In this episode, host Phil Rickaby, talks with Sex T-Rex member, Lowen Morrow. Together, we explore everything from the dynamic theatre scene in Canada to the origins of D&D live shows, the joys and challenges of self-promotion in the entertainment industry, and much more.
Lowen gives us insight into Sex T-Rex’s hit show Swordplay, discussing its physical comedy and evolution over time. Later, we explore the origins of D&D live. Also in the discussion we explore the evolving role of gender identity in their performances, and hear their thoughts on working in a theatre troupe over a long period of time, and how that can be like being part of a family, with all that that entails
Don’t miss out on the latter part of the episode where we discuss the fascinating world of puppetry and producing in the film and TV industry. It’s a jam-packed episode you wouldn’t want to miss!
Lowen Morrow is a trans masculine theatre and filmmaker, physical comedian, actor, improviser, and puppeteer based in Toronto. They are a core member of comedy company Sex T-Rex: winners of over two dozen awards including 2x Just for Laughs’ Best Comedy and Second City’s Outstanding Comedy awards. Lowen has toured Canada, the US and parts of China with Mermaid Theatre and was awarded the Honourary My Theatre Award for excellence in puppetry. Recently they played the titular character in Tarragon Theatre’s Orphan Song, workshopped a new production of Pinocchio with Bad New Days, and were featured in Featured Creatures’ upcoming film, Dead Lover set to debut next year. Currently they are producing and performing in Swordplay a play of Swords with Sex T-Rex and directing an improvised show for young audiences with Bad Dog Theatre called Captain Galactic as part of Bad Dog’s Comedy on Queen Festival. Coming up they will be co-producing and curating Blockbuster Week- an improvised comedy festival with Bad Dog Theatre and are about to enter pre-production for their short film, Mothballs.
Transcript auto generated.
0:00:04 – Phi Rickaby
I’m Phil Rickaby and I’ve been a writer and performer for almost 30 years, but I’ve realized that I don’t really know as much as I should about the theatre scene outside of my particular Toronto bubble. Now I’m on a quest to learn as much as I can about the theatre scene across Canada. So join me as I talk with mainstream theatre creators you may have heard of and indie artists you really should know, as we find out just what it takes to be Stageworthy. If you value the work that I do on Stageworthy, please consider leaving a donation, either as a one-time thing or on a recurring monthly basis. Stageworthy is created entirely by me and I give it to you free of charge, with no advertising or other sponsored messages. Your continuing support helps me to cover the cost of producing and distributing the show. Just four people donating $5 a month would help me cover the cost of podcast hosting alone. Help me continue to bring you this podcast. You can find a link to donate in the show notes, which you can find in your podcast app or at the website at Stageworthy.ca. Now onto the show.
Lowen Morrow is a transmasculine theatre and filmmaker, physical comedian, actor, improviser and puppeteer originally from Nova Scotia, now based in Toronto. They are a core member of the multi-award-winning comedy theatre company Sex T-Rex, an artist in residence with Bad Dog Theatre and a huge nerd who has built dozens of castles in the Sims. They joined me to talk about Sex T-Rex’s hit show, Swordplay, returning to Toronto stages from December 16th to 22nd at the Assembly Theatre as part of Bad Dog Theatre’s comedy on Queen Street. Here’s our conversation, but let’s start with Swordplay, because Sex T-Rex is mounting a swordplay again and this has been sort of an ongoing hit for all of you, right? It’s been a show that’s done quite well, as it’s toured around across Canada and all over the place. For anybody who hasn’t seen Swordplay, what is it?
0:02:43 – Lowen Morow
It’s physical comedy inspired by swashbuckling adventures and particularly Princess Bride and basically video games, like old-fashioned Super Nintendo video games. Yeah, so it’s a physical comedy minimal props using fabric to make staircases and dragons and stuff. Yeah, it’s a comedy, obviously. I think that’s the gist.
0:03:13 – Phi Rickaby
Yeah, it is very much like if somebody took the Princess Bride and a bunch of those old classic Super Nintendo games, mashed them together and just sort of threw on a stage and made it as wildly entertaining as it can be. Sex T-Rex is known for the physical comedy in the specifically. Not just the physical comedy but just the physicality in general of your productions. As far as this show goes and you’ve done it so many times in the past looking back at the original the first time you did it to now, how has the physical comedy and the physicality evolved over the time that you’ve been performing it?
0:04:00 – Lowen Morow
Specifically Swordplay. We got older, so things are harder. All of our backs are bad now. We wrote it in 2015, or, well, 2014, and it premiered in 2015. Coming on 10 years from when we wrote it. So I think and it’s odd we were watching old tape of rehearsal and we were developing it and a lot of the elements have stayed the same Of all of our shows. Probably we changed the least. It’s just one of those shows that just came out of the womb. Fine, that’s a weird metaphor, but yeah, it came out alright. We usually do work on our shows constantly, so once we produce a show, we’ll give notes back after every show and we’ll tweak little moments. So it has changed a bit, but just in these little micro moments.
0:04:58 – Phi Rickaby
I think that’s really important, though, because it keeps the first off. It keeps this show alive, and you are not the people that you were. You’re not the people that you are now, that you were when you created the show in so many ways, so there’s a lot that has to change each time you do a show. As far as the things that you’ve looked at specifically in the show, if somebody saw this in 2015 and came back to see it now, what might they notice? That’s changed.
0:05:27 – Lowen Morow
Well, I have short hair now, so I’ll be wearing a very silly wig. I’m not sure what they would notice if they saw it, I think. Well, we have a new cast member. That’s kind of a huge difference. There’s the four core company members of 60X and then there’s kind of a rotating fifth, and this time it’s , so that’ll be really fun. He’s been amazing. He’s a real pro and very funny, so I’m really excited for audiences to see doing this work. That’s going to be new. So if you’ve seen it before, this will be fun.
