A Toronto based actor/singer, Merritt graduated from George Brown Theatre School and holds a BA Honours in Psychology and Drama from Queen’s University. She has been a member of the award-winning company Shakey-Shake and Friends for the past 5 years, most recently performing in the 2015 Toronto KidsFringe in Hamlet…A Puppet Epic! She is a proud member of Queen’s Players Toronto’s Board of Directors and has acted in their last two summer shows. She also loves brunch and is really good at MarioKart64.
Transcript auto generated.
Phil Rickaby 0:04
Welcome to episode five of the stage where the podcast I’m your host Phil Rickaby. On stage where the I interview people who make theatre to find out what makes them do what they do, you can find stage where they on Facebook to Twitter at stage where the pod as you can find the website that stage where the podcast.com If you like what you hear, I hope you’ll subscribe on iTunes or whatever podcast app you use and consider leaving a comment or rating. Merritt Cruz is an actor and singer from Toronto. She’s been a part of shakey shake inferences 2011. You’ll remember I talked about shakey shake with Tom McGee and episode three. Most recently, she’s been on tour with Evil Dead, the musical which is opening in Toronto for a limited run in February.
Well, Merritt, thanks. Thanks so much for coming on. So the place that I always want to start with these kinds of conversations is really just to find out, well, why theatre? What Why did you choose to do theatre?
Merritt Crews 1:28
Um, I think if you were to ask my mother, she would probably say it was always an inevitability. When I was four, I was in the production of The Night Before Christmas, I played the mother, and which is so telling as well. I, when it got to my line, which was just to say Be quiet to the children, I stood up and like screamed it at the top of my lungs. And the way that she tells it is all the parents laughed and thought it was hilarious. But um, from then on, it was just mostly me sort of getting involved in theory things and always being drawn towards it, but never really until kind of high school, really getting into it. And there were two influential conversations that I had. One was at the end of grade 12. I, we just done our grade 12 presentations that were like 20 minute scenes. And my drama teacher who was an extremely influential women woman in London, very well respected in the theatre community and outside of London as well. came up to me and she said merit, have you ever considered doing theatre at the post secondary level? What am I know? Then she looked at me, and she said, You should. And those two words, like actually changed the course of my life. So you’re going to be doing before that? Well, and that’s the thing. So I had originally wanted to go to university to be a psychologist, and my mom is a therapist, my stepfather’s psychologists and it wasn’t a shock to anyone. But so I when she said that I was like, Okay, well, you know, talked with a bunch of people and, you know, adults, quote, unquote, that I trusted and, and they were like, You can want you minor in theatre. I’m like, Oh, that’s a great idea. So I get to around first year, second year, and I decided to do what a queen’s is called a medial where you equal courses in two subjects. So I was doing drama and psychology. And then I had gone home for the summer, and I gone back to my high school to see the dress rehearsal of the school show. Friend of mine was directing it. And, and I sat next to one of my, my best friend’s moms. And later that night, Doug gives me a call. And he’s like, Oh, my God, my mom tells me you’re going in the theatre. I was like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, absolutely not. No, no, she’s crazy. I don’t know where she got that. And I sat down at the dinner table that night and told my parents this, you know, ha, ha, isn’t this hilarious kind of way? And my mom just looked at me and my stepfather and they were like, well, sweetie, do you want to go into theatre? Because you know, if you do, of course we’d support you. Like we would support that decision and I broke down in tears. Not that they were ever the parents are like your to be a doctor but they I just never thought that they would think it was an actual viable career choice. And they were like, well, of course your uncle’s an actor, like we’ve got actors all over the family like do it if you want to do it. And I didn’t switch my my course focus, but my mental focus shifted extremely. And from then on, just got like super involved in it. More so than I even had been. And at the end of university audition for theatre school. I I really wanted to go to George Brown. I didn’t get in the first time I auditioned. But I knew that that’s where I wanted to go. I did get it somewhere else decided not to work for the year made money for tuition
Phil Rickaby 5:09
was the other place that you you went to be did get it.
Merritt Crews 5:13
It was Randolph. Okay.
Phil Rickaby 5:14
And did you not go at all? I didn’t go, okay.
Merritt Crews 5:17
No, they offered me a scholarship to go because I said, I’m sorry. It’s too much money. Because the tuition is quite high, and it’s not OSAP you can get OSAP. Right. So I said, I’m sorry, I can’t and I said, Well, what if we give you a one year scholarship? I was like, oh, okay, I’ll consider it and I said, okay, that went to someone else. Just kidding. Habit, a half year scholarship. And I was like, Yeah, okay. And then like, now you have to write an essay. Oh, my god out. There. Yeah. But yeah, so I but I knew I wanted to go to George Brown. And so I auditioned the next year and got in. And
Phil Rickaby 5:52
now when you were George Brown, where they were already at the young centre,
Merritt Crews 5:55
yes. Okay. Yeah. Which was such a fantastic.
