John Daniel reflects on his role as Connor in TO’s Too Close to Home

March 19, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“First off, I just, like, even to get the opportunity of an Equity contact and be in the show,” John Daniel enthused, “I’m 17. Because we’re located in Orangeville, there’s not a lot of opportunity to follow their [young budding thespians] dreams. I’m grateful to be on and to have been in Orangeville. That they believed in me enough to give me this opportunity.”

He was speaking of his role as Connor in the premier production of Too Close to Home, which was cancelled after its Opening Night last Friday, March 13.

He was understandably sorry at the abrupt ending. “This totally sucks,” he admitted. “We did all that work but it’s not wasted. We did two reviews and the opening night but we’re not the only ones. There’s Mirvish and Broadway in New York.”

Of his beginning life with Theatre Orangeville, “Honestly, it was, at first, something to do, on a school night, to get me out the house. I was 10 years old when I signed up for an after school program with the theatre. I really enjoyed it so much, [he auditioned for and] I did Young Company for a couple of years. I was in Romeo and Juliet. I’m going to be Assistant Director to Daniel Reale this summer. I was just accepted in George Brown College. 

“Dan is a big reason why I chose to go to there. I love all the things he does. It’s really great to get to work with him again this summer. It totally goes to show how they invest in young people, who want to get into this. Now, we’re both growing up and theatre is a big part of me being whom I am today.”

If John had been expecting a big difference between doing Young Company and working in a professional show, he was in for some surprises: “With Young Company, Theatre Orangeville makes the most professional experience you can have. You’re working with a professional crew but, because of the surrounding, everyone works hard to be a professional in their attitude.

“Going into an Equity show like this, I was really anxious that I wasn’t going to be as prepared as the others but then I realized that, because of Young Company, I was able to keep up and take notes. 

“It’s also important to know that a lot of other theatres have a young company of their own kind – but TOV seems to be above and beyond. Any kids that want to be in the theatre, if you’re serious about this, Young Company is a great way to get into it.”

Talking about rehearsals for Too Close to Home, he said, “There were no differences in age. At no point, did I ever feel like anyone was treating me like a kid. It’s a collaborative effort. We all want to put on a good play.

“Connor – there’s a lot of things that the character goes through personality-wise; we’re not incredible similar but a lot of what happens to him, I began to see what he was. It’s important with a character is to understand why they do what they do and make the choices that they’re making. 

“I haven’t had all his experiences, not so much with other folks in my own life. Everybody has conflict with their parents but you have to sympathize with what the mom’s going through.” 

He said, “I think Conner’s pretty easy. I don’t think there’s anything that would have anybody dislike him but he has his own issues. 

“I think I felt like I tried to take aspects of my life and apply them. That feels genuine. I have been through some of the things that ‘s he’s been through.”

He wanted to explain the process. “You’re not trying to act, you’re just having a conversation – you gotta draw on a lot of things in your own life.”

What about playing roles that are completely different from what a person is …”I’m ready to do that! 

“Connor was a real person with real issues. In Romeo and Juliet, I was Mercutio.” 

Said John Daniel, “I do a lot of writing. When I’m writing characters, everything’s gotta sound right. In Cookstown, on the weekend [of June 4 to 7], there’s a festival of stage play readings, Four Play. I wrote a play and when it was something I was happy with, I gave it to them and they gave me the Saturday night spot. It’s a comedy (about three cops – their boss goes missing – in a northern Canadian town. 

They try go figure out what happened to the boss.) I call it Hebfield’s Finest.”

It is to be performed as a staged reading at the South Simcoe Theatre in Cookstown Saturday, June 6th.

The plan John has for himself is to go to “George Brown College for theatre performance. There’s a class just sort of incorporate acting. As for writing, I want to keep at it.” 

Asked, he answered, “What I really love about the way David Nairn directs – he asked all the right questions that they just had to answer for themselves – if he had given the answer, we might have become less attached to characters.”

He went on to admit, “I’ll say something – it’s a really tough business to be in; getting to be in an Equity show at 17: that’s a lot of luck. David says to young actors, if there’s another thing you love as much as this, do that but, if this is the only thing to make you happy – then you gotta do that.”

And for himself? “Acting is the only thing I want to do. To be just under the umbrella of the entertainment business – just making people laugh or cry – that’s what I want to do.”


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