by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
Rob Salvador is an accomplished stage and screen actor, and co-founder of Vancouver's Glass City Theatre. For the company's 2011 production of Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train (directed by Theatre Chair Angela Konrad), Mr Salvador won the prestigious Jessie Richardson Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role. The production won several other awards, including Best Production. Mr Salvador's playwriting credits include Stretch Dog, produced at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival in 2010.
CHARPO: First, tell me how the project was initiated and what is it about? (What, exactly, are those "personal journies"?)
SALVADOR: Well, I came in to the fold pretty late in the process. The collaboration has been ongoing for a few years and I was just brought in over the summer. There have been a handful of workshops with a director, actors, writers, designers and community members. People were encouraged to share stories from their lives around the themes of shame and forgiveness (in other words it's a Rom-Com)... From there, the central creative team has given the stories a context and a shape and we reconvened and have worked really hard to make a compelling little piece of theatre. At least, that's what I think we've done here.
CHARPO: From what I have read, it is a collective creation, so what were you then called upon to do as an actor/writer?
SALVADOR: I've touched on this a little, but we were asked first and foremost to share stories. We were also involved in movement pieces, aural experiments, and a whole host of creative exercises aimed at finding different ways to effectively tell a story.
CHARPO: I have had some experience with projects like these and they can turn pretty intense. Share the atmosphere your company is working in?
SALVADOR: Intense. Yeah. One thing that struck me right away was the sense of care... that the creative ensemble really cares for each other and the subject matter is treated with respect. The room has been a safe place to be open and honest. I've felt safe with these people, crying and laughing and asking really hard questions. I've also been struck by the sense of humour that keeps the room comfortably aware of itself and safe from bleeding out. In my experience, some of the most humbling or humiliating experiences of my life were also some of the most hilarious (given the appropriate amount of time and perspective). We have laughed a lot... so much, in fact, that an ensemble member wet themselves just the other day. Straight up pissed her pants
CHARPO: Now I'd like to talk about your own previous experience and how this differs and what tools of the trade you picked up and which are now helping you with this production?
SALVADOR: Well, I think my sense of humour has been an asset in this process. Not like 'hey, I'm a funny guy so aren't I special', but I mean that I've always been able to laugh at myself. It's a big part of my humour and sense of self... I make fun of myself. Now maybe that's just because I've made so many mistakes in my life that if I didn't laugh I'd have ended it years ago. But, because of that, I've always taken note of the times in my life where I have laughed the hardest... Usually it's because something very meaningful has happened... It may be hours or years before I find myself saying to someone, "Holy shit, this one time..." and telling that story. But when I do, I'm generally laughing about a milestone moment or very important friendship or something else that really really matters.
CHARPO: One more question - and its a doozy... One of the reasons, I feel, that collective creations were popular was that the world was enjoying a period of collaborative work. Two things happened: the rise of the director and the fact that many collectives turned into clusterfucks. How are you, your director and your company dealing with that potential pitfall?
SALVADOR: The team that's been assembled is a great one. Everyone is very good at what they do and there is a lot of trust in the abilities of all the collaborators. That being said, Mindy Parfitt (our director) is the Whip. She is guiding the process and if we all didn't trust her vision and her aesthetic, we certainly may have strayed into the realm of the clusterfuck. Also, questions are always welcome in the room. Questions about the content or the message or the process. Also, while we all care for each other and respect each other, no one is babied. We knew what we were getting into and were prepared to open a few wounds. The answer to some questions is gonna be, NO.
Now, I think the major pitfall in this project would be telling stories for the sake of the story or worse, the storyteller. That would be a kind of masturbation, and I wouldn't ask people to come and see that. I'm happy to say, that's not what is happening here. And, I would ask you to come see what we've been up to.