Phil Rickaby 5:59
Were you there and like the first few years of the young centre, like, was it?
Merritt Crews 6:03
Ah, I don’t? I should know that. offhand. I’m not quite I don’t think so. I think there was at least at least four years for me. So they been there for a while and kind of settled in at that point.
Phil Rickaby 6:17
But yeah, for me, it’s not there anymore. But the old it’s a condo now. I’ve heard Yeah, just across the street from from there. So I’ve always been sort of fascinated with the new space, because I’ve only seen that the theatre like the front of house.
Merritt Crews 6:35
Yeah, I, I feel very lucky. That I mean, any time that I was having a bad day, I would leave that building and get to walk through the distillery district and it would immediately whether it was, you know, dark out, and it was the Christmas market. Or, you know, it’s just a beautiful sunny day in the fall like it really, it kind of melted away. The stress. Yeah. Which was really nice. That’s helpful. Yeah, that’s really nice. You couldn’t buy a coffee for less than 250 No, of course.
Phil Rickaby 7:06
Little things. Now, you you said that you were always like, do first thing was that that that production of Christmas Carol? Had you seen any theatre before that? Or were you just like, people that like gravitates to performing?
Merritt Crews 7:23
I don’t think I had at that point. My my grandmother, my paternal grandmother took me to a lot of theatre when I was younger. And I don’t know if it’s because they were like this one. She’s quite theatrical. But, you know, she took me to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat when I was young, she took me to stop, she took me to the ballet, she was very into exposing me to that sort of culture, which I think, you know, must have had an influence.
Phil Rickaby 7:54
Yeah, well, I would think that it has to do with with, with that sort of background. Do you have any felt like you were taking the double minor? It’s almost like you were resisting theatre? Did you? You just didn’t think it was a viable career.
Merritt Crews 8:13
Yeah, I think it was always. Yes. And also, I had a mindset for a very long time, that I wasn’t sure whether whether I like theatre, because it was easy, or it was easy, because I was good at it. And good question. Yeah. And for a long time, I kind of struggled with that. And of course, that’s before you, you really sort of start delving into it the way you do with theatres realise. No, no, that ain’t easy. Yeah. But whether it was, yeah, whether it was an easy art, quote, unquote, or whether I just had a facility with it. So I think, you know, having the example of two psychologists in my home, and really being interested in that, which of course folds into drama of course. Yeah, yeah. But and, and I was always very good at like, talking with my friends about their problems and being that urine sounding board, but yeah, I think it was both and like, I resisted it, because I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do it. Both because I didn’t know if it was a career choice that would be sort of supported by people. And also because I was like, well, I need to do something that challenges me. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 9:42
Yeah, and at that point, theatre didn’t challenge you was just too easy.
Merritt Crews 9:45
It I mean, I think it did challenge me but I didn’t see it as a challenge yet. Right. I saw it as so much more fun. And, and the challenges were different than academic challenges and I I’ve always been an academic kid. And I went to a very, like a, they had an extremely good music programme, but also a very academic High School. Where like, if you weren’t getting an 85 You were not doing well, that kind of thing. So yeah, challenge to me meant academic at that point,
Phil Rickaby 10:24
I think when did theatre start to challenge you?
