Transcript - David Connolly - Aired Monday, April 13, 2020
Kyla: We're back, we are back, we're back! Welcome peeps to another episode of Tits + Teeth with your hosts, Jen and Ky. You guys, today on the Pod we get to hear from a beautiful, compassionate creative soul - Mr. David Connolly is with us today! We have a forward-thinking chat with David about staying connected to our purpose, his new project that was created in response to social distancing , Matinee to Z, which you can find on Instagram Live on his page weekly, and the excitement in finding and creating The New Normal once we all get back to work. Our hearts were full after recording the David. He definitely made Jen and I glitter, and he's bound to make you glitter too. But... we are first going to hear the Tops and Tails of the week with Jen + Ky. Yay! Okay let's do it, Jen.
(Tops and Tails Theme Music)
Audio: It’s the Tops and Tails of the week, with Jen and Kyla
Kyla: Oh my god!
Audio: On Tits and Teeth
Kyla: (affected voice) Hello beautiful lady
Jen: Hello from afar, social distance hello
Kyla: Social distance, hello tanned Jen, I see you, Jesus!
Jen: (laughs) Yep yep yep, Florida! How are you?
Kyla: Ugh, I’m good, I’m good
Jen: That's good, ya, we’re good!
Kyla: Yea, I’m just ‘off contract’, I’m good right? Living our best life
Jen: (laughs) Tell me your tops and tails baby
Kyla: Ok, ok ok, so my tops is that we are very privileged here in Toronto to have some backyard space and some front yard space. So my tops this week is that we did a toooon of spring cleaning, both in the back and in the front, and we filled lots of those big leaf bags with leaves and things and the backyard looks beautiful now, and it’s ready to have some herbs planted in it, you know? A little greenery back there and I’m very excited!
Jen : Gooooood!
Jen: See, organising and all the good things. When would you have time to do that?
Kyla: Umm, never to this (pause) .. thorough state! Not as thoroughly, you know? It would be like, oh ok, we did it, but we took our time and we were meticulous, so yay.
Jen: That must have pleased your OCD just a little bit?
Kyla: Oh, you know I like pretty things, and it looks pretty. (giggles)
Jen: Ok gooood!
Kyla: My tails this week are that I miss being pretty and dressing up, so that will be my goal next week, to definitely take at least one day and like, curl your hair... Put some make-up on boo... Don’t like, don’t only wear Lulu’s, let’s figure it out, you know?
Jen: You guys can have a date night
Kyla: Yes, we can
Jen: Where you just like cook food, have some wine, get dressed up, look cute, then like go to the living room and have your dinner and your date, haha
Kyla: Cute, yes we will, we will! Jen, what are your tops and tails?
Jen: Well, what an interesting time to be alive -
Kyla: Like, Quote of the century, right now!
Jen: (laughs) Yep, what an interesting time to be alive, hey? So, you know, I’ve been good at being very proactive and keeping busy and all that good stuff, but I definitely was dancing in my kitchen this week and I hit something and then hit it again, and for whatever reason, I had a full break down, like that was the straw that broke the camel's back, and I was fully a mess. Like, ahhhhh whatever, it set me off. So yea, it was definitely a tails, but it definitely needed to happen, I needed to feel those feels, and thats ok, and we move on and todays another day. And so to flip on the other side of that - a tops, is doing a ballet barre in my kitchen IS great.. because I think that in the future, this might be weird to say, but in the future I’m going to miss just waking up and doing a ballet barre and having access to that in my home, and not having to get on the subway and get yelled at by New Yorkers or whatever, just to get to class or whatever. Obviously its going to be beautiful when we are all in class together, but like.. You know… I might be upset that I have to put pants on (laughs) And then we also have decided to make Saturday's a fun brunch day.
Kyla: I love those Instas, yes!
Jen: And so I’m already really looking forward to next Saturday. It's been really nice to make it a special day, and we cook special food which we normally wouldn’t eat and so it’s been really fun just having that time with Brent, and getting to look forward to that each week. So all the tops and all the tails, it’s been an emotional roller coaster (laughs)
Kyla: It’s the best kind of roller coaster, Joking!!
