It’s been quite the journey to becoming (or realizing I’m) a Death Doula. I have had great training and resources through Hospice Toronto, continue to read and challenge myself with certifications and death education. But its been 2 years to the day since I applied for the End of Life Doula course and I keep finding meaningful moments that propel me forward on this path.
Just today I started with a new client who at the end of our phone conversation said, “Wow, this really helped, thank you for taking my call, I just really needed to talk to someone.” And sometimes it’s just that simple: being open to receiving another person’s story. Really listening and validating their experience. Other times its starting a discussion or sparking a debate on my TikTok about being a Death Doula – this time about the “tissue issue” and whether or not to give tissues to someone who is having a crying moment (as an act of mourning). And sometimes it’s me expressing my grief and end of life care journey for my loved ones through storytelling to help me process my grief journey and finding community. TikTok has been such a big part of my journey thus far!
With over 5k followers, I am finding like minded people and those who are curious about the death positive movement:
The more I do this, the more I find myself sharing stories and listening to other peoples stories and connecting through them – that’s the heart of or at least the focus of my doula practice. My training as an actor and playwright/English Minor in University has served me in ways I couldn’t foresee 20 years ago. What a neat evolution!
So looking forward to 2023, I already have a Doula To Do List! I am remaining curious and seeing where this path takes me.
It was a crazy experience during another lockdown for COVID19 and I was a bundle of nerves because of it. Karl introduced himself with his beautiful accent so it sounded like “Hi I’m Kyle…” and I looked at him confused. I think he thought I didn’t know who he was, and so he tried for chit chat between takes and I stumbled through pleasantries – he was absolutely charismatic and kind, saying that the show was a huge success because of people like me. I laughed but he corrected me that it’s true. I asked how Toronto was treating him, he said it was a great place, but the snow and winters he could do without.
I now joke that I have always begged the Universe to be on the same show as Jensen Ackles – and the Universe listened… technically! He wasn’t even on set when I was I had my own trailer complete with fireplace, and because of COVID I had a PA bring me food and drinks all day – it was like a day-in-the-life-of a movie star. So fancy!
But being on set was a real joy and everyone was delightful, even with COVID being a threat to the production. Being directed and told “you’re good, I wish I could give you more!” was a nice ego boost after years of struggling with my actor side. Though the final edit was just me sitting in the chair, know that I did a few auditions with and without an English accent, did a few set-ups and takes, all for that 2 seconds of air time. Acting can be a strange and amazing world, huh?
Watching him play backgammon between takes, not daring to ask for a game, I wish I was less scared of dying from COOVID and was a bit more chatty. Karl if you ever read this, you were a real gentleman and so warm and friendly, thank you (I tried really hard not to fangirl on you!)
When trying to explain Eldritch Theatre shows to people I tend to use the phrase “horror puppet magic show” but it’s so much more than that. But how do you explain cosmic terrors squished into an indie theatre on Queen Street? How to encapsulate the terrifyingly hilarious puppetry and magic tricks that still make me gape with wonder. How do you tell people that the jokes are perfect for sci-fi nerds, for pop-culture junkies, for DnD addicts, for Lovecraft readers and horror fans? Do you love Stranger Things? Are you okay with puppet murder? What about weird occult references that will make you giddy to hear out loud? What if you LOVE the idea of things that go bump in the night??? Eldritch Theatre’s magic is what breaking out into song is to a musical: the moment just NEEDS SOMETHING MORE. Poof! Magic (literally) is made. It’s one of the bestest best things to be a part of, to watch, to make magic with a whole room of people.
When producing for Eldritch Theatre I am wearing many hats, one of them is social media content creator. The beast that is Social Media must always be fed, and fed, and fed; but I enjoy finding different things to throw into that gigantic cavernous mouth eager for consumable content. Photos and video are so easily dismissed as “instant” (hi, Instagram, no you are not as easy as you look), I had to teach myself a lot of things over the years to catch up and stay on top of trends – learning programs, platforms, editing software, cameras and smartphones… you name it I’ve probably tried it. But what has always been great about working at Eldritch Theatre, with Eric Woolfe always saying “ya sure, go for it!” is that I fail forward and have the support of a team that is constantly rooting for me. And because of that I sometimes get to make some pretty great contributions to the cycle of a performance in ways I never really thought of when I was studying acting and performance in university/college. Case in point, production stills for shows: a challenge that pushes me right out of my safety zone. But sometimes I get something like these:
A friend of mine asked if I would be available for a student film as his collegue painted a redhead for class and he said “huh, that looks like Adrianna!” and what a neat way to be asked to come into a project… Gone Portrait is a short film that made me think of Dorian Gray. Thanks to the Creative Team: Yu Lu He, Rick Kunst, Hiên Võ
I’ve done a lot of shows at The Red Sandcastle Theatre, including my one-woman show premiered with me in it there, I’ve done a few indie theatre shows like The Parliamentarians, and I even helped form a collective of playwrights and formed a festival around our work before the pandemic called Whiskey Ginger Collective. It’s been an amazing space to hold my creativity, as well as the homestead for Eldritch Theatre productions, even longer than I have been with them! So when Rosemary Doyle from Red Sandcastle approached Eric Woolfe of Eldritch Theatre and I to talk about the future of that black box studio on Queen East – I was all ears!