Merritt Crews 10:28
Um, actually, I think the first time that it really I mean, like it did through university somewhat, I had some amazing profs. Craig Walker was phenomenal. And his acting class in second year started to push those boundaries. But Kat Sandler, actually, she was a year ahead of me at Queen’s. And she, for her directors project, they were supposed to do like a 20 minute thing. She’s figured, well, if I knew it, 20 minutes, I may as well do the whole play and put on a whole production. Typical cat, so she picked the goat or who is Sylvia by Edward Alvey. And I wasn’t too known at that point. I was only in third year. And I’d only done Queens musical theatre and these players. But she took a chance on me audition me for the one female role and I got it. And that was really the first time I mean, it is such a challenging. I was 25 years too young for the role. But luckily like chick Reed from who works at Stratford was one of my profs as well and she’d done it. So we sat down and talked about it and Kat even then was so amazing at being able to push people and and know what makes them tick and what makes them work. And it was really my first experience with kind of voice classwork as well. She just instinctively knew a lot of that. Yeah. And that was that was probably the show and my the first sort of straight play, if you will, that I ever done first non musical non musical. Yeah. And it really, I mean, it’s true. Have you ever read it? Yeah, yeah. So like, Hello, yes, tough content as well. But yeah, that was the first time that I, you know, ever left a rehearsal, frustrated or in tears or like exuberant, A, because I had like, gotten mad, or something that I
Phil Rickaby 12:27
did. I know for me, when I was a kid, I was my first introduction to theatre was musicals. And I listened to musical soundtracks and things like that, and imagine what the show would be like. I thought that was theatre. And when I realised that you could do theatre without talking, and it kind of blew my mind, it was like, Oh, you don’t have to have to also every time you’re a kid, and you go to a movie, or you see, you go to theatre, they’re singing in it. So of course, you don’t really realise that. When did you have any kind of, because you were doing musicals? Mostly did it did? What was the I mean, obviously, I know the difference between singing and not singing, but was it? Did you find it a, like a shock to do a strike play rather than a musical?
Merritt Crews 13:10
Um, yeah. Especially to do one for sure. I mean, at that point, I had seen a lot of non musical theatre. But the other thing and one of my one of my other profs sort of hinted at this and talked about it before and after, when we’ve spoken about the play. But it was the first time that because I, my voice was always the thing that that people would notice about me when I would audition. Usually, it would seem first musical audition. So they’d be like, Well, is this chicken saying? Yeah. And this was the first time that I wasn’t able to rely on my voice. So I think that was was very challenging, right. Like, normally, I was able to sing my way through whatever I was in, and I didn’t get a lot of challenge on the acting like it was like, okay, she acts fair, fine enough. Like she’s, you know, not finding enough but like, you know, it wasn’t the the delving endpoint. Whereas that’s all. That’s all it is. When you’re doing Alby. Yeah. So yeah. I think that was, that was probably the main challenge of it.
Phil Rickaby 14:29
Did you find it a shock? Or big change going from the university setting into the conservatory setting? Yeah, what was that? What was the biggest difference?
Merritt Crews 14:41
Um, it can be summed up I think in the phrase, being a good student, because in university and in high school and public school, all through being a good student and being perfect and Getting, like the best grades you can is a trait that is admired and encouraged and sought after. The second I got in to college. That was like a bad No, no. Like, don’t be don’t try to be perfect. Don’t try to. You can’t you can’t be if you’re
Phil Rickaby 15:28
allowed to be messy. And that’s and they wanted you to be messy. Right? Yeah,
Merritt Crews 15:32
they wanted you to try things and experiment. And that was really hard for me. Because I, I was such a perfectionist up to that point that it was like, What do you mean, go up there and fail. I can’t do that I can’t fail in front of a roomful of people. And even still, it’s, it’s quite hard for me like I fight with that, about not getting it perfect. In fact, in a rehearsal for Evil Dead, I sat down with director because I was having a problem with the way that this sort of ditzy character is and and I wasn’t quite doing it the way that he wanted. And so we were chatting about it. And I was like, okay, like, what I don’t, and he was like, just go off and try something. And it was like, Well, I don’t want to because we were in runs. And I tried a bunch of stuff. And I was like, I don’t want to waste another run. doing the wrong thing. Is what I said, Yeah. And he’s like, just kind of watching me like what, you know, waste of a run. And it’s not the wrong thing. Like it’s still so ingrained. Yeah, me. Of course,
Phil Rickaby 16:36
it’s hard to let go of my heart and also like,
Merritt Crews 16:41
not only an oldest child, but I was an only child.
Phil Rickaby 16:46
Yeah, my heart is when I was in George Brown. The difficult thing for me was to never succeed at it. Stop trying to impress your teacher.
Merritt Crews 16:56
Yeah. And that’s the same thing. You know,
Phil Rickaby 16:59
when I was in, like, high school, everything, everything else, the teacher, impress the teacher, you get the good grade, right or whatever. But when you’re trying to impress a teacher in theatre school, you are doing the wrong thing. And that it was so hard for me to get away from that. Yeah.
Merritt Crews 17:15
Well, also, for me, the the third eye, watching myself and not like, judging everything that I was doing, because like, oh, that’s wrong. That’s not right. Like, okay, you did that good. Well, yeah, I mean, same same umbrella. Right?