Jen: (laughs) I know, we gotta laugh guys, we just gotta bloody laugh!
Kyla: Ok well lets go see David Connolly, cause he’s a special guy and he’ll make us feel special and happy!
Jen: Yea! I’m excited for his episode, he’s such a bundle of light that it’s really a nice person to connect with at this time, so take it away David, we love you!
Kyla: Yes, Take it away
Kyla: We are here with David Connolly, thank you so much for chatting with us.
David: Oh my gosh, it is a dream come true!
Jen and Kyla: (Laughs)
Kyla: Those are lies, pure lies, but we’ll take them! We’re gonna start out with, kinda with our normal episode jams. We’re gonna start with; David, What is your dream role or your dream show to direct and your favourite musical?
David: Ohhhhh such a good question. I want to do Follies, one day. But the ka-zillion dollar Follies, cause any other way for me would be challenging so once I get to kazillion dollars..
Jen: Yes!, I want to be in your Follies!
David: As if you wouldn’t be!
Kyla: Just dripping in beads. Will you take the five feet tall girl?
David: Yes cuz the staircase goes all the way into the Flies so.. (All Laughs)
Kyla: Perfect, I’ll live in the Fly
David: (laughs) You’ll be the last girl on the stairs, no-one will know how tall you are!
Kyla: Love it! And then what’s your favourite musical?
David: Oh that's so hard, I can't ever pick from the ones that kind of shaped me. A Chorus Line shaped me, you know? It was the very first musical that I saw and I was in grade eight, and it just changed everything, like, I just felt something crack in me. I didn’t know at the time that they were acting though (laughs), I just thought that they were people on stage telling their own story, and I thought that that just made it even cooler to think that those people were just telling their life story. And the theme.. That’s super special. And then something as recently as Come From Away. Like, Come From Away blew my mind and I couldn't believe the experience I had in that show so… So there's a long list of favorites…
Jen: I love it. I love it! Alright David Connolly you dead set dream boat!
Jen: Just for our listeners who might not know you, bloody who are you and what do you do? Tell us all the wonderful things that you're connected to and that you’re working on.
David: Well, sure. I'm the Associate Artistic Director of Drayton Entertainment. Heading into my 5th year in that role, which has just been extraordinary. It means I get to direct and choreograph some musicals, and I’m also the head of their youth program, so that has been, like, such a blessing to kind of develop that and watch that grow and yeah that's kind of who I am these days.
Kyla: You are very good with the youth. Ok, we’re going to shift a touch into the current atmosphere that we are in. Tell us what show were you working on as COVID hit us and how far did you get into the process before it got cancelled, and how does that whole experience make you feel?
David: Well we were doing Kinky Boots. The Canadian Regional Theatre premier of Kinky Boots, and I was directing and choreographing that, and we were in our third preview when we got the news that Broadway was closed, so we knew we were not far beyond that. So we did one more preview and the day before we opened we got the official word. So that's where we were, and it was it was it was 3 days before our March break camp, we were doing our first ever March break camp for the kids and so we had set up a really special week for preteens and teens, and I was really looking forward to that too. But, everything's going to happen later - that’s all!
Jen: I mean yeah. Ugh, so you guys didn’t actually get to open, I didn’t realise that?
Jen: So all those beautiful actors… As a director, what would you say to all those actors out there who have had their shows cancelled or postponed or anything like that, AKA what message do you have to give our community right now?
David: Hmm, well we are in good company, that's for sure. Then there are so many great great stories that have been put on hold and great people who were involved with telling those stories, and I choose to think of this as a really positive moment in history. I think that we have been given a gift that will come with some really hard times, but there is space within this time for us to re-evaluate and what's important on stage what's important to us as theatre makers and theatre-goers, and that it will kind of recalibrate in the very best possible way. I can only speak for myself, and I know that for me I already feel differently about my work and really look forward to the world's response to live theatre once we can get back in the theatre.
Kyla: We’ve said this before; once everybody gets back to work, the energy that's going to be around the world, like the energy that’s just going to explode in every room will just be INSANE. We’re all going to be like, Oh My God, let’s Work! And the audience will be like; Give it to meeee!