But yeah, I don’t know, I’m the kind of person that I like to watch a movie that I like again and again, and again, and I think certain nerd demographics are kind of like that too, and I think that this show specifically speaks to nerds. So I think, in many ways, keeping some of it the same is important, and watching your favorite movie or something again and again. I guess another thing that’s going to change, but probably no one will notice, is we became acutely aware that we’re old recently during a D&D live, when a kid just trolled us from the audience and yelled what is this the 1990s? And we were on stage. We were all like oh my god, oh my god.
We have been making just constant 90s jokes and it made me aware that this kid in the, the conceit was always like the princess bride grandpa comes and visits, but the conceit was always grandpa was a millennial. But even the words I was using then for the kid I think it was something like awesome and stuff. But we’re supposed to juxtapose grandpa is like that’s sick, you know, which is like a very millennial term. But I was just kind of aware that like, if I’m playing a kid, you know, in the future is using like modern language. I have to change my language. So I’ve been polling Gen Zs for their vocabulary. I’ve never felt older. I’m trying to understand what an equivalent for awesome is. So that’s another thing that might have changed. We’re going to change some of the kids vocabulary to maybe try to seem a little less like the kid is.
0:07:45 – Phi Rickaby
A millennial too.
Yeah, I want to go back to your the rotating fifth cast member, because every time you do a show like this, the dynamic of how sex T-Rex interests you, you have the core, the core four, and then you add your the different fifth. That must change the dynamic somewhat. Each time you bring in somebody, their energy comes in and changes the show, and I’ve seen this show with various different fifth members and I think it does change. What’s it like for you guys bringing in somebody new each time, and so the show definitely can’t be the same.
0:08:25 – Lowen Morow
I love it. I don’t know. I think it’s great. Everyone brings in a different energy, as you say, and everyone brings in. And because we are always changing the show, I guess there are some parts I’m thinking of now that are quite different from when we opened, but they’re just little parts here and there. But yeah, like each person who’s touched the show has left some kind of legacy in the show.
You know, I remember John Blair wrote a whole speech for the character Igor that appears a couple of times in the show and really upgraded that part. And I remember Danny Padgett played the fifth at one point and he rotated. He changed out a scene that I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s just basically an eight-bit sequence where a guy falls off a balcony, but he came up with that whole scene himself and like how to do it and to do it in eight-bit and make it kind of a Metal Gear Solid reference with the villain hiding in a box and then the king just doesn’t see him when he’s in a box. You know, everybody’s left their mark, I guess.
One major difference this time I don’t think it’s a spoiler, but Chargel will be playing the crone, which is a character I would usually play, and so we’re just kind of letting Chargel have that scene, and I think the plan is he’s going to turn it into a bit of an improv game. So I’m really excited to see how that works out. So, like every fifth person who’s, of course, joe Aulman, who originated the part, was originally our tech and he would just run on stage and do like a little bit and then run back to the tech booth because you know that’s how you do theater right, and he, along with Sean, mixed all the sound for the show. So, like every single person who’s played that part Peter Carlawne in when we were out in BC they’ve all left their legacy on the show and it’s really cool.
0:10:22 – Phi Rickaby
Yeah, you kind of mentioned the millennial thing and how Wow. I wanted to talk about Dungeons and Dragons in relation to that, because do you find in just jumping into D&D Live, just to jump into different projects, d&d Live, you guys have been doing that for quite some time. But I’m curious about you have you know? It’s set in Toronto, the fantasy land of Toronto. Do you find that your map of the magical world of Toronto is like the kid called you out on, like heavily influenced by the 90s, like it hasn’t moved on and so the references aren’t updating? Or do you guys try to move yourselves out of that time when you were experiencing Toronto for the first time?
0:11:14 – Lowen Morow
Well, I think the map has been updated a couple of times. I was noticing recently that Forthwright Eds is still on there, which is sort of what Honest Eds was. So we do have to change that, unfortunately. But it’s mostly referencing neighborhoods and buildings. So the map itself really changes when we kind of get tired of it and we’ll just find a new neighborhood to represent.
Or if we come up with a goofy pun because they’re all except for, like Parkdale, which anything Dale, we just keep as it is because that sounds, you know, pretty fantasy enough. Like the Sky Dome, we just kind of call it that and it floats in the sky. You know, there’s a lot of names that just are already kind of magical sounding and we just keep those. But other than that, we kind of come up with puns or make it a little bit more fantasy-esque, but like the Tomb of Eton, you know, because they didn’t have any malls back then, or the word mall meant a totally different thing, yes, and not like back then, as if, like you know, fantasy ever existed, but like the medieval kind of time when a lot of fantasies are set. I think that like the, the part of the program we give like a player’s handbook for every D&D live show, and that’s with being referenced here, and inside there’s a map of the realm of China. It’s beautifully drawn by Ben Steemroller, and the thing that we do update regularly is a thing, a feature we have called Wandering Monsters. So every other show there’ll just be a wandering monster that appears that the audience can shout out.
Those change because those are a little bit more circumstantial, less like buildings which change very infrequently, or neighborhoods which change infrequently, so like oh, I forget the joke, but there was one reference to a convoy I was noticing when we did the show on Sunday and I was like I think it might be timed. It was like a it wasn’t convoy golem, but it was like some kind of thing and I was like we maybe want to swap that one out, but that’s the thing. That aspect of it does change out. It’s mostly our music references that are old. When we reference a song or something like that, that’s where we really shell our age, and not everyone in the cast is an elder millennial. We have a age range, but those of us running it are Well.
0:13:41 – Phi Rickaby
Loan. It’s so hard because, as you get older, you think that, even though you know it’s not current, your musical references always go to the things that you listen to when you’re teens and early twenties. And there’s no way. There’s really no way around it, no matter how much you try to listen to updated stuff.
0:13:57 – Lowen Morow
Yeah, it’s just, I think it’s.
I don’t know, I’m not a brain scientist, but that’s just how our brains work you know, yeah, Like you have that fresh, squishy, open brain when you’re that age and everything’s new and you take it all as this is how the world is, and then the world changes, you know, and you’re less, maybe, flexible, even though you can always still like learn and grow. But my, my God, yeah, like nothing makes me feel the way that I feel when I listen to music from you know, when you’re, when you’re young, and we’re not. Millennials aren’t alone in that. I think every generation goes through their version of that.
