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Raising the ROOF with Lucas Myers

Lucas Myers plays every man sometimes through his humour to delighted audiences. He is a consummate performer, playwright, comic, and a storyteller all in one. — Submitted photo

“A stage play is basically a form of uber-schizophrenia. You split yourself into two minds - one being the protagonist and the other being the antagonist. The playwright also splits himself into two other minds: the mind of the writer and the mind of the audience.” David Mamet

The truly variable Lucas Myers is a talent that encapsulates the importance of local performing arts and theatre, and his emblematic sense of approaching his craft creates unique stage comedy performances that capture his artistry and his passion as a live theatrical dramatist, in the ‘humour comedy’ subgenre.

He has a skilled ability to weave Wes Anderson like narratives and subject matter, through a realm that rests between uncomfortably funny coupled with a human vulnerability, and wittingly transports his audiences into an array of multi-dimensional character sub-sets that form his unique one man shows.

With cultural influences creating an appetite for theatre to create something that differentiates, Myers knows how to blend his unique brand of humour with moments of intrigue, and he does so exceptionally well. He naturally has an ornate ability to move through his craft and characters with seamless conversation pieces, tailored with clever obsessions.

It’s fair to say that plots and styles ebb and flow in his complete repertoire of work, and the forthcoming play ROOF, is no exception. In this edition of The Daily Dose Myers shares the ROOF introduction with me, and what it’s like to take his own personal comic theory and incorporate this into his very funny, very original and enthralling performances.

And of course, with any play, you begin with a synopsis, and this one substantially paints a raising picture.

Cue the sound and narration

From the creator of A Beginners Guide to Nelsonia, CAMPGROUND and DECK comes another reno-centric comedy. Weaving together elements of stand up, physical comedy and Lucas Myers' trademark brand of observational humour.

So, what is it, to be a good person? Dave knows. In fact Dave thinks he has such a lock on it he wants to show you how to be good, too!

ROOF stars Dave, a highly successful real estate agent who is living the dream; beautiful kids, sweet car, great wife, gorgeous sound system, and a designer kitchen. However, just as he is about to launch his own self-improvement video series, @HiMyNameIsDave, he discovers his refurbished character house isn't quite as refurbished as it appeared to be. Major roof issues cause cracks to form in his perfect world as he struggles to find a contractor who can take the job on short notice and live up to Dave's exacting standards. Enter Stevie, a genial journeyman roofer with aspirations of being a stand up comic, who is the only person capable of dealing with Dave's narcissistic hyper vigilance. As they work together on the roof, Stevie forces Dave to confront his shortcomings and come to terms with what being a good person really means. 

Please note: This performance is not suitable for children.

Fade out sound, beginning the Q+A

You are quite a variable theatre performer. How would you describe yourself, more so as a playwright, a comedian, a storyteller, a combination of all the above? How do your performances encapsulate your vision?

Well, I trained as an actor but was always interested in writing. At a certain point, I think it was when I was at school in Montreal, I thought about the difference between creating art; i.e. writing my own material, and interpreting art, i.e. being an actor who interprets a playwright's words. I’m not saying actors who don’t write their own material aren’t artists, they totally are, but there is a difference between getting up on stage and performing someone else’s ideas and vision and doing your own. I think I knew on some level that I always wanted to try out writing as well, and I was very lucky when I got out of all my post secondary schooling to be a part of a theatre company in Victoria called TheatreSKAM that was intent on creating shows which were very much about current events, and based around the lives of the people that were coming to see the shows. Basically, they were our friends and peers, so there were some great opportunities there to create work that was accessible and reflected our own lives and experiences. A lot of the elements that I include in my shows, like audience participation, and creating work that is about current societal fascinations come from that time, as I could see how the audience really responded to it.

To go back to your question about what I describe myself as, I saw Bessie Wapp, an incredibly talented performer here in Nelson, describe herself somewhere as a theatre artist and thought “Yeah, that kind of covers all the bases!”

Growing up, you could describe yourself as a theatre nerd. Where did you begin exploring drama, and what inspired you? Take me through the beginning stages.

I have to say, it is pretty ironic that I ended up doing theatre as I am a true-blue introvert, so its pretty hilarious that my chosen profession is getting up in front of a whole bunch of people all by myself. Theatre kind of snuck up on me, it was thanks to the Fine Arts and Life Skills program that Trafalgar was running back when I was in Grade 7, a couple 100 ago.

The idea was that for each term of the school year, you would do a different Fine Art, so we cycled through Visual Art, Choir, and Drama. On the Life Skills side I think it was Shop, Cooking and if I remember correctly, making a pretty crappy pair of jogging pants in Sewing (Home Economics). It was actually pretty awesome, because you could figure out if you were interested in any of those things and then for Grade 8 and 9 pursue it. Drama yes, sewing, not so much.

