Phil Rickaby
Welcome to Episode 248 of Stageworthy I’m your host Phil Rickaby. Stageworthy is a podcast about people in Canadian theatre featuring conversations with actors, directors, playwrights and more.

You know, I’ve been thinking more and more about the future of our industry. theatres have been closed for like four months now as I record this and there doesn’t look like there’s any sign of them opening back up. Now in places that have entered stage three of the emergency measures, some of the movie theatres have reopened. But the distancing required to allow that means that the audiences are smaller and more spread out, making a theatre that normally holds hundreds, reduce their audience to 50 and that’s for a movie theatre. It really isn’t financially feasible to do this in the live theatre where we not only have the cost of the box office in front of house, but we have our onstage talent and we have backstage crew and we have stage management and all of the other things that go into running a live production.

Even though some of the theatre companies suggested early on in the pandemic that they would plan to reopen in January as we go forward, it really seems likely that that won’t happen, and that we won’t see the reopening of theatres until much later. And maybe not until next summer at the latest. Which means that if, if creators are going to keep creating, we will be grappling with live streaming video for a while longer, which means that we are going to have to innovate and find new ways to use the platforms that are widely being used and push them to and past their limits. We’re going to have to be ready to experiment with new platforms.

We have to get away from the Brady Bunch grid of platforms like zoom. Because we need to find ways to make the video we’re presenting more dynamic. So many people, myself included, spend many hours have each day in video conferences. And when we present our plays in the same format with the grid of all the people, it can be difficult for an audience to separate that format from what they spend so much time doing at work, which can make our presentations less appealing. So we need to experiment with with new models and new formats and make our live streaming feel more theatrical.

But even more important for the future of the industry, at least for the near future of the next few months, we have to realistically start thinking about monetizing our live streams. For the past few months, we’ve been giving away our productions or offering them in a pay which you can and I wonder if that has been a bad precedent. At the beginning it felt necessary. People needed entertainment, it seemed right for us to give it to them. There was so much uncertainty and fear in the world that anything we could do might be a help but now, that’s become the norm and it is not sustainable.

While we aren’t having to rent performance spaces, we have had other expenses and navigating video. Some of us have upgraded our computers or bought new webcams, new software taking courses and we’ve had to learn completely new technologies and skills. So it’s not like we don’t have expenses, we just have different expenses, but they are expenses all the same.

We can’t keep giving away our art and expect to survive. We need to find ways to find a balance between presenting our art and making a living. I think we can do both. And if the situation goes along as I think it might, we are going to need it. I’m just I’m just one guy. That’s my opinion. I’m curious what you think. If you disagree, let me know. You can find stage worthy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @stageworthypod, and you can find the website with the archive of all 248 episodes at stageworthypodcast.com. And if you want to drop me a line, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @PhilRickaby and My website is PhilRickaby.com.

My guest this week is Spencer Streichert. Spencer is a multidisciplinary artist specialising in comedy stunts, performing theatre film, you name it and he is based in Calgary, Alberta.

One of the downsides to Canadian media and Canadian theatre is that we don’t get to speak to each other and we don’t get interviewed very often. And so there’s a lot of a lot of nerves involved in that.

Spencer Streichert
Well and I I noticed because like, I Like, I do stand up as well. And I do a tonne of podcasts to promote stand up a lot of the time. So when I get opportunities to, you know, talk about theatre, it’s it does feel a lot more natural. It’s not as scary. I know a lot here, I’m sure there

Phil Rickaby
isn’t there. When you’re doing a comedy podcast, there’s the pressure to, quote unquote, perform and be funny.

Spencer Streichert
Mm hmm. There’s, there’s definitely a little bit of that pressure, but I think it depends on what the podcast is too. And, and it also depends, like I’ve done inside jokes, which is like a radio show in Toronto. I’ve done that a couple of times. And it’s very conversational. And and it’s, it’s more of a roundtable discussion about things than it is like having to try and be funny. So it does kind of help because it just makes you relax. I think a little bit more when you’re Yeah, having that pressure and I think it makes it funnier to if you’re not so invested in that one goal. Throughout the Whole thing, right? It just yeah, it feels the same as being in a scene with somebody and then if you’re hyper focusing on one detail, it’s not going to come across them.

Phil Rickaby
I cannot imagine the pressure of going on a quote unquote comedy Podcast, where you they sort of like the Alright, you’re promoting your comedy show make me laugh, because if there’s one thing that isn’t funny, it’s when somebody is like, make me laugh.

Spencer Streichert
Oh, entirely and

Phil Rickaby
you can never be funny.

Spencer Streichert
And and it’s that like, immediate pressure on the spot that just does not work at all. Because like, I myself, like I’m very I need to prepare before I go on stage for sure. Like, I’m not somebody who can go up and just kind of wing it. Like, I have to write out my material and like, have that down pact and know exactly what I’m going to say. So to try and be funny in the moment always just comes across as the most disingenuous thing that I can do. So if I’m having a conversation and something ends up being funny. It works out a lot better because I’m more of a writing comic than, you know, in the moment kind of comic.

Phil Rickaby
Do you know the podcast Good one?

Spencer Streichert
No, I don’t actually

Phil Rickaby
it’s a it’s a podcast where the host, sits down with a comedian. They play one of their jokes. And then they discuss the joke, how it’s written. It’s like a deep dive into the telling of a joke, the evolution of the joke and the writing of a joke. It’s quite fascinating.

