Thursday, March 22, 2012

Post 'free as injuns' interview with John Ng (Sim Cabot) and Ash Knight (Peter Cabot)

Photography by: Juan Camilo Palacio featuring: John Ng and Ash Knight

Ash Knight (Pete Cabot) interviews John Ng (Sim Cabot)

Ash: So in "free as injuns" you got to work alongside Ash Knight, is he as awesome as they say he is?
John: "Awesome" would be putting it mildly. Can I say super-duper? When I first heard Ash was joining the cast, I thought for sure Tara would change the title of the play to The Ashman Cometh.

Ash: What attracted you to the role of Sim?
John: Sim is big-hearted and trusting of others - in other words, the antithesis of who I am.

Ash: In the play, Pete and Sim's big influence is their father. Who is the biggest influence in your real life?
John: My late partner, best friend and confidant of 20-plus years, Shannon Reynolds, who passed away three years ago. We met in our early twenties and studied theatre together. She could make me laugh, which isn't easy, and be brutally honest with me when necessary. She was also a terrific acting coach and dramaturge: be active, present, and truthful!

Ash: In the play, Pete and Sim discuss their "dislike" of new immigrants to Canada. Did you ever feel hostility towards yourself when you first immigrated to Canada as a child?
John: I remember being threatened physically by a bully within days of attending my first classes in grade school. The kid stalked me down the street and I was so scared I almost passed out in a state of panic. I was fortunate to find sanctuary in a corner store nearby, but by that time I was crying so hard the proprietor had no idea what was happening to me. I was a rambunctious, eight-year-old kid prior to leaving my native Hong Kong. The racial hostility I experienced upon arriving here settled me down in a hurry.

Ash: Animal images were used by some of the actors to etch out the physical reality for their parts. What was your animal choice and why?
John: I initially chose husky as my animal - simply because of its pack mentality and working-class ethics. Later, I changed it to the giant panda because of a line that Be says in the play, "I sometimes have the urge to cuddle Sim myself." (I'm paraphrasing here I think.)

Ash: When Be first arrived at the farm Pete banged his gate on the ground and you made a "sound". What was this sound and what did it signify? i.e. Why were you making it?
John: Well, Tara was very specific about the sound having a quality similar to one corralling/commanding a horse. Be is a stranger, a kind of wild (dare I say sexy) horse who shows up unexpectedly on our land. So, I think the sound comes from a spontaneous, visceral place, probably originating from the crotch area.

Ash: Why was Sim not able to find the money?
John: It was not from a lack of effort, but due to the fact that I had no idea where Even put it. In fact, I was too busy listening to his ridiculous misquote from the scripture in the earlier scene, to see him pull it out from under the hiding place in the first place. This is a better question for Pete to answer, since he witnessed everything and it goes to the heart of his character.

Ash: What was your least favourite scene or part of the play? i.e. What part of the play did you dread having to do every night?
John: The part where Pete tries to slip me the tongue while we are embracing each other. I like Pete, but not that much.

Ash: Can you please explain what "smudging" is and it's cultural significance?
John: PJ was very kind to perform this daily, cleansing ritual for us prior to every show as part of our warm-up. I think Ash, you were the only cast member who didn't take part in it because of your sensitivity to its fragrance. Here is a good link I found on the cultural significance of "smudging".

Ash: Will you miss working with Ash Knight or are you already planning your next collaboration with him? i.e. What's next on the schedule for you?
John: See answer to question one. After that, the next production will be A Long Day's Journey into Knight. Oh yaaahh...

John Ng (Sim Cabot) interviews Ash Knight (Pete Cabot)

John: What was the biggest challenge you faced working on this show?
Ash: Well, I came to the production a couple of days before rehearsals started. So I didn't have a lot of time to research the play and it's time period etc. before rehearsals. As a consequence there was a lot in the play I didn't initially understand. But with Ruth (the director) and Derek's (associate director) help I was able to navigate through those hurdles.

John: Given the emotional and physical demands of this play, how did you relax between shows?
Ash: Well, once we were running it wasn't that demanding, but during rehearsals and tech week I would take naps. Anyone who's ever worked with me knows I like to take naps before a show. Not only does it give me the energy to get through the day, but I find when I wake up the rest of my life is but a dream and all I know is the world of the play.

John: Most performers are creatures of habit, what is your pre-show ritual (i.e., your meal of choice)?
Ash: I don't know if I have a pre-show ritual per se. However, I do have to do a vocal warm up before every show. I find it helps focus my voice and my mind on the task at hand. It also means I don't worry about my speech or vocal needs during the show.
With this show, we had a pair of dumbbells in the dressing room that James Cade had brought in. So I found myself doing a five minute workout before each show. I've never done this before, but with this show it was helpful.
And though I don't have a meal of choice, most people who have worked with me know that I am partial to a Vegetarian Footlong Sub from Subway. It's filling and only $5 for a Footlong!

John: Remind us again, what the heck is 'Red Soup Friday'?
Ash: "Red Soup Friday" is a weekly tradition at Native Earth Performing Arts (NEPA). I believe the tradition was started by Yvette Nolan's mother, who would bring soup in for NEPA every week. Now, a member of the staff cooks and brings in a vegetarian soup for everyone to enjoy on Fridays. This is a complete meal in itself. A chunky and hearty soup, whose ingredients and flavours change every week depending on the chef.

John: Was it easy to make the transition from rehearsal space to the actual playing environment at Buddies?
Ash: The actual playing space was much more 3 dimensional than the rehearsal space, so it provided some challenges. The rehearsal space was at Lower Ossington Theatre. It was fantastic and had the right length and width. But when we got on set we had many more levels of playing space to deal with. Now, we were aware during rehearsals that these levels were going to be there, however, being aware of it and dealing with it are two different things.
Also, our set had actual mulch, and earth on it. This dramatically changed the grip we had and added elements of realism that we never thought of during rehearsals.

John: As Pete, what was your favourite or most memorable scene in the play?
Ash: I would say my favourite scene was Sim and I lying on the ground and seeing the stars and talking about our feelings towards folks who were "taking our jobs" and raising "snot-nosed" kids. It revealed so much about both Pete and Sim and their vulnerabilities.
But my most memorable scene would have to be the beginning of the play when Pete, Sim and Even are interacting. That scene is what I love most about acting, just playing an action and talking to people.

John: The world is dying to know: why was Pete so attached to his gate?
Ash: What gate?

John: As a vegetarian, how would you survive on a cattle farm like the one Pete inhabits in the play?
Ash: Lots and lots of milk and dairy products I imagine. And probably many trips to the local Footlong sandwich maker on my way to Minnie's.
I also distinctly recall tilling the earth and planting seeds, so I think we also grew some grains or vegetables. And Ephraim says, "Bigger harvests coming in". So in my mind, we were more than just a cattle farm!

John: What was it like to act in the round?
Ash: I love it. I think it's the most naturalistic one can be on stage. You don't have to worry too much about being seen, and projecting the voice is a lot easier as the whole space helps you. It also meant we could walk anywhere we wanted as characters.

John: Are you a religious man? If not, why?
Ash: I have to say I'm not. That's not to say I'm not spiritual, but to tie myself to one religion...what if I pick the wrong one? So I see myself as a practitioner of all religions. That way I'm hoping to actually wind up in the right place if I ever die.

1 comment:

  1. A big shout out to the wonderful staff of NEPA for their hard work and support, and to our incredible stage management team of Dini Conte and Heather Thompson - the dynamic duo who made it fun for us from the very first day.