Actor Braden Butler on Wild Abandon, speaking with Lauren Allen
Braden Butler plays Steve in Tough Choice Productions’ upcoming Wild Abandon, running in conjunction with See Bob Run, both by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor. We sat down with Braden to get to know him and the upcoming production.
See Bob Run (featuring
Trillian Reynoldson) and Wild Abandon
(featuring Braden Butler) by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor, directed by
Tom Ratzlaff, run Nov 23rd-Dec 4th at Paved Arts, 424 20th
Street. November 23rd is a pay what you can preview - tickets
available at the door (cash only). All other tickets can be purchased here: http://ontheboards.ca/events/see-bob-run-and-wild-abandon/
Both plays run at each performance.
What led you to doing theatre?
I think what led me to do theatre, it’s this very ephemeral thing, that I couldn’t do anything else. I watched movies and plays as a little kid and I wanted to tell stories. I would copy the movies, I would put on little plays for my family on our fireplace that was my stage, I would use my grandmother’s scarves as my costumes and I would always play the princesses and magical fairies! So that’s where it started, this innate desire to share something with people in that format. And when I started performing like real plays that were not on my fireplace but on a stage, it just validated that desire for me. I was like “yeah this is exactly what I want to be doing”. And so, from a pretty young age I was always looking for opportunities, and of course there was always like community theatre or the Off Broadway Children’s Theatre. So yeah, there was like, a variety of sub-professional opportunities that I had growing up, and every new play I did it just inspired more and more love for theatre. And it’s not just acting, not that I just like acting in general, it’s that I like theatre specifically. I’m not interested in film, particularly, but I am interested in all aspects of theatre. From production, to design, to writing, to acting, to directing, all aspects of it.
What are the challenges of doing independent theatre in Saskatoon that you’ve come up against?
I would say that the biggest challenge for me is, I find that there’s a bit of a lack of opportunity- like if you want to do something that’s not community theatre, but that you’re not at the place where you can do professional theatre yet, there’s like a limited amount of opportunity. So I think that finding something to do in general is a challenge in and of itself. I would say for myself a personal challenge would be I often question the validity of the production- is it being done in a professional enough way that people are going to enjoy this and that sort of thing. So I find that when it’s not professional theatre I question how real it is, you know what I mean?
What’s the best part of doing independent theatre in Saskatoon?
The freedom! Not working to like, Fringe for example we’re always working to a very specific time limit. It’s two weeks before the show opens and we’re like “okay, we’ve got to shave off all these minutes somewhere!” And then with these, we just have time for the scenes that need to breathe, we can let those scenes breathe. It’s the freedom to do everything we want to do and not have restrictions because it’s our company, it’s our production, and we make all the decisions ourselves.
Why is this story important to you?
One thing about Wild Abandon that I am so excited about is that the character is gay, and it’s just so fucking cool, like it makes me teary, to play a gay character, I’ve never played a gay character! It is so fucking cool for me. I go to parties, you know, and I’m the only gay person and it doesn’t really matter because everyone is accepting, but at the end of the night all the girls are looking at the guys and all the guys are looking at the girls and no one’s looking at me and I can’t look at anyone! It’s similar to that, it’s just that like- being gay isn’t a huge aspect of my life but it’s big enough that I can really relate to other gay people. I can relate to this character in a way that I haven’t been able to relate before. As opposed to hiding my gayness on stage in order to be more believable as this straight person interested in this woman, I can fully reveal my sexuality on stage and it’s just so cool.
There’s a lot more that I can relate to about the character aside from the fact that he is gay, but it’s important to me because, despite being gay, he could not be gay and it would be the same story. I think that theatre that involves gay characters revolves around the struggles of being gay. This is human struggles, with life, and he happens to be gay, and I think that is an important thing for gay people and non-gay people to see, that the life of a gay person isn’t all about these specifically homosexual struggles and so I think it shares an important message that sexuality takes up a big part of your life, but it’s not everything. And there’s so much more that everyone can relate to in a gay person despite the fact that they have different sexualities. I find that important. I would also say that, from the people I’ve talked to, I think that suicide and mental illnesses associated with it are kind of swept under the rug and aren’t talked about. In theatre, it’s more of an open space to talk about those things, but this play deals specifically with a character who is struggling with whether or not he is going to kill himself. And I think that’s a really important conversation to have, especially for the young people who are going to be seeing the show. I think it will be very very relevant to them and will really open their eyes up to what other people are going through. Young people are often afraid to talk about these things, especially if they are in high school and they’re afraid of judgement and that sort of thing. So to see someone who is close to their age, who they can relate to, talking about his own struggle with suicide and with isolation and those sorts of themes is important.