Spencer Streichert
Oh, that would be really fun. Because there’s a lot of there’s, it’d be fun to hear how people get to that stage. Because I think it’s 100% different for everyone. Like to where you get to where like, it’s a polished thing. There’s been jokes that I’ve done the first time and I haven’t changed it after that, like I’ve, I’ve tried things and it hasn’t exactly worked. And then you know, went back to the way it was originally, but then there’s also jokes where you end up just tweaking it over the course of like a year and and it’s those small steps along the way and and also like just specific phrasing with things sometimes doesn’t work out and it just comes across as chunky so it’d be cool to see how other people get to that point because I know for myself I’m like I got to keep listening to what i what i what my last set was and see how I can improve on that like I record every set that I do just so that I have that you know, whiteboard to go to to kind of circle back and change the game plan a bit but

Phil Rickaby
yeah, there’s also the the documentary take about taking the Tarot which was like following up after, after her her cancer and the her famous bit at dead bumbershoot. And it actually followed one of the things it does, it follows a joke, like from the first time she tells it until she perfects it, because she’s one of those works on stage. She writes on stage Sort of people. So it’s fascinating to see the first time and then it’ll tell you see it a bunch of times and see how the joke evolves. But your your write it down kind of kind of comedian.

Spencer Streichert
Yeah, I’m definitely a like, I’ll write it down. And then I, so I have like three steps to it, I write it down. And I’ll keep rewriting something for like, months at a time before I even try it on stage. Sometimes. Sometimes it’s like the day of I’ll write it out. But I’ll write it a few different ways. And then I try it on stage a few different ways that I’ve written it. And I listen to those recordings, and then I go back and I rewrite it. And then usually, it’s like the fourth or fifth time that I do that cycle that I have a joke where I’m, I’m happy with it, and I’m getting laughs every you know, 10 seconds. Hopefully. Sometimes it’s you know, if it’s a longer joke, you you do have that a little bit of a leeway where you can have the laugh, like a little bit further away. From 10 seconds but like it’s got to be big at that point then so it’s all about the build with it. And I think when when it comes to crafting a joke like that, it It definitely takes more time. But I think that I’m, I’m more confident as a writer because of it.

Phil Rickaby
So which came first for you theatre or stand up?

Spencer Streichert
Uh theatre technically came first because like so I was born in Nelson and my mom. She was an actor in the 80s. And she had went to like the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles.

And then she, you know, did plays in Sydney, in Sydney, Australia, and she did a few like weird little gigs. She was in the movie Roxanne for like two seconds. Oh, yeah. Yeah. So she got like, she had a scene where she was in it with like Steve Martin, and it’s super weird. But So when I was young, like I started to get into, like the idea of like filmmaking and acting, and I was, you know, doing school plays and everything as a kid, and then we moved around a bit when I was younger, and then when I was 11, we settled in eastern Saskatchewan, which is a really small town. It’s like 500 people. It’s just north of the Montana border. And so there wasn’t really a lot of opportunity for theatre there. So I was rodeoing when I was a kid, like I ended up getting pretty good at that. I ended up at the Canadian cowboys Association finals when I was 16. So I had this like, weird kind of shift to focus, but I was still doing like community theatre, like there was like one play that would happen a year and there’d be like one school play that would happen a year and I would, I would, as I was getting older, I was more hesitant to do it. And I think it was because I was really enjoying it and I was afraid of You know, not having everything else that I was doing in my life. So then when I was 16, I got on a film as a stunt observer, because I had the rodeo background. And I knew, you know a little bit about film and stuff. And I was a persistent kid that just emailed accurate, almost daily in grade 11. To see how I could get into that, and so I ended up getting on this film, and I was a stunt observer on that. And then I didn’t really touch theatre or comedy for a while, like I didn’t start doing stand up until I was 19. And I had been doing film but I was I was trying to focus on stunt work, and then I just kind of kept going into acting like acting kept falling back into my life. And I would I would be, you know, brought on to be a stunt coordinator or a stunt performer and someone short film and then they’d be like, hey, you can act so why don’t you say these three or four lines so I slowly started to get into that more. And then when I was 19, I was like, Okay, well, if I’m if I’m going to commit to acting, I should also, you know, just get more confident as a performer and so I didn’t want to pay for acting classes at the time. So I figured I would do stand up because at least then it might not be acting but at least I was going to get comfortable being in front of people and and you know, not have that, that jitter and especially something that was totally new and alien to me. So I started doing stand up and then a year and a half later, I ended up going to university at the University of Calgary and was taking drama classes there. And that was when that was when I really got that bug to pursue theatre more. Because my first year at university, I ended up in all three of the main stages at the university that year and I was a lead in two of them. So I was like, okay, maybe I should focus on this a little bit more and really hone in on the craft. So Was it was kind of a bit of, like, theatre definitely came first, but comedy, like professionally came before theatre professionally, if that makes sense.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, it does. Um, what did stand up teach you about theatre? So even before you got to Theatre School, what did you take from from stand up that carried you through into theatre?