It was the time when Theatre Sports was really blowing up, so Drama consisted predominantly of Improv games, and for whatever reason, I was able to take what was happening creatively in my head and express it physically and vocally, and people seemed to get a kick out of it. So, basically, I just kept doing it! I was also blessed with some great teachers, Ken Wilson at Trafalgar had such a love for theatre it was impossible not to be inspired, and it was Sandi Klan and Geoff Burns at LV Rogers that were really supportive, and able to create some great opportunities for their students to explore, which really locked in my own desire to keep doing it.

The theatre lifestyle and its fine-feathered friends could be described as your tribe, how did you discover yours? How has this evolved?

It's interesting, having a daughter who has just turned 13 and seeing her entering into that crazy maelstrom of identity politics that is adolescence, where you suddenly become hyper aware of your place in the social milieu. I am realizing that theatre didn’t just provide me with a creative outlet, it really provided me with an identity. It helped me feel like I had a niche that I could fit into. I remember in Grade 9, we had a play that won the regional theatre festival, which meant we could go to the Provincials in Kimberley! Woohoo!

And the huge takeaway for me, although I’m sure I wasn’t totally aware of this at the time, was that there we were, this little group of lowly Grade 9’s, but it didn’t matter because everyone was there for one reason, because we loved theatre. Hundreds of other kids and their teachers, and these instructors, theatre professionals! Teaching workshops! To be exposed to it on this much larger scale was, I think, deeply comforting and gave me the confidence, at an age when personal confidence can be elusive, to say, yeah this is who I am, I am happy to claim this. This is where I belong.

I also had the benefit of an incredible peer group that was equally fearless in claiming it. One of my fellow students, Chad Hucal, actually wrote a play in Grade 12 that we performed for the Theatre Festival. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by people that weren’t afraid to go for it.  In terms of how it has evolved, I think once you commit to something like that, you are just in it for good. Its like musicians, there is a mutual understanding of how kind of insane it is, but how totally worth it.

You play multi-faceted characters in your shows, what are the differences being a solo performer vs acting in an ensemble for you?

It’s harder and easier. It’s harder because there are no breaks and you are totally responsible for carrying the energy of the show, but if you have a good rapport with the audience (which isn’t guaranteed, but devoutly wished for) then it’s pretty fantastic. Its easier in the sense that if you forget where you are, you can just choose somewhere else to jump to without the risk of totally screwing up your scene partner, but harder in the sense that if you really get lost there isn’t anyone else there to bale you out! 

As much as I love the deep connection with an audience you can get from doing solo shows, and the freedom inherent in writing and creating my own work, I also really, really miss the feeling of working in an ensemble, the sense of working together as a team to create something. I compare it again to music, its fun to be the singer songwriter up there alone, but there is a really great energy that is created by getting a whole band going, really churning it out and firing it up.

As a creative, how do you visualize your process, what are your techniques, and what are the emotive elements that you draw from?

I generally draw on things that I am curious about and then figure out a way I can put that into a show and make a story out of it. For example for ROOF I was interested in the concept of how our whole online culture promotes narcissism, the Self Help movement, stand up comedy and homelessness.  Some of it is honestly just an excuse to investigate these things, I’m fascinated by stand up comedy, I could never do it, in fact I did do an open mic night here in town as research for the show since one of the characters is an aspiring stand up comedian, and it was a f***ing terrifying full stop. There is something about the necessary pressure of having to be funny, that is the whole set up, that I found just really, really difficult. I also did it as myself, rather than playing one of my characters and I did that on purpose because I think that is what differentiates stand up comedy from one person shows like I do, comedians are generally playing themselves. I’m sure it’s the stand up comedian version of themselves, but it’s still them, they are using their real name. I have so much respect for anyone that does stand up to be honest.

In terms of show building, I try to use different techniques to tell the story. I usually have music in my shows, because I like to write songs and it’s my show, and I’m writing it, so I can do what I want!  Also, on a totally emotionally manipulative level, music hits us in a different place then words or movement do. I have used puppetry quite a bit, audience participation like I mentioned, video, all these are ways to connect with the audience in a different way, to really engage their imaginations on as many levels as possible. I am kind of apprehensive about revealing my methodology, mainly because I don’t want to jinx it, but what I try to do is use comedy as an access point, and, after I’ve got people laughing, try to work some deeper emotional truths in there, with the hopes that people will be open to them since they are having such a good time! ROOF is really a case in point of this, I am not going to tell you how, you’ll have to come see the show for that! 

Theatre is accessible, as the experience for the audience is interpretable and subjective, what are your motivations around creating a human condition around your performances?

