Monday, April 19, 2010

Coffee Talk with Timothy Johnston

I first met Tim five years ago when I cast him in our inaugural production of This Is Our Youth where he played the character of Warren. At that time he was a recent graduate from the theatre program at Capilano University and after our show closed that summer he went off to the University of Victoria to continue his training. Since then – I still find it hard to believe it’s been 5 years – among his many credits he’s played Aladdin in Kaleidoscope’s production of the Disney musical and Hank in Atomic Vaudeville’s Ride The Cyclone.

I am thrilled to have him back on the Twenty-Something stage playing Wesley in Prodigals.

So, Tim, what is your favourite role to date and why?

There are several parts I have been fortunate enough to play that will always stick with me. One that springs to mind, and I realize in this context it seems a bit sentimental, but playing Warren in This Is Our Youth, was an unforgettable experience. To have the opportunity, at 20 years old, to tackle a complex, multifaceted character, who was the same age as I was, and who was relatable to people my age who came to see the show, was an invaluable lesson to me. He was damaged, and it’s so compelling to be able to discover, decipher and demonstrate another person’s flaws to an audience - that’s what makes it interesting to me.

(On the Right: Tim in This Is Our Youth. Photo courtesy of Twenty-Something Theatre)

And, I didn’t even have to pay him to say that!!! And just to give you a little context, this is what Jo Ledingham, of the Vancouver Courier, had to say about his performance in This Is Our Youth:
“Johnston's performance as Warren is really splendid; he paints a charming, credible picture of a young kid struggling to figure it all out. In Warren's relationship with Dennis, he puts up with being constantly bullied and insulted. Johnston takes all of this on the chin and encourages us to hope his character will come through it all. It's an interesting journey that Warren takes and Johnston leads us along with skill and sensitivity. He makes you want to take Warren home, give him a toasted cheese sandwich, hug him and tell him everything will be all right-although it probably will never be alright again. Johnston is off to UVic in the fall but I hope that doesn't mean we don't get to see him on stage again. Given the chance, he'd do a great job of the young lad in Equus as well as a lot of other plays requiring an intelligent young actor.”
That is high praise for a young actor in his first leading role in a straight play (and by that I mean non-musical). And, well deserved.

Ok, tell us your “I wanna be an actor” story.

To be perfectly honest, it was something I just sort of fell into. I wasn’t particularly involved with any sort of acting or performance when I was growing up. I did one show in high school, and when the time came to decide what to pursue on a post-secondary level, I made the decision to study something that seemed enjoyable; rather than float around, searching for that elusive spark that would hopefully tell me what to major in at university. I thought about it for awhile, and then remembered my high school Theatre experience. I decided acting would be a worthwhile pursuit, auditioned, and was accepted into the acting program at Capilano. The rest, as they say, is history.

(Photo courtesy of Timothy Johnston)

And, how do you relate (or not) to your character, Wesley, in the play?

Hmm. That’s interesting. I like Wesley because he’s complicated. Wesley is a guy who is constantly in motion - perpetually searching for the right challenge, for a reason to exist. I can definitely identify with that, as I’m sure a lot of people my age can. I also understand his need to always come across as composed, and in control. That’s familiar, and rings some bells for me. His ambivalence towards his friends is proving to be an interesting challenge for me to understand. But in the grand scheme of things, this is one of the characters that I’ve played so far that is closest to my own personality.

Why should people come out to see Prodigals?

Honestly? It’s a great script. I mean, there are a lot of reasons to see this show. The actors are extremely talented and give amazing performances. The production team is outstanding. Coming out and supporting local independent theatre is vital.

But in actuality? This is a great, heart-felt, funny, poignant, important script by a local playwright that will in some way affect everyone who sees it. That’s what it comes down to. Every audience member is going to find something to identify with in at least one of the characters, and in this story. That’s a sign of good writing. Sean has done a superb job with this, and his work deserves to be seen. And it’s his first play! Scary…

Last question, so if you had one piece of advice for aspiring young actors, those just starting a training program or going to their first audition, what would it be?

Do your homework! Both before and while you’re at school. Seriously. Before you choose a program, take your time, do your research and choose the school that suits your needs and desires. Talk to people who go there. Talk to people who don’t. Find out. And once you find the right school - work your ass off. Every training program is only as effective as you can make it. So take advantage of every opportunity, learn as much as you can, and work as hard as you can. It will serve you well in the long run.

If you’re going to your first audition? Good for you. Enjoy yourself. Have fun. Stick with it. It’s worth it. And breathe. Always remember to breathe…

Thanks to Tim for taking the time to chat with us during a busy time. Less than 10 days until we open!!!

See you at the Havana!

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

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