Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Abominable Showman, July 15, 2012

Promo art for The Sheets, The...

Speedos and underwear
The rise and rise of Toronto actor and playwright Salvatore Antonio, from wearing nothing but underwear at an audition to co-starring in NBC’s hit summer TV series Saving Hope
By Richard Burnett
You can see Salvatore Antonio co-star in the new hit supernatural medical drama Saving Hope which debuted on NBC and CTV in June. But imagine, if you will, Antonio wearing nothing but his underwear.
“I paid off my student loans by doing all kinds of TV commercials," the Canadian actor and playwright told me in 2011. "There was nothing I wouldn’t do! So my agent sent me off to audition for a Deepak Chopra video with weird new-age visuals and I was told to appear at the audition in my underwear or in Speedos.”
Antonio – playwright-in-residence at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in 2004  and a finalist for a 2007 Governor-General’s Award for Literary Drama (for his play In Gabriel’s Kitchen) – arrived and peeled off his clothes.
“The room was filled with girls in bikinis and guys with 24-pack abs," Antonio recalls. "They played wind chimes with birds chirping from this tiny ghetto blaster and we had to spin like whirling dervishes! I spun for 10-minutes and barely made it out of the room without puking! I went outside, began to cry and told my agent, ‘Never again!’ That was the beginning of me not selling out.”
Ah, the trials and tribulations of the struggling actor.
Antonio graduated from Montreal’s National Theatre School of Canada (alumni include Roy Dupuis, Colm Feore and Sandra Oh) back in 1998 and now also teaches there.
“NTS now has more alumni teaching – not [people] from 20 years ago who had a career in England! I tell my students I was just like them and barely made it through my three years. So I’m not talking from the mount.”
Until Saving Hope, Antonio was arguably best-known for his terrific play In Gabriel’s Kitchen, about a gay son who commits suicide. It was compelling theatre back in 2006 when its sold-out run at Buddies didn’t impress the critics. "It was panned across the board. ‘Why bother? The whole coming-out thing has been done before.’ But it got incredible word of mouth and was the hit of the theatre season."
In Gabriel’s Kitchen practically presaged North America’s current gay-teen-suicide epidemic ("Sadly, yes," Antonio sighs). I tell Antonio I think he could’ve filmed an It Gets Better video like columnist Dan Savage. But Antonio – a former public-speaking champion – replies, "This enrages so many of my colleagues but I’ve always tried to stay away from these kinds of political statements because I personally don’t want to become a poster boy or reference point for anything.”
This past April Antonio wrote and directed The Sheets, The... produced at the Harbourfront Centre by The Empty Whole Group, a new multi-disciplinary theatre company in Toronto (Antonio is their artistic director). It was a one-night-only performance of a still-in-development multi-disciplinary work (The Empty Whole Group’s mandate blurs theatre, dance, music and visual art) that explores the human need for emotional connection and sexual release. 
Antonio will also be taking part in Toronto’s upcoming 2012 SummerWorks Theatre Festival which runs August 9 to 19. 
(Others performing at Summerworks include my friend and past Charlebois Post contributor Johanna Nutter in her terrific one-woman play My Pregnant Brother, as well as my old colleague, sex columnist Sasha Von Bon Bon and The Scandelles in Les Demimondes, which The Scandelles performed in Montreal earlier this year at the Edgy Women Festival. Read my interview with Sasha by clicking here.)
But if all you want to do is take in that handsome mug of Salvatore Antonio, tune in to Saving Hope on NBC.
Personally, what I can’t get enough of is his awesome voice. 
Whereupon Antonio shares with me one of dreams:
“I still want to be a TV news anchor!” he says. “There’s something about how polished they are. I always wanted to be a fake news anchor. That’s the lure, you know, to look like plastic. That’s what I always wanted to be!”
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