Spencer Streichert
I think it’s the biggest thing was feeling an audience’s energy and, and just like adjusting whatever you were doing to kind of work with that which not necessarily you you do that in, in every play that you’re doing. But I think you do find ways as a run of a show goes on that. Like, there’s different things that that work with different audiences, right. And then that helps you discover moments I think a little bit easier because you’re, you’re then not just playing off of your own energy and you’re seeing partners energy, but then there’s that element of the audience’s energy which is then bringing you a little bit more grounded I guess. And and that might not be for everyone, right? Like I know a lot of people that don’t like to look at the audience or all or, like have that, you know, they have that still feeling of nerves in front of an audience. But I think for for myself, I need that. That energy of a crowd like it just it helps me really stay invested in whatever I’m doing and I and I don’t know why it’s like that with theatre and I can, like I have no trouble dropping into those moments with film. But with theatre, it feels like when that when that element is missing, like performing in front of an empty house is like the worst feeling if you’re doing stand up or theatre, because you just don’t have that. That thing pushing you that that power pushing you.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, the idea of, of sort of sensing an audience, I think is something that in some theatre schools, they’d be like, Oh, we would never tell you to do that. Don’t do that. But there’s also the element of the fact that like, if you’re in a long run, if you’re doing a comedy and you can’t feel the audience, like the jokes are gonna die.

Spencer Streichert
Oh, yeah, no and and that was something last year I was really lucky. I got to do Shakespeare by the bow here in Calgary, which is an emerging artists programme that theatre Calgary puts on. And so you get to do like, a whole run in in the summer. And it’s for sure the longest run of any show that goes on in Calgary professionally, like, like it goes from the end of June until the end of August. So you have, you know, eight weeks of performing. And what I noticed it was really funny, like there was small things that I was just tweaking throughout the entire run. And by the end of the summer, every single line that I was saying was getting this huge laugh, and it wasn’t like I was doing stuff to upstage anyone. It was just tweaking little things in my own like perfect That just made me like, feel that energy a little bit more. And I don’t know, it was it was a really interesting thing because I had never, I had never approached theatre the same way at approach Stand Up Up until that point, like I never had that thought of. Okay, well, what if I try it just ever so slightly different tonight? That’s gonna like it. I was so afraid, I think up until that point to do that, because most of the runs that I had done were much shorter. So, you know, and I think the problem with a short run is you have that fear of, of experimenting within what is going on, you know, in the moment because you only have so many performances to do it. And you don’t want to, like you don’t want to botch a situation, right?

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, there’s also a risk in in a show, like I did a show many years ago and one of the actors He did everything exactly the same. Every night and at first you’re like, well, he’s really consistent and then after about five performances you were like, he’s not even paying attention.

Spencer Streichert
Yeah. And and

Phil Rickaby
that will he will say that line the same way no matter what anybody else does and that isn’t theatre theatre is an in the moment thing and it shouldn’t be like turning on a tape recorder.

Spencer Streichert
Totally. And and I think that it’s it’s really about finding that moment each time, right, like really like reliving it for the first time and if you’re going into robot mode, you don’t have that. You don’t have any room to do that. Like you don’t have that. You know, freedom to just Alright, well, this actor did it differently tonight. I gotta adjust to that like you you. I think that when you do that it It helps everyone because if you’re so worried about saying it the right way and keeping consistent it does work. If you You know, like consistency, the way that I’ve always looked at it, like consistency is good with choreography and with blocking, but as far as, where, like, how you say things if if it doesn’t feel right, because of what somebody just, you know, handed you for their line you have to adjust yourself to, to make it feel right, you know?

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I definitely I definitely agree with that. Because, you know, if you’re just if you have a bunch of people on stage who are doing it exactly the same way, they’re just pressing play on their tape recorder. That’s super boring for an audience to watch because nobody’s actually talking to each other. Hmm. Nobody’s actually listening to each other and talking to each other. It’s just a bunch of people on stage sort of talking at each other. And that’s super dull, but if you get the sense, if it seems like anything could happen, then suddenly an audience will you people will sit up in their chair and they’ll Lean forward. And it’s it’s, you know, if it doesn’t feel like it’s like I’ve said this a million times before, then people will pay attention.

Spencer Streichert
Mm hmm. And I also think that that’s, I, I might be wrong in this, but I find that that happens a lot more with classical theatre than it does with a contemporary theatre, where people are worried about, like, they’re really worried about keeping with, you know, the iambic and verse and everything. And I’ve noticed that that’s when I I see a lot of people dropping out of that spontaneity. And I don’t know if maybe that’s just something that like, people are worried about because of like theatre school, or it might not even be something they’re doing consciously right. But it I’ve noticed, I’ve seen it way more in Shakespeare productions than I have in any contemporary theatre that I’ve seen and and that I might be wrong. That might be something But people disagree with but I, I’ve definitely seen that be a pattern.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I can definitely see that because some people will get caught up on the verse. And, and they’ll, you know get that because it’s written in verse they might feel like they have to be working with with the metre and they concentrate too much on that. And really, to me, you just say the words the the verse takes care of itself. And if you forget about metre, and you forget about all that stuff and just say the words, it’ll like, you can be more relaxed about it and you can actually be funny and you can actually, you could sort of see like I’ve had the chance to see there was a production of Taming of the Shrew that was simulcast at one of the theatres who sort of came from Shakespeare’s Globe. And there were a few actors in that that were signing because when they spoke, it didn’t feel like vers. Uh huh. It felt super natural. Like, instead of supernatural, like, they felt really natural the way that they were speaking it, and it just sort of like, it was incredible to hear.