Phil Rickaby 17:30
Yeah. Who was who was the head of acting when you were
Merritt Crews 17:32
Phil Rickaby 17:34
Cool. I don’t have any experience with Todd. So I was head of acting when I was in theatre school was Peter wild. Oh, no,
Merritt Crews 17:41
he actually came back. I didn’t get a chance to work with him. But he came back for the second years. When I was in third year.
Phil Rickaby 17:46
Do you guys do zone of silence at all? We didn’t because
Merritt Crews 17:49
I didn’t have him. That’s too bad. Yeah, I’ve heard it’s
Phil Rickaby 17:52
a left of No, it’s opens up a lot. It does. But it’s it’s frustrating as hell, like it’s, it’s this exercise where, and you don’t get told anything. When it’s done. The Peter wild way, you don’t get told anything about what the end goal is, or what the purpose is. You just have to do it, right. And of course, we’re all first year theatre students who are coming in doing a thing and it’s okay, if you’re gonna go be do a thing. And we’re going to, you know, you’re just not going to do anything. We’re like, What the fuck, what am I paying for? To do things? Right? So it was like this whole thing? What was the first exercise that you did at Theatre School? The first first, like, real acting class that you had? Do you
Merritt Crews 18:34
remember? Todd? Yeah. Um, it took us a while to kind of get into exercises, like we did a lot of stuff where we would get up in front of the group and, and we’d sort of be interviewed. And he’d asked us a lot of questions. And I think one of the, one of the first things that we did that was really interesting to watch was, for everybody like and watch yourself was, we’d have a list of actions that he’d given us. And we sat in a circle, and you had to pick someone across the circle from you and pick an action. And you could only use their name. And you had to portray that action, and then they would have to guess what you were trying to do to them. So it was teaching you how, you know how to do something to another person?
Phil Rickaby 19:31
Merritt Crews 19:34
And it was really interesting watching people trying to do something over and over and over and the other person just not get it. Like, yeah, it was hard to have their name.
Phil Rickaby 19:44
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there’s so many when you’re so we’re so reliant on words, a lot of the time in theatre that they become the crutch, and so you got to take that away.
Merritt Crews 19:58
Oh my god. We also have sweater game. Which if you ask, okay, I’m not familiar with. So as anybody who’s ever had taught, and they’ll know exactly what sweater game is, basically you have to two people go up. One person works at the store, the other person is returning a sweater. And the person who’s working at the store is not allowed to accept the sweater, they have to say, no, I’m sorry, and never let you return this sweater. So it’s your job. And it was all about tactics, again, actions doing something, right. Right. It like and you have to change tactics to try and get them to take back the sweater. And so it starts with like, like, please and kind of like, oh, but and, you know, and or like flirting with someone or like, some people would just like, break down crying. And it was hilarious to watch. And eventually, Todd would call cut. Yeah, yeah. Wow. My favourite though I had this one guy. Tim, who was like, just this sweet, sweet guy. And I pretended that there was a monitor and just like, pull my shirt down and like through my cleavage. That’s one of my tactics. And he was like, I didn’t know where to look. Like now MAPWorks.
Phil Rickaby 21:15
That tactic yo. When you got out of theatre school, what was the biggest because I know, when I was in theatre school, they spent a lot of time trying to prepare us for when we left Theatre School, which was one of the things that drew me to the course was it was like, the only course where they gave you any kind of education is exactly what happened when you leave here and other schools. I felt like when I when I spoke to them that it was like when you leave here. Well, good luck. Bye. Bye. And that was a school where they would actually give you a foundation. Yeah. Did you feel like you were adequately prepared when you left?
Merritt Crews 21:53
I did. Yeah. Um, yeah, the business of acting class was was really great. We had Julie Chapman come in and teach the second half. And she knows so much about making your own work, that she really focused on that when she was teaching us
Phil Rickaby 22:09
that was something that I felt like when I was in theatre school had not become a thing.
Merritt Crews 22:13
I don’t think the indie theatre scene was so huge, it was when
Phil Rickaby 22:17
there was just there was just fringe. Yeah. And that was pretty much it, there wasn’t a whole lot of indie theatre. So there was no real education, or no talk about creating your own work, it was all about, go to the audition, get the job, get the next like, just that sort of thing. Without the indie theatre, I aspects, one, so
Merritt Crews 22:35
now because like, when I came out, it was very much, it’s gonna take you a good 10 years to break into. I mean, that wasn’t what they, you know, the number they said, but like, that was the kind of sense to get into Stratford, Shaw. So PAPR, and stage like, you know, Terragen, all of those places, it’s going to take you, like, a solid build up to a career that’s gonna get you in the door. Unless you’re lucky, and they have a part that fits you and you happen to audition. Yeah. But, you know, there’s kind of, there’s a stronghold on those roles and those parts and, you know, for example, like people playing roles that, technically speaking, they’re 1015 years, quote, unquote, too old for you do an amazing job, but like, hi, what about people who are in there? Exactly, yeah, late 20s. So, and the indie theatre scene, I think, was just really starting to happen as I was getting out of theatre school. So you know, that’s what they were preparing us for. They’re like, you’re not going to get in there, right out the door. So unless you want to do a job job for 10 years, while you try and get commercials, like, make your own work and get seen that way.