0:14:32 – Phi Rickaby
Yeah, absolutely Absolutely. Now you guys have been doing D&D live for like 10 years maybe.
0:14:40 – Lowen Morow
Certainly longer than that. Oh, certainly, yeah, I was just sitting here trying to think when we started D&D live. I don’t know, I want to guess 2012. No, that seems yeah, maybe around 2012,. But I think it’s been longer than that. I think we had our 10 year anniversary a while ago.
0:14:59 – Phi Rickaby
Yeah, yeah, because that was I first became aware of not of your version of it, but around the time that I was touring with Keystone Theater. I think it was around 2012. We were in Winnipeg which had its D&D live, which was like you couldn’t even get in the door for that during friend. Somebody tried to do something similar in Edmonton that same year and you know it was. It’s a really great idea to like improv this role playing game. When did you guys first start thinking about doing it?
0:15:35 – Lowen Morow
Well, originally I think it was a. My history is going to be a bit off so I apologize. I think Sean might be able to you know correct after the fact, but do some fact corrections. But I know it was after the Winnipeg show, because our show is a direct spawn of the Winnipeg show and I believe it was at first a bad dog production and then bad dog didn’t want to do it anymore and we did so we picked it up and now we’re co-producing bad dogs. So it’s kind of been through some jostling between bad dog and us, but it was an original spawn directly from, directly inspired by the Winnipeg folks. I love them. They’re so wonderful. They’ve given us, like so many, every time we’ve gone to Winnipeg I think it’s only been twice, but we’ve been on their show for the fringe and they’ve been so kind and yeah, we’ve, we continue to share ideas. Yeah, we continue to be inspired by them.
0:16:38 – Phi Rickaby
Awesome, Awesome. Now you guys the whole D&D live. You guys are improvising an adventure. I believe Sean is the DM plus DJ, yeah, and sort of guides the adventure. But you guys, the cast is improving and there are dice rolls as well with it. I think I’ve seen the giant dice at some of the events you’ve done and that determines how things go forward. How much do you know, going in, what is planned for the evening?
0:17:15 – Lowen Morow
Oh, very little. I mean it depends on the show. Once in a long while there’s going to be like there’s a fun idea or we’ll have a guest who’s coming in with a strong offer ahead of time. But we did a show this past Sunday. Right before the show. Sean comes backstage is like I think we might do a holiday theme show. I’d be able to feel that and then that was kind of it. That was the whole what we knew going in. I guess it’s fair to say the characters don’t who their characters are and what they did last time. So that kind of informs it, but that’s it. Everything else is determined by what the audience yells or what the audience rolls on the big giant T20s.
0:18:01 – Phi Rickaby
Yeah, do you ever have to be reminded of what happened last time, do you? Yes?
0:18:08 – Lowen Morow
Yes, well, it’s a once a month show and, having done so many, at this point I’d love to know how many versions of the show we’ve done, because we did a whole fringe run of D&D Live. Like, let’s say I think it’s safe to say well over 100 shows. Yeah, you can, sometimes last time can get a bit fuzzy, but yeah, for sure, once in a while we’ll need a little refresher.
0:18:37 – Phi Rickaby
Because every game of Duds the Dragons I have ever played we can’t remember what happened. Last time we needed the DM to do a recap before we even start and hopefully they remember.
0:18:47 – Lowen Morow
Yeah, that’s fair. Same yeah, absolutely Same. Yeah, we’re playing tonight.
0:18:57 – Phi Rickaby
Now, how long have you and the rest of the group been playing D&D?
0:19:04 – Lowen Morow
Oh well, sean and I well, the whole group we all went to theater school together. We didn’t all start playing D&D together, though, but Sean and I started playing D&D together or well, a role-playing game inspired by D&D Um in 2005. Yeah, so we’ve been playing D&D together since then. Connor comes and goes. We’ve done several campaigns with Julian, but yeah, we play with a bunch of people. Mm, hmm.
0:19:39 – Phi Rickaby
It’s. I mean it’s hard enough to get a game uh together and to play it regularly. So to be playing it, I mean you, like you said rotating people, but it’s good to see people who’ve managed to keep a game going, both improv wise and tabletop wise.
0:19:54 – Lowen Morow
Oh yeah, yeah, we’ve had some epic campaigns.
0:19:59 – Phi Rickaby
Um, now I want to go back to, to uh, to, to sex T-Rex, and I want to talk a little bit, and and you could tell me if you don’t want to talk about this Um, but, um, one thing that is that that has changed is, um, your gender identity has changed in the time that since you, since you created the show and to to doing it now. Um, do you and this, this might be a weird question to ask, but do you have reservations about playing uh as as a trans masculine theater maker now? Do you have reservations playing, uh, a more feminine character, the princess character, uh uh, in this show?
0:20:43 – Lowen Morow
Yeah, it was. It was a thing I had to think about. Um, I, I don’t think I have reservations. I think that, like you know, I am trans masculine and the reason I’m not a trans man is cause I, I, I still have a lot of feminine qualities and I think that, like you know, not to bring in drag race, but to bring in drag race, to bring in drag race, uh, it wasn’t until I was sort of watching that show and I was seeing a lot of really feminine men in dresses. Like I was like that’s kind of, that’s more what I am Like. I’m more of kind of a feminine guy and I was never comfortable in dresses, just as me, and I loved wearing dresses, like on stage, and I loved wearing.
You know, if I had to go to like a formal event, I would. I would just be having like panic attacks and I couldn’t understand why, until I I, you know figured it all out. But like I think we talked about like does Princess Pimpernel cause she does kind of go through a change in the show from like, uh, princess Peach to I don’t know someone who’s a little less in need of rescue, let’s just say that, um, she kind of has a violent turn. And so we were like, do we want, like Princess Pimpernel, to, I don’t know, change pronouns at that time too, do I take the wig off at that time, like, do we want to do that? It was a conversation but at the end of the day, like, I think this particular character I’m not going to say sword plays in any way political, but it was certainly at the time very much there were.