Spencer Streichert
Well, and I, I personally don’t have any, like classical theatre training, um, that was something I never got at any, any, you know programme or class that I took. And so when I started doing like last year when I did Shakespeare in the Park, that was my very first time even working with the text. And something that I noticed because I ended up doing a I did Midsummer Night’s Dream with in Shakespeare in the Park and then I did the tempest with the Shakespeare Company and Much Ado About Nothing with DIY Theatre in Calgary. And I something that I noticed personally was I never worried about the verse and I never worried about, like how to, you know, measure it. It wasn’t something that I even thought of, and a lot of people that were like, Really good friends of mine were who hate Shakespeare, like, despise it with passion. We’re like, yeah, you know, it was weird. When I was watching you do Shakespeare, I actually understood what you were saying. And then at the same time, I had theatre professionals that said, yeah, that scanned well, like that was that worked. So I think that Yeah, a lot of actors need to consider is to not focus on that because that like you said, that will come that is something that will come because the words are written the way that they are. And so if you if you just focus on on, you know, becoming the character and making that those words your own, it will flow and it will sound beautiful, but if you if you really work on it, it’s gonna feel like you’re grinding gears and just one at a time moving on to the next one. And it’s the worst when you notice that in a performance and when you notice someone doing it and you go, Oh, yeah, no, you are you are speaking in perfect verse. But there is no emotion behind those words.

Phil Rickaby
I really think that that one of the the lessons that you can take from Shakespeare is to trust the text. And you can take that from Shakespeare to to whatever modern piece you do. Because if you just trust the text, it will take care of you. So if you want to know if you’re like, if you’re doing some book work, and you’re like looking at the metre, and you’re talking about it, that’s great. But once you’re done, you forget it, because the words will take care of you just trust the words that are there. And it’ll carry you through and then you could take that to whatever the next piece that you’re doing, because the trust in the text will just take you to where you need to go.

Spencer Streichert
Yeah, and I think that if you like, like you said, it’s all about having trust in the text. And I think that’s something that when you have the opportunity to like I think that’s why theatre actors end up being better actors in general, like people that have that theatre training. is because they they work so much with the text, you know. And so there is that, like you, you end up developing a trust for the text over time. Like the the best actors that I know they might not necessarily do all the script work, but they they know the text and they they have faith that it’s just going to end up finding itself, you know, and I think that’s something that that theatre actors definitely do well is they they have that, that comfort within the words that it’s not so jarring. Because I’ve definitely noticed like I had a huge like, I had done so much film before I went to theatre school. And I noticed the first thing that I noticed about going to Theatre School was breaking all the bad habits that I had had when looking at scripts, like that was the first thing that ended up you know, getting completely scrapped and taken away. And I think that that’s something that needs to be maybe focused on a little more in, in acting programmes in general is just to have faith that you as the actor should have the confidence in the playwright or the, the screenwriter, that their words will work, you know, and you don’t have to, like you don’t have to focus on those words it This might have sounded like very convoluted, but it I, I think that the way to make it work is to just let it flow.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I agree with that. But the one thing that I’ve been getting back to the dip you were saying about like theatre actors versus, versus maybe film actors and working with the text is, is is breaking down a script. And that’s something that we learned in theatre school and actors tend to tend to be pretty good at. I’ve often I’ve worked at it A couple of shows where I worked with an unfamiliar director who I think maybe came from more of a film background, and did not do much work with the actors in talking about the script. Day one, we’re on our feet, instead of like talking about this script. And what ended up happening is that later in the rehearsal process, we’re asking all the questions that we should have been asking. And at the first rehearsal, because we haven’t laid a foundation at all, so getting through and and suddenly, it’s like, two weeks for the show. And we’re like, so why this, and the actors are struggling to put those those things together.

Spencer Streichert
Yeah, I definitely. I definitely have been in that position before. where, you know, you get to almost opening and you’re like, Oh, I have, I have no idea why these are the words that I’m like, why is this the choice that I’m making in this? I think you’re right, that it’s often directors that have maybe more of a film, directing idea because they want to see it visualised. Right. And I think that a lot of good directors take that time to not only visualise it but to intellectualise the text right? And to, like, do that in a way that is so simple that it starts to build into something brilliant, right? One of my, like, absolute favourite processes that I’ve had as an actor. When I was in Toronto, a couple of years ago, I did a show that was with a it was just with this independent Theatre Company. And it was we were doing gruesome playground injuries by Rajiv Joseph. And the it was it was honestly it was a six month rehearsal process. We were only meeting you know, once a week for the first two months and then it was twice a week and then it became, you know, a full rehearsal process like the last three weeks leading up to it and For the first you know, three months, it was entirely table work and it was trying to, you know, get through that script and just just break it down and especially a script like that where every scene is different stages in people’s lives. But it helps when we got on our feet then to just be so much more natural in it because the the text was just second language. It was muscle memory at that point, right. And all of the all of the thoughts that build to that, that line that you’re about to say, are just so ingrained that it makes sense.

Phil Rickaby
What company was the was gruesome playground injuries with

Spencer Streichert
that was Theatre at East Minister.

Phil Rickaby
Okay. Okay.

Spencer Streichert
So they the year that I did it, so last year, they ended up actually being a part of the Toronto fringe. But the year before was the year that I did it and it was still just a independent, like Theatre Company. Run in The East minister church, but it was it was pretty cool because the whole thing was a fundraiser for I forget what the charity was, but it was it was basically for helping to house homeless people as like a drop in at the church. So it was, it was pretty cool to to get to do that, and especially with a script like that, because the other actor that I was in that play with like, do you know the play very well or?

