Sky Gilbert is a veteran of the gay theatre world and Spencer Charles Smith may be a neophyte, but they seem to be finding common ground while rehearsing Gilbert's new play, To Myself at 28.
Brian Bantugan: What is it like to work with Sky?
Spencer Charles Smith: Great! Slightly surreal I suppose. I've been a fan of Sky for a long time. So I was very happy when he asked.
How did you two first meet?
Sky Gilbert: I did work on his play Spoon. He gave me the script and I gave him some advice. I met him at a project I did with my students a few summers ago.
Spencer Charles Smith: I was writing my thesis on you.
Sky Gilbert: I didn't see that.
Spencer Charles Smith: Oh no, it was terrible.
Sky Gilbert: I would be totally interested.
Spencer Charles Smith: I wrote on your Happy: A Very Gay Little Musical
, talking on heteronormativity.
With this play, To Myself at 28, how did you end up working together?
Sky Gilbert: I'm trying to think if I actually wrote it for Spencer. Not sure, but it was early enough in my head. When I was writing it, he was the first person I thought of.
What is it about Spencer that made you think it suited him?
Sky Gilbert: He's shorter than I am and he's younger -- a young me. And he's smart. I like working with smart people. And of course, he's a really good actor. But sometimes these things are instinctive. He has the right stuff. He would be very good at being natural.
What brought the idea about?
Sky Gilbert: It might have been my 60th birthday party. I did have that thing about being 60. I have had to deal with the material evidence of aging. It's always been on my mind. And I also wanted something really personal. You know, I think Spoon inspired me a bit to do that. It brought me back to when I used to write very much about myself. I thought it would be fun to do one of those confessional little plays again.
What makes you resonate with Sky?
Spencer Charles Smith: The character that I am playing, Sky at 28 years old, is very much where I am right now. I am a hopeless romantic who needs to find my true love. I want to be a writer. I feel like a young Sky on the threshold towards a new life.
Why did you choose Sky for your thesis?
Spencer Charles Smith: My interest is Canadian queer theatre, so obviously I thought of Sky. I read a bunch of his plays. I fell in love with My Night with Tennessee
Sky Gilbert: I came out when I was near 28.
What was the most challenging thing about working for this production?
Spencer Charles Smith: I wonder if people are expecting me to play Sky. We had a conversation about that. My task is to channel Sky and maybe find the right moments that really resembled him but also remind myself that I'm me.
Aren't you scared about you performing Sky as a person?
Spencer Charles Smith: I don't know. I guess that was my initial fear.
Sky Gilbert: I have a pretty strong sense of humour. It's really hard to tip me off about me. I'm not going to say, "You're not living up to Sky."
Who was Sky at 28?
Sky Gilbert: You will see when you watch it. But, really, he's just a fucked-up mess. He's still pretty fucked up, because he's been in the closet for 28 years. So I had all these expectations and plans, and I basically thought that I was going to be happy. But so many other problems come when you start to really live your life, which I wasn't really doing at that point. I was very entitled. My parents made me believe that I would be enormously successful -- but it's the one thing that my parents got totally messed up with.
Who's Spencer going to be at 28?
Spencer Charles Smith: Sky and I are very similar. But we're also very different because I'm going to end up getting married and have kids and grandkids.
Sky Gilbert: When did you come out?
Spencer Charles Smith: At 17. I don't know. Maybe I'll be married at 28.
Sky Gilbert: I'm not going to rain on his parade.
What's the highlight of this show?
Sky Gilbert: So far, what's really exciting me is to be publicly humiliated. I'm a little bit of a masochist and an exhibitionist. This play hits both things very well. I'm tantalized by the idea of making some kind of a public fun of myself, which I've always done to some degree. In terms of honesty, I find it quite liberating.
How do you think people will react to the play?
Spencer Charles Smith: I think that the people who know Sky will love it. And people who don't know Sky . . .
Sky Gilbert: What? They're not going to like it?
Spencer Charles Smith: No. They'll like it, but I think they'll appreciate it and learn something new about Sky.
Sky Gilbert: I wrote it almost like a personal piece for my friends in a way.
Spencer Charles Smith: I find that if it's honest, people like it. When you spill it out there, people are really receptive.
To Myself at 28 runs from Fri, Feb 15 at 8pm to Sat, Feb 16 at 2pm and 8pm at Videofag, 187 Augusta Ave. PWYC. videofag.com
Sky Gilbert also hosts Fleurus 2: An Evening of Bent Words, a Gertrude Stein-style literary salon, complete with snacks, chats and an open mic, on Mon, Feb 11 at 7pm at the Hart House Music Room, 7 Hart House Circle. No cover.