a piece that’s going out into the space without still considering it as art for an audience to be consumed. And I think that we’re going to continue as you’re saying, I think we’re going to continue to refine and develop different skills, new skills, and find inventive creative ways to continue to feed that desire of I want to create work, I’ve got this spark of something or I feel the need to connect or whatever it is, in a way that is still sort of helpful for Everyone involved. So it’s not just an actor. You know, I can’t tell you for the first couple of weeks, I would look on Instagram. And it was like, the number of people that were going live on Instagram was huge. Like, I couldn’t scroll, I couldn’t get through the scrolling of how many people were offering content, which was really cool. But at the same time was like, Okay, so what do we how do I as a consumer, not less shopper, but how do I as somebody that’s taking this in? navigate this? So I think we do want to keep in mind like, how does this work for our audiences? accessibility is still a thing, particularly in festival world for moving back into that kind of frame. Something that is one of the core tenants of the fringe is that the ticket prices are accessible. So lots of different types of folks can take in the artwork and what do you do like if then everything has to be online. About people that don’t have a reliable internet connection. What about people that don’t use devices? What about people that are sending emails once a week from the library? Because that’s the best way that that works for them. That’s the only option they have, you know, if those public spaces are gone, if a coffee shops, Wi Fi isn’t open to you, you know, how do we still try and serve those folks? And I don’t have an answer for for that one. But I think there’s a lot of questions that are going to continue to come up that people are going to continue to explore and try to answer.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I agree with that. I think and it’s interesting that that term, panic, panic theatre, panic making panic, panic content. And I think we did see a lot of that in the first few weeks. I know, because just a thought for the last month or so the thought of creating something seemed impossible because of the thick layer of anxiety that was hanging in the air. And like the idea of sitting down and writing something or doing something like that just seemed like, what could I write about? What could I do? I could talk about how I’m freaking out and panic scrolling in my apartment. Or I can just allow myself to feel that and hope that later on, I will feel like making something.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Yes, yes. And there’s also this interesting… At first, it seemed like there was a really intense pressure and expectation that everyone would be productive and everyone would be making and sharing and showing. And it seems that people have realised how any sort of universal expectation is unrealistic. Yeah, of course, some people are totally going to fall into that category, and that’s great. But there’s also a lot of people that are going to say, I know I can’t, or I want to, but I’m not able to or I don’t want to or Whatever. So I have been sort of relieved to see that there’s been some kind of pushback from people of, I’m seeing lots of memes of like, you can just sit there like it’s okay. And I think it puts artistic folks in an even Wilder space because we’re used to the hustle. We’re constantly submitting for things, I just think four things. Okay, that didn’t come through, okay. I’ve talked to 10 different people about 10 different projects, and dah dah, dah, dah, dah. And I think that drive of Okay, I’m so used to being in the grind of this. But now, how I don’t know how I’m in a new universe, like, I was making a joke to my friends. If I connected with someone, they’d say, you know, how are you doing? I say, Gosh, I don’t know what data is. I don’t know what planet I’m on. Like, I don’t know. Where am I in space, like, so to try and if you were in one of those frames of mind, seeing that, you know, Shakespeare wrote King Lear. All right. Well Think I’m gonna take a nap, you know? Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. I mean, it is a strange headspace to be in if you spent a lot of your time auditioning and submitting for things and looking for auditions and that hustle, because now that hustle doesn’t even exist. There’s nothing to submit for. There’s nothing to audition for. There’s no one to hustle to. And so what do you do with your time aside from worrying about, you know, rent?

