This post is part of a series for our Her Side of the Story encounter, May 13-14 2016 located at the National Theatre School of Canada. We invited theatre artists from across Canada to reflect on how their work in theatre is influenced by their perspective as women. Are they conscious of promoting a “feminine perspective” or is it something that is intuitive? Imago Theatre would like to thank all of the artists who responded to our questions for their thoughtful, insightful responses. We will be sharing these responses on our blog for the first two weeks of May. We will also be creating a publication of selected quotes, which will be available for free at the Her Side of the Story readings, long-table discussion, and cabaret.
Actor Wayne Burns shares his process of writing and performing a “one woman” show.
“Lioness” is my offering of respect and honour to those women who’ve challenged me, made me stronger, more aware of the constant misogyny that penetrates out society and taught me, a fellow human, how to build women up to be the best they can be and give them everything they deserve. This show is me following suit with the men who’ve come before me: Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Patrick Swayze, John Leguizamo, Cillian Murphy and Nathan Lane, who love the women that populate their lives and embrace their own femininity without fear.
Curtain Rises on Lioness – Truro Daily News
LIONESS started with a crappy blonde wig, a passage from Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and an illusive New York accent discovered through improvisational exercises lead by Adam Lazarus and Jodi Essery.
Once I found the voice, I started creating a Pinterest board of images that I felt represented the character; Jennifer Lopez, Fran Dresher and John Leguizamo’s inner city characters became massive influences, followed by my mother, her wardrobe and the jewellery she used to wear when I was a kid. I began to sketch designs, which eventually became the costume pieces, and spent hours watching Youtube videos on contouring and wig vocabulary. In short, I immersed myself in the process of transforming into a woman by drawing on the ones who I felt were confident, fierce, hilarious and real.
Once I had assembled the character that would later become Maria, I spent time alone, improvising in the studio, generating over 4 hours of recorded content, which was then distilled down to the initial 15-minute version. I performed this version as part of the Solo Show (Please Love Me) project during my 2nd year of the acting program at The National Theatre School of Canada.
Looking back my initial intentions for LIONESS were rather simple; realistically transform into a woman, avoiding caricature, and have a 15-minute show in my back pocket, one that scared the hell out of me as a performer.
After performing the short version at both NTS and Solo-icious [a festival hosted by the Bus Stop Theatre in Halifax] I was surprised by the polarization the show evoked. Some people absolutely loved Maria, complimenting me on her candor and refusal to adhere to the societal expectations of single mothers. Others felt Maria was an unfit mother due to her parenting abilities, as a result of her socio-economic status, and believed that Mrs. Green was justified in her actions. Last summer, after many conversations with female artists and past audience members, I realized that, on some level, LIONESS could be my contribution to the global conversation surrounding equity between genders and the importance of exploring one’s polarities as means of developing empathy. As I’ve continued to expand and perform the show it’s allowed me to honour my own mother by instigating the discussion “what makes a good mom?”
I’m very excited to spend the next few months working with my director, Petra O’Toole, in preparation for the upcoming workshop performance of LIONESS on July 9th at the Box Studio in Toronto. After this performance we are hoping to tour the show to many festivals across Canada and internationally, in an attempt to introduce Maria to as many people as possible!
“Pantyhose; just straps everything in.” – Maria
About Wayne Burns
Hailing from Truro, Nova Scotia, Wayne Burns, is a theatre, film and television actor, emerging creator and Co-Director of Dark Nights. He is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada’s acting program where he had the pleasure of working with some of the most reputable artists in the country such as Yaël Farber, David Latham, László Marton, Paul Gross, Weyni Mengesha, Ravi Jain and Nina Lee-Aquino, to name a few, and is also a graduate of Factory Theatre Mechanical’s and SummerWorks Leadership Intensive programs. Wayne made his screen debut in Jason Buxton’s multi-award-winning film,
Blackbird (2012), opposite Connor Jessup (Falling Skies) and Alex Ozerov (Orphan
Black, Coconut Hero). The following year, he acted along side the late Cory Montieth (Glee) in Gia Milani’s, All the Wrong Reasons (2013) and has been featured on Mr. D,
Remedy and Murdoch Mysteries, respectively. His theatre works include: originating the role of roles of Dane Timbrell in David S. Craig’s Dora-nominated Tough Case (Left Foot First Productions), Arthur in Paul LeDoux’s Merlin (Halifax Theatre for Young People) and Angelo in Michael
Grzejszczak’s Boys from the Burbs (Empty Room Collective) He has written a oneman show, LIONESS, which debuted to a sold out audience in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the 2013 Solo-cious Festival. Wayne is the recipient of the Theatre Nova Scotia Awards (2011 & 2012) and was nominated for Best Actor in a Short Film for his performance in Jeremy Webb’s Bone
Deep (2014) at the ACTRA Maritime Awards. More recently, he can be seen on the new
SyFy original series, Olympus (2015) as Lykos, Prince of Athens, alongside Sonita Henry, Matt Frewer, Graham Sheils, Sonya Cassidy and Tom York.