Art in the time of physical distance: Ruth Lawrence
What book(s) and author(s) are you reading right now and why?
I bought a stack of local books recently, including Bridget Canning’s Other People’s Children. But I have spent so much of this lockdown reading scripts. First, by my students at MUN. My son’s first feature. Now, a small group I am leading that are writing their own TV pilots. I’ve laughed a lot, in a good way.
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?
SO many films and TV shows, I’ve been switching back and forth from dark to light all during this pandemic. From an older British series called Scott & Bailey to A Black Lady Sketch Show to Brooklyn 99 to One Mississippi. There’s been a lot of screen time! A great doc called Circus of Books and my friend Prajwala’s The Condom King of NL. I just started the doc series, Good People. I’m watching Netflix, Amazon Prime, CBC Gem. So many films I can barely recall the titles! I’ve watched my own film, Little Orphans, written by Emily Bridger, countless times during this pandemic; it will stay with me.
What music or artist are you listening to right now and why?
I’m finishing the post production on my feature film, and the soundtrack is a blend of old and new tracks from Sherry Ryan, Damhnait Doyle, Lizband, Mark Bragg, Pamela Morgan, Colleen Power, [and] Bridget & Dahlia. They are the perfect songs for this film and I’ve loved hearing them over and over. In the car, I’ve had Katie Baggs on repeat for a few days now. For several weeks, I listened to all the Tiny Desk Concerts I could find. Norah Jones’ home concert was amazing and it featured an offscreen fight between her kids that she noted, but sang through. And a lot of John Prine when he passed. My friend Dave Jackman, who is a fabulous singer, sent me a birthday gift of a private video of a Prine song he does so well.
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?
You know, things haven’t changed much in terms of work except that more of it is on a small screen. I don’t have a routine but I’m still writing, teaching, doing the post on my film. I helped pitch a kids’ series that was green-lit during this time. I got another directing gig that has to be completed by next year. The live arts have suffered terribly. My first opera, Powder Her Face, for Opera on the Avalon, has been postponed a year, all of the regular theatre shows I would be doing are trying to find another way, or being re-visioned.
No one should ever follow my advice for working, that’s my best advice. I spent most of seven weeks, sitting on my bed working, to keep distanced from others, and that was so difficult. But I have been walking more than ever. THAT is something everyone who can, should do, get outside more. It clears your head and helps you appreciate how good we have it here.
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?
I have a small group of friends – actors, writers, directors – who I adore; we are spread across the country and in normal work times rarely get to see and talk to each other as a whole group. Now we hang out every Thursday night online. That has become sacred to me. That check-in, the love. Usually Thursday night is theatre opening night so it’s an anchor. Social media is great in small doses so I keep a strict rule for myself there.
I’ve been listening to some great podcasts, including a local one by Lynn Panting and Mark White, called Flop, talking to artists about taking risks and failures. It’s so good.
I have been getting links sent to me of incredible theatre from around the world. I hope this continues.
This could be a time of great innovation and exciting creation if we see the limitations as opportunities.
How has food provided a comfort?
Isn’t it great how many people are baking bread and cooking amazing things? I’ve done that. Twice. Not the bread but the cooking. I love to eat, but the making, not so much. I have made lots of jam, though, and shared that around. I also have made oat milk since the lockdown started and from that, these really healthy oat pulp muffins. It was fun to use up almost everything in the cupboards. Luckily, so many friends share their treats with me.
One thing I’ve started seeking out is local goods – mushrooms, baked goods, fresh lettuce – to buy. There’s a lot of good food being produced here.
In your opinion, what’s the best thing about being in NL during a global pandemic?
Isolation. Small populations. People who care for one another. The weather, let’s admit, has been pretty good most of this time. So I’ve been walking in all of it.
Any overall words of wisdom to share?
Keep your mind open, resist the fear and mistrust.
To live large takes very little. (I’m not very profound.)
What do you miss the most?
Hugging my friends. I ache for it.
Ruth Lawrence is an award-winning writer, director, actor, and filmmaker, and Artistic Director of White Rooster Theatre.
Photo: Jamie Lewis.