Santa, a Wombat and a very big 5 year-old
The reality of the arts game is that you usually need a day job, even when considered successful. I have had many over the years. There have been many retail jobs, several bottle shops, Forty Winks (bedding for those non-Aussie readers), video stores, and most recently I was at fashion retailer, Witchery, in both Melbourne and Sydney.
However, over the past few years, my “day” job, has involved acting, and that makes me happy. So while working on my own stuff, I can pay the bills with jobs I love. I teach drama to children and teens in various places around Sydney. And I love when I see my students getting acting work, I have used many myself in my projects. My other job is pre-school theatre in education. Many years ago, I worked for a company called, Tell Tales, who had been successfully running for many years. My friend, Emma Louise, who I have worked with on countless projects with, bought that company, becoming Em’s Entertainment. I also went to work for her. I ended up in Melbourne for 5 years and when I got back, I was working for her again. By this stage, I was also writing shows for her. Now I work for her all year round. At Christmas, it becomes a full-time job, and if I do say so myself, I am a good Santa.
Currently the shows I have written for Emma are, Wombat’s Wild Weekend, Mrs Claus’s Christmas, When I Grow Up and this Christmas, we will premiere, Carol Claus. We still do some of the old Tell Tales shows, but this year I have gotten to do all my shows, which I love. Currently I am touring two one person shows, Wombat’s Wild Weekend and When I Grow Up, then for Christmas we have Carol Claus.
In Wombat’s Wild Weekend, I get to play a lot of Australian native animals, a kangaroo, a koala, a kookaburra and of course, a wombat. The show is about Wombat, who decides to bust out of the zoo for the weekend and head to the outback. But while there, a bower bird steals his lucky blue socks (which he can’t sleep without) and he has to call on all the native animals to help him get them back. Koala has had a few too many eucalyptus leaves, Kangaroo likes to box and rap, Dingo may not be the smartest around and Kookaburra loves to line dance. The kids have a ball, and so do I. Though, those costume changes and heavy onesies are killers.
I adore When I Grow Up, I think it may be my favourite of all our shows. I get to play a series of 5-year olds, and the kids never question that. My character Sam, well he is a bit of a neurotic mess. He worries because all his friends know what they want to be when they grow up, and he doesn’t. So, he gets them all out to talk about their jobs and see if he can be inspired. So, I get to play kids trying loads of fun jobs, a bus driver, a flight attendant, a builder. Then there’s the real fun ones, a magician, a sculptor who likes to play musical statues; and then there’s my favourite, Danny. Danny wants to be a sports star, even though he is terrible at everything he tries, but he never gives up trying. Oh, and he likes to rap, which all the teachers love. I think the audience enjoy it so much because I am having the time of my life. The 45 minutes of doing that show goes very fast.
Then at Christmas comes the new show. Always an exciting time, we have two teams of two touring, both doing the same show. And we can have up to three shows a day. This year I will get to be Santa, Rudolph and this year’s villain, Jack Frost. I am keen to get rehearsing. The thing I love about the Christmas show is the joy it brings the children. They are already so excited about Christmas, so to help them share that joy is infectious. Our shows are wonderfully inclusive and get the kids involved, they sing, they dance, they call out. It’s wonderful.
As an actor, it is the best training. I am performing several shows a day, each to a new crowd, in a new location (because we go to them). You have to be ready to expect the unexpected. Kids could yell out, come on stage, an entire group of small kids could cry. You learn to cope and make it go on, no matter what. We’ve had some tech issues over the years. One year during a preview, we were trying a new way to do the sound. Instead of the usual old school iPod, we tried just plugging the USB straight in. It was going fine, and then mid show, it skipped to a later number. Internally we may have panicked, but the kids would never have known something very bad was happening, and they loved the show.
At any given point, less than 5% of actors are making a living from their craft. I am one of the lucky ones. And while my job may seem like hell to some serious performers, I adore it. I am a big kid who loves fun. And boy do I have fun.
So if you run a preschool or a childcare centre, your friend does, or your child goes to one; check out Em’s Entertainment at: www.emsentertainment.com.au – I’d love to come do a show for you.