This week, I had the pleasure of doing a zoom interview with a wonderful Mississauga Artist by the name of Durae McFarlane. We talked about his beginnings in the industry as well as his flourishing acting career. I had the best time chatting with him! Below is our fruitful discussion.

What is your acting background?

Photo of Durae McFarlane, taken by Mark Binks

A: I took an acting class here in Mississuaga actually, at the Living Arts Centre, and it was taught by this wonderful woman named Susan [Applewhaite]. It was like a scene study type class – I think it was the first acting class outside of high school that I took. It was a lot of fun, and Susan was really encouraging. At the end we performed our final scenes, and one of her friends came in – his name is Yoh [Mustafa] – and he watched the scenes with us, and he gave me a lot of good feedback too.

I went to a theatre school, it was an experience. […] I met a lot of great people. While in theatre school, I also got outside training. I went to this intensive that was called Canada’s National Voice Intensive. They now have changed their name to The Moving Voice Institute. So I did a four week intensive with them the summer in-between theatre school. I think that’s really where I learned a lot, and learned the things that I still use today when I perform. I think the faculty there were incredible and so generous, kind and knowledgeable with what they were teaching and how they were teaching it. I really, really liked and appreciated it. The guy who kind of like, founded the voice intensive and has been teaching in it since its creation, David Smukler, was someone who kind of became a mentor for me. […] Then I graduated theatre school, and I did the voice intensive again. So I did it twice. Just because I love it so much, and I learned a lot.

What are your thoughts on the art scene in Mississauga? This can be theatre, visual art, photography, etc. I am curious to know what your thoughts are on what Mississauga has to offer.

A: I’ll speak to the theatre scene, just because […] I don’t have much knowledge about the music or visual arts scene in Mississauga. I think there’s a couple […] small theatre companies here. But the only place that I – like, when I was in High School, trying to find shows that I wanted to see and things like that – the only place was The Living Arts Centre. That’s the only place that I knew that did professional theatre shows.  […] So yeah, there’s not enough! […] You know Mississauga is a pretty big city. I think with the right marketing you can get audiences here to see shows. Yeah, I think there’s a possibility here in Mississauga once theatre’s come back hopefully!

I don’t think I can properly interview you without congratulating you on your Dora Award Nomination this year for Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role in The Flick; which was an Outside the March and Crow’s Theatre Productions. What was the first thing you did when you figured out you were nominated?

A: Um, the first thing I did actually…I… I woke up and I was like watching it happen. And then um, I was like, “Oh I can’t believe this happened!” So I went to brush my teeth?  It was a normal thing and it felt…like I just need to do something that feels normal! Because this feels really…like out of this world, I can’t believe this is happening. So I was like, “I need to do something normal.” And then um, it was just like, calling people and screaming on the phone with them after.

I love that you went to brush your teeth first, because I can just imagine you feeling, “Oh wow, this is so wild and big, let’s just tone it down a notch!: I was just curious to know what you did. I’m happy I know that now. We’re going to five more into The Flick. What was it like to be freshly out of university and be in such a well talked about, and well received production?

Photo of Durae McFarlane, taken by Mark Binks

A: It was a dream. It was incredible! Not that I didn’t expect it, because I thought the show was really, really great. Like the script was really, really great, and I thought we were – you know, doing wonderful with our rehearsals. But you never know, you know? And it being my first show, I was like, I have no basis. I have no previous experience with these things. Like professionally. I just liked doing it, it was a lot of fun. And I thought outside the March’s advertisements for the show was so, so incredible! We had a bunch of movie posters that were based on some of the movies that are talked about in the show. So it was just a lot of fun doing the marketing. Opening night is when reviewers come and watch the show, and I didn’t really know that. I was just like, “Oh it’s opening night, yay! I don’t really know what’s happening, I’m just going to do the thing.” Yeah it was, wild.