There were very few, um, strong, violent uh and the strength of violence don’t always go together. I’m just saying in this one case I didn’t see a lot of that at that time and I think that the her being a her, is really important and it’s also really important for the Barnabas and Santa story. Um, yeah, I mean, I don’t know if I spoilers, this is 10 year old show, I don’t know but uh, so maybe I won’t, I won’t give away the ending, but but I think, like, gender and sexuality are important in this show and and I just kind of landed on she’s. She’s a woman, you know, and and I am no problem on stage playing roles like that Um, it’s more in real life, showing up as my own self that I I do struggle to be seen as as, uh, something I’m not Right, yeah, right.
0:23:27 – Phi Rickaby
And and do you mind if we talk a little bit about about the, the dysphoria and things like that, leading to to coming out as trans masculine, or would you rather not?
0:23:35 – Lowen Morow
0:23:35 – Phi Rickaby
Sure, um, I mean a lot of people that I know who have uh, uh, because, you know, come out as non binary or trans masculine, um, it’s something that they always felt. They just didn’t have the words for it. Did you find that? As that that was? That’s something that was always sort of there for you.
0:23:52 – Lowen Morow
Well, I couldn’t, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t, never have. I think what you just said that not having the words for it was was definitely it. Um, I’m definitely, yeah, I definitely have experienced. I’m really good at justifying things, and so I would just often um justify away the discomfort that I was feeling. Um, so I would. I would never have thought of it as as gender’s for you, and I had met trans people, but I had only met like binary trans people, like trans men and trans women, and so I I I didn’t really think that I was one of those things. Um, so I just didn’t think I was trans.
It wasn’t until later, when I started to understand non binary stuff, that these, these things started to make more sense and it was kind of like, you know, one of those uh like detective boards with all the like uh pictures and you try to draw the connections. It was suddenly like I could see the connections between all these like uncomfortable things that I knew were uncomfortable for me. I just had never seen them all being connected under the umbrella of gender before, and so it was suddenly like you know, being really panicked when I was a teenager, trying to buy clothes and really just being like I don’t know. I guess I’m supposed to wear this. Is this bullies? Will you leave me alone if I wear this Like it was never like. I was never like oh this is who I am.
And yeah, yeah, the dysphoria. I think once I had an understanding of what that was, you know, I used to say like I remember sitting around a table one time with a bunch of actually comedians and saying everyone was complaining about being a woman and I was just like, yeah, and wearing dresses, right, and everyone was like what I was? Like socks, hate it. And everyone was like I love it. I love you know, and I had written that off as well. Being a woman is hard, you know. Wearing heels is hard, Everything about being a woman is hard, and there’s a truth to that.
But that’s it. Like I could justify so much and it all kind of once I didn’t need to justify those things anymore. Once it it wasn’t a conscious mechanism, really, it was just like well, just don’t have to think about it. Then I would say dysphoria is the is it correct word? But there’s a yeah, there is a difference for me in being a character and being myself. There’s a lot of aspects about playing a character that aren’t me, and gender can be one of them, and I do maintain a strong feminine side. So I think it’s fun. It feels like I’m in drag. I love it you know.
0:26:45 – Phi Rickaby
But let’s bring it back to Drag Race, because that’s something that I appreciate about. To me, a good like a good drag queen is somebody who knows who their drag character is. Might not be very similar to themselves, it might be similar, but they know the differences between themselves and the character and they can tell you who their drag persona is, and I think that brings out something something kind of special in that. In that way, in this show, you know who Princess Piper Nell is.
0:27:16 – Lowen Morow
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah, she’s a bit nuts, but yeah, I think like, yeah, I do know who this character is and she’s not me. I’ve never been a princess in a tower, I’ve never had knights who serve me and I’ve never fought a dragon outside of D&D. And, as sad as I am to say, I don’t think I’d fight a dragon. I’d try to be friends with the dragon, I think. But yeah, I’ve never. There’s enough differences that like I don’t. I mean, and we’ll see, I don’t think it’ll be diswork.
I’ve played a few women since coming out and it’s been fine. There’ve been a couple moments where it was like, oh, this is a little hard. But I had to do a scene, one recently in a bra, and I was playing a nun, but the person opposite me was a cis man also playing a nun, so we were both kind of bros in bras and that kind of helps. Like that was me, just like a little bit. Like I was like, oh, this is a bit on the edge of what I would think I would feel comfortable in, but yeah, for the most part, like the sexier roles, like let’s be honest, I wrote them myself and one of the first things that I came out.
One of those pictures on my crime board was like, oh God, all of the characters that I’ve written were sex directs. All in some way are queer coded, or at least they aren’t who they seem. Or like one of my characters was just called boy, or they all kind of like in the princess’s case, has like a secret, like secretly she’s like you know, tough, and again, that doesn’t is not necessarily man, but it was like me expressing inside of myself that like I didn’t know where else to put it.
0:29:22 – Phi Rickaby
Yeah, One of the things. Let’s just jump back a little bit because I do want to talk about sex T-Rex as a group. You’ve mentioned that you guys, that you all went to theater school together At that time. I think we are theater school siblings, I think we went to the same school and I think we may have had similar experience.
0:29:44 – Lowen Morow
I’m sorry, I don’t know. I think, do we need to talk? Is this going to be fun?
0:29:51 – Phi Rickaby
No, no, no, we have to go through the therapy thing. We need to go through the therapy thing. I’ve dealt with all of that stuff years ago. It was not an easy time.
0:29:59 – Lowen Morow
No, I’m so sorry. What year did you go?
0:30:02 – Phi Rickaby
Oh, I was in 90,. Just to you know, 93, I think I graduated.
0:30:07 – Lowen Morow
OK, ok, yeah, so we might have had some different staff. Yeah, we were in the same program.
0:30:13 – Phi Rickaby
Yeah, we were still at the River Street warehouse at that time, so Well, the year that I went, we started there. Right.
0:30:24 – Lowen Morow
And we were the first year to move over to the theater.
0:30:26 – Phi Rickaby
Oh, you were in the year that you went to Casaloma, and then you were in the middle of all of the flux.
