The connections in this post are mostly of a very straightforward type: 1. Begin with something I love that many people were involved in making. 2. Track down other projects done by those people.
My starting point is Slings and Arrows, a brilliant Canadian series about the on and offstage drama at a regional Shakespeare festival. If you’re already a fan, I commend to your attention an excellent Onion A.V. Club interview with the creators, including among many other insights this quote from Susan Coyne on fear and insecurity: “It’s an essential component, actually, of the actor’s or the artist’s life. To be constantly not quite sure that what you’re doing is going to work out and that nervousness is where the sweet spot is. Just before the thread snaps, that’s where it’s really interesting.”
If you’re new to the series, here’s Season 1, episode 1:
From Slings and Arrows you can get any number of places; I’ll tell you about two.
Sarah Polley plays Sophie, the young actress who’s cast as Cordelia in the production of King Lear in Slings and Arrows’ third season. Throughout the series Michael Polley plays Frank, a longtime actor of bit parts at the festival alongside his companion Cyril. As you might guess from their identical last names, there is a relationship between these two actors. That relationship’s exact nature — as well as the nature of memory, the question of who has a right to tell a family’s stories, and who gets to decide what makes someone part of a family, or not — is examined in Sarah Polley’s amazing film, Stories We Tell. The less you know going in the better, so that’s all I’ll say. Here’s the trailer:
One of my favorite characters (although it’s very difficult to choose) from Slings and Arrows is the flamboyant director Darren Nichols (“Deal with that!”), played by Don McKellar. So when friends told me that he’d co-created and starred in a show in the nineties called Twitch City, playing a Torontonian television addict named Curtis who never leaves the apartment he shares with a series of roommates, most notably Holly, played by Molly Parker whom you may know from Deadwood, I was immediately all in.
Here’s Episode 1, Season 1:
If you love it as much as I do, I suggest buying the complete series on DVD. I agree with this review describing the show as the TV equivalent of an underground comic, though I differ with the reviewer about the special features. It’s true that there’s only commentary on two of the thirteen episodes, but it’s absolutely worth it just to hear McKellar leave voicemail for some of the other actors he hoped to include on the commentary track, but who weren’t answering their phones.
Final connection for this post, coming way out of left field: I was reading Michael Pollan’s “The Intelligent Plant: scientists debate a new way of understanding flora” and came across this passage:
The “sessile life style,” as plant biologists term it, calls for an extensive and nuanced understanding of one’s immediate environment, since the plant has to find everything it needs, and has to defend itself, while remaining fixed in place.
Sessile is a perfect description of Don McKellar’s Twitch City character, Curtis.