ou may have noticed a wide-eyed lunatic running around last Fringe with a top hat and a teapot. That eccentric figure was The Hatter, and he represented one of Phoenix Theatre alumni Andrew Wade’s explorations of self and self-anxiety, made possible through the magic of theatre. This year Mr. Wade will be hanging up that character, and instead play himself, under duress and in distress, as he builds a functioning polygraph onstage in an effort to detect lies and get at the real truth.
Why “honesty,” when the art of theatre is so often about crafting the truth to be used for your purpose?
I agree that theatre is about showing the “truth” onstage. Truth about characters, about stories, about events. But with a personal storytelling show, where I am just being me onstage, telling you memories and neuroses and thought processes and facts, I feel there is an additional burden of honesty. I wanted to take that as far as the content would let me go. So, no memorized script, a frank discussion on just how genuine and honest a person can be onstage, and the lie detector machine. Also, honesty is a genuine life-long obsession of mine.
So I understand the show is mostly outlined and told extemporaneously. I’m guessing that’s partly inspired by the above – not ignoring your obvious talents in improvisation.
Yes, I have a stack of cue cards onstage to keep me on track, but we recreate our memories, form new neural connections and remove others, every time we tell a story. Every time we focus on a moment in our lives. When it comes to memories, the what-I-know-of-it-now unscripted remembrance is the most genuine and honest description a person can give. Now, for objective truth of those situations, we need primary sources of data. I use those too in the show.
The Hatter’s hung up his gear for now. When we bumped into each other during last year’s fringe, you were pretty honest about your experiences on the road, reception from the audiences and keeping going in the face of either dwindling audiences or bad press. Looking back, what’s the most important thing you took from that show? Has it transferred over into this one?
The most important thing I took from that show was an understanding of my passionate love both for this medium and for life on the road, touring from festival to festival. There are so many great challenges on the way, so many wonderful and talented people in this strange, vagabond community, so many opportunities to maybe, just maybe, finally strike a vein of gold, if only for a two-week run. I do still feel a little run down from achieving less than grand success with all the effort I put into The Hatter, but that’s okay. This is a life for the stubborn and the foolish. I had someone break down in tears after a performance in Toronto; fell to his knees, then gave me a great huge long bear hug. What other occupation lets you move and help someone in that way?
The show’s got some nice traction already from performances in Toronto and Saskatoon. Would you be able to elaborate on those experiences and comment on how/if it has affected the show’s development?
The odd part about working on an unscripted show is that, even with roughly the same structure, the show was so very, very different in Toronto from what it was a year ago in Saskatoon. Victoria will be different, again. This show only clicks if there is a genuine opportunity for personal transformation and epiphany within, which means that the content will change as I change as a human being. I’m not the same guy I was a year ago. The show reflects that. More mechanically, I somehow managed to turn a 60 minute show in Saskatoon into a 75 minute time-slot show in Toronto, which needs to be cut down to 70 minutes for Nanaimo, then 60 minutes for Victoria, then up to 65 minutes for Vancouver. So that will force a certain evolution, a certain paring down. I will sorely miss those extra fifteen minutes in Victoria. Expect some fast talking.
Why so tech heavy, when the core of a one-man show is whether or not the story is interesting enough to be told in a black-box theatre with a stool?
It’s a show that looks on the surface to be tech-heavy, but it’s not really. The story is what’s important. The machine is an attempt to find the fiercest truth of a situation. It’s a means to help the story, to find the epiphany, to find the truth. TJ Dawe, a fringe veteran of over a hundred festivals, frequently breaks up his personal storytelling in his shows with more didactic moments exploring a concept, a philosophy, a person, or a book. ForHonest Man, I explore how we try to identify the truth. The machine is just part of that.
Now to be blunt – love (the quest for and the losing of) as the driving force has been done to DEATH in all forms of storytelling, forever. With that said, why is this important to you as one of the themes of the piece?
How people connect to each other will always be a valuable story to tell, and the search for intimate emotional connections even more so. This show covers several themes – honesty, being a stranger in a strange land, loneliness, courage, and others – but yes, the search for love and what that word actually means is one of them. Once everyone figures out how to intimately, honestly, and painlessly connect with everyone else, THEN we can stop telling love stories.
I was checking up on your blog, and I was really struck by a recent post where you talk about leaving behind the person you are at home, to force yourself into new personas. Can you elaborate on that here, and also tell me what’s in this performance that’s so important for you to explore?
Life as a solo Fringe artist is odd. Every two weeks, a new city, a new almost-family of billets to stay with, a new group of performers to introduce oneself to, an entirely new community of people to interact with (and convince to come see your show). The show can be entirely new! In Toronto, I stayed with a woman and her 19-year-old drag queen son. For two weeks after that, I was essentially a house-husband in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Then I went up and stayed with a gal in Saskatoon, where we played Pokemon cards and I performed a show as a man on the autistic spectrum. Every place brings out a different shade of Andrew, a possible life I could live… but one which ends after two weeks, for there is another adventure to go on, another starting from scratch in a new city where very few people know you, if any. It’s like a rapid-fire opportunity to take on a hundred different possible me’s. See which give me the best sense of contentment. Ever have that wish to just start over in a new city where no one knows you? See what happens with that blank slate? I do that a half-dozen times each summer.
Any hints about what projects are in development after this?
Well, I just finished up the latest production draft of TITUS: The Light And Delightful Musical Comedy of Titus Andronicus, which Awkward Stage Productions is putting on as part of the Vancouver Fringe Festival. I am SUPER excited about that project. We’re hoping it will have legs beyond Fringe, possibly to get the script picked up by Shakespeare festivals somewhere. That’d be amazing. Also, back in June, I helped with a weeklong workshop of a show called Carry On that won the 24 Hour Musical SMACKDOWN Competition in Vancouver. I’d like to keep being involved on that.
I have half of an idea for a historical play based on one of Canada’s founding fathers, but I’d need access to court records in Ontario from before 1900, if they exist. So that’s something I need to do some research on, first. And finally, I’m considering taking my complete and utter revision of William vs The World, performed to some success in Saskatoon this summer, to other cities. It is a celebration of what it means to be a geek. Fun show, narrative show, character piece.
Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for – or at least I have. Andrew: how does one beat a lie detector test?
Lie detector tests don’t look for specific measurements, specific numbers, that would indicate whether a person is lying or not. Instead, they look at differences – how the numbers change. Every lie detector test begins with a few baseline measurement questions, where the answer will be truthful (‘what is your name’, ‘what is your address’), and then sees whether those measurements change later on, with other questions. So to beat the test, you need to make your baseline truthful measurements (of pulse, blood pressure, galvanic skin response, and respiration) the same as when you’re lying.
Sociopaths don’t get nervous when they lie, so they pass the tests automatically. For the rest of us, we need to skew those original baseline measurements so that they are similar to what our measurements will be like when we’re lying. Spies used to use thumbtacks in their shoes to spike those measurements when telling the truth. Us? If you believe Cory Doctorow, we can get by with rhythmic bum squeezes whenever telling the truth. Spikes all the measurements in just the right way to fool the machines and their operators.
By Matt MacLarenPurchase tickets