0:30:31 – Lowen Morow
We were in the middle of the flux, but we were mostly in the Young Center.
0:30:34 – Phi Rickaby
Ok, OK, ok. You were fortunate enough to be well, fortunate enough.
0:30:39 – Lowen Morow
We were mostly in the Young Center. We were supposed to exclusively be in the Young Center, but there were some building delays, so we were a little bit on River Street, but that was mostly just. There was some kind of I don’t know chemical something happened.
0:30:53 – Phi Rickaby
0:30:53 – Lowen Morow
Anyway, we all had to. You know building stuff.
0:30:56 – Phi Rickaby
Yes, yeah, aside from that, you were all at that theater school together. Were you pals then? Did you hang out, or how did you come together to form sex T-Rex.
0:31:16 – Lowen Morow
We, I think, kind of, were you identified. We were, you know, brothers-in-arms facing adversity. I think there was a bond through not fitting into the program. But we all loved stage combat. There were some classes that we’d take that we just were all like, oh, this is great, and I wouldn’t say that we were all besties in school. But the year we graduated was the year sex T-Rex was formed and it started as an improv troupe and I think through that is when we all became friends as well.
0:32:07 – Phi Rickaby
Well, Sid, there’s two things that are going to happen when you form a theater troupe with people. It’s either you’re going to become best friends or you’re going to hate each other’s guts. There’s really no. You’re not going to be ambivalent about the people that you work with, so I’m glad it went the good way.
0:32:21 – Lowen Morow
Yeah, and you know, like anything, we’re like a family, you know. So we’ve had ups and downs, but I would say, for the most part, we love each other and I think that we want to keep working together and so we keep working together?
0:32:36 – Phi Rickaby
Yeah, absolutely. Now I want to talk a little bit more specifically about you and your theater life and some stuff that you’ve done. One of the things that I know is that you’re getting ready to prepare to do a short film. Yeah, Tell me about the short film and how that came about.
0:33:00 – Lowen Morow
How did it come about? Well, my friend, gwen, gwen Cummins, just texted me and was like I don’t really remember where it came from. I think maybe I did a puppet show, or anyway. Her partner does film stuff too and they both are really active in film and TV. I’m less so, I dabble, I’m more of a theater guy. And she just reached out and was like do you want to do a? Let’s, we have access to a studio, we have access to some cameras and stuff. Do you want to do a short film with puppets? And I was like, heck, yeah, that’s really where it started and since then it’s kind of grown. We’ve applied for funding and stuff. So we’re all just in the holding. It’s going to happen either way, but on what scale it happens depends Come through governments.
But yeah, we just got together and we were like, well, ok, what is a story that involves a puppet that we can write in a single room?
And this was last year, this was last November that we wrote it and I was starting to notice I think it was around the time I was paying a lot of attention to the Ukraine-Russia fight at the time and I was starting to learn a lot about fascism and authoritarianism, and I was watching these trends happen in Canada too and there’s all kinds of groups that get scapegoated. But I was relatively recently out at the time and everything Gwen creates pretty much has to do is centered around queer stories and we were noticing the scapegoating of the queer community and we kind of had this idea to write this story where the kind of premise is puppets came to life and it was magical and wonderful, and then people got started to treat puppets like a second class. They became the scapegoat for everybody’s problems. People started to protest, puppet bars were shut down and basically this puppet’s in hiding. So that’s kind of the whole premise of the film and it kind of just goes from there.
0:35:21 – Phi Rickaby
You’ve done quite a few things with puppets over the years. At what point did puppetry become a thing that you were interested in?
0:35:28 – Lowen Morow
Yeah, well, like all life.
I mean, my dad was a puppeteer and growing up with puppets, I didn’t really think there was anything else I should do, because puppets are great, especially when you’re a kid, and he still runs a puppetry theater company, touring theater company out of Nova Scotia, and so it was an oasis to get away from school, which I never loved.
I’d take days off and just go and build puppets with dad, and so working for his company was kind of a life goal. It’s why I went to theater school in the first place. I wanted to go into dance and then I was like, oh, if I have to go to theater school, that was like the second on my list, so I’ll go to theater school to work for a mermaid theater. And then I did that and then I toured for six years and I was like, all right, yeah, that’s how I kind of get interested in puppets for a very, very, very young age. So, yeah, I’ve been practicing puppets with my stuffed animals from the time I was like four. Yeah, it’s been a passion of mine for a long time.
0:36:34 – Phi Rickaby
So your theater origin story starts with puppets.
0:36:38 – Lowen Morow
It does yes.
0:36:40 – Phi Rickaby
And at some point was the choice to go into theater something that, as you said, it was to get to do puppets. But what made you decide that theater school and something like those lines would be beneficial over, say, dance or something like that?
0:36:57 – Lowen Morow
It would really to work at Mermaid Well, and there were some other influences too. When I went to theater school, I had very little experience performing on stage. I had done some high school musicals and stuff. Yeah, I think I rationalized at the time too, of like not that you know, dancer’s career is quite short and if I wanted to do it I grew up in a rural setting I’d have a lot of work ahead of me and by the time I was there my career would probably be done-ish. So I think that played a bit of a role.
When I my second year out of high school, I still wasn’t in school, but I went and lived in Montreal with a family friend who was working at Playwrights Workshop and I spent a year. She was the artistic director of Playwrights Workshop at the time and I spent a year living with her and we saw a lot of theater that year and more than that she partied with theater people like all the time, and I’m not saying she like partied all the time, but you know it was just kind of a. We were constantly theater people coming through the house. There were occasionally parties and I just started to really get into what these people were doing and I thought it was really cool that a lot of theater builders, a lot of theater makers at that time, years and years ago, yeah, so that was kind of what pushed me fully into theater, I think.
And then I’d studied music, I studied dance. I was like, well, I studied all the classics, I studied classical music. Well, you know classical music, classical dance, whatever Eurocentric perspective. And I thought, well, why not study classical theater A little? That I know, going into Dorch Brown.