Phil Rickaby
I don’t know it well,

Spencer Streichert
okay, the the whole story takes place with these two kids. And it it goes in and out of their lives from the time that they’re eight years old until they’re 38. And it is told non chronologically, and each of the scenes start with one of them being injured in some way. Right. So the other actor that I was performing with her name is Justine Christensen, and she was a George Brown Girl. She’s had two shows in the fringe in Toronto and and like she’s an amazing playwright. But it was cool to work with another emerging actor in that setting, and to have that much time to work on it. Because we had both been talking about how it was it felt weird. You know, coming out of any sort of training and just being in the world and, you know, most professional settings, you’re not going to have that, that same experience, right? Like, you’re not going to have that much time to work on the on the text. And so we were both really grateful for that because of how, I guess not just demanding the show was but for how I like it’s, it’s a weird, intimate thing to do, you know, a 90 minute show with only one other person. And so to be able to have that much time to really work it out and make sure that you know, we are able to have those moments. that nothing is happening. But it works because we are so invested in it right. And I think if we didn’t have that much time, like we’d probably would have done a good job, but I don’t think it would have been to the same level that it was having that that, you know, prep work in place.

Phil Rickaby
No, it’s a rehearsal process and a longer one is certainly a gift. I once heard somebody describe the typical two week rehearsal process and it like, as in, we’re going to get it blocked, and we’re going to get the lines learned and you’ll figure everything else you’ll figure out character after we open. Hmm. And it was like, because you know, this, I heard that in theatre school and I was like, Oh, so all this time that we’re spending now is not something we’re going to get out there. The the ability to really delve in and understand more about the characters. If you only have two weeks, you’re just trying to throw it all together. But if you have have time, there’s some amazing things that you could do, and you’ll get more depth.

Spencer Streichert
Yeah, and I think that that’s another thing that separates theatre with film is just that time, right? Because if you’re and I mean, most actors do both. Like, you know, if you’re trained in theatre, you end up doing both. I don’t think necessarily film actors do a lot of crossover into theatre. But just having that, having that experience to dive into the text, I think it does make theatre actors a little bit more prepared when they’re going in for even just an audition. Because you, you might not have the full amount of time that you had before, to really work on the script and get everything but you know, the shortcuts that you need to take in order to get there and in order to get it done well, and I think that that’s something that’s just so crucial that I’m I’m so thankful that I had that knowledge coming out of theatre school.

Phil Rickaby
Absolutely. Now you went so you came in at theatre and acting in sort of like a circuitous route. So you did like you were saying you did some some amateur stuff when you were earlier on, did some community work and then in Saskatchewan, you did some. And you did stand up and at some point, you decided that you were going to go to theatre school than you were going to make acting and stand up and and stunt work your life. Now, at what point did you realise that that was the thing that you were going to do with your life?

Spencer Streichert
I think that before I actually did it, there was there was a couple of key moments in high school that made me really think about it, um, because at one point when I was in high school, like, like I had mentioned before, like I was rodeoing, and I wasn’t very good. I, I had like a few like I was, you know, able to win a couple but I kind of saw that that wasn’t going to be longevity career for me. And I always had that seed in the back of my head that I wanted to get into film and I wanted to, you know, do stand up, like, I knew those were things that I wanted to do. But I at the time was so afraid of taking that, that jump and approaching that and especially in a small town, it’s really hard to. It’s hard to sound cool when you’re like, yeah, I want to, I don’t want to live on a ranch for the rest of my life. I want to go to the big city and be an actor like that. That’s not something anybody really says in small town, Saskatchewan. So at one point I had been planning on going to school to become a vet and my whole plan with that was like, Okay, I’ll I’ll do rodeo I’ll get a rodeo scholarship. I’ll do that. And then I can be a vet and I can do that wherever. And it was about halfway through grade 11 I like I kept getting hurt. rodeoing I got my head stepped on the bowl. And that was that was a whole mess. And so I just decided, I was like I need to, I need to do something at least to like make a step towards this. So I, every day it would be emailing Acura, because I didn’t know much about the film community or like, or acting in general or anything, but I knew that Acura was, you know, the acting union. And so I at the time, Saskatchewan had an Acura office, because they still had the film tax credit, there was still a lot of production going on there. And so I was emailing them pretty constantly. And I would spend the time that I was supposed to be working on, like distance learning courses, which because in Saskatchewan, the school sizes are so small that all of your elective classes end up going online. So the I was I was supposed to be working on online classes and I would end up just going down the rabbit hole, finding anybody that I could email to talk to might be able to even just give me advice in the industry. And so I got ahold of this guy and accurate and he got me in contact with this producer named Rhonda Baker. And she was producing this film that starred Christian Slater. And it was directed by Roger Christian. It was this, like sci fi thriller. And it was actually the last film that was filmed in Saskatchewan that got the film tax credit. So she offered to let me come onto set and just shadow the stunt coordinator for their production. And so that was definitely the moment for me when I went, Oh, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life because I got to see one of the like, I would say one of the best actors in you know, in history in terms of like, I like a be less movie guy. I got to watch him do scenes and stand like 20 feet away. Well, you know, a scene is going on and then I hear him getting direction and just watched how a film set operated. And even just that one thing made me at 16 go Yeah, this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. And then that made grade 12 so much more difficult because I, I didn’t have that, that drive for school anymore. And because I had in grade 10 and 11 focus so hard on school for, you know, a year and a half, like halfway through grade 11 was when I started shifting that focus. I already basically had all my credits, so all I needed were three grade 12 classes in grade 12. And so the majority of the year was just me hanging out at school because I didn’t I didn’t have any classes to go to. And it just ignited so much more of a fire in me because then I was sitting there and I was like, wow, I’m literally sitting here not like doing anything. And this is the thing that I want to do and I had a taste of it. And now I have to keep being in school, you know. So that was that was probably like the key moment for when I knew that was what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life.

