The day after his opening at the Fringe, I got a chance to talk to actor Tim Walker about his experience in Punch Up, and to hear some wonderfully wise words about our Canadian identity.
SWEPT: So tell me about your character and, in your own words, a bit about the show.
TIM: It’s funny because I just came off a show where I really had to push myself to do something that was beyond what my natural scope is and by that I mean I was pushed to not use the kind of body language I like to, which is a bit more electric and to be a bit more entertaining. So this show has really been a relief because it’s been a huge sigh where I can just be myself – I mean this guy’s a bit different than me, but I have the free range to express myself comically with the kind of natural energy I usually have.
But the play, the way we typically talk about it is: the most pathetic man in the world kidnaps the funniest man alive to teach him how to be funny to make the saddest girl in the world laugh.
SWEPT: So what’s it like with the crew you’re with? What’s the process?
TIM: Colin Munch, Caitlin Driscoll, and Kat Sandler were my cohorts in this…whoa, lots of ‘k’ sounds…Well Kat Sandler is getting a bit of a name for herself by writing and producing her own work which she has been doing at a steady clip for the past three to four years. She has a very collaborative approach. She works with people she trusts intrinsically.
The creative process is basically we come into rehearsal with a ‘working script’, and that is to say a jumping off point. So really we’re writing drafts as we rehearse. It’s her work; it’s her idea – it’s almost like she brings the bottom of the ship in. It’ll float, but we get to create what kind of boat it’s going to be: what the rooms are going to look like, what the deck is going to look like; what kind of boat it’s going to be…is that boat analogy going to work you think? So yeah, it’s really fun. We get to build something together and then ship it out to sea and go and sail for a while. See I came back to it! But it makes the work very personally fulfilling, because you’ve really been a part of something.
SWEPT: How did your opening go?
TIM: We opened last night and it was a magical night. It felt shaky to start, but then we really got rolling, and it was a sold-out show, and we had them in the aisles. We just had them rolling. We could hear people laugh-crying, just heaving for breath; we got a very jolted standing ovation: the kind of one where it isn’t a couple of people standing who feel forced to, it was a kind of nice, natural occurrence, and you could tell we took these people for a real fun ride, and that’s the best feeling.
SWEPT: Are there pitfalls you’ve discovered that you need to avoid, now that you’re into your run?
TIM: There always are. This is the show that’s had the most hype that I’ve ever been in. Pre-Fringe it was in NOW’s top10, Blog T.O.’s top ten, Word Press 7′s top ten, and more. I’ve never been in that position before. We built this. Kat and I worked on a show two years ago called Help Yourself, and it sold out the run, it won Best of Fringe, and it all built up to this, and that’s a pitfall itself. It’s really easy when you go “oh well, people want to come see it, everyone’s heard about it, everyone’s talking about it, so let them come to me and let me do my magic.” But if you start to get that casual about it, it can become sort of auto-pilot, and we all know the classic bit about auto-pilot: if you’re back here, then who’s driving the car? “Oh it’s on auto-pilot”. Well you’re bound to crash then. So you’ve got to keep your eyes on the road; you’ve got to keep yourself focused, and stay true, every night, to what your character wants, and how hard they’re going to fight to get it. And you have to press the reset button and go back to that every night. So think the biggest pitfall is to not hit that reset button, and not to commit, every show, to give the people who have come that night the best bang for their buck, because they deserve it.
SWEPT: And what have you got coming up?
It’s a busy year for me this year. A poor year, but a busy year. After this, I’m going to be doing a Summer Works show called, Complex, director by Chris Stanton and written by Rebecca Applebaum. After that show, I”m going to be doing the Skriker, which is written by Caryl Churchill, and directed by Danny Pagett. After that, I’m dong Macbeth with Sterling Theatre/Unit 102 Theatre – they’re kind of co-proing that. I think that’s it. It started slow, I was having some vocal issues, and then I did this show, just previous to this, Kate and Sam, and now I have five productions lined up all in a row…so how I’m going to work a real job that pays me actual money, remains to be seen. If any rich entrepreneurs out there are looking to support the arts, and read your article, send them my way. I don’t want to get evicted is basically the end of that story. I want to do my craft and not get evicted at the same time…Europe can you hear me?
SWEPT: Haha, I think you may have to call a bit louder than that.
TIM: Maybe you’re right.
SWEPT: So is there anything in closing that you’d like to say to people coming out, or to your ‘Tim Walker-ites’ out there?
TIM: Please tell me there are Tim Walker-ites out there. That would be great. I think the thing I would most like to share with people is that this city is actually a magical city for independent theatre. And it’s really alive, and a throbbing centre of amazing independent theatre that has so much to say, and these people, they work their butts off day and night, and they work shitty joe-jobs to support themselves because , god knows, this is not a country that values the arts, and I think that’s a shame, because we are a young country; we are one of the youngest countries, and we are still establishing our national identity and really the only way to do that is to tell our stories, to sing our songs, to paint our paintings, to dance our dances, and to share what it means to be Canadian. and I guess all I can do is implore the people out there, who can afford to support the arts, and support the independent artists, and theatre makers more specifically, do so, because if you’re proud to be Canadian then you should be proud of us for trying to tell our stories.
It makes me emotional It truly does. At the end of the day, I think what we do, contributes more so to the fabric of our identity as a nationality, then just about anything else.
Make sure to catch Tim in ‘Punch Up’ this week. Check the schedule and book your tickets HERE!