0:38:59 – Phi Rickaby
And with making the, you know going into theater and forming Sex T-Rex, you. There’s a lot of things that, as self producers, you need to learn how to do and figure out. Fringe is a great way to start, you know doing fringe festivals. It’s sort of like producing light. There’s a lot of supports for you. But what kind of things as far as producing whether it’s D&D Live or something like Swordplay or things like that and mounting these productions, have you really found that you were completely unprepared for when you started? That maybe you’ve learned some really important lessons along the way.
0:39:40 – Lowen Morow
Oh God, I mean I think I’m okay at knowing when I’m really bad at something and I tried really hard to do our social media and write our press releases and I was so overwhelmed by that side of producing, like I can set up an event. I love making events, I love coming, taking care of all the details Like that side of it I love. But the writing and forms and posting content I’m terrible. Like back when Twitter was kind of in its prime, every time I would tweet we lose followers. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong and I was trying to kind of do that side of it and I learned that I was not good at it. So that’s around when we brought in Victoria LaBeerish and she’s been working with us now for a long time Gosh, probably like eight or nine years now.
0:40:37 – Phi Rickaby
So yeah, yeah, the stuff that you you know, the press releases and the social media and all that stuff. That is one of the hardest things. I dread it every time I self-produce something. I have no idea what’s saying the press release. No, I don’t know. I don’t know how Victoria does it and makes it like readable.
0:40:58 – Lowen Morow
Well, I think Victoria has this wonderful gift. If anyone’s listening and needs to publish this, hire Victoria LaBeerish, because she has a authentic enthusiasm for theater and the work that people do, and I’m not saying like I’m not enthusiastic, but I’m not like boiling over with enthusiasm in an authentic way. It comes across differently for me than it does her, and I think that that, like genuine sunshine that she just shines out, comes through the words that she writes as well. Like, I receive emails from her and they’re always just like delightful, even if it’s just a basic work email. And so I think that I think I don’t know. I’m sure there’s a formula that, like you, could plunk in. You know, this is, this is what sells, or whatever, but I think what’s unique about her is that she has this ability to like, have that enthusiasm infuse everything that she does authentically, organically, and so when people get her press releases, they’re delighted too. I think you know and I mean, yeah, I have my qualities, but that’s not one of them.
0:42:13 – Phi Rickaby
Yeah, yeah, as somebody who gets Victoria’s press releases, I know exactly what you mean. And I don’t know, because you know I’m enthusiastic about the shows that I create right, I wouldn’t be doing them otherwise. But somehow, as soon as I go to write a press release, I am, I’m just like, yeah, this thing of these stuff that happens and it seems like like I, whatever she’s got she said bottle it, or maybe not, because that would be her bread and butter.
0:42:42 – Lowen Morow
Yeah, no, it’s, it’s true Like, and it’s hard to. It’s hard to talk yourself up. You know it’s hard to like. This is so great, come to this great thing, this thing is great. I am like that would that would make a terrible press release. You know, don’t write press releases like that, please. But but like, it’s kind of I don’t know. I find it hard to be like wow, check out my amazing show. Even if I think it’s amazing, even if I’m really proud of it. It’s just, it’s that extra step of thinking it and then like telling people you’re great. I find that difficult. You know, maybe, maybe I won’t always, but I do.
0:43:23 – Phi Rickaby
I don’t know, I think it’s. I think it’s one of the most interesting things. I don’t know if it’s a particular Canadianism that we have a difficult time like talking ourselves up, but yeah, it’s definitely a common problem. Because you’re like, yeah, I think this is really great. I mean, you could come if you want is basically the the gist of most of the press releases that I can manage to write, Just because it’s hard for me to say this is a really great show, you should come. Just like you’re saying like I don’t even know, because what are they going to think? I’m saying this like it’s so weird to have to do that and it seems like so difficult to do.
0:44:00 – Lowen Morow
It is so difficult to do and you should hire Victoria LeBear.
0:44:04 – Phi Rickaby
I know, I know I’ve attempted in the past, but she’s so busy that she’s she’s so busy.
0:44:10 – Lowen Morow
It’s sometimes we got it. We got in early, you guys.
0:44:13 – Phi Rickaby
I think you’re quite honestly. She’s such a fan of yours. I think you guys have probably positions, so I wish justifiably so, justifiably so.
0:44:21 – Lowen Morow
I do recall we did do sword play for the first time. I remember she has a really wonderful laugh and it’s very like her, you can always tell. I was like in a cab on Oslington one time and I’m like I heard like a victim like and I drew, was like hey, I checked the Victoria’s like are you on Ozzie? She’s like yes, how did you know? And when she was watching sword play one time for the first time I’ll never forget it because I was distracted the whole show like is she okay? Is she, is she going to be okay? But yeah, yeah, her laugh is amazing and genuine.
0:44:58 – Phi Rickaby
Yeah, she’s one of those people who has the one of the best laughs to have in the in the house, Like God. Yes, it’s contagious for the audience because they hear it, but it’s also like you know, it’s a real, genuine laugh and so if you can make Victoria laugh that laugh, you’ve really, you really are on the right track yes, you know, you need those like laugh cheerleaders, even like they’re authentically laughing, but they also can like give everyone else permission to laugh. Absolutely Sometimes that, yeah, sometimes we need that.
Absolutely, we do absolutely. Oh, and one thing I wanted to mention you’ve done, you’ve done. I’ve seen a few short films that you’ve done. There’s one coming up in false puppets. You did feature film recently. It’s going to be released next year when you were not a puppet.
0:45:46 – Lowen Morow
I was not a puppet.
0:45:47 – Phi Rickaby
Okay, tell me. Tell me about that and how it felt to not be a puppet in a film.
0:45:51 – Lowen Morow
Oh, it’s really weird. Oh, you want to talk about theater school trauma because I haven’t done a lot of acting outside of like six year extra comedy as myself, because a person most of my like professional work I do is with puppets. And yeah, you know you talk like I had weird little theater school trauma bugs that were in me still that I had no idea we’re still there. So it was really really challenging on the one hand because I was like so insecure and trying to pretend like I wasn’t, but on the other hand, god, it was fun. You know, it was so fun to reconnect with those skills and with that side of myself that like I just kind of lest back in theater school basically.