Phil Rickaby 23:51
I feel like, I mean, we sort of did sort of lean towards that the vocal mask was like teaching you how to perform on your own and create a thing. Yeah, really restrictive in its rules. But I think that it was like helpful to do, but outside of vocal mask, nobody talked about doing your own work. It was sort of like a thing that was like, Oh, well, you know, maybe you could do some fringe stuff. And it was never, it wasn’t like the thing that it is now. Yeah. So after you left Theatre School, how did you make your own work?
Merritt Crews 24:27
My my, my trajectory out of theatre school was difficult, because when I was coming to the end of the first semester of third year, my dad passed away very suddenly. And like my grandfather had just passed away before that, and then my stepfather step grandfather, passed away just after that, and then like, I got sick and like If there was another thing and like, there were just a whole bunch of things, but most specifically my dad stuff that I didn’t quit, I got through the year, and then I took time off. So it started off being like, Okay, I’m gonna take till the summer, and then September came and I was not ready. And it took me a good in the, you know, setting benchmarks and not doing it and it took me a good like year and a half, I’d say, to really, actually want to get back in and, and have a drive to do things. So luckily, I was still, you know, kind of working and doing things and I was already involved with shakey shake.
Phil Rickaby 25:44
So for those that are not you and me shaking chicken friends, Shakespeare adapted for puppets for kids. Yes, there we go.
Merritt Crews 25:52
Written and created by Tom McGee, and his wife, Maggie miles to help create it with their their puppets. So I was already involved in that, which was great. So you know, we did the fringe. And had, we’ve been doing it for five years now. So that was always a good constant. And it was low pressure enough for me because I was working with all my friends. And I was working with people who knew me knew what I could do. And also, were willing to give me the leeway that I emotionally needed at the time. Whereas I would never go into a professional setting and ask for that. No, of course, not my job. And that’s not fair. Yeah. Not that it wasn’t professional working with them. But like they, they’re my best friends. Of course. Yeah. So I was doing that. And I did a couple other sort of smaller projects. But it wasn’t really until kind of this past year that I actually started, like auditioning for things and started doing generals and and then God Evil Dead. And that for me, I had just said to my therapist, right before I was like, I just I have this feeling. I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but I feel like I’m about to turn a corner. And I don’t normally talk like that, like something’s coming. But I just had this spooky feeling. And then I saw the posting for Evil Dead. I got my, my submission and the date was due. And then I got an audition. And then I got the part. Well, then I had two callbacks, and of course, but yeah, and it really is like, you know, having gone around North America, and now we’re coming to Toronto, and now I feel like I’m back where I was before my dad died, where I was like, Okay, I had this show. Because we were just about to go into our, or we, we had just gone into our first show in our season at George Brown. So I was I had already sent out a couple feelers to some agents, but hadn’t gotten around to the second set up being like, hey, you remember I sent you a package. So I feel like now I’m finally back at that point where I’m like, Okay, I have the show I can send out to agents. I can, you know,
Phil Rickaby 28:10
how many cities have you done? Evil that
Merritt Crews 28:13
we did? I’d have to actually count but I want to say it was around 10. Okay, um, yeah, we did three in Canada. Because we we had a bunch of previews, open previews in Chatham, and then two in Ohio to New Jersey, Charlotte, North Carolina, and then mesa. So nine.
Phil Rickaby 28:37
Have you seen? Have you seen any of the previous productions?
