• Joe Szekeres



  • Information compiled by Joe Szekeres, Supervisory Toronto columnist for On Stage Blog

Sharon Lochan and I first met many years ago through our common involvement with the Durham Shoestring Performers (DSP). I’m going to spotlight her selfless choice to volunteer at DSP for many years and in a variety of roles from performer to stage manager, just to name two.

The first time I had directed ‘Doubt: A Parable’ was at DSP and I had cast Sharon as Mrs. Muller. She brought a poignant and natural believability to the role of the mother who certainly was at a crossroads in her life with her family, her son and the horrific possibility of what might have transpired with her boy at the hands of the parish priest.

As you read Sharon’s answers, I’m especially proud of the important attention her answer draws to the Toronto and Durham region community/amateur theatre scene regarding actors of colour in Durham. Thank you, Sharon, for your candour and frank response.

How have you been faring with this never-ending threat of this worldwide pandemic? How has your immediate family been doing during this time?

Like everyone I guess, I have good days and bad days. Self-motivation has been a problem from the start. As I don’t have kids, I’ve been lucky to not have to deal with childcare and home schooling. My immediate family is my fur baby, Rocky and he’s thrilled that I’m home more!

What has been the most difficult and challenging for you professionally and personally during this time?

Personally, the most challenging things have been self motivation and mental health. Depression has been a problem because I’m a very sociable person who goes out a lot, but I live alone. Self-motivation has been a problem in terms of fitness because I was taking classes through OSCC this year and had developed a new social group there and also doing daily aqua fit classes at Delpark. I miss the exercise and engagement of both of those things. I had also just signed up for more aqua fit and also Osteo fit and I was about to sign up for some painting classes through OSCC .

Professionally, I had retired from 32 years of teaching high school French, so I have just been navigating my new retired life. I had gone to my first Probus meeting & was considering membership and also I have volunteered to be on the social committee for RTO.

I feel very grateful that I didn’t have to contend with distance education & the difficulties of online learning….particularly of a second language!

Were you in preparation, rehearsals, or any planning stages of productions before everything was shut down? What has become of those projects? Will they see the light of day anytime soon?

Luckily the show that I stage managed, ‘Deadman’s Cellphone’ at DSP, had ended its run in January. I was learning ticketing & reservations for DSP this season and the production of ‘Goodness’ was upcoming. There were a lot of ticketing inquiries from subscribers and those who had already purchased tickets to field. Carolyn Wilson made a statement fairly early on regarding the closure of the ARC and I know she, the director, Phil Ireland and the cast had been working very hard on it. I imagine they would like to share this amazing work if and when time permits, but I can’t speak to that.

Besides your day work/job/profession, what have you been doing to keep yourself busy during this time?

I’ve been doing a lot of virtual tours / workshops. I toured the McMichael Collection & had a great lecture on the Group of Seven. I had some talks/lectures from the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (U of T) and tomorrow I’m doing an online guided tour in French of Dali & Surrealism. I also live for the live Zoo talks daily atv1 from the Toronto Zoo!

Like everyone, I’m sure, I do a lot of Zoom visits. I have a standing Monday evening coffee group, some book club groups & visits with other friends. I’ve also been introduced to an app called Houseparty, which is like Zoom but with games!

Recently, I have started doing porch visits / distanced visits with 1 friend or a few family members.

I have a relationship with Netfix, which I just purchased at the start of all of this, which is sometimes unhealthy. And I’ve already surpassed my personal reading goal for the year that I set for myself on Goodreads of 45 books.

At least two Toronto based community/amateur theatres that I know have shuttered their doors on account of this pandemic. I recently saw online that some people are asking, as birthday gifts, donations to help keep their theatre groups afloat. Can you impart any words of wisdom or sage advice to the amateur theatre groups in the GTA about the future as there is a very high possibility they may be closed until at least spring 2021?

Factory Theatre in TO did a Zoom presentation of Daniel MacIvor's HOUSE, which I recently watched…or attempted to. It wasn’t as engaging as the live production. No fault of the great acting or the production, it was just too much like watching TV for me & fell a bit flat. Maybe some small cast shows could consider a pay- what- you- can set up in a similar fashion? Or even live readings like some TV shows are posting on YouTube?

Do you see anything positive stemming from Covid 19 and the protests? Will this positive light somehow impact community/amateur theatre groups moving forward?

For years I have lamented the plight of actors of colour in Durham. Usually the response to me has been: 1. The chosen play was written this way and keeping ‘true' to the time period (ie: Black women are maids, Black men are butlers etc..) Sidebar: I’ve played a maid more than I’d like! My response to this is, pick a different show!!!

2. Just casting to reflect society (ie: Black woman can’t have white sisters, brothers, children, spouses) My response to this is firstly, it’s theatre ….suspension of disbelief. Also, what society do you live in where these aren’t possible???

3. Actors of colour don’t audition. My response to this is, if you made us welcome, maybe we would and things could change. How? Consider workshops, separate auditions, just being true to the statement that goes into audition notices about race?

So clearly, I have issue with this! I know that people are working at being more active allies as a result of the protests and unrest. I’d say this is long overdue particularly in Durham region theatres.

Despite all this fraught tension and confusion of the pandemic along with the protests, what is it about the arts that can never be destroyed for you?

Hope. A brighter, different world. Or more accurately a closer examination of this one.

With a respectful acknowledgment to ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ and the late James Lipton, here are the ten questions he used to ask his guests:

1. What is your favourite word? Welcome

2. What is your least favourite word? The n word

3. What turns you on? Wit, intelligence

4. What turns you off? Ignorance

5. What sound or noise do you love? A baby’s laughter

6. What sound or noise bothers you? High pitched squeals or voices

7. What is your favourite curse word? What is your least favourite curse word? Fuck. Least – the c word

8. Other than your own, what other career profession could you see yourself doing? Fashion consultant/buyer/personal shopper(for clothing)

9. What career choice could you not see yourself doing? Cleaning sewage

10. If Heaven exists, what do you hope God will say to you as you approach the Pearly Gates?Here comes trouble…”

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