Kyla: And it’s just going to be amazing! It’s going to be so good!
Jen: I love it! I was just going to say it’s such a beautiful sentiment, that we often don’t have this time, and I know you in particular (David) will go show to show to show. With having a second to stop and pause, and have all that taken away from us, does that make you appreciate it all even more? Or has it shifted your expectation on your own work?
David: Such a good question. I think that, for me, theatre is about empathy, and I think that's why it survives. People want to find out more about themselves by going there and I think that we’re not going to return to normal. You know people keep saying ‘when we get back to normal’. It’s not going to happen. There is no such thing now, as ‘normal’.
Kyla: Or the old normal. We’ll create it. It will be a new section of time and normal.
David: Yeah, It's already happened. I feel like my connection, globally to the fact that we are all the same, is so much stronger. And you know the fact that it's all been related to touch makes me really really interested in the humanity that’s going to be on the stages once we're back and how I don't think people will be interested in anything that's not authentic, so I love the thought of that. And I love that we are going to have to work even harder to create human relationships that are entirely believable and hopeful. You know that's going to be our job for a long while after this, is to do what we do best, which is inspire people to be the best versions of themselves.
Jen: That’s beautiful! Just living in optimism, I love it!
Kyla: It’s Beautiful! Well we are going to continue on that positive note. Tell us about Matinee to Z - Also, ‘Matinee to Z’ is maybe one of the best titles I’ve ever heard
Kyla: I re-read it, and I was like, oh you sneaky little bastard, so tell us about Maitnee to Z and why it’s important to give back at this time?
David: Well it just struck me. I give myself ten seconds to feel if it’s not positive. I do my best but my motto is you get a minute. You get to vent to one person only. And when that’s over, we’re moving on! Like, yes, I need to feel the feelings and complain to someone, but then that's it. Cause the days of needing to vent to everyone and co-sign and getting a 100 texts from 100 people saying ‘you’re right, thats terrible’, like just don’t have time for that anymore. And it’s not like I don’t feel feelings everyday, cause I do. And they come crashing on me in the most surprising ways and time. Washing the dishes, who knew? I’m balling my eyes out washing the dishes or making a bagel, great! Not at any time that you’d expect. So I do feel my feelings, but I also feel that we as artists have a responsibility. Just because we are not in a rehearsal hall or on stages, doesn’t mean that we don’t still have this calling to do what we do. And part of what I do is try to inspire young people, which means young at heart, and open minded, not necessarily young at age, you know?
David: And it just struck me, everyone’s available! (laughs) So why not ask? Reach out to some people that I really respect deeply, that I think have really positive messages, and get them to share whatever is in their heart. And I just needed to organise it somehow, so I thought, lets just go through the alphabet and go through and see what might be interesting to theatre people. And it's given me something to focus on, which is super important, because otherwise I will not stop eating chips.
Kyla: And you are throwing out challenges to other people which gives them focus and something to do. Again, Direction, which is what you do.
David: Even if there's a handful of people who get distracted by being creative, that's worth it, you know?
Jen: I think what is so beautiful about what you were talking about is that, Kyla and I kind of touched on it last week; we did an episode on mental health, is just staying connected to a purpose and identifying what our purpose is and why we do something. So, clearly, you're very connected to your purpose and there is a really positive ripple effect already coming from that. We also learned recently that when you do a good deed for others, you get 10 times as much good deeds coming to you as well, so it's really about sharing love. It has the potential to really flourish out of this time, again living in your beautiful optimism.
David: Living in Your optimism. We have two choices, we can choose love or fear. Everything boils down to one of those two things. So you’re right. I’m really inspired by anyone who is manifesting love. People like you, people who are throwing love with no expectation, I think is part of what is getting me through this.
Jen: Ugh! Getting all the positive vibes up in here, it’s good isn’t it?!
