20 questions (pandemic edition) with Jade Douris-O’Hara

This week we check in with Halifax-based actor and studio director for The Studio at Shakespeare by the Sea, Jade Douris-O’Hara.

Jade Douris-O’Hara. Photo by James Maclean.
Jade Douris-O’Hara. Photo by James Maclean.

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 actor and studio director for The Studio at Shakespeare by the Sea, Jade Douris-O’Hara.

1. How are you staying creative during the pandemic?

I saw it as the perfect opportunity to really commit to a routine of personal practice with play-reading, vocal practise, and dance classes. YouTube is teaching me some ukelele basics, and attending play readings over Zoom, writing, dreaming up plays that don’t exist yet. You name it.

2. What’s the one thing getting you through?

When I get a wave of what I call the “Quarantine Mopeys”, my husband texts me pictures of puppies.

3. How are you staying in contact with family and friends who are not in your bubble?

I’m a big fan of gifts for no reason. I’ve just been sending people surprise books I think they’ll like. Or dropping some baking on their porch. I had cheesecake delivered to my mom in Toronto.

4. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far during the pandemic?

It’s been one long crash course in letting go of the need to plan things. Because you basically just can’t.

5. What do you feel the most grateful for right now?

A lot of things. I doubt I’m alone in feeling grateful for the incredible amount of labour, emotional and otherwise, being done by BIPOC folks in patiently helping us white folks reeducate ourselves. There’s a lot to do as a society, and I’m grateful for the bravery of many people organizing and telling their stories. The theatre community is also having a lot of conversations we haven’t had before, and I’m just wildly grateful for that. There’s so much work to be done, so many systems and practises to rethink, and that it happens to be coming at a time when we have some time and space to re-shape our industry feels like a real gift. I’m learning all sorts of things I never knew, learning that I was taught untrue things, and finally waking up to ways I’ve been complicit in a system that hurts others but also starting to understand the many ways in which these systems hurt everyone. So, I’m grateful for people’s patience and work and the time to process it all. And Jagmeet Singh, cause that guy is just so good at his job.

6. What is something you are doing now that you don’t normally?

Drinking eight glasses of water per day like you’re supposed to.

7. What skill have you developed since the pandemic started?

My husband says he never needs anyone else to give him a haircut ever again, which I am not 100% on board with. I also learned how to reupholster a chair.

8. What have you missed the most?

Plays. Seeing plays. Being in plays. As an actor, I’ve had five opening nights cancelled so far. Eight, if you count the shows I was producing as the Studio Director at Shakespeare by the Sea, which I really, really do.

9. Your #1 pandemic survival tip.

Marry your best friend. And drink water.

10. Your biggest indulgence since the pandemic started.

We got HBO.

11. What have you stockpiled?

Flour. Local beers. Tears. Okay, I know that’s a little dramatic, but EIGHT OPENING NIGHTS, okay?!

12. What have you been reading?

Pride and Prejudice. Henry IV parts 1 & 2. My husband just finished The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, so now it’s my turn to read it, finally!

13. What have you been watching?

We get up in the morning and watch all the late-night shows that got released overnight. Colbert, Hasan Minhaj, Seth Meyers, John Oliver. Then at night, a rotation of Modern Family, Sex & the City, Barry, The Watchmen, The Wire.

14. What have you been listening to?

Mostly podcasts! 1619, Uncivil, Rabbit Hole, 99% Invisible, Articles of Interest, The Show Show with Sweets and Slaney, The Daily, and Reply All. Highly recommend them all!

15. What are you doing for exercise?

Movement Class over Zoom with my movement teacher from Ryerson Theatre School, Pippa Domville and Ballet Barre with Kathryn Morgan on YouTube. Plus long walks down to the water and up around Citadel Hill and back home again, yoga, pushups, and live dance classes when the schedule matches my energy level. I’ve got a musical theatre class with Kimberley Rampersad through the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton cued up right now that I meant to take live, but foolishly miscalculated the three hour time difference the wrong way in my agenda (facepalm).

16. The one thing you haven’t been able to live without?

It was rough when the parks were closed because one of the joys of living in the South End has been Point Pleasant Park walks.

17. Do-it-yourself haircut or the natural look?

I’ve just been letting it grow, but I did bleach it myself after being a brunette my whole life, so it’s not exactly the “natural” look!

18. Night owl or early riser?

Night owl! I get a burst of energy at around 7:00 pm. Theatre actor, go figure.

19. Will you be the first out as restrictions are gradually lifted or taking a wait-and-see attitude?

Waiting! I love safety!

20. What’s the first thing you will do when this is all over?

Start making theatre again. Sounds dreamy.

Meet Jade Douris-O’Hara

Jade Douris-O’Hara has been an actor since she was fired from her first acting job at age one when she cried too much on the set of a Lever 2000 commercial, and they had to bring in the backup baby.

Born and raised in Toronto, Jade was your classic precocious kid actor, with headshots that now make her cringe deeply. She also trained in ballet and figure skating, before ending up at the Etobicoke School of the Arts, a performing arts high school where she met and fell in love with Drew O’Hara, who she married this past New Year’s Eve, the very last event she attended with 125 people in one room.

She’s a big old Shakespeare nerd whose best party tricks are her Britney Spears impression and her ability to scan iambic pentameter on the fly. The former has resulted in exactly zero acting gigs, while the latter has resulted in work with Shakespeare BASH’d (five seasons), Shakespeare at Play (two feature films), Dauntless City Theatre, and four seasons at Shakespeare by the Sea. In 2018, she was nominated for a Merritt Award for Best Choreography for her work on Alice in Wonderland. Last summer, you may have seen her play Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, which played to over 7000 audience members and won Bronze in The Coast’s Best of Halifax Awards for Best Theatre Production.

Jade was supposed to be in her fifth season at Shakespeare by the Sea this summer. She and Drew moved to Halifax from Toronto a year ago to start The Studio at Shakespeare by the Sea, the 27-year-old company’s first-ever year-round theatre education initiative. You can also see her skating with national treasure Kurt Browning on CBC’s According to Kids.

You can follow Jade on Instagram or Twitter.