So you are also a writer! I would love to hear more about Cahoots Hot House Lift Off, which is their playwrights unit that you were in. I believe that just finished up in September? Would you care to share your experience in the program?

A: Originally it was supposed to go ‘til – I think it was like, March ‘til September? But because of the Pandemic and Covid and things, Tanisha [Taitt] was very gracious in extending it ‘til…I think it’s September ‘til 2021 I believe. So we have like, essentially a year with them, which is really, really lovely. And yeah it’s just like a really, really great group of people. I think we had our first meeting in April maybe? So we’ve been meeting throughout the whole Pandemic. […] We’ve been having a lot of discussions about what theatre is, what it looks like, how it can change, how it can develop and grow.

How have you been navigating theatre lately? As an artist and as a viewer of theatre. Specifically within the past 7 or 8 months during the time of COVID-19.

A: I think at the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of things were being given to the public. Like a lot of recordings of things, like the National Theatre in London was publishing or putting on recordings on YouTube for like a week for free […]. There were a couple other theatre companies that published some of their recordings of shows. So, at the beginning I was like, “Oh my gosh, there’s a lot of theatre shows that I would have never seen, because I am not in those places.” So I was trying to watch a lot of them. But I think, more recently […] I kind of get tired, of like, the zoom of plays. I feel like I’m on zoom so much. I think my relationship to theatre right now is more along the lines of thinking and writing, about what can exist in the future when theatres come back. I do believe they’ll be back at some point. I think throughout history there has been more than one pandemic I guess? Not in our lifetime, but in the history of the world. But theatre has always found its way back, so I think it will come back again. […] Being in that same room with people and feeling that energy, and the give and take between the audience and the performers is something that’s so special. […] It can’t be created through TV and film. It just can’t.

What is something that you wish more people knew about you as an artist?

A: I would love to, I don’t know, be in a lane like, say Michaela Coel or Donald Glover. Who kind of, you know, write their thing, act in it, produce it, direct it. I would love to be full hands on in a project I’m in, and kind of take the lead in it. From the first inception to its final creation, I’d love to like, wear all the hats in it. Just being hands on in every part of the process is exciting to me.

So this would be for TV and film?

A: Yeah, I think that would be something more along the lines of TV and Film and not on stage. On stage, I would write something and then put myself in it. But I think that’s as far as I would go for theatre.

Do you have anyone who inspires you? this can be in your career, and in your life in general.

A: Yeah um, I think a lot of people inspire me. David Smukler would be one I think. Just his specificity, his eye to like, see things that I don’t see. He inspires me to keep digging deeper and to go further with things, and to keep being curious. He’s a big one I think in my acting journey I guess. I will say also right now, […] The Cahoots group. Those group of people I think are inspiring me to keep thinking of what theatre can be, and ways to keep investigating things, and to keep investigating what theatre is and what it can be, and how to use it in ways to change things I guess. (Pause) BBFA, can I say that? So BBFA, it stands for the Black Bachelor Fine Arts Students in Acting. We all went to the same theatre school, and there was a small group of black students. […] We all kept close. And now we have a group that we message in all the time, to see how everyone’s doing. And every time someone has something exciting, they are like, “Hey! I’m doing this thing!” And we all just like hype them up, which is really, really fun, and great. Just to have that support of our peers, and it’s like other black artists, that are doing things right now.

What’s next? Do you have anything you’d like to plug?

A: The cahoots thing, we’ll have a play reading or a reading of our pieces by the end. In September!

I also asked Durae what books he’s reading right now, and here is his list! (Have a look at my previous article, 5 Books Every Actor Needs To Get Their Hands On to get the scoop on the best reads for actors!)

The Skin We’re In – Desmond Cole

Acting For The Camera –  Tony Barr

Wherever You Go There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn

ACT Advanced Consciousness Training (A.C.T.) for Actors

And so concludes our interview! You can follow Durae on Instagram! His handle is: @duraemcfarlane

Red and White Reading Book on Gray Textile by
Anete Lusina

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