An Interview With John McKenzie

John McKenzie| Actor, Director, Writer, Producer

Who is John McKenzie?

A question I have asked myself for years. John McKenzie is a 28 year old man who lives in London, Ontario.Enough talking about myself in third person. I am the co-founder of The Verve Theatre and recently have become a Social Service Worker. So I’m a starving artist and bleeding heart all rolled into one.

You’re 1 of the founders of The Verve Theatre Co. Can you tell us how it came about, what it hopes to accomplish etc?

It’s a good story. I was in rehearsals for a particularly difficult production (which will remain nameless) and our director was struggling to allow us to “act” making a lot of choices for us. After a particularly difficult rehearsal I came home to my then boyfriend (now husband) and said “If I had my own company this wouldn’t happen.” His response was “Well then do it!” This was the birth of The Verve.

When we were trying to establish who we are and what we wanted to do, I felt that I had to stay true to the ensemble fashion in which I was trained at Fanshawe. More importantly, I clung to the belief that actors are inherently smart and knowledgeable people. We created the concept of “Creative Democracy” where every actor in the production was equally responsible for the decisions surrounding the production: set, costume, lighting and interpretation of the script. This meant that we did not employ directors. No director meant that we did a lot of table talk about the production with the cast and crew. Equally important was the fact that each actor had an equal voice. The Founders (Matthew and myself) were both given the power of vito if an actor chose something that was just so far out of the box that it would not be possible. However in 6 years we have never had to use it.

I feel like I am rambling. Here is what we hope: We aim to provide an open and accepting atmosphere where all of our members strive for the same thing- unique and uniformly excellent productions, created with passion, intelligence and real verve.

Do you have any projects coming up you’d like to share/discuss?

Why, YES! we do. Our next production is Peter Shaffer’s Equus. This was a production that we had originally planned to do in 2007, however because of it’s stint on Broadway, we lost the rights. This year being our 6th season, we really wanted to do a season of plays that we are excited about. Equus was the first choice, as it gives me the biggest theatre boner (can I say that in an interview). We applied for and were granted the rights, we signed a waiver stating that we would do the nude scenes nude and we were off to the races. We have been working very hard over the summer to get this production up and running. The cast has been exceptional at interpreting this amazing script and together we have come up with some really great things. The crew are also working hard. We have a local designer taking care of all of the horse costumes and he has come up with some visually stunning creations.

The production runs, here in London at the Wolf Performance Hall (inside the Central Library) from September 6th to 15th. Shows are at 8pm nightly. Though on September 8th and 9th we have a 2pm matinee. And on the 10th we are off. Tickets are $20 available at the door or online at our website: Online you will also find cast and crew pics and bios and more information on the show as well. I also have to mention our amazing sponsors  and partners for the production: Mashup Kids, Lavish Night Club, Sinister Laboratories (Leigh Maulson, who are doing our costume design),The Creo Initiative (who has handled the website creation and web presence of the production) Echo’s Visuals Photography and Commerce Technology Inc

The Verve Theatre Co.

Can you tell us about The Verve’s role, and your role in Equus, and how it all came about?

The Verve is the production company, that’s the simple part of the answer. As for my personal role,I am the Director as well as playing the role of Nugget (one of the ensemble). For those who have read this interview and are now scratching their heads, because I said earlier that we don’t employ directors, this is generally still the case. However, when we decided to do Equus we realized that such a large cast (14 characters) would equal a lot of voices and input. We would need to schedule a large time for rehearsals. So I chose to take on the role of “Director”. I have tried very hard to encourage the Verve ideals of getting actors input and so far it has been extremely successful. Some of the best ideas on stage have come from the actors themselves, which I love. It’s so much fun to see a show come alive because of the work of the cast and crew bringing their ideas to the table.

I am also doing the sound design, just because it’s something that I love to do and there are very few sound cues in the show. Most of the sounds are created live on stage…oh yeah that’s right…live on stage.

Can you tell us your thoughts on the theatre scene in London? What you think works/doesn’t work, what you might like to see change, what its biggest challenges are? 

When I graduated from Fanshawe, I decided to stay in London because of the theatre scene. There are a large group of companies that produce work here. Some original works, some from the cannon of published work. The Theatre scene in London is alive and kicking. We even have our own “Golden Globes” and “Oscars” the “Beat Dish Awards” and “Brickenden Awards for Theatrical Excellence”  of which we have been honoured and nominated several times which is always swell. The community is very well connected to each other, and overall we all work to promote and assist each other in anyway that we possibly can. As the scene is so saturated with excellent theatre it is not uncommon to have actors working in several productions at the same time. I think we are moving in the right direction, as there are talks uniting more. I can’t really say much about that as I have been very busy and not able to attend the roundtable discussions. Needless to say, there are good things going on in London.

I would love to see another theatre space created. I would love to have a theatre space that could provide a home for several companies, run like a time share. Each company shares the cost of the space and for that gets an equal share of the time in the space. I would love the space to have a publishing aspect, there are so many amazing playwrights in London, I would love to be able to share their work with the masses. However, these are just pipe dreams from my inner communist. Someday, maybe it will happen. Anyone interested in joining me? lol

Any advice for people new to the London theatre scene? How they should go about getting involved? Any specific events/people that might be good to contact?

Absolutely. There are auditions all the time throughout the London and Middlesex area. The best advice that I can give is a website: It is your one stop shop for anything that you want to know about what is going on, what is auditioning etc. Beyond that….just go for it. I may not be the best actor in London, but all of the work that I have been blessed enough to receive has been because of my work ethic, so: Be on time, Do your homework, and always say YES!

If you could scream 1 thing out to the masses what would it be?

At this exact moment it would be “COME SEE EQUUS!!!!” In general it would be “LIVE WELL. LAUGH OFTEN. LOVE MUCH.” A great motto to live by me thinks.


LINKS: (Equus website) (The facebook event for EQUUS)

Leave a Reply