Phil Rickaby
You mentioned when you were in school not, you know, not being comfortable saying I want to move to the big city and be an actor is what we did people did anybody know that? That’s what you wanted to do. Were you afraid of being made fun of Did you get a sense that people would make fun of it? Or was it just the fact that like, everybody around you was like, going to work on a ranch gonna, gonna do this gonna do that, and nobody else was saying anything like that.

Spencer Streichert
See, I don’t know if it was, there was definitely a little bit of the fear of like being made fun of because, uh, you know, in the, you know, the preconceived notion of an actor is not the most masculine thing. And if you’re in a small town in Saskatchewan, there’s such a hyper masculinity. Everybody’s got to be hard working, you know, person, you have to, you know, pay your taxes on time. Like that’s, that’s the mentality of you know that area. And so there was a little bit of fear of of being made fun of but it wasn’t necessarily like I was terrified of it because there was still stuff that I was doing when I was in high school that was definitely alluding to the the fact that I wanted to, you know, be an actor and do comedy, because when I was, I guess I would have been like 15 years old, I started, I bought a video camera and some editing software, some really cheap editing software, and I started just filming whatever with my friends and I was the I was the kid that would walk around with a video camera in his pocket and just anything that I thought could be funny, I would film it. And so it would be anything from like, you know, stunts or sketches, or you know, like, pranks, whatever, whatever I could film and cut together to make funny, I would just do it. So I think In my close circle of friends, a lot of them knew that was what I was going to end up doing. And even like, a lot of my high school teachers were like, Yeah, no, like, the way that your like your marks in English and art were a lot higher than a lot of the other subjects. So it made sense to them like they like one of my my grade nine English teacher, I messaged her because the first thing that she taught in our English class was Midsummer Night’s Dream. And so, when my first professional theatre gig was Midsummer Night’s Dream, I felt like I had the messenger and so I was like, Yeah, like, I know, I was probably a, you know, a bit of a jerk when I was in, in school and I wasn’t paying attention very much, but I was definitely listening during that class. And, you know, now I’m about to do my first professional theatre gig and it’s the play that you taught. And she was like, yeah, this is something that I definitely could have seen in you interesting. Really age and it was a lot of me, I think pushing that away like I was I was so afraid to just take that step towards that. Partially like I said, partially because it would have been, you know, painting a target on the back and partially just, I think I wasn’t ready for it yet. Like, I wasn’t ready to acknowledge that was what I wanted to do. Hmm. But it was it was definitely, I’m glad that I took the route that I did, though, because I think that it made me a lot more resilient as an actor. Especially like growing up, you know, on a farm, you, you start working early, and you you learn the value of $1 very young and so, you have this work ethic that’s just built into you that I think a lot of people don’t necessarily get and it’s it’s not to say that it’s a bad thing. Those people don’t have it, but it’s definitely a good thing that I do have it. Um, because it makes me not afraid of failing as much as And especially, like the rodeo background to like, I, I think what gave me a lot of fearlessness was when I was 12. I started hitchhiking, you know, to rodeos. Like, I would, I would be like, Okay, I got to get to, you know, this place in Manitoba. And I’m in the far west side of Saskatchewan got to get there somehow I don’t have a car. And I would, I would just kind of like find my way to get things done and and, you know, having a sport like that, that was so like, honestly, just brutal, like in so many ways where it’s so physically demanding, that also just gave me a sense of fearlessness when it came to approaching the arts because I’m like, you know, a lot of people I think, do have stage fright. They have to get over and I definitely had that too. But I don’t think that I had it as bad because I was always looking at the perspective of like, okay, what’s the worst that happens if it if it doesn’t go good? Like if it doesn’t go good people might think that was That and that’s the worst that’s going to happen if it doesn’t go good, but it’s not going to physically hurt me like I did something that would be very, you know, the the risk was way higher than the reward. So, when when the risk is lower than what the reward is that that just makes it so much easier to wrap my head around. Right, right.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. Just to transition a little bit. You’re in Calgary. I am and what is what has been the the effect on on you and on everything around you? As far as the the COVID-19? The quarantine the the lockdown? How has that been for you? Or has it has there been much of an effect?

