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All of life’s a stage for former Flonner

“What’s my motivation?” is a question often posed by actors attempting to mould themselves into their latest role. But as he becomes an increasingly familiar presence in Canadian theatre, Andrew Taylor need only look within for the answer.

“What’s my motivation?” is a question often posed by actors attempting to mould themselves into their latest role.

But as he becomes an increasingly familiar presence in Canadian theatre, Andrew Taylor need only look within for the answer.

“As long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to perform,” says the born-and-bred Flin Flonner, now living in Regina.

And perform he has. At just 29, Taylor has compiled a resume that would make many theatre professionals envious.

Degree in drama? Check. Years of stage experience? Check. Co-writing and directing a play? Check.

The latter achievement came in 2011 when Taylor, then fresh out of the University of Saskatchewan, helmed the successful debut of Two Corpses Go Dancing. It remains his signature triumph.

First performed at Saskatoon’s Fringe Theatre Festival, Corpses weaves the tale of two dead souls who are brought back to life with the promise they can reclaim what they lost in their former lives.

“Throughout the Fringe there was a great deal of positive feedback,” recalls Taylor. “We attracted a lot of buzz and we oversold our two last shows, meaning we packed the theatre as much as we could but still had to send people away.”

And it wasn’t just theatregoers who took notice of Corpses, as both Planet S Magazine and The StarPhoenix awarded it four stars.

“Once in a blue moon, a play lands at the Fringe as if from some delightful parallel dimension,” raved The StarPhoenix. “‘Where on earth did this strange thing come from?’ you gleefully wonder.”

Honing craft

But Taylor isn’t about to rest on the success of Corpses. In the three years since that whimsical work first hit the stage, he has joined a range of other craft-honing projects.

Later in 2011 Taylor had a brief but acclaimed role in Vimy, a Saskatoon production about the First World War from award-winning playwright Vern Theissen.

The following year he signed on with a children’s theatre tour that visited schools across Saskatchewan and Alberta. Fittingly, a stop in Flin Flon was also squeezed in.

In 2013 Taylor temporarily moved to Victoria, BC, to work with several independent theatre companies, including Theatre Inconnu, the city’s longest surviving alternative company.

Earlier this year, Taylor was accepted into Regina’s renowned Globe Theatre Conservatory, a national centre of excellence that fosters the work of Saskatchewan artists.

He will spend most of October portraying the bumbling Barachio in Globe’s production of Much Ado About Nothing, at which point he will return to Saskatoon.

There he will lay the groundwork for the return of Corpses, which has already been performed in three major Canadian cities – and will visit many more if Taylor has his way.

Somewhere along the way, Taylor has also found time to pen a stage comedy about two box car hobos on the run. He is submitting The Southern Dandy 75 for consideration at fringe festivals in Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

“It [is] O Brother, Where Art Thou? meets Trailer Park Boys meets Steamboat Willie,” says Taylor.

Imagination

That curious description is emblematic of Taylor’s chief asset: his vivid imagination. It’s a talent he credits to his upbringing back in Flin Flon.

“I grew up in a very artistic home,” he says. “Both of my parents [John and Gabby] are very fond of both music and theatre. As a child I was very much immersed in this artistic environment and it fuelled a lot of my creativity.”

As a child, Taylor enrolled in acting classes. As a teen he was a standout at Hapnot Collegiate’s celebrated Dinner Theatre productions, and joined Flin Flon’s celebrated Ham Sandwich theatre troupe.

When the Flin Flon Community Choir took its 2004 performance of the musical Follies to Saskatoon, where he was studying his craft at the U of S, Taylor didn’t look out of place as he eagerly joined in.

In university Taylor got involved with productions developed by the drama department. He further refined his acting chops by earning a part in Romeo and Juliet by Abridged City Players, a Shakespearean company founded by U of S students.

Broader focus

Until Corpses, Taylor had largely focused on performing. Now he envisions a career spent both on and off the stage.

“Being a behind-the-scenes person comes with a sense of creative control that I enjoy and would like to explore more in the years to come,” he says.

While some believe theatre is dying, losing the war for leisure time to more glitzy screen-based options, Taylor sees nothing but a bright future for the ancient art form.

“It still holds a lot of relevance and significance in our culture, even now with the onslaught of reality TV shows and 3D blockbusters,” he says. “To me, theatre is a kind of visceral experience that you can’t get in a cinema or a home entertainment set.”

Adds Taylor: “I’ve travelled around Canada in the past few years and have met many incredible young and emerging theatre artists. In these people I see the face of theatre evolving more into an art form that can co-exist with the digital entertainment that we immerse ourselves in.”

But as much as Taylor loves theatre, he hopes to someday branch out.

“Ideally, I would like to be fully involved in both film and theatre in both realms of acting and writing for scripts and screenplays,” he says. “I’ve also always had an interest in voice acting for animated productions, especially cartoon animation. I would love to be a professional voice actor.”

And as he strives toward his goals, Taylor certainly won’t have to ask anyone what his motivation is. He already knows.

Play’s Praise

Two Corpses Go Dancing remains director and co-writer Andrew Taylor’s signature work. Praise for the play includes:

“Once in a blue moon, a play lands at the Fringe as if from some delightful parallel dimension. ‘Where on earth did this strange thing come from?’ you gleefully wonder.”

– Cam Fuller, The StarPhoenix

“The play includes eery moments, black humour, and some interesting discussion of will and meaning. We see the irony in a demon trying to convince Itche that there is no Hell as well as no Heaven, no judgement, no reason at all for moral behaviour. We watch as all the characters, living and undead, respond to the demon’s manipulations. And we see the real pain the characters confront.”

– Jane Enkin, Winnipeg Jewish Review

“Dancing is creepy, cute and cunning, all in the same breath. Kudos to these young artists from Saskatoon for proving that Fringe theatre, good Fringe theatre, is still, ironically, alive and well!”

– Mike Thompson, Planet S Magazine