October 8, 2020

Moving to a New City; How I Got Here

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Doug, one of our lovely 2Play Tour actors, reflects on moving to different cities and living as an artist during these times: “Creation and expression will always be linked to my moving all over”.

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Ever since I was a baby, moving has been a part of my life. The first time I moved from one city to another was 22 years ago — four months before my first birthday. I was born in Sasebo, Japan, to my Canadian father and Japanese mother. My mother and her side of the family is made up entirely of life-long Japanese natives, all of which still live and work there to this day. But before I even knew how to walk we were moving away from my ancestral birthplace and towards the west coast of Canada as first-generation immigrants. Naturally, I remember very little of this trip; if my childhood self was anything like how my adult self acts on long flights, I was probably sleeping and/or crying the whole time. Now in my adulthood, I have a deep respect for my parents (especially my mother) for their decision to immigrate;
packing up your life to pursue an unclear future is never, ever easy. In 1998, though, I couldn’t comprehend any of that. Ten hours of travel later, we had arrived in Victoria, British Columbia.

Fast forward two decades to 2019. I’m twenty-one years old. We still live in Victoria, but now I have two younger siblings. I’ve moved around the city at least four times. I’m receiving my BFA in acting from the University of Victoria’s Phoenix Theatre. I really feel like an actor and even more like an artist. It’s time to fly the nest. My girlfriend is also an actor, who graduated from another (rival?) theatre school the same year. School was good to us, and gave us the motivation to keep searching for work beyond our little tide pool. We wouldn’t wait around for the work to come in; we would chase after it! Together we decided we would stay in Victoria and work until the end of the year, at which time we would move across the country to Toronto.

The second time I moved to a new city was on January 1st of 2020. The first few months of our new life was both mentally and physically exhausting, but we reassured ourselves that before long we would be busy working actors. In February, my girlfriend’s mother said to us: “Make sure you take time to rest. You won’t have any time to in a few months!”

At the start of the lockdowns, our entire industry was suddenly halted. I lost both of my part time jobs. Nobody was posting auditions. Most frightening of all, part of me seriously regretted moving to Toronto. Almost all of my friends and family were in Victoria and the few people we did know in Toronto were either out of town or in the same paranoid boat as us. At the beginning of March, however, I was fortunate enough to be approached by Geordie Theatre regarding auditions for a new play in their 2Play Tour: The Little Mighty Superhero by Marie Barlizo. When I initially received the offer, I planned to take a train to Montreal for the audition. Naturally, I cancelled that trip because of the pandemic. But less than a week later, I was offered another audition, this time over Zoom. I accepted that one. One thing led to another and, well, let’s say that I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t get the part. I was set to play Max in The Little Mighty Superhero.

The third time I moved to a new city was two months ago. Geordie operates out of Montreal, a city I’ve never visited before and constantly reminds me how stupid I was to drop French in high school. My girlfriend would hold down the fort in Toronto and I would move here
alone. After five months of quarantining together, we would suddenly become long-distance. As a young, healthy, able-bodied male I have very little in my life to complain about. But I miss her a lot. I miss the comfort of home and I miss having a family. I miss having an intimate
support network. I even kind of miss my old part-time jobs. When this show ends next April, I will return to my Toronto home with renewed appreciation for all that I’ve had to leave for now. But I’ve realized there is something virtuous in the discomfort of moving to a new city. When we swim in unfamiliar waters we have a natural instinct to flounder and cling to anything for support. Sometimes that thing is other people, sometimes it’s our jobs. For me, it’s my art. Creation and expression will always be linked to my moving all over. For me, the choice to create something has grown to trump the fear of uncertainty. I suppose I’m like my mother in that way, immigrating in spite of and because of discomfort.

I am certain that there will be more moving in my future. Maybe the uncertainty in that will fade and the discomfort will seep in some other way. For now, I’m reminded of some advice that Jacques Lemay, one of my old teachers gave me and my class during our first lesson: “You only need three things to be a successful actor: a suitcase, a valid passport, and a sense of humour.”

– Douglas Peerless; 2020/21 2Play Tour actor

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