Who in your community has influenced you the most in regards to theatre?
I’m not sure I can pinpoint a specific person, but the entire Compass Points [program at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival] experience was very enriching to me, I learned so much more than I expected to learn, my eyes were totally opened to what the professional world of theatre looks like, being in a place where there’s theatre professionals from across the country working together, sharing ideas, and just getting to be a witness to those conversations was hugely eye opening for me. I would say my acting coach [Kristina Hughes] works with me quite a lot and she’s been very influential on helping me discover finding a sense of presence and being genuine on stage, that’s been really important to me lately. Also, I would have to say Tom [Ratzlaff] because he’s given me a lot of opportunity, especially with Wild Abandon. I’ve worked with him in four fringe shows prior to this, and he first hired me when I was like 14 or 15 and he’d never worked with me before, and ever since, I’ve had the opportunity to meet Fringe artists from across the country when they’re in Saskatoon for our fringe. And then having worked with me, he just asked me if I wanted to do it because he didn’t want to do the show with anyone else. So it’s a huge opportunity for me to just have this show put in front of me and for it to be something that I connected with so deeply and not just another opportunity to act, all artistic experiences are great, that sort of thing, but a show that I really felt would be a huge learning process for me and would challenge me and would be meaningful to my community and my life. So I would definitely say he has played a pretty big role in my theatre experience so far.
What are some theatre memories that stick out for you?
The first time I really cried when I was acting is a big memory for me because it was one of the first couple of times that I felt I was absolutely present and in the moment and there was no shadow of mistruth in what I was performing. It felt very real and I felt like “this is what it’s like when I’m doing my job”. So that was actually in a rehearsal for Wild Abandon, there’s a very intense scene that involves animal cruelty and the character feels a lot of resentment but also a strange sort of attraction to the event that happened. So that’s a huge memory for me actually because it was one of the moments where I was like “I know now that I can go there on stage.” It’s just a matter of developing a method of accessing that more quickly. I would also say, when I was in grade 5 at my elementary school we did a production of Grease. I played the little nerd Eugene, and that was my first show ever, basically. And on my first scene ever, I got a huge laugh and then they gave me a standing ovation at the end when my character came out for the bow, and that was a really validating moment for me and it’s always stuck out to me because although I was so young, it was one of those times where I was like “I really did my job, I entertained these people, I made them feel something” That’s what I want to do. So those are two really big memories.
What theatre stories interest you the most and what stories do you most want to tell?
I would say that I’m really interested in pursuing theatre in Canada because I feel like I can make the most impact in the community that I understand. I’m not going to say I understand all of Canada, I’m most interested in stories that are relevant to Canadians and that are relevant to my own experiences in life because I think that’s the most effective way for me to create change in the world. I can do a story about someone, like a play about a concept I have no prior experience with and I can find a way to connect that as we all can, you know, but if I can make theatre that’s relevant to me and relevant to my community, that’s how I can make change in the world. That’s ultimately what I think a lot of artists want to do, at least speaking for myself that’s what I would do.
Anything else that you want to say about Wild Abandon?
It’s risky theatre but it’s worth the risk. The content is heavy, it’s dark, it will probably confront you with experiences in your own life, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its uplifting or humorous moments. I think it’s a well-balanced story. Ultimately, it’s about hope and self-discovery and about finding a way to deal with your own personal struggles. I think that everyone can relate to Steve, as well as to Bob, the other character in the other show. That’s something the playwright actually says in the beginning of the script he has this essay that he published and it says there’s a little Bob and a little Steve in all of us. I’ve certainly found that to be true. I’d say take the risk, because you might see some things you haven’t seen on stage before, there’s some very risky stuff but at the end of the day it’s real life.
See Bob Run (featuring Trillian Reynoldson) and Wild Abandon (featuring Braden Butler) by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor, directed by Tom Ratzlaff, run Nov 23rd-Dec 4th at Paved Arts, 424 20th Street. November 23rd is a pay what you can preview with tickets only available at the door (cash only). All other tickets can be purchased here: http://ontheboards.ca/events/see-bob-run-and-wild-abandon/
Both plays run at each performance.