Kyla: I’m blushing (All laughing)
Jen: I mean doesn’t Oprah say, the biggest gift we can get is time? (laughs) And then all of a sudden we have all this time and we have to figure out what to do with it, but I’m loving your Matinee to Z because it's just that! You are giving us a little gift, then we get to take that little gift and put it back out there, so it’s awesome. (Sigh) Beyond the COVID-19 crisis, we’d love to talk to you about your work with disabled actors, or as you accurately described them recently as, ‘very-abled actors’ at BroadwayCON in New York City! Now I don’t know if we’ve ever connected on this David, but my Dad was a paralympic coach for three paralympics. Well first of all your work is absolutely amazing, but what I wanted to pick your brain on was the term ‘very abled actors’, which I love. When Dad first started working in that field, it was literally called ‘The Spastic Centre’. That was the actual name, and the name above the door, which is so shocking, and then over time the term became ‘people with a disability’, and so, why out of interest is it very important to you to say ‘very abled?’
David: Well the term ‘Ready, Willing and Very Abled’ was really just a play on Ready, Willing and Able, but I love everything you're saying. When I first went to the Shriners Hospital for Children, it was actually called the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children, and so that's fine, because now it’s not. And we learn as we grow, and we grow as we go, you know? And people are sometimes so afraid of language and so afraid of hurting somebody's feelings, and then they are so concerned with being insensitive that they just don't bring it up at all, and so it remains kind of buried in this shroud of mystery, and people wonder if he’s okay to talk about. I don't know what to call it or label it and everyone's going to make mistakes, and everyone's going to feel a little bit embarrassed until you get past that, and then you actually start talking about the interesting stuff, which is what's going to create the change you know?
Jen: So tell us! What’s going to create the change?!
Well I think it's a large part of what we were already talking about. It has to do with what audience members are going to want to see on stage.
Kyla: (interjects) : Themselves!
David: Amen! We’ve made such strides, such great strides, in inclusivity in regards to ethnicity, in regards to gender, we’re starting to push that envolope, and that's all great. And even in shape and size, you know in the last decade, we’ve started to make strides in positive ways. It’s certainly not anywhere near where it needs to be, but it’s moving. What’s not moving yet is this world of disability on stage, whether that’s physical or neurodiversity. And so it’s exciting to be on the horizon of that! It’s really really thrilling to know that everyone understands that that is a conversation that needs to be had. The change is going to come that we need to train actors that need to be ready for the opportunity, because we can’t just give someone a job beucase they look different, they need to be trained.. They need to be trained! So a big part of my push is to get post secondary institutions to change their enrollment plans and how they cellicuit people, because there is no role modelling happening right now. So there’s no reason for someone who’s deaf, or someone who’s blind to say ‘oh I want that job, it is possible for me to have
career because of these people’. There’s one person in a wheelchair on broadway. She happened to have won a Tony last year. Ali Stroker changed the game, but we have to work to make sure that’s just not a trend. So, onus is on everyone. Onus is on writers, producers, on actors, on audience members, on educational institutions to be really proactive in allowing their minds to open to how much more interesting a story would be if red riding hood was in a wheelchair? How much better is that? And it’s not someone who’s playing someone in a wheelchair, Nessarose in Wicked, but it’s someone who’s actually in a wheelchair, and then you start to think… People in wheelchairs can’t really go through the woods, can they? Huh, what does that mean to the story telling? And my friend John Mcguinty is an actor in New York, he's deaf, and he’s been on Broadway a couple times, but he played Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame as a deaf person. I don’t know if you’ve seen clips, but if you haven't, it's extraordinary.. Because Quasimodo was deaf. So he signs the whole thing and the gargoyles sing his music, and it just makes the story sooo much better to see that, you know?! And that's only part of the puzzle, like that character was actually deaf, and so having a deaf actor is really super interesting, but the next level of that is to get someone on stage where the writing has nothing to do with disability, and then all of a sudden, Belle is blind. What does that mean? Is that interesting? Cool. Would that person have to have a skill set equal to anyone else auditioning for that part? Yes. We’re not looking for free passes or any kind of constellations, which brings me back to really championing the idea of disabled people getting training.
Kyla: I was going to say, talk about a role model though! You are the only below knee double amputee to ever perform on broadway. You are The role model right there sir.