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Yeah, yes. I don’t know.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I mean, I don’t think anybody does. That’s the thing and yeah, and only only time is going to tell as we go on. How I mean, aside from outside of fringe, have you been a Have you been feeling any creative things coming your way or are you completely Are you still in the I’m just going Just sit here and take a nap.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Um, it’s kind of coming and going. And I would say, I, I feel like right now I’m in a space where I’m having a lot of ideas, but I feel like the execution either feels too complicated or I don’t know how or like, Oh, great, like, that’s a cool idea. I’ll save that for when I can do it. You know, I’m kind of in that space. where I’ll have these, like, really big plans, like almost like, it’s reminding me of, you know, New Year’s resolutions where I’m like, I’m going to exercise every day, and I’m going to put a sticker on my calendar for every time I work out. And yeah, I’m having those thoughts, but about rd things. So things like, you know, I had this whole idea I’ve had I put a couple of videos up on Instagram of music things and they’re like, Oh, this is great. I haven’t been singing in years. I’m going to really dedicate this time to some singing and I’m going to do this whole thing and I keep coming up with all these like huge plans and strategies. And ideas and then doing one of them and being like, that seems fine.

So overall, we didn’t do anything else. Yeah, so i don’t know i don’t i’m i’m a bit all over the place.

Phil Rickaby
I think that we’re all kind of all over the place because this is uncharted territory for all of us. For everybody, this everything is new and different and unknown. And that is not a great place to be. It’s one thing to be in the art. Some people will say, Oh, it’s so uncertain being in the arts. Never before like this was like, there are things that we could know. We there are things that we could know like, I have a job at a restaurant, I have this job. I’m going to go to these auditions. Here’s the things that’s coming up. We don’t know if the theatre is going to open in three months, six months a year. We don’t know. So so it’s how how we can how anybody can expect you to not be all over the place. I don’t know.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Yeah, yeah, I would explain it to people who aren’t in the theatre world of like, they’re like, Oh, so what’s an actor? What’s it like a natural like mostly it feels like I go on job interviews all the time for jobs that I know won’t hire me. So, just think about when you’re job hunting that like stressful month, when you decide you’re going to leave your last job, you’re going to find a new job. I was like that all the time. But now I’m like, it’s that but also there are no jobs. It’s like that, but also I’m in a black hole and the world is underwater, and I I don’t have legs anymore somehow, like, everything is just crazy.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I’ve given myself the freedom for naps. I mean, I’ve been feeling naps for a little while now. But there are times I’d be like, No, you can’t take naps during the week. naps are for the weekend. Now I’m all about like, if I feel like I need a nap, that nap is happening and I don’t care what day it is because Somehow, when everything when the overwhelm takes you, you just sort of have to turn your brain off for that a while.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Yeah, I actually was talking about that with my mom, my, my grandma lived in a senior’s residence and so she’s, we don’t really see her she is on a she has a balcony. So sometimes my mom will be able to, you know, wave to her on her balcony, but we can do anything beyond that. And but she was talking to my mom on the phone and saying, she’s like sleeping so so so much. And my mom was talking about sleeping and, yeah, it’s a it’s a trauma response. It’s something that our body does when we’re overwhelmed, and we need to take a timeout, it’ll your brain was like, goodbye. You’ve had enough. Now you’re asleep. And I think listening to that is is smart and unnecessary and important, I think. I think it’s, I think it’s healthy to do that. Absolutely. And I’m really lucky My, my colleagues that at the Hamilton fringe, like just our we’re a little small group of three core members on the summer projects. And then we have a fourth team member that works with us with our youth programming and our winter festival. And then we hire a whack of seasonal and contract folks. But our immediate little tight circle is really super understanding and supportive and lovely and great. And I’m so lucky, because I’ve been changing my like work schedule almost every week because I keep trying to find ways to kind of accommodate things and I used to work three full days for them a week, I’d do like a 10 to six or a nine to five, whatever. And then I would do other projects on other days. And I just had been trying to really figure out my hours because I realised doing my normal day I just can’t focus like I can’t constant Right, it’s my brain goes all over the place. And since everything is remote, I’m on computer and internet all day. And it’s so easy to just fall into a quick or I also read our social media. So I’m like, Okay, great. I’ll post a thing on Facebook and then like, Oh, no, I’ve been reading articles on Facebook that are completely unrelated to work or whatever. So I’ve had to totally shift my schedule. So now I’m working, like five hours a day on more days, like I and I might even have to break that up and make it even I’m thinking do I just do three hours a day? Every single day like what do we do like it’s just it just like the coping mechanisms seem to be switching just as quickly as everything else. Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
I don’t know about you, but I really miss going to work. This whole working from home, not for me, because, you know, I wake up, I work in the same place. finished work and I guess I move over to the couch now. There’s no sea change. I’m not surrounded by the people like everybody who’s focused on work. There’s something about being in the same room with people if you’re able to do that is like, that helps you focus and I feel like like every day, just focusing on work is a huge struggle.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Mm hmm. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
So what? Yeah, sorry. Go ahead.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
No, just yeah.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. So in all of this, we all have to find our moments of joy and things that are for want of a better term giving us life things that are carrying us through what are the things whether theatre or art related or otherwise that are helping you to get through all of this right.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Um, I would say my biggest like thing that really shifted because the first couple weeks were bad, like I deal with anxiety just in general. That’s how my brain goes. But the first couple of weeks of this, it was extremely difficult. Like I was not functioning very well at all. I had to re get in touch with my therapist who I hadn’t talked to in a little while. And she was like, yep, here I am. And thank goodness, that was great. And it just was really hard. Like I was not doing well. I was terrified to leave my house, a bunch of old, you know, Brain Stuff that had been by thought resolved all came raring back up and in at this time of crisis, and so it was really, really tough. And I worked really hard to like, get back in control of those things and put some practices back in place in a more active way. But a big thing that’s what like helps me really feel more normal and since since that time, I’ve been Pretty much on an even keel. So I think it was a combination of everything together. But I went to I went on a date, a video date with my partner to an online dance party. Yeah, so we it’s my partner so I have two very lovely, different partners I’m polyamorous and also only god that’s been killing like, I’m somebody who’s very naturally like just connected to lots of different people in different communities and face to face time is a big deal for me. And I have these two very lovely people that I’m dating and those relationships were, uh, you know, just just kind of getting rolling into like their newer relationships. And so the timing of this was also especially like torture. Really, really frustrating because of the To the huge thing. And I know that a lot of people are being impacted in different ways. But I do feel like the extroverts are really taking a hit, and the polyamorous people are really taking a hit. And it’s just like, Oh, you like. So anyway, my, I am still having video dates with with them, which thank goodness, because I would completely be bananas if that weren’t happening. And so one of them suggested, why don’t we go to this dance party? And I had completely forgotten. I was like, yeah, sure, whatever. And then the day came up, and it was a Saturday and they’re like, okay, that dance party thing is tonight. And we’re both kind of like, like, do we? Do we have the energy? Or do we just watch another episode of like, the DND live play show that we watch?