Merritt Crews 28:41
No, it’s very bad friend. Because one of my really close friends from Queens, Laura Trombley, actually played my part, the last time it was bad for him. I know. But it was one of those like, Okay, I’m gonna go see it. And then it runs out. Yeah, of course. Yeah. Which I’m sure will happen to me. But um, yeah, I didn’t get a chance to see it. But I have a lot of friends who did or who are super fan Deadites. Like Tommy has seen it now. Nine times. Yeah. And so I asked him, I was like, Hey, do you think like this shows? It sounds like it would be me. And they’re like, you have to apply for this. And actually, Laura Trombley. I bumped into her at friends. You know, I was like, I like I do you think I should? And she’s like, Oh my God. Yes. Like, oh, you’d be amazing at that. And then she stopped and she pulled back. She’s like, Oh my god, I have this feeling like you’re definitely gonna get it. Oh my gosh. Like, just weird. Like it was. Oh, no,
Phil Rickaby 29:34
it’s funny. There’s something to be said for sometimes. I mean, I know. A lot of actors don’t like to put it out to say, I want this I think I’m gonna get this because it’s so hard when you don’t and you’ve already been like, oh you know, you’re gonna get it so you don’t want to be like okay, now you know, I’m sure it was fine if I get it, whatever. Yeah, secretly like, Oh, my
Merritt Crews 29:58
God, I hope I get it. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 30:02
How have you found? Like, I know when I’ve seen the show, I saw it once. In Toronto, it was kind of insane. The way that people go a little bit crazy. Yeah. Does that. Is that happening everywhere? No,
Merritt Crews 30:18
it’s not. And I the only reason I know that is I mean, like granted my own experiences of like, kind of crazy versus tamer audiences. But the stage manager that we have who actually, her name’s Jen Hewitt, and she was one of my ASM in my final year at Theatre School, which was just so funny. I was like, Wait, you’re doing this? That’s crazy. Yeah, it was great. Um, also a nice symmetry, given what I would have just had booked my last year, but she had been with the show before, and so knew it quite well, in new with the Toronto audiences were like, and I was actually over at her house the other night, and she was saying, me one of the other girls and she was like, you guys don’t know. Like, you sort of know, but you don’t know. The audiences in Toronto are insane. And we did have some of that. Um, oh, I forgot. One of the cities. Anyway, but when we were in Pittsburgh, which was awesome in Cleveland. Oh, no, I didn’t. But Pittsburgh was awesome. And we were there for Halloween. Yeah. Oh, yeah. So and we had people that were because you could search the hashtag on Instagram. People bought their Halloween tickets. Like as soon as they went on sale. Yeah. Before we even started rehearsing. Yeah. And they came in costume and like splatters, all that kind of stuff. And it was it was great. And it was crazy. And we did have audience who when Ash trend put up the boom stick, like freak out? Yeah, there would be other. It’s it’s where you go Mike Bostick. Okay, so no one here has seen it, I guess. Yeah, just that dead silence weird gap. But I’m really looking forward to to the Toronto audience, which is that we start rehearsals at the beginning of February and then the show’s run the talk to the 28th. So it actually ends up being three weekends, and we’re going Thursday through Sundays. And then
Phil Rickaby 32:18
are you are you going on tour again? Or is this the I don’t know. I don’t know. Third, rumours won’t substantiate any. Okay. No, it’s all wrapped. So this is like really your first gig outside of Yeah, that’s a good start. It’s pretty good start? Yeah, I feel good. Yeah, I should feel pretty good about it. Yeah, I’m pretty good about it.
Merritt Crews 32:39
I actually I had when I was 2021. my godmother very generously gave me something from Tiffany’s. And we were in the store, and she was paying for it. And I saw I looked down in the case, and I saw this little silver ring. And it was it wasn’t that expensive. And even like for a 20 year old, I was like, Oh, that’s not that expensive. And I and I said to myself in that moment, I was like, when I get my first professional contract, I’m gonna come back and I’m gonna buy that ring. Right. And so the day that I handed in my contract, I went back and I bought the ring. Yeah, and so and I haven’t like basically I wear it every day. Of course. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 33:25
Well, that’s a good that’s like one of those like, nice symmetry things. Yeah. Do you I mean, are you doing shakey shake this summer as well? Are
Merritt Crews 33:35
you gonna do the hope is to do it. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I’d love to take a shake. I mean, it’s, it’s just something that’s so unlike Well, tell
Phil Rickaby 33:46
me about tell me about what you love about doing shakey shake? What is it?
Merritt Crews 33:49
I mean, first of all, I love kids. So performing for kids. It’s just so funny. What the random stuff that happened and the hilarity of their reactions and and Tom scripts are so intelligent and so funny that I mean when we were doing the read through this year for Hamlet, I was crying laughing and then and just like just losing my mind of course it it’s been cast so well as well that it just because Tom also writes for our voices so he knows and he’s such a hilariously funny man but it also brought me to like all the emotional feels crying when he has this this little scene after the are edited down version but most have to be you’re not to beat and shaking shaking and zip has little eight year old friend come out and talk about it and and zip shakes asked him what he thinks about it and zip goes, oh wow. No one’s ever asked me what I thought about it. dinner before I’m just a kid. Normally people tell me Oh, so what you’re telling me is that I get to decide. Think about it for myself. Wow, that’s great. Can I talk to you about it at the end of the show? And it was so emotional, I feel like learning. And it just, it’s such a wonderful way to get kids into Shakespeare without them getting trapped up on language.