Eric and I are taking over as new management, and I have already done a digital overhaul of the logo, the social media, and the website (that one in thanks to Christopher Mott!) and am already taking booking for 2022, but we don’t “move in” until December 1st, 2021. I’m already excited for it! Eric and I have plans to refresh the space and honour what Rosemary has been doing for these past 10 years in that space: making performance dreams come true. Now, Rosemary isn’t leaving, she’s just taking a necessary step back so she can focus on her life in Kingston as Theatre Kingston’s Artistic Director.
Moving forward I am taking my skills of storytelling and putting them on TikTok as @ladydeathdoula as I start my certification as a Death Doula end of life caregiver in the new year. Combined with my years of suicide prevention and intervention training, and recently my grief literacy training, plus lived experience – I hope I can continue to be a resource for people who are dealing with loss and death.
With the pandemic putting a pause on the entertainment industry indefinitely, this seems like a good time to pause and reflect and do some work behind the scenes is it were. This is what I am doing. I still have my new agent trying to help me get voice overs, I am still producing and marketing Eldritch Theatre (we just had a great digital theatre experience/experiment!) and I just finished my term at Centennial College for the Museum Curatorial Management program – but in the new year when most all of those things hit pause until next fall I have something to lean into that fuels me forward.
A few years ago I was having to navigate a major job loss, and then becoming a part-time professor for Centennial College. I needed a break from the grind of the audition room and to refocus on what was newly on my horizon. It’s been a few years, but I never really left the performing arts – as I have been working steadily as a digital storyteller and marketing manager for several arts organizations and artists around Ontario, currently volunteering at Ghostlight.ca which is all about keeping the light on for actors across Canada through the pandemic.
Enter my friend JM Frey who wanted to brush up on her voice acting and find an agent to pursue a career as a voice over artist. I dabbled in it a bit and offered support and what little insight I had when she landed her agent! Congrats to my friend, right? But because it is a strange and COVID-19 time: she was asked if she knew any actors she could bubble with to do proper self-tapes and guess what? THAT’S ME.
So one thing led to another, and I virtually met Jennifer from Star Talent Inc and we hit it off and lo and behold I’M BACK!
What does this mean? You might see more posts about the audition grind, and hopefully more about voice over work from me too. Keep your fingers crossed, and press play on my updated demo reel:
I have had such a great time creating and sharing with GhostLight! I am working on Studio Sessions as a Digital Producer behind the scenes, and recently I filled in for our regular host Charlotte Gowdy in front of the scenes… that’s not the saying but you get me.
I have been so lucky to have met and befriended EB Smith through GhostLight, and then again to have this conversation with him on Studio Sessions. I have much to learn and unpack but with people like EB who is such a superstar in compassion and patience, I know I can become a better ally. Here have a watch:
These are strange times we are living through; I wrote about the impact of our new “normal” on my mental health blog that tries to encapsulate the surreal reality we find ourselves in. The imagery of pushing through the darkness (IE depression, anxiety, fear of living through a global pandemic) and trying to still access creativity as a means of expression without all the avenues we are used to. No more theatres, no more festivals, no more gatherings.
Enter the idea of Graham Abbey and Dylan Trowbridge: Ghostlight.ca
I love the image of the ghost light being left on in the absence of our brick and mortar theatres, and making space for where we find ourselves: a digital storytelling space. Which just happens to be where I have found myself for the past few years telling stories on social media and digital platforms. When Graham and Dylan approached me for insight and support I fell in love with the concept immediately! Here’s a bit more about the project:
Further down that About Page you will see my face as the Digital Strategist and Social Media lead and I am excited for what our team is creating.
With a focus on “illuminating, creating, collaborating,” Ghost Light is looking to become the Canadian theatre hub for thespians of all trades.
I hope you come along for the ride! Subscribe, comment, and give us a like 👍I would love to hear what you think about this project as we are building it to meet the needs of local artists and we want to hear from you! Our guests and mentors are just about ready to be announced, so hold on to the edge of your digital seat – we will leave the light on for you and for the art form we love.
Stay safe. Wash your hands. Illuminate your art online.