How energetic are we feeling tonight? And we were like, No, you know what? Let’s do it. Like it’s free. It’s this like queer events. And if we were in the city, like we were in person, we’d be going So let’s just see what happens. And so we got ready together like over video and picked her outfits and did her makeup and whatever. And then I had a I had it rigged up so that my phone was a video date with my partner. And then my computer was like the zoom giant mega thing. So I could like, see both and interact with both. And it ended up I had such a great time. Like it was so much fun. I felt so connected. I actually felt like I was in a different space. Like I felt like I was actually in a different world. And for me, the most exciting thing was seeing the way it was set up. It would the screen would like scroll through just randomly scroll through all different people’s videos. So you could do a video or not if you didn’t want to be on video, but there were at one point there had to be probably 200 people and people are kind of in and out and pretty consistently between 80 and 100 50 people grew up at night. And just seeing everyone in their own house and feeling like, No, we aren’t like we are all we’re all doing it like we all have to and we’re all doing it. And seeing people in their own little spaces was so reassuring and felt like such a tight community. And there’s also the chat happening because it was a zoom meeting, which has chat option. So people were able to comment on what was happening or just talk about whatever and there was like, people in their kitchen making dinner and then when the camera would go, like when they would be a featured video, they’d like wave their spatula, and they’re like dog was john and then there was like, one person who had a very tiny baby that was clearly less than like two months old. That was like just sitting in their lap falling asleep. I was like, this is amazing like this. Yeah. And it also felt like this couldn’t happen in real life. Like this person making pasta might not be here. Like if they want to just stay. They might not be out and then Little tiny baby would definitely not be allowed the dogs can’t come in real life like seeing all these different things and then people had really done fun things where they’d set up like crazy flashing lights to make it look like a club and then it would go to someone else’s space and they would like lying in their bed just being like hi nothing but still participating and and just there’s this one person who was dancing like so such a fun dancer like dancing all over the place. Lots of fancy moves in like a cool outfit like a bikini kind of skimpy outfit, you’re all wild moves in a room that was clearly full of books like in a library. And then at one point through evening, they just had all these different foods that they were eating and then they were doing these like, really killer moves with like this never ending bowl of noodles and it was just fast. Like I had such a great time. I have such a great time and then my partner’s on the video dates with her like okay, I’m getting tired. I’m gonna Bad nose like okay, and throughout the evening, a few friends that I hadn’t planned to meet up with, were also there and saw me when I was on the video and sent me messages being like, Oh my god, you’re here and it really felt like bumping into friends at a bar, like, we got a get in. And that was really, really fun. And then my other partner ended up just going there like for their evening social thing, and then sent me a message and was like, hey, like, I want to have a dance with you. And I was like, Well, my date just ended because my other partner went to bed like, you want to have a date and they’re like, yeah, and so when I got to hang out with them for like, the last hour of the night, and it just was such a healing connecting thing and it was fun and I moved my body and I was wearing an outfit that I definitely wouldn’t wear if I was just in my house like I was in like dancing clothes and I had done kind of wild makeup and it really transported me and took me to another place and and felt like I was in that other place with a bunch of other people. It was Huge and the next morning I woke up after that. And it was the first morning since everything had been happening that I felt completely calm. Like I felt completely like, this is fine. Like, do I love it? No. Is it choices I would be making for myself? No. But is it going to hurt me? No. Is it going to impact my like knife? negatively? No. Am I going to be able to get up today and have breakfast and, you know, knit a blanket and not feel like the world is ending? Yes, I think I will. And it was the first day that I really felt like the book before times. And it was huge. And that feeling has I’ve been able once I had a taste of that feeling, I’ve been able to hold on to it and and kind of eke it out and stretch it out.

