Meet Vancouver (soon-to-be Chicago) theatre artist and writer, Mack Gordon.
Meet Mack Gordon
Editor’s note: as with all of our 20 question subjects, we asked Mack to provide us with a non-traditional bio, giving us something a little more than the usual list of shows found in a theatre programme. Provide a writer the opportunity to write, and below is what Mack came up with, telling us: “I got a little carried away with this bio. It’s super long but it’s also super personal! I’ll include the long version in case you want to keep it, but also cut it down to a shorter option afterwards.” We went with the longer version.
In August, I’m leaving Vancouver, a place I’ve called home for the last ten years. I’ve had the privilege of working with so many of the city’s talented companies and artists. I’ve had the comfort of calling so many of them friends, allies, and loved ones. But it has simply become too hard to be an artist here and still pay the bills. I wonder at the state of the community’s support for mid-career artists and the bottle-neck that is created by the plethora of emerging artist grants and initiatives. But this isn’t the place for a soap-box speech about how to better and more progressively nurture the artistic community of Vancouver. This is a bio.
I booked my first professional theatre gig in 2009 at Chemainus Theatre Festival doing a two-hander of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. From there I learned to roller-blade, ran into a parked car during the audition, but was still entrusted by Carole Higgins and Carousel Theatre to take The Big League on tour.
Two paid gigs in a row, I decided to abandon my Plan B of going into education and to keep at professional theatre as long as I could. I’ve since worked with The Arts Club, Bard on the Beach, Green Thumb, and many others. I owe a special debt to Ron Reed and Pacific Theatre; I worked on many shows there but The Foreigner and Ron’s adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe will forever be among the best experiences of my entire life.
I’ve written, self-produced, and toured my own shows across the country including: Debts (ITSAZOO Productions), The Ballad of the Burning Lady (Western Canada Theatre), Shake the Sheets! (Level-Headed Friends), Three Stories Up (Alley Theatre), and Six Fine Lines (Level-Headed Friends). I’ve been involved in Speakeasy’s Pull Festival as a writer four times (and am published in their anthology) and a director once. I’ve created my own rowdy game show night at the Biltmore Cabaret (which this article is a plug for, please come see me and my crazy pet project off on July 19th). I’ve loved, boy how I’ve loved, and I’ve lost … oh man have I lost.
I’ve lived in Kitsilano. I called Mount Pleasant home. I stayed in South Cambie and South Granville for months at a time. I cat-sat in Hastings-Sunrise, I couch-surfed in the West End, I rested a weary head on Broadway and Windsor, near The Drive.
I’m going to Chicago in hopes of continuing to work in this vibrant and volatile field. I chose Chicago because I was raised as an artist in Vancouver on a theatre that is loyal; a theatre that values community over business. My aim as an artist is to make people feel less alone in the world, to welcome strangers and help them feel at home. When I was a stranger in 2008, the Vancouver theatre community did that for me.
I hope you think of me well and occasionally send me a hope of goodwill. I will be doing the same to you. Be good to each other, don’t get too wrapped up in petty details, strive for honesty and candor.
Until next time, Mack Gordon.
20 Questions with Mack Gordon
1. Your first job.
I served breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Okanagan Chateau Retirement Residence. The old folks would tell amazing stories about playing stand-up bass in jazz bands in Egypt during World War II and call every male server Tanner because he had worked there the longest.
2. The job you always wanted as a child?
I wanted to be a clown, but then I walked in on my dad watching the gutter scene from ‘It’ and my dreams, both figuratively and literally, have never been the same.
3. Your pet peeve.
Spatial unawareness: slow-walkers, group-closers, man-spreaders.
4. Your hero.
I just went on a reconnaissance mission to check out Chicago with my dad. We had a really good time together and at the end of it he wrote me a beautiful text message, so open and sensitive and brave about his feelings for me. He’s my hero because he raised me to be the same kind of man, willing to bare feelings, always ready to cry at the sad parts when Elf plays on TV.
5. Your biggest indulgence.
Cookies. And dipping the cookies in coffee. I am a man who likes to dunk.
6. One thing no one knows about you.
I read every tweet on my feed. Sometimes it takes up hours of my day. Twitters new jumbling of the timeline mixed with my new Samsung’s inability to get Tweetdeck are actually driving me toward insanity.
7. Three things you would want with you on a deserted island.
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, a huge notebook/journal with a never-running out pen, and a photo album with all my pictures of family and friends printed off inside.
8. The one word your best friend would use to describe you.
I just asked him. He said “adventurer”, which I think is pretty cool.
9. If you were not doing what you are doing now, what would you be doing?
10. Hero or villain?
11. Your life’s motto/mantra.
The one-person show I wrote last year, Six Fine Lines, was about finding your own rules to live by. The six fine lines of the title were the six motto/mantras I’ve found for my own life. I’m not always the best at following them but, well, see rule six.
- If you participate you’ll be rewarded.
- Reclaim your presence in the world by seeing it as a breathtaking and beautiful place.
- Find more things outside yourself to praise.
- Be content in the present – whoever you’re with, where ever you are – listen.
- Cultivate surprise.
- Nobody gets it right, but hey, we all get to try.
12. Your favourite playwright.
13. The last movie you saw.
Nanette, the Netflix special by Hannah Gadsby. It’s as good as everyone keeps saying it is, but you’ve gotta make it to the end.
14. If you were a cartoon character what cartoon character would you be and why?
Probably Snoopy. I can be a bit overbearing, a little pretentious, and certainly oversensitive but, man, I’m trying my hardest. That or Morty from Rick n Morty, no real explanation needed there.
15. What will it say on your grave marker?
“18 straight whiskeys, I think that’s the record.”
16. Who would you most like to have dinner with?
Jesus, that’s a tough question. Oh. Yeah, him. Ask him a thing or two.
17. Your idea of happiness.
A dance floor full of the people I love.
18. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your twenty-year-old self?
Don’t be so precious with your convictions, be a little more impulsive, and take life less seriously. Also, please pass this on to the 15 year-old you.
19. The one thing in your life that makes you most proud.
My dedication and ability to welcome strangers and friends in almost any setting (an important attribute to running a live interactive game show).
20. To be or not to be?
Oh my God, to be. To be!