Phil Rickaby 35:26
Well, I mean, also, I mean, you’re getting them young before the before they’re taught when they were in high school that they have to hate whether Yeah, Shakespeare. Yeah. When you first heard about shakey shake did you think that’s brilliant, or did you think that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever?
Merritt Crews 35:46
Oh, that was brilliant. Yeah, I was in Tom’s living room. And I was just like, Yeah, okay, let’s do it. Like this. This sounds hilarious. And because I live with Tom for a year, we were roommates, and had known him since actually, since we did the goat. We had met this summer before, but that was really when we got to know each other. He was in it with me. I knew how funny he was. Yeah, smart. He was and I was like, if there’s anybody that can do this and do a good job with it, it’s
Phil Rickaby 36:16
because I thought it could go either way. The first time. I heard, Tom. I mean, it could go either way.
Merritt Crews 36:21
Yeah. Especially with Romeo and Juliet, where they both die.
Phil Rickaby 36:25
Yes. Yes. Yeah. I mean, so like, you literally, it could be good. It could be terrible.
Merritt Crews 36:32
But oh, and funnily enough, speaking of sort of a coin flip. So it was Tom and Megan. Tamaki, mega miles, Michael Mann, and then Shira Taylor and myself, there were only five of us when it first started. And Sharon i for the first read through Tom hadn’t picked who is going to play Juliet and who was going to play the chef character. So we flipped a coin. And sure, I was like neither of us cared. Yeah, so Shira read for Lucy and like, it was perfect. She should always have been. And it was just an end like the shampoo roll. I ended up like the fryer was I was meant weirdly meant to play the fryer. Like, I don’t know, it just worked out so perfectly. And so from that first read through, it was like, this is something so special.
Phil Rickaby 37:22
And you guys have done, like done. Like show since the first time I think you’ve managed four
Merritt Crews 37:29
shows five years. Yeah. Yeah. So we’ve done Romeo and Juliet, the tempest Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet.
Phil Rickaby 37:38
Hamlet’s pretty ambitious to put for
Merritt Crews 37:40
puppet it was and we won Best of kids range. That’s right. Oh, yeah. That’s sort of kids fringe patrons pick. And now magazine, great. All sorts of things. They’re so great. Yeah. I mean, Tom was, he said afterwards, he was like, I was scared. shitless. I will. But I mean, Tom is also an incredibly self deprecating humans. So he had a very special, I think it’s his best.
Phil Rickaby 38:03
I think I often one wonder about that whole fear thing. Because the thing that we’re afraid of is often the thing that we should do, at least as I’m telling myself, a couple of projects, but this scares me. Like, talking to people for like an hour scares me. It’s not something that I’m naturally inclined to. So it takes me out of my comfort spot, you know. But I think that it’s when you push yourself past that it’s a good thing, so I can completely understand that. What What’s something that has scared you that you push past as far as theatre goes?
Merritt Crews 38:45
I mean, there’s been a lot there was a lot in theatre school. That scared the crap out of me. I mean, vocal mask if we were talking about I really wanted to do my 30 year one, but I had to come back. Also, because I’d somehow picked haunted.
Phil Rickaby 39:08
Oh, my God, I won’t be doing that. Oh, my God.
Merritt Crews 39:12
But yeah, the first time I did it, I was I was really scared. And and then, you know, I think one of the neat things about theatre is that when you do something that scares you, and it pays off, the payoff is also especially for Well, I can’t speak to other parts of it, but for performance,
Phil Rickaby 39:29
there’s such a high Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. But yeah, do you remember what your first year of vocal mask problem was? Or top?
Merritt Crews 39:38
Yeah, um, it came down to the sentence. Fall on your knees was sort of my inspiration, and ended up being grief. And, and that five minutes just flies by when you’re up there, but
Phil Rickaby 39:53
yeah, it was you managed to keep it under five minutes?
Merritt Crews 39:56
I think so. I was just at it my class
Phil Rickaby 39:59
Almost everybody was over.
Merritt Crews 40:01
Oh, yeah, no, they laid the smackdown when it went by the time we were there, it was like they had not been
Phil Rickaby 40:06
there like, okay, they, they let everybody there was a longest night like it was scheduled for like everybody to have five minutes. And some people took like 1015 minutes.