And I think really seeing all those different people was just so important for me personally. Just to see. And it’s very easy for me to, I try really hard to be an empathetic person, like a kind, caring person. Those are important qualities to me and I really do try and imagine things from lots of different perspectives. But anytime I would hear of someone just kind of breaking the quarantine rules casually popping out or, you know, making a choice so that, like, I’ve been like, no one goes in or out. Yeah, like really being strict. And so, I know, there’s different reasons that can accommodate for that, but when I would hear the ones that were just kind of like, Oh, I’m just gonna like real quick, just quickly dip out and do this thing that I know I’m not supposed to and I don’t really need you, but I was gonna do it anyway, because probably it’ll be fine. Those kind of stories. Were starting to really tear me up. So there was something in the solidarity of, you know, yeah, everyone’s Just in their house because they gotta be. Yeah. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
Are there ways that you’re thinking that you can? Because as much as you can stretch this, this event and the feeling from this event further, other is there? Are you thinking that? I mean, eventually it’s going to Peter out? Is there another way that you can think of to keep that going? Or are there other dances that you’re aware of that are coming up or just to just to help keep that?

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Yeah, I know there are a lot of different events like that that are happening, this specific one that that I was involved in those through lavender, which is a queer fam event thing that happens in Toronto that is happening online, but I know there’s a bunch, there’s a bunch and most of them are free. So if anyone’s curious, like just google online dance party, there’s going to be a million options for you if that specific thing sounds interesting. There’s a lot of things that are moving into you know, Zoo Whatever I’m sure we, we all could list a bunch of those different categories of stuff. I know people that are hosting knitting circles and painting parties and, you know, movie watching and all sorts of things. So that’s definitely, if anyone is craving like, I feel like what you would normally do in your normal life, just see what the replacements are for that like that that event I would have gone to in real life. And I also keep doing the thing that I call it real life and not real life.

In real life, I would have gone to that but in quarantine life. I declined.

