Art in the Time of Physical Distance: Christopher Dunn
What book(s) and author(s) are you reading right now and why?
Right now I’m reading The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King. It was recommended to me by a mentor I deeply respect who happens to be Indigenous. For me it’s a small way to bridge gaps in my knowledge of indigenous histories through an unfiltered lens. I highly recommend it.
Is there a particular genre of films you find yourself watching? Or do you have any recommendations of series or movies on a streaming site?
I find myself turning to documentaries for answers these days. Whereas the news claims these are uncertain times, I’m hunting for answers in history. I’ve watched 13th, and I’ve started watching When They See Us. More so than TV however, I’ve been listening to a lot of history and current news podcasts. I highly recommend Canadaland for news that other outlets sometimes don’t dare to cover as swiftly.
What music or artist are you listening to right now and why?
I’m listening to a lot of Billy Talent, just some good ol’ fashion angsty rock. I’ll listen to that when I’m in the shower, to kick off the day with some energy. But when I’m setting down to work it’s usually some Florence and the Machine.
Are you able to keep to a routine in terms of your own work? Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for others who are struggling to work from home right now?
No, in terms of routine, gone to the dogs. Can’t figure out what hour of the day it is, can barely remember to brush my teeth.
My advice at this time is just keep living. Social media is a great way to drive yourself crazy thinking everyone is more productive than you right now.
Nikki Payne, a comedian I really admire, gave this advice to a stand up workshop one time (and I’m lovingly paraphrasing here): “every comedian can start to obsess over what’s my next joke going to be, what’s funny? Sometimes the best way to find new material is to just stop trying so hard to be creative and start on something entirely separate from ‘work’. Take up a new skill; you don’t know what new material there is to find until you try something new.”
That’s what I would offer to creatives right now. It’s ok to not try so hard when there is so much darkness and panic. Take a break and do something completely different from whatever your routine was. No better time to try something that may or may not work!
Social media is exploding with daily check-ins, poetry readings, virtual art gallery tours, etc – is there anything in particular you have discovered that has delighted you?
Something really joyful about having to do, and see, theatre from home is [streaming] play readings. I caught a live reading of Between Breaths, by Robert Chafe, which I was able to watch as I made creamy penne pasta. What really warmed my heart was how impactful the storytelling still was; how vivid the imagery. It blew me away how I could be crying at this story that was read as a bunch of webcams darted back and forth from character to character.
How has food provided a comfort?
Food has become like video games for me. Something totally outside things I could be employed to make, yet still extremely comforting. Making food has become a creative outlet, each dish like a miniature show.
Can you describe the physical situation you are in right now – what location, who you are spending this time with?
Right now I’m staying with my Mom and my brother in the west end and in my apartment downtown with my roommate. Moving to Manitoba for school soon however.
In your opinion, what’s the best thing about being in NL during a global pandemic?
Newfoundland and Labrador looks after its own in a crisis. Any place will band together when disaster hits. Islands in isolation though know how vital teamwork is. Being somewhere familiar, not stranded in another country or on a cruise ship, like some entertainers I know, has been a blessing.
Any overall words of wisdom to share?
Making the world a better place starts at home.
What do you miss the most?
Making people laugh, on stage, live and in person. There’s nothing like it.
Christopher Dunn is a comedian, singer, actor, and producer from St John’s. He is a recipient of the Memorial University Performance and Communications Media Diploma. Last year he completed the Opera NUOVA intensive in Edmonton, playing in five different roles in operas, musicals, and plays within a six-week period. He co-produced Salmon Festival’s first ever comedy show to a sold out crowd that same summer. He will be attending University of Manitoba’s Voice Undergrad this fall.