Spencer Streichert
It’s been? Well, it’s been interesting because I last year, I recorded and released a comedy album. And so this year was really a year of just like building new material. up and getting getting new, new gigs because like, now I’ve got enough material to start, you know, opening for people and emceeing. So I’ve had a lot of stuff booked up in April in May that just flat out cancelled as far as comedy goes. And then I had quite a few film opportunities that just ended up not happening because, you know, everything shut down. The day that the lockdown actually happened, I was on set for a TELUS story hive web series pilot. And it was the first day of three, four shooting. And this script was amazing like it was it was a project that I was genuinely excited for. And we got done the end of the day and tell us had emailed the production team and they were like, every production has to cease immediately like we we cannot in good conscience. Let people Um, you know, be on sets and be exposing themselves. And so it was like, it was so such a quick turn. Were like a week before I’d been thinking like, wow, that’s, that’s crazy that now, you know, British Columbia has cases and Ontario has cases. And it was like, a couple of days before that. My girlfriend woke up one morning and was like, Yeah, I think I think this is gonna be a serious problem and my stepdads a pharmacist, and he was also saying for probably two months before the actual lockdown, he was like, No, this is going to end up like affecting everyone like this is going to shut down the world. I can see it now. So there was a lot of signs that it was going to happen, but it wasn’t until that moment that I really really hit me where I was like, Wow, there is there is like this is this is actually changing the world right now. And this is terrifying. But it was it was scary because I then gotten in the car to go home and I was texting my agent and I was like, Hey, what’s happening with this gig? And she’s like, well, this just got postponed this got pushed back. So it was it was a lot all within probably 20 minutes where I realised Oh The world is actually shutting down now like this is this is now like this is inevitable. So it was it was a it was a lot of panic. I went to the grocery store and went and got as much canned food and and you know passed and flour and yeast as I could because I was I was one of those people that that really worried about it and thought I was going to be actually stuck inside my house not able to leave so I thought if I get everything that I could possibly need for about, you know, a month and a half, I should be fine. So-

Phil Rickaby
for a second, I thought you were going to be like I went to the store and I bought as much toilet paper as I possibly can. Because that’s what Toronto did.

Spencer Streichert
Yeah, no, I wasn’t too worried about that. Because since my parents own a pharmacy, they were able to send me toilet paper. I had this little bit of an advantage where I wasn’t too worried about that. But I did also see, as I was going through the store that day, every bit of toilet paper and paper towels just gone. And I’m like, yeah, that’s the thing that you decide you like, if you’re stuck at home. Do you really need toilet paper? That’s the thing. And like, if nobody’s coming to your house, like you can, you can take a shower after you can do other things to clean yourself. That’s the most important essential thing that you need. Like you need food, you need water. You need you know, yeah, so like, those are things that you need. So when I saw everybody freaking out over toilet paper, it was just such a, like, there’s been so many signs now that I’m becoming an adult, that point to how dumb humans are. Just In general, and that was like, that was almost the nail in the coffin for me where I went, Oh, yeah, no, we’re we are not a species that is meant for longevity, like we are not going to. We’re not going to last very long. I can see that happening like, but

Phil Rickaby
I used to watch things like zombie movies and as everybody was being stupid around the hero or whatever, I’d be like, nobody would do that. And I’m like, No, everybody would do that. Everybody would do that. Everybody would would stock up on toilet paper and not not food. Yeah, people would do this stupid thing that we say. Nobody would do that in a horror movie.

Spencer Streichert
No and and and it’s crazy to me that that is like how accurate so many horror movies were, you know, where you just go? Really? Like when you’re watching it before the quarantine happened? It’s like, there’s no way like you said with zombie movies. Especially I’m like, I’m glad this wasn’t zombies. Cuz like I I don’t know. Well, maybe maybe no. Like if it was zombies, I feel like I still probably would have been fine because I would have gotten the essentials and everybody would have gotten toilet paper. So,

Phil Rickaby
yes, but then there would be people in the government saying, Listen, I know the undead are rising, but we have to protect the economy.

Spencer Streichert
Oh, 100% and then there’d be people protesting and well, there are zombies walking around.

Phil Rickaby
Yes. You can’t make me not get bitten by zombies. Yeah,

Spencer Streichert
no, the zombies aren’t real. Nope, it’s just the second coming. Nope, Christ will rise soon. That’s what this is. I could see the signs now. Like I could see it happening. What I thought was amazing was about a month afterwards like we, the thing that’s funny about Calgary is Calgary is a really modern city. And there’s like, for the most part, I would say Calgary is a very progressive city. But then a month after the quarantine happened, there was probably 20 people that were on like I live just off of 17th Avenue, which is like the Big walking district in Calgary. And there’s people protesting in one of the parks about, you know, 5g cars and Coronavirus. And I’m like, Oh, no, those idiots are actually everywhere like those people are, there’s no avoiding them. They’re going to be wherever there are people congregating. There will be a few that just fell a little short. You know,

Phil Rickaby
I had this thing where, you know, there’s people who are saying, Listen, this is all a plot, because the vaccine, they’re gonna put something in it to track us. And I’m like, Yeah, they don’t need to do that. You’re willingly telling them everything with your phone. Yeah. So it’s like, all these people are like, I don’t want a tracker to tell the government everything about me. And you’re like, Yeah, but you have Facebook and you have Instagram and you have Twitter and you have you have an Apple phone, you have your Android phone, and they’re all reporting information on you, but you’re afraid of it. Have a tracker being injected in you