Phil Rickaby
I mean that’s, that’s not a I think that terminology is not so unusual. I mean, we don’t think of quarantine life is real life. It is an extenuating, strange circumstance. And we can’t wait until our real lives get to get to happen again. Yeah, you know, I know my friends that like handshakes are out when this is over. Yeah, yeah, shaking your hand. I am hugging you. I don’t care. You know, like, yeah, been like long enough that a handshake is? No, it’s hugs from now on.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
absolutely, absolutely. I feel like everyone’s gonna like the first day we’re allowed to do stuff. I can’t tell you how many sleepover parties people are gonna be having. Absolutely. We’re all gonna be going back to our roots of like, let’s stay all up like stay up late and we’re 10 of us are going to sleep on the floor and just be near each other and just

Phil Rickaby
Yes, absolutely, absolutely. Yeah,

Franny McCabe-Bennett
I guess if I had any like advice from nothing It would be to try and my sister was talking about this. I’m very lucky in that I have a sister who has a clinical psychology PhD. She’s a practising psychologist, so every every once in a while, but that’s a lie very often and like and so she has decided she’s taking an approach of just trying to live as normally as possible. So still taking in, you know, important health information and following whatever rules or rules, but otherwise trying to just live as normally as possible and stop feeding that sense of this is impossible and this is so bizarre and everything so crazy and, and seeing what that does. And I’m, I’m gonna like I very recently like yesterday was like I’m gonna try and be more mindful about that too. And I think that was a big part of why that impacted me so much was that it felt like a normal like I was able to get a dose of a normal thing. I also have, like a history like I’m five years sober and so I always have to be careful of like, for me, it was like a hit of like normal. Oh, i got a taste!

Phil Rickaby
yes, yes.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
So very soothing but I also can go into the world. have like bingeing on stuff too. Because I was like, I’m like, okay, maybe today, or finding the next dance party. But yeah, yeah, I think trying to.

And maybe it’s also just the time, like, more time has passed. Things just are settling a little bit more, I have a better sense of what my day is going to look like. And I have a better sense of what kinds of feelings I might have. So even if it’s a day, that’s a hard day, I’m like, Okay, well, it’s a hard day. It’s not like and now what is that day? Yeah. And then when I wake up, and I’m like, Oh, it’s a good day. Great. I’m gonna take advantage of that by you know, being a bit more effective today or whatever. So, some of it might just be that time has passed and and for me, in particular with the fringe because we had so much like we don’t know we don’t know we’re holding we’re waiting, even for us to just say, okay, it’s done. was so Have an end of a chapter that was very hard to manage. So, the cancellation was, of course, disappointing, but was at least like, Okay, well, at least we have something solid, you know,

Phil Rickaby
there’s a certain anxiety to not knowing, right? Like, absolutely to have that hanging over your head where we have to make a decision when we’re waiting for you to make a decision, are we going to do it or we’re not going to do it? That’s, that’s tense and then to actually make that decision, and it’s not the one you want, but it’s a decision. That’s, you know, takes a lot of weight off. Yeah.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Yeah. I was feeling a lot of pressure for the artists of Yeah, just knowing like, how hard it was for us. I think it was harder for them because they’ll control you know, and and until they knew even what was happening with like their money like before, because some festivals were updating their withdrawal policies and some weren’t, and some were making decisions but had lots of options. And nothing was confirmed yet. And there’s so much up in the air that I person was feeling a lot of responsibility for. Knowing that people were having sleepless nights and knowing that every time we sent an email, even if the email is just like, Hey, no news, but we’re here. Even just getting that in an inbox could be triggering or Yeah, be upsetting for someone or disappointing. And so for me, yeah, just even though it was not a decision that we took lightly, and it was hard, emotionally, it was also very, when it was clear, it was incredibly clear, like as soon as we were like, okay, okay. What else can we do? There’s nothing he can do. No. So there was some I don’t know sense of calmness and certainty in that that I did appreciate.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. Yeah. Well, Frankie, thank you so much for having this conversation with me tonight. And Good luck with the next few few weeks and I look forward to to touching base with you again.

Franny McCabe-Bennett
Yes For sure. Happy to talk, got lots of time.

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