And you know I did do a bit of film and TV after theater school but it was, oh boy, talk about gender dysphoria, like going out for all the shitty girlfriend roles that were like what do we do? And I could never do them like in a grounded, realistic way Because I thought they were trash and just the you could just see on my face in the room. I was like this writing is trash, like I didn’t have to say it with my words, but it would. Just, this was back when, before, you would like send in your tapes or whatever Tapes woo send in your.
0:47:06 – Phi Rickaby
It’s still called self-taping. I’m just I did. Anybody who, oh right that’s true. Anybody who like rolls their eyes when the older folks say tape, we still call it self-taping.
0:47:14 – Lowen Morow
That is true, but we literally had to send in tapes then. But we’d mostly do it in person. But yeah, I just people would be like okay, but like.
0:47:25 – Phi Rickaby
0:47:25 – Lowen Morow
Maybe judge the material less, you know, but yeah. So I think they had some insecurities. But I’d been working with the. Originally I was brought in to help build the film. It was already kind of written, but like stage it, I guess because the Grace Glowicki who wrote it, directed it and produced it and starred in it like holy moly, I don’t know how she managed that, it was wild, but like she wanted it to look theater-y, she wants the film to look theater-y. I don’t think I think that’s safe. I think I can say that. So she worked with theater artists, which was really cool, and so I got to. That’s how I got roped in. She’d seen Sexy Rex and so I was just brought in to kind of do that side of stuff and so we’ve been working in the studio for months and there was someone in the film that was supposed to be in the film and they dropped out and then I got in. So it was really great. It was really cool.
I can’t wait to see it. I am really curious. It’s going to be a very trippy theatrical horror comedy, kind of Disney meets Tim Burton meets, I don’t know. Yeah, it’s going to be pretty wild. God, that’s awesome. That’s awesome, yeah.
0:48:49 – Phi Rickaby
Yeah, you were talking about the theater school trauma and I will tell you that it must have taken me like 15 years after I left theater school when I realized, oh, I was still trying to impress my theater the acting teacher at theater school, and how long it took me to just like slough that off and be like he doesn’t care, I don’t need to impress him, and you can’t anyway.
You know, like all of that stuff, cause you know, I don’t know about your experience, but I went through every time we sat down for one of those meetings and this is like in the you know, when one of those end of semester meetings, they would tell me that they were cutting me from the program and I would have to claw my way back in, and so I spent the entire time at theater school in fear, which is a terrible way to make art.
0:49:38 – Lowen Morow
Really not not good.
0:49:39 – Phi Rickaby
No, it’s terrible, and so that’s. I carried that with me for the first like 15 years or so of trying to be an actor in the world, and it’s funny how those things stick with you Even when you are trying so desperately to dish them.
0:49:58 – Lowen Morow
Yeah, yeah, and even when you think you’re over them, they’ll like creep up in these weird little moments. Yeah, you know, and you’re not alone Like I. Oh, a number of years ago now I think 2017 or so it was around there was like a prominent theater director from Soul Pepper who was getting Harvey Weinstein pretty bad and the Me Too movement was in full swing and still, and stuff like that. And I went to theater school with that guy in the building. I went to Soul Pepper parties, but I was just sort of I wrote a piece that was basically like like a Facebook post. That was basically like you know, that whole building. So it’s like it’s a cultural problem, you know. And theater school was like that too.
You know, it’s not a surprise that the in my theater school was a little bit less of the, you know, sexual assault stuff and more, I mean, to my awareness, and more the kind of for lack of a better word narcissistic abuse you know, the kind of like tearing you down from the inside and then to build you up again is if that’s even a thing, and as if people in their 30s and 40s, like my teacher was at the time, is in any position to do that to anybody. But yeah, like it was more that kind of abuse, really insidious, where you think you’re bad, you’re like bad meat, you’re like rotted somehow, instead of like, oh, this is a thing I can work on with my acting, you know.
It’s like no, no, you as a person are worthless and you know it’s more that kind of stuff, so it’s more that about it.
0:51:44 – Phi Rickaby
I had heard of that about that period of that school that there was a lot of that kind of narcissistic abuse and most of the. I’d done so many interviews with people during that period that we would have a conversation and find out that went to George Brown and so how was that? And they get a weird look in there and then they’re right and say it was fine and then after we stopped recording, that’s when they would tell me all of the stuff and I’d be like, okay, I see, some shits happened.
0:52:09 – Lowen Morow
Well, exactly, and I was gonna say I wrote a thing, and then she does, the city published it, a version of it, and I started hearing from people Like I thought I had it bad right, like because I did, you know I, but I was skinny, conventionally attractive female presenting at the time and I thought I had it so bad. I wasn’t fat, I wasn’t a person of color, I wasn’t queer Well, I was, but they didn’t know that Um, you know at least, like obviously queer, you know visibly queer. Um, and when I started to hear from some of those peers and the kinds of comments they had to endure, it really opened my eyes to, yeah, I did have it very bad and what I experienced was really unacceptable. Um, and those teachers should be ashamed of themselves, um, if they’re capable of that. But but what my peers were going through, not just from my year but like as you’re identifying other years, it was really eyeopening um to to hear from.
And I have been hearing from people not as often, but a guy from my class reached out like a year ago and we went for coffee and he was just we graduated in 2008. He was just coming to terms with, like PTSD. I mean, I’m not a psychologist, like I don’t want to say that that’s what it was, but like trauma, I can say that you know, like shaking, you shaking, talking about it, you know, and, and so like that’s not something that you scoffed at and so many of us right, and and, and you and I were probably some of the lucky ones, like we, we didn’t have sort of more visible at the time Things that can mark us. You know that they could, they control us for yeah.
0:54:12 – Phi Rickaby
Theater school is. I mean you. You go in at a vulnerable age, right? Most people go in 17, 18, 19, somewhere around there you go in at a vulnerable age, Um, and a lot of times. I think that theater schools are finally starting to not do this, but have the whole attitude that you mentioned of, uh, we’re going to tear you down and then build you back up, and then they would do a lot of work on tearing you down and nothing on building you back up.
