During this time of social distancing and dark venues, Halifax Presents continues to check-in with members of our arts community to find out how they are staying creative and managing during the pandemic.
This week we check in with Halifax-based theatre artist and musician, Garry Williams.
1. How are you staying creative during the pandemic?
Creativity is a way of life. You can be creative cooking, cleaning, space-making, maintaining relationships. Mostly it’s avoiding the pitfalls of becoming defeatist, predictable, or destructive.
2. What’s the one thing getting you through?
Spending hours in our small, streetside garden is grounding and stress-relieving.
3. How are you staying in contact with family and friends who are not in your bubble?
Secretly, I worry my theatre friends have all forgotten me. Every two weeks or so, I share an afternoon bottle of wine with my mum on Zoom. She lives in Germany, so the time difference necessitates day-drinking.
4. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far during the pandemic?
I derive a great portion of my self-worth from being prolific as an artist, so with theatres closed and projects on hold, the big lesson I’ve learned is what else I can do to feel worthy of love.
5. What do you feel the most grateful for right now?
I am grateful to be able-bodied and healthy, and for my partner, whose playful and gentle demeanour is medicine to the soul. And my piano; I am grateful for music. I would greatly miss the meditation of playing our hand-me-down, painfully out-of-tune upright.
6. What is something you are doing now that you don’t normally?
I am digging holes and pulling weeds on other people’s properties – by agreement – so I do not feel entirely useless. I am at home more than usual. I have worked summer contracts for the last six years, so this is my first summer “off” in over half a decade.
7. What skill have you developed since the pandemic started?
I have taught myself correct fingering for playing scales on the piano. I have also learned how to pronounce – poorly, I’m afraid – a number of Dutch place names for an audiobook.
8. What have you missed the most?
I have missed the pressure of having to finish writing a song, teach it to a cast, and hearing it come to life.
9. Your #1 pandemic survival tip.
The obvious: wear a mask and wash your hands. And don’t be a Nazi.
10. Your biggest indulgence since the pandemic started.
My rent has been increased by over 30%, and we have been served an “evacuation” notice, while my entire industry shut down, so my biggest indulgence is a certain degree of denial.
11. What have you stockpiled?
Plants. Our tiny garden is home to hundreds of botanical companions, many of which are not even ours, but waiting to move to permanent homes in other people’s gardens!
12. What have you been reading?
A mixed bag. A biography of Charles I, The Personal Monarch, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You, Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle, and Yeats’ Selected Prose, to name a few of the stand-outs.
13. What have you been watching?
Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! as well as YouTube documentaries, interviews, musical theatre parodies, and archivals.
14. What have you been listening to?
Most recently, I have been listening to classical compositions and country dances from the British Renaissance and early Baroque (for research purposes), as well as two new musical cast recordings: A Strange Loop by Michael R. Jackson and Dave Malloy’s Octet.
15. What are you doing for exercise?
16. The one thing you haven’t been able to live without?
17. Do-it-yourself haircut or the natural look?
For the first time in my life, I am sporting a shaved head – the Daddy Warbucks look.
18. Night owl or early riser?
Early to bed, late to rise, can’t be productive or open my eyes.
19. Will you be the first out as restrictions are gradually lifted or taking a wait-and-see attitude?
With local theatres on prolonged hiatus and CERB running out, I have been offered a job at a theatre in Germany this fall. I may be required to fly to Toronto to apply for a work visa. So I suppose I am considering leaving the Atlantic bubble for employment’s sake.
20. What’s the first thing you will do when this is all over?
I hope to feel the pressure to finish writing a song and teach it to a cast.
Meet Garry Williams
Garry has been happily making theatre and music in Halifax for almost twenty years and is the artistic director of DaPoPo Theatre. DaPoPo Theatre is known for Café DaPoPo, The Drinking Game, and the Live-In Festival (LIFe), among other things.
He studied all sorts of non-essential things – musicology, comparative literature, theatre, and music – at the FU Berlin, Manhattanville College, NY and Mt. Alison University, NB.
Garry lost a few Merritt nominations for originals scores and supporting roles, but won the Award for his work on KAMP.
He would have led a workshop Even the Muse Requires Consent: Towards A Healthy Dialogue About Promiscuous Music Making, been part of a new script workshop with Villains Theatre, directed Shakespeare By The Sea’s Pinocchio at the Halifax Grammar School, presented Broadway Boyz at the Halifax Mayworks Festival, and returned to Shakespeare By The Sea for a fifth consecutive season this year. Instead, he was handed a 30% rent increase, an evacuation notice, and a cut-off date for CERB.
Luckily, he did record an audiobook, host and participate in a few online events, teach music theory online, take part in a writing workshop, and apply to the Canada Council’s Digital Originals initiative during the pandemic.