20 questions (pandemic edition) with Stepheny Hunter

This week we check in with actor, improviser, and playwright, Stepheny Hunter.

Stepheny Hunter
Stepheny Hunter

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 actor, improviser, and playwright, Stepheny Hunter.

1. How are you staying creative during the pandemic?

I’ve been trying to reconnect with other creative outlets that I haven’t prioritized as much over the past few years. Making crafts, playing piano, getting my old film camera out, baking brownies – I had time to remember all the other things that I love to do. Things that have been put on the back burner because I was too busy working three jobs while in between contracts. So, that’s been quite nice.

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

Early on in the pandemic, my friend Avery Jean (maybe you saw them in Neptune’s Peter Pan?), started a queer weekly play reading. We first read Angels in America, Part 1 and 2, and have managed to read a different play every week since then. It’s been a nice consistent activity, and I’ve now read more plays than I ever managed to get through back in theatre school. Except Avery Jean isn’t making me pay them thousands of dollars.

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

I’m originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, so my family is always far away. I miss them a lot, but being an only child, my mom calls me every day to tell me how much she loves me (I’m pretty lucky!) My stepmom and dad are out at their cabin that’s off-grid, so they send me pictures of them being in paradise. So, we’re getting by. As for my friends, Zoom took over for a while. We got pretty good at playing Quiplash through shared screens.

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

I mentioned it earlier, but definitely grateful for the time to check in on my priorities. With Black Lives Matter movements happening all over the world, I’m happy that I had the time to invest myself in continuing to learn and grow and question how I’ve been complicit in a racist society. I have a newfound energy to dismantle the colonialist systems that have been supported for way too long. Sure, I miss acting and performing, but huge things are happening, and I’m happy that we’re all being forced to watch and listen.

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

I work at Neptune Theatre with their front of house team, and I was laid off in March. So, first of all, I was extremely grateful for CERB that kept me afloat for many months. It gave me so much time to realize how exhausted I was. My mind pre-COVID had always been running. I kept busy to distract myself, and because I never wanted to lose momentum. Then it got fully stripped away, and I had time to actually hang out with myself and see how that felt. So I’m grateful for that time. Time that I spent learning and growing. I’m grateful to have a sweet home, a loving partner, the cutest dog in the world, kind and VERY FUNNY friends, family who miss me, food on the table, etc. We focus so often on what we don’t have, so it was nice to have time to reconnect with how much we do have.

But the thing I was most grateful for would have to be Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Please come visit my island Chill Boys whenever you’d like!

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

Drinking two litres of water a day. And let me tell you, it’s hard work!

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

Other than drinking two litres of water a day, I got a new camera and got back into photography. I’ve always loved capturing what’s around me, so it’s been nice to reconnect with that.

8. What have you missed the most?

My first ever play, Fat Juliet, was going to be produced this upcoming September by Shakespeare by the Sea. It’s a retelling of Romeo & Juliet, where Juliet is fat. As a fat person, when I first graduated theatre school, I realized how few opportunities fat actors were given. I knew that most directors would not look at me and think, “Ah, a perfect Juliet.” So I decided to write a version where I was. It’s been years in the making, so I was really excited to make it happen. That being said, I had a script workshop back in June funded by Arts Nova Scotia, which gave me extra time to make the script even stronger. And I have faith that one day it will happen.

9. Your #1 pandemic survival tip.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others.

10. Your biggest indulgence since the pandemic started.

Cherry Bubbly. I have had so. Much. Cherry Bubbly.

11. What have you stockpiled?

Fudgsicles.

12. What have you been reading?

I’m reading Samantha Irby’s Wow, No Thank You currently. I’ve had a difficult time reading lately, but her essays are “oops I accidentally spit my water everywhere” level funny.

13. What have you been watching?

I had time to watch HBO’s Euphoria, which is one of my new favourite TV shows. I May Destroy You by Michaela Coel is also a must-watch.

14. What have you been listening to?

Why Won’t You Date Me. Nicole Byer is my go-to podcast.

15. What are you doing for exercise?

I took some online dance classes, but it’s hard to pirouette in your tiny apartment-sized living room. Sometimes my partner and I go to the commons and would just bike around the oval. Got to get it wherever you can!

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

My dog, Sadie Lady Julia. And my partner Peter is pretty great as well.

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

Oh boy. Yeah, very much DIY. I shaved Peter’s head, then he shaved mine, and then we tried to shave our dog, Sadie. A family of haircuts. I started this pandemic with long brown curly hair and now look like a teen boy with frosted tips.

18. Night owl or early riser?

Early on in the pandemic, I was getting up extremely early. I was following whatever the sun was doing since time meant nothing to me.

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

Well, the improv company I work with, Hello City, has already had multiple outdoor performances in the past month. So, I’d say that I’m turning out to be one of the first ones out.

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

Premiere my show, Fat Juliet. I have an amazing creative team, and I’m excited to share the story, I just need to finally get it done.

Meet Daniel Stepheny Hunter

Stepheny Hunter (they/them) is an actor, improviser, and playwright based in Halifax/K’jipuktuk. Originally from Winnipeg, MB, Stepheny moved to Halifax to attend Dalhousie’s Fountain School of Performing Arts.

They are a member of Hello City, a monthly improv show that takes place at the Bus Stop Theatre (Silver for Best Comedy Night – The Coast 2018, 2019, Outstanding comedy and Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role Halifax Fringe 2019, Best Ensemble Halifax Fringe 2018).

Stepheny’s play Fat Juliet, a retelling of Romeo & Juliet from the perspective of a fat 16-year-old, Juliet, will be presented by Shakespeare by the Sea in 2021.