A born artist
I’ve been writing forever. I remember my first ‘novel’ in grade 2, which was about a bunny. I became obsessed with the idea of being a writer: solitude, struggle, insecurity, flashes of brilliance. I fancied myself Tennessee Williams: tortured notebook-and-keyboard jockey, pen in one hand, whiskey in the other – even as a child, the whiskey was indelibly part of the image.
In Grade 5, I had such a classically eccentric drama teacher that even I’m not sure how much to trust my memory of his walrus moustache, booming Mid-Atlantic oration, or perennial beret. Thus I made my theatrical debut in Twelfth Night, and I was hooked. This new, exciting love affair pulled me away from writing for a while. Through drama classes and community theatre, I made my way to the Capilano University acting program. I managed to sporadically keep that first love alive through playwrighting, hoping I could be both the wise author and the effervescent artiste. James Baldwin and Oscar Wilde.
Performing Arts Degree in hand, I got to work. I auditioned, I produced, I directed, I got into teaching and grant writing and arts programming to pay the bills, working for 6 years toward the the moment I could just make art, every day. Then the pandemic hit, and the theatre industry capsized. Suddenly, there was no reason to stay in the city while my wife, Becky, worked up North half the year. So, last October, I moved to Prince George. Driving into town from the airport, the highway lined with gold from the autumn trees, I remember right away it felt like coming home.
Discovering Prince George
In half a year, I went from working an almost full-time job while managing a theatre career on the side, to being unemployed in a new city with nothing to do but unpack. I always thought I’d been thriving in that overstimulated, dancing-on-the-edge-of-burnout environment, but when I left it behind I felt free. Becky and I dove headfirst into Prince George. I bought ice skates for the first time in my life, confirming everyone’s worst suspicious about Vancouverites, I’m sure. We found favourite hikes, – Chun T’oh Whudujut (The Ancient Forest) – parks, – Cottonwood – and restaurants – Spice of Life. And as we got to know the city and the two neighbourhoods we’ve lived in, I started finding places to write, – Connaught Hill – which it turns out is incredibly powerful for me. I connected with Theatre NorthWest and got back onstage for the first time in two years. Alongside all that, I was delighted by the visibility of queer folx around town (I’m still hoping to one day be friends with the person in head-to-toe Pride regalia outside Books and Company who I shouted “YASS” at out a car window). I found pockets of safe space – like knowing I could don my most aggressively bisexual finery at a Theatre NorthWest closing party and no one would even blink. Community and safety, two things that don’t exist everywhere for us, so I was glad I found them.
Thanks to all of this, I’ve been coming into myself as a queer artist. I finally noticed the obvious pattern in my influences: Tennessee Williams, who I’d loved as a queer writer, but had never considered how elegantly his queerness manifested in his work when it couldn’t be explicit. James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room,” which changed my life as the first relatable bisexuality I’d ever seen in fiction. Oscar Wilde, whose roasting of heteronormative culture is central to my own life and work. Ivan Coyote, who I was extremely lucky to have as an actual mentor: I was a baby queer at the time, too scared and confused to connect my queerness and my writing, but in hindsight they were the first person to model that for me, and I owe them so much. A few months ago, doing a 20-day poetry challenge Becky found, I realized how hungry I am to write about my experience of queerness, so I can find it more fully.
My new normal
So now, I’m now working on the gayest thing I’ve ever written: a play about 17th century queer sword fighter/opera singer Julie D’Aubigny. I’m directing another Pride Reading at Theatre Northwest – “Speed Dating for Sperm Donors”. The quiet and the stillness of my life in PG have allowed me the clarity to see that performing is something I desperately love to do, but being a writer is who I am. And moving here is the reason I’m finally able to be one, the reason I have the option to sit down, whiskey in one hand, pen in the other, and make art every day.