David: Well, hmm..
Kyla: It’s good to know, it’s good for other people to see, don’t be bashful!
David: No it’s.. Good and challenging in a way because I was on broadway in 1989! And I’m the only amputee to have ever performed there, and there’s been one wheelchair actor. So that can be looked through any lense, but my lense is like, how exciting to realise just how out of whack we are with what’s possible.
Jen: Do you mean to say, sitting from your perspective, you’re looking at how far we have to go, and getting excited about getting involved in that work, and getting ready to fight for those kinds of things? Is that what you mean by that?
Jen: Well that’s a beautiful place to live in, and once again you are living in that optimistic space, believing in a better tomorrow and recognising where we are today. Even just by talking about it here, we are so appreciative, because now it’s in other people’s earbuds too. And they’re like, huh, maybe they hadn’t considered that before, but maybe there’s something we could all do together to keep pushing for that. That’s cool. That’s YOU David Connolly! It’s inspiring!
David: Well, it’s going to take a village.
Kyla: Did you always have a positive attitude towards achieving your goals and dreams? Or is that a working progress like it is for the rest of us?
David: (Laughs) No , I’m just like everybody else. I think one of the things I'm most grateful for though is that when you... when we... when I humans face any kind of adversity it gives them a greater level of compassion on the other end, and so I kind of feel like I had a head start in that way. I had to choose glitter or bitter really early on.
Kyla: Oh I love that!
Jen: I’m writing that shit down!
Kyla: Title of episode, done!
David: (Laughs) Tattoos everywhere! A large part of that had to do with my mother. I had some really incredible mentors.
Kyla: Who were some of your mentors?
David: Oh goodness, well Alex definitely.
Jen: Is that Alex Mustakas of Drayton Entertainment?!
David: It is! Yes, of course! We shouldn’t assume things
Jen: I love that guy!
David: Yes, Alex Mustakas of Drayton Entertainment. He’s changed the trajectory of my life, no question. I worked with Brian McDonald at The Stratford Festival. I kind of happened upon these Director/Choreographers as I was coming through. So I I worked with him, I worked with Alan Lund luckily, and they were male and they did both, and it kind of just made me think that that's how it was done, you know? So I'm really grateful to them, but I'm also grateful to Tibor Feheregyhazi, (he’s no longer with us) at The Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon. Just people that let you be in the room, you know? We spoke about this on Maitnee to Z - that this field is about apprenticeship. There’s no course, really, on how to be a creative team member, and I just didn’t have the confidence to just say, ‘I’m going to do this’ without having any vocabulary, so I just assisted and I learned that way, you know? So that’s what I did, I assisted and volunteered for a really long time, under some really generous people who gave me the confidence to do it myself one day.
Jen: And you’re bloody doing it!
Kyla: Look at me now Mom!
Jen: (all laughs) Ok, Mr Connolly what do you think we can take away from this moment in time as a positive and what are you looking forward to?
David: Well I think what we can take away from this moment in time is - for me I know there’s certainly time to evaluate, and time was going by too fast. If things were just happening too fast to nurture body, mind and spirit (sigh) I’m very much that guy. If one’s out of whack I can feel it - and to myself I’m like, oh, let me just have these two things and I’ll get to the other, just give me a minute! So I’m very grateful to have some time for everything. And again, I don’t think we’re going back to anything the way it was. I guess that’s what I’m most looking forward to, is how this is all going to reinvent the wheel. Will people always need to be entertained? Yes. Will they need a catharsis and a better understanding of who they are as a human through story-telling? Yes! All of that’s true. Theatre has survived plagues before, and we’ll do that again. So it’s really about being ready for that day. I want to be ready for whatever’s coming, and I think that for me, I want to make sure that the body, mind and spirit triangle has a really strong foundation.
Kyla: Do you think theatre (people), and actors and performers do that best because we constantly need to re-invent? We like to pay tribute to the past but we like to move forward. So do you think that we are very well equipped for another ‘new normal’, because there has been lots of ‘old normals’ for us before?