One of things I try to do is present a stereotype and then subvert it. As humans, we make a judgment call immediately upon seeing someone, based on what they are wearing, how they stand, how they talk, we slot them into a specific place based on our own preconceptions. It’s instinctive. I like to initially play into that judgment call, because it’s comforting to have your biases confirmed! It’s also great fodder for comedy. So for ROOF one of the characters is a stereotypical real estate agent, fast-talking, somewhat manipulative, super-confident. He’s not a jerk though, he is honestly well meaning but he has some pretty substantial blind spots. Then, as the show goes on I try to expose his frailty as he realizes his own shortcomings and tries to deal with that. *Also some good fodder for comedy.

As your plays evolve over time through rehearsals and performing, how do the physical nuances of your characters develop? How do your perceptions change over this period?

Everything deepens and gets more set. In rehearsal I try to find what unique movement and voice the character has, and by voice I mean not just the actual sound of their voice, but also how they talk, what kind of language they use, what they care about, as that really informs the writing process. And then the performances are all about making it work with the audience, how to make the moments work, how to make sure the flow is right. It’s like music in the sense that you have to make sure there are some slow quiet bits in amongst the high energy bits, or everyone, including me, just gets exhausted. 

You performed ROOF last year, are there differences with how you are approaching the show this time around?

I’m going to rehearse it! Last year the version I performed was very, very fresh and newly formed. Some of the bits were completely improvised which was partly on purpose because the character was improvising them, but as much as that felt like it was true to the character, its sure didn’t help ‘Lucas’ the actor’s stress levels. Doing the show last year was a very valuable experience as it informed me that the structure, I had come up with seemed to work, so now I can trust that and really clarify the content. And rehearse it.

From your perspective how does the audience’s imagination correspond to your performances?

Like I said, one of the things I try and do is figure out ways to get the imagination working. I’m always delighted and amazed at the audiences capacity to engage in things like puppetry or mime, how much people love to fill in the blanks when you just suggest something. In my show CAMPGROUND, the final scene is a shadow puppet play that is performed on the wall of a tent by a somewhat foulmouthed 16 year old girl, and I’ve had so many people come up to me after the show, just giddy, saying “That puppet show!” It’s also trying to tell the story in an interesting way, so it’s not just me up there saying “Then this happened, then this happened.” If I can throw in a puppet, I will wait my turn to speak!

What do you want the audience to take away from your shows?

I want people to feel like they have had a religious experience. Ha! I’m sort of serious actually, in the sense that one of the very attractive elements of going to church is the communal aspect of it. In our current “download any movie onto your laptop, stay at home to get your entertainment” culture, to be able to get in a room with a bunch of other people and, collectively, have a good laugh, maybe have some questions raised about what we are about and how we treat each other is really valuable on a whole bunch of emotional and psychological levels, especially right now as we get even more isolated by our online culture. If I can help make that communal experience happen, then I feel like I’ve done my job.

What do you enjoy most about making a play, bring us further into what the experience is like for you?

Nelson audiences really spoil me, for which I am eternally grateful. I’ve premiered almost all of my shows here and I feel like the audience really knows what I am up to, they come ready to have a good time and its honestly the best feeling in the world to be able to share something that I have spent a bunch of time and energy banging together in a room by myself in the hopes that it will bring some laughs and maybe some thoughtfulness.

As an artist and a performer, it’s such a huge gift to have people show up already on board and with this great curiosity, “What did he cook up for us this time?” and it’s really what keeps me wanting to create new work. That moment at the end of the show, especially a new show that I have been sweating bullets about, wondering if it will all hang together, when its over and people are clapping, there is such a sense of fulfilment and, yes, I’ll admit, relief. To have this supportive crowd for the first performances, it really helps get the process of a new show launched with positivity.

Subject: Lucas Myers is a graduate of the University of Victoria’s Theatre Program and the National Theatre School of Canada and has performed in major theatres across the country, including the Vancouver Playhouse, The Belfry Theatre, Alberta Theatre Projects, and Ottawa’s National Arts Centre. He has created and performed in many new plays as a member of the Victoria-based independent theatre company TheatreSKAM and studied physical theatre and collaborative creation with The SITI Company in New York and Boca del Lupo Theatre in Vancouver.

In 2007 he returned to Nelson, BC to raise a family and form PilotcoPilot Theatre with a mandate to create work that is accessible, thought provoking, and highly theatrical in an effort to attract a new generation of theatregoers. Lucas also performs as a post-modern Vaudeville duo, The Amazing and Impermeable Cromoli Brothers, which won the Best Comedy Award at the New Zealand International Theatre Festival.  In 2013 he was appointed as Nelson’s Cultural Ambassador in recognition for his achievements in Theatre Arts. 

Previous performances include dress, east, DECK, HELLO BABY, In The Beginning: The Origin of the Cromoli Brothers, iShow, CAMPGROUND, Randy From Creston, and his latest play ROOF!

Take away: Let’s help him raise it shall we!

Link to ROOF Tickets: https://tickets.capitoltheatre.ca/TheatreManager/95/online

When: Feb.22 / 23rd at 8 p.m.

Where: Capitol Theatre

Admission: $21