0:54:37 – Lowen Morow
Yeah, they’d build up like three people.
0:54:39 – Phi Rickaby
Yeah, yes, yes, there would be three people who got built back up on the recipe. You can go jump, sit in the garbage can where you belong or whatever you know, like all of this bullshit. I think that some theater schools are starting to finally deal with that, but it has been like it has been 20, 30 years of of that, that that has needed to and that’s needed to change, and it hasn’t until really recently.
0:55:03 – Lowen Morow
Really recently and I think it’s it’s it’s kind of in a squishy, vulnerable place itself, like people are kind of trying to figure out how to do this without the abuse. Yeah, you know, it’s kind of everyone’s kind of got Bambi legs and stumbling around channel learn and like I think that there’s a a lot of change. It’s happening really fast. Um, I had a privilege of hanging out with some at the time. They weren’t recent grads, they are recent grads now of George Brown. I helped one of them move long story but I had this privilege of spending time with these younger people and getting to hear their experience of going through that same school night and day, you know, and like they didn’t even know about the dark times really.
And one of them did, but the rest of the eight and I was like you know, they’re like, oh, it’s not perfect, but you know it’s good, it’s great, oh yeah, oh no, we didn’t go through anything like that and I was like this is, you know, you can teach theater, you’re doing a play, it has the word play and I’m not saying like everything has to be fun in a party all the time, but like you can learn to act without being traumatized, like that. Just you know, and it’s so, you’re right. Like the, the, the title change I am so hopeful for and I’m so grateful for and I think it’s needed, it’s it’s like a leftover. I don’t know British military, colonial stuff we’re dealing with and it’s like top down patriarchal. You’re bad, yeah, yeah.
0:56:34 – Phi Rickaby
I really feel like a lot of the, a lot of the teachers for a long time were sort of just going forward with the attitude of like, well, I was kind of I was borderline abused in theater schools. So that’s how you learn how to be an actor and it’s just such a terrible way and I am so glad that so many of the people who were in that school now have no idea how bad it got. Yeah.
0:56:56 – Lowen Morow
I am so grateful for that. Well, you talk about cycles of abuse, right, like you talk about people, talk about intergenerational trauma and it there’s. It’s like there might be a genetic component, but it’s handed through behavior. Yes, yeah.
And and that’s how it happens. The only way you know how to teach theater is the way that you learned, and then you do it, and then you hurt someone, even if you don’t mean to. I think in a few cases I’m unsure if that, I believe, there might have been intention. I don’t know, can’t read your mind but to hurt. But even some of the teachers that I think were good people that didn’t want to do harm, were doing harm because they were only doing what they knew. Yes, you know, yeah, and and it takes, it takes a lot to break that, that cycle.
0:57:39 – Phi Rickaby
You know. Okay, Now, with five minutes left in our conversation.
0:57:44 – Lowen Morow
I want to ask you yes.
0:57:48 – Phi Rickaby
Who is your favorite drag race? Drag queen, okay, yes.
0:57:53 – Lowen Morow
My go to answer is Sasha Valor, good choice.
0:57:56 – Phi Rickaby
0:57:59 – Lowen Morow
Winner of season nine. Um, I like my smart queens, I like my weird queens, I like my arty queens, I like my queens who say something with I look, I love a party queen, a queen who’s just like flipping and dipping and doing all those cool things, like. I have a lot of love for all types of queens, but I think that, like that type of queen is, is is, I think, yeah, my favorite, my favorite type, yeah, and you know, just to, just to get controversial with in your mind what.
0:58:33 – Phi Rickaby
What makes for? What makes good drag, good drag. Look, I’m not a drag expert.
0:58:39 – Lowen Morow
Uh, I’m maybe a drag race expert that could maybe be said and so far as any fan could be, I do have spreadsheets of all of my, all of the queens, and notes and thoughts of all of them. Um, what makes a good drag queen? I think, at the end of the day, like it’s the same thing that makes any good artist. Um, are you connected to yourself? You know, and if you are, I think that’s what’s going to come through and that’s what’s going to make you different and special.
Um, because, like, everyone has a, you know, a different light, and whether you’re doing clown, whether you’re doing drag, whether you’re doing acting, you know, or writing a book, like whatever that is, I think that the most successful artists, or the ones that that people that resonate with other people are able to be their most authentic self, that’s, in my opinion, like what, certainly through watching drag race, like those are the queens that I think tend to do better, the ones that are grounded in themselves, you know, not trying to impress they’re theater school teachers, not trying to be like, look, rupaul, you know, those ones that are like seeing themselves from the outside in instead of being themselves from the inside out, like, I think that those queens, I think, do the, at least certainly do the best at drag race.
But in my, oh God, almost 20 years as being a professional artist, I see that in all forms of art that, like you know, you’re not trying to be the actors that I, I can’t take my eyes off of, you know, or tend to be the ones who are able to connect with something true to themselves.
1:00:18 – Phi Rickaby
Perfect Well Loan. Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate you giving me your time.
1:00:23 – Lowen Morow
1:00:24 – Phi Rickaby
Looking forward to having sword play on the stage again.
1:00:28 – Lowen Morow
Yeah, yeah. Thanks so much and thanks for for giving me the time. It was great, as always. We really appreciate it.
1:00:40 – Phi Rickaby
This has been an episode of Stageworthy. Stageworthy is produced, hosted and edited by Phil Rickaby. That’s me. If you enjoyed this podcast and you listen on Apple podcasts or Spotify, you can leave a five star rating, and if you listen on Apple podcasts, you can also leave a review. Those reviews and ratings help new people find the show. If you want to keep up with what’s going on with Stageworthy and my other projects, you can subscribe to my newsletter by going to philrickaby.com/subscribe and remember: If you want to leave a tip, you’ll find a link to the virtual tip jar in the show notes or on the website. You can find Stageworthy on Twitter and Instagram at Stageworthypod, and you can find the website with the complete archive of all episodes at stageworthy.ca. If you want to find me, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram at PhilRickaby. As I mentioned, my website is philrickaby.com. See you next week for another episode of Stageworthy.