David: I think that actors in particular are resilient, in ways that the general public does not know about. And they shouldn’t, and that's ok, and if they didn’t, then now they do.
Kyla: Helllooooo general public!
David: (laughs) But anyone who is not that and listening, I think will appreciate that sentiment. We lose our jobs allll the time! This isn’t new. Anyone that’s freaking out over that: ‘I don’t know where my next paycheck is coming from’! Yup. Welcome to our whole life!
David: (continues) That's the way we roll in our industry and I think actors are selfless. They need to do what they do 8 times a week no matter what happens to them. No matter what’s in their inbox, or what happened to their cat or their grandfather - they get out there and have the capacity to put other people first, you know? And so that’s going to serve us really well going forward. We do that before we’re ready. There’s going to come a time when we are going to have to step up to the plate, before we have figured our own stuff out yet, but again, that’s not new. Like, that is not new for us, that’s what we do. We leave it in the dressing room and we go change the world as best we can.
Jen: Oh my goodness, I simply can’t even with you today! It’s just giving me all the tears and all the feels.
Kyla: Good - you cry. I was just thinking I can’t cry three podcasts in a row!
Jen: What is it about this time Kyla that's just making us bloody tear up?!
Kyla: David Connolly, we always ask advice from our guests. Can you give us some advice during this time, as well as advice beyond this time?
David: I think advice during this time is to stay soft. Is to stay open. Our fuses are short, and whenever I feel that rising up in me where I want to judge a situation or blame someone else I just have to relax and open. Those are the two words I use. I just try to relax and open my heart and say I don’t know, and that’s ok. Because we want to know, but we can’t know. Again, as creatives, that’s ingrained in us already, because there are so many situations that we walk into that we don’t know, but we survive. And so this is just using those muscles. To stay open hearted, and open minded and extra compassionate to someone who’s… too close to you in the grocery store…
David: We just don’t know what anyone else is going through, right? And this is a good reminder of that for me - to constantly stay in that knowledge that there are secrets going on. You know, as a director, I am constantly aware of that for everyone, especially in an acting company. I just think that they are heroes. Yeah, they (actors) just get the benefit of the doubt all day long, as best I can, because I think the fact they they are able to put their personal issues behind them and step into these characters, who are going through their own set of really difficult circumstances usually - the stakes are high and the emotions are high, and their bodies are being really pushed to the edge sometimes so again, its not a new way of being. And now, it (awareness) just needs to be in a bigger lense, a wider scope.
Jen: Ugh, well that was beautiful. How dare you!
David: How dare you! (laughs) My dog is not asking me these questions, so it’s really lovely to even become aware of these thoughts. It’s really really nice. Thank you.
Jen: It’s really beautiful - so a couple of things that we learnt; some of the things we spoke about… We spoke about staying connected to our purpose, staying connected to our ‘why’. You spoke about moving past our labels, that we are much more than our labels. And you reminded us that we are resilient, that we are trained for this - we know how to lose a job! Like champions we do! (laughs) You told us to survive and thrive and then you told us to choose Glitter, not bitter! David Connolly!!!
Jen/Kyla: Thank you so much!
David: Thank you so much! This was super fun. You guys are amazing at this!
(Fade out chatter)
Jen: We just love David Connolly! Thank you so much for being such a light in our lives David, and for bringing some very unique and important conversations into our earbuds, super cool. And of course for reminding us to choose glitter, don’t be bitter!
David actually inspired us to transcribe this episode for our hearing impared friends, which will be available on our website. If you have any friends who you think would be interested or would benefit from this, please pass it on, share it, and we love you for it.
Make sure you head over to Davids instagram page for his Maitnee to Z initiative, happening every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. He’s @davidwconnolly on insta and his website is davidwconnolly.com
We’ll, of course, post all about him on our instagram page this week, we’re @titsandteethpodcast on instagram, we’re @teethtits on twitter and our website is titsandteethpodcast.com
Whatever you are facing out there folks, please know you are not alone. We’re here for you, so make sure you keep those tits up and those teeth out, cause you got this and we bloody love you.
(Outro Music Fades Out)