Spencer Streichert
well, and Do you ever think about like the amount of things that you’ve signed up for that ask for, you know, personal information, but it’s all of text For you to click to agree, so you just agree without actually reading it. Because I owe 100% I get emails from things that I didn’t even know, I was signed up for. And I forget signing up for them. Like I have, I have like a total burner email account, which is by like, it’s what I’ve, you know, registered for Facebook and everything with I’m like, that’s where, yeah, not important email. And it’s got like, 70,000 emails in the inbox because I never opened it up for any reason. And I just look at that. And I’m like, how many of those things just have my personal information? And, you know, like, realistically, it’s probably not going to affect me as a person in the long run. But still, that’s a lot of companies that that have my have all my personal details and I don’t know, I don’t know what they’re going to use it for. It probably isn’t going to be good, but how many of those companies are actually gonna last that much longer even so what is it that you’re

Phil Rickaby
also looking at, like, you know, you’re you’re having a conversation with somebody and you happen to mention some obscure thing. If you open up Facebook and it’s, it shows you an ad for that obscure thing that you talked about, and it’s always like, okay,

Spencer Streichert
yeah, no, that happened recently in a way that freaked me out. Like more than any other time. A friend of mine mentioned that she had to get an abortion at one point. And I started getting ads for Planned Parenthood in my neighbourhood the next hour. Like, are you kidding me was an later on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, everything was just Planned Parenthood and I’m like, wow, that’s the creepiest thing. I’m like,

Phil Rickaby
but just to get a little bit back to a little bit of seriousness. How have you been dealing with all the work dried up? How have you been keeping yourself sane? How have you been keeping yourself busy? What’s what how have you been like surviving day to day?

Spencer Streichert
Well, the day that everything shut down, my girlfriend and I started the Qarantine International Film Festival and it ended up becoming like the most successful, like isolation Film Fest that was going on. And because we sorted it right when things shut down so it was like we our timing was just right. You know, we got the the handles on all the social media for it. And so that ended up becoming a full time job like we were. From that day until like, now we’ve been every day responding to you know, 10s of messages, if not hundreds, on, you know, social media and emails and everything. And we actually ended up doing two iterations of it because we had the first round we got, like over 600 entries from around the world, and they were all films that had to be made in self isolation. You had to incorporate our theme somehow, which for the first round, it was bear or bear and we got some really wild ones from that. And then the second round, it was a quote from Hamlet, which was listened to many speak to a few. And we ended up after a second round, like, we’ve got thousands of submissions. And we were just running it the two of us, and we set up a website and everything. Um, so that was really good. But the funny thing about it was we had started it because we thought, Oh, this would be fun, and like, maybe like, you know, a couple of our friends will submit, and we’ll be able to make a movie too. And then, you know, we’ll just have a playlist of like, all of our friends films that, you know, were made in isolation. And we ended up not even having time to, to make a film ourselves. So we kind of just built this really cool community and and it grew and it was really inspiring and a lot of ways to and especially like, we’re both filmmakers, and so we got to see things that were made, you know, from people that were Emmy Award winner. Who made with their kids? And like, at the same time, then there’s like emerging filmmakers who took stuff like they took their smartphone, and they filmed it completely on their own. And like did all the cinematography and the editing and the acting and everything. And so there was such a wide range of creativity that was, you know, that we were exposed to and that we we helped foster and it was so good because honestly, it didn’t feel like things were as bad as they were to us. Because Yeah, we weren’t able to leave her apartment, but we were still in a in the arts, and we were still doing something that we were both very passionate about. And it was such a good distraction that it just, it just completely took away. A lot of the fear that we’d had just a couple of days before. And what was really crazy about it is like because we were on the ball with it and we were like the first people that did that. We ended up getting so much press around the world for it and like we were on CTV News here. We were on CBC Radio like four times. We were in the New York Observer, the Globe and Mail, the Calgary Herald, there was newspapers in Germany, there was a bunch of South American TV shows that had us, you know, zoom in and interview. And so we ended up getting so much like exposure from it that we weren’t even expecting, like we were, we were just wanting to do something that we thought would help other people take their minds off of the whole situation. And it ended up being something that, you know, was so much I, like, beneficial for for us in the long run to like, and, you know, that’s something that we were we were so blown away by And and the coolest part about it is how much of a community it is that’s around the festival like the a lot of the filmmakers that we’ve, you know, been in touch with. We’re now like, Oh, well, we might, you know, we might work with these people in the future and and that’s been really cool because it’s all just because we had this idea. Like the night everything shut down when we were both terrified.

Phil Rickaby
Nice. Sounds like it’s been really rewarding.

Spencer Streichert
Yeah, it’s been super rewarding. And it’s been like I said, like it’s been cool seeing people just adapt to their situations and work with what they had. And that was, that was a big thing that like we wanted to make clear with festivals. We were like, if people only have their smartphone, we’re not going to judge based off of the quality of your your film, like we’re going to judge based off of how creative you got with what you had. And people got really creative, but there was also just some outstanding quality behind most of the stuff that people were submitting like we we thought films that we were like, how was this filmed on a smartphone without a budget? Like, hmm, just it, it was amazing. And it was. So like I said, For us, it was inspiring because it’s like, now we’re, now we’ve seen how other people have done that. And it’s like, okay, I want to do something like that now, like, I really want to get out and film something with my smartphone and, and make it as as interesting as that person did. And, you know, how can I use my own strengths and build off of what somebody else has done and do it in a way that, you know, the furthers that even even more, you know, so it’s, it’s been really cool, really rewarding and honestly, the best thing to happen during quarantine for us,

Phil Rickaby
Spencer, thank you. Thank you so much. It’s been great.

Spencer Streichert
Yeah. Thank you.