Merritt Crews 40:15
Oh my gosh, they would not have said, they’re like what cut you off? Well, they
Phil Rickaby 40:19
I mean, at the end, it was like, well, technically you all failed vocal mass because you were Hurlburt technically, I don’t think I don’t think it actually gave a mark for vocal mask. You got up you did the thing. Yeah. But technically, everyone said We all fail. But that that’s a terrifying thing. Especially you know, for me. I wanted to deviate like, you know, because vocal Matthew can only use found material. Oh, it’s so hard. And you’re like, I need a bridge. Yes. Yeah. And you’re not allowed to write your own bridge. You got to find your bridge. Ah, yeah. So like, that’s a frightening thing, because you only have the text you can find and you have to make a thing out of it. With so Theatre School, Evil Dead, which is like having decided to go like to start doing the thing. It’s a great thing to start with.
Merritt Crews 41:17
Well, and I feel very lucky because it hits. It hits what I already know. Because the guys that wrote it, especially Chris bond, like he’s from Queens, and he did Queens players, which is and that’s the other project that I’ve been most involved with since I graduated was Queen’s players Toronto. I’ve done two shows with them. I’m on the board for my second year now. I don’t know if means players Toronto Oh, it’s, um, it’s a company that so it started at Queens like 100 years ago, sort of a review type show ish kind of thing. And then it morphed into a mashing together a pop culture references. The characters get thrown into some crazy situation. There’s always like a good guy team and a bad guy team and like, it ends up being very funny. There’s some it’s mostly sketch there’s improvident image. And in between each scene, every character sings, or every actor sings a pop rock song. And there’s a full band live band backing it up, but the things that distinguish it as a all of the money goes to charity. And B, everybody in the audience is drinking and everybody on stage is drinking. Okay, so and there are traditions built in like knowing, like gets stupid, but you know, like, there’s the drinking song. And like, if anybody screws up, the audience yells seamless or which gets more and more frequent as the show goes on. But yeah, I’m, I had always identity queens, and you will never feel more feel more like a rock star than when you do this show. Okay? And so when I got to Toronto, and found out there was a queen’s players, Toronto, and I’d seen the shows, but I was never able to while I was in theatre school, I was conflicted. So the second I got out, I was like, I’m auditioning, and I got in and did it. And then I got nominated and elected to the board. And I did the show again last summer. And, and I feel very honoured to be a part of this company. Because last year, for example, we raised $20,000 for charity. And and yeah, it’s it’s such a wonderful thing
Phil Rickaby 43:26
to be a part as it happened once a year. Yep. For like, one performance or is it like a no, no,
Merritt Crews 43:30
it’s a eight performance. Okay. So over over two weekends,
Phil Rickaby 43:35
is it rehearsed? Or is it
Merritt Crews 43:38
some improv like, there’ll be spots where you’ll you’ll throw something new and or, like, there’s a lot of talk back with the audience, which is really fun. Yeah. But yeah.
Phil Rickaby 43:51
So what? So it happened is,
Merritt Crews 43:54
so yeah, it’s always in the summer. So I started talking about that is because Chris bond, that’s where he right? You know, he started doing that at Queen’s and did it at Queen’s players, Toronto. And so it was actually funny in my callback, I was like, actually, no, like, all of your friends. And we had, I mean, this was my second callback. So he didn’t really know that at that point at all. He was quite shocked. Because I only heard him by his nickname. At that point. I was like, It’s very weird for me to call you Chris. You’re Bondo too. But but the humour in Evil Dead is, is very much in the realm of Queen’s players. And the audience. How crazy the audience gets is the same. So it was something that I felt very comfortable entering into as well.
Phil Rickaby 44:43
Good. Are you on Twitter? I am. Do you want to share your your Twitter handle?
Merritt Crews 44:50
Sure I use Instagram more. Okay.
Phil Rickaby 44:54
So you both so Twitter you are?
Merritt Crews 44:58
Both Yes. Oh Whatever the hell’s my Twitter handle? Merit M E R R I T T I should say, because nobody spells it right? Not even my own family sometimes I’m like guys really? spend almost 29 years they named you Yeah. And then my Instagram I think is just merit see merit See ya. Again same sign. And if you can’t find that search the hashtag evil did the tour Evil Dead the musical. Lots of stuff there.
Phil Rickaby 45:31
Well thank you so much for coming on.
Merritt Crews 45:32
Thank you for having me. This is wonderful. Great. Thank you