#24 (A very long post about west jet elitism, my university audition experience, and a dash and a half around parliament hill)
Why Fly? Wifi.
March 21st, 2019
Currently, I’m on a West Jet flight heading back to Vancouver after a week-long journey through Montreal and Ottawa.
Before I expand anymore, I’d just like to say West Jet, you elitist dorks! Having some premium seating with more snacks is irritating enough (I’d prefer unlimited roasted almonds for all) but I'll accept it. But as soon as you charge me $10.99 for 90 minutes of wifi, we have a problem.
How am I suppose to watch "A Star Is Born" if I can't bring myself to purchase your overpriced wifi to download the free WestJet app?!
I guess I could just plan ahead and download the app somewhere where the wifi is free. I’ll just say that this “must-buy-wifi-to-download-app-to-access-free-app” is a rather convenient corner for you to have me in.
Furthermore, Wifi is the language of the people! You can’t capitalize wifi. Free wifi for all! I’ve been against the idea of public wifi in parks because I think people should spend time connected to nature, not the internet, but I can see how the concept of freedom for all public wifi is actually a very egalitarian initiative.
Okay, anyways back on to my trip and postcards and things.
Auditioning for Concordia
I went to Montreal to audition for the Performance Creation program at Concordia. It’s a program which combines acting, directing and writing to empower young creators. It’s a unique program in Canada, and so that’s why I decided it was worth it to purchase a plane ticket and fly out for an audition instead of submitting a video audition online. I wanted to make a good first impression. It’s also nice to get away. You know what I’m talking about.
Anyways, on the Concordia website is says if I want to take additional acting classes in Performance Creation, I have to do an audition for the Acting for Theatre program too.
So here I am, about to audition for Theatre. But there’s confusion. I'm the only one In the warm-up room who doesn’t have Acting for Theatre as a choice in my application. Apparently, Performance Creation applicants having to audition for acting classes is no longer in practice.
“But Emily is going to the audition right now.” Says the assistant teacher, and the jolly acting coach’s warm voice suddenly becomes rough and defensive when he says “Yes, and I’m not sure why.”
I’m hurt. It’s not my fault the website isn’t clear. “Well,” says the assistant “an audition process is a good experience no matter what.”
She was right. I loved the acting audition! All the strange warm-ups they made us do, the atmosphere of the attentive teachers, getting into character, and killing my monologue.
So, when they told me I needn’t worry about callbacks since I was just auditioning for classes, I knew something needed to change. I wanted to have a chance to do all that fun acting stuff again the next day, and even change my choices for programs.
I explained my predicament to a student leader, who explained it to an authority figure, who explained it to the theatre department.
I waited with bated breathe just outside the elevators, glancing down the hallway, till the supervisor tossed the calming words of confirmation my way: “You’re still in the running.”
I switched my course preferences, so Acting for Theatre was second under Performance Creation. I also got a callback.
The callback was even better than the audition. It was all day from 9am to 2pm. We did scenes, created sketches, re-did our monologues intentionally terribly. I also got a chance to freestyle rap. It was amazing. I felt like I was being trained not just as a tool for someone’s monotonous production but that I was being pushed to be the best performer I can be. Which really, what my life is all about.
I felt so exhilarated when I left the studio. It was a quiet exhilaration, like a when you pull the string hard on a motor or pump really fast on a salad spinner, and then the engine catches, and it goes around and around without you having to do anything. The ferocious roar of the preliminary pulls is replaced with a steady whirring of a thing in motion.
I started thinking about how to insert more nature into the urban environment. I wanted to write, and make things. I felt calm and energized all at once. And when I think back to the studio, the cool light shining through windows, the wood under my feet and the teachers who seemed to care about my wellbeing and development, I can’t wait to do it again.
So I’ve changed my preferences. Acting for Theatre first and Performance Creation second. Either way, I’ve been assured, I’ll be able to pursue writing and directing.
So we’ll see.
ANYWAYS! Onto postcards.
What You're Here For
After the callback, I left immediately for Ottawa. If you can, take the Greyhound instead of the train. It’s a better price for the journey. However, traveling backward moving train was a unique and somewhat peaceful experience.
I went to Ottawa to visit with my family and my sister, but also to deliver as many postcards as possible to MP’s and talk about climate change.
I sent 11 emails to 10 different MP’s and one Justin Trudeau. I heard back from 5 of them and after all was scheduling and rescheduling was said and done, ended up meeting with three of them.
I’ve got to say, I felt pretty darn cool getting my snazzy “Confederation Building Visitor name tag.” I also felt pretty darn nervous as well. Like if I was caught poking around anywhere I shouldn’t be I’d be removed. My name tag even had the room number of the MP I was visiting, Richard Cannings.
(Me in a really cool elevator with a really cool name tag looking really cool.)
I made the observation that the security at the front of the confederation building is probably the nicest security ever. They’re constantly smiling and eager to answer questions. Like there’s a switch in their back that’s flipped to “Make feel at ease.” I think there are a few options for why that is. Maybe I just visited on a specific day where the stars were aligned so that all the really lovely security guards were there. Perhaps one of them is really nice, and their mannerisms have rubbed off on their colleagues. Maybe they’re paid really well. The first idea that came to my mind was that they’ve learned to be so nice because every visitor to the confederation building is extremely nervous because they’re meeting a fancy member of Parliament.
Eventually, I headed up to floor three and made my way to Mr. Cannings office where his assistants greeted me and took my coat. Mr. Cannings was running a bit late, so I made myself comfortable sitting at a wooden table and watching the live proceedings of Justin Trudeau getting roasted by a Conservative guy on the TV across from me.
Then Mr. Cannings came in, he seemed a little tired but nevertheless sat very patiently with me as I explained the project. In exchange, he told me how the carbon tax works and the cap and trade system very clearly. I understand it now, yay! I left, and then realized I forgot to take a photo, so I went back to grab one.
EsNext up was Ms. Pam Goldsmith-Jones. My local MP and all around good person. I read on an email I received from her assistant that I was to meet her at parliament, so I began to run up towards the stone buildings dialing her office on the way to apologize for being late. Her assistant, a young man Morgan, told me that the meeting was still at the confirmation building, so I ran (downhill this time) all the way back and had to go through security AGAIN.
At long last, Morgan escorted me, and I arrived at Pam Goldsmith-Jones’s office which smells fantastic. I don't know what it is. Perfume, fragrant air freshener, or a righteous battle against fish farms.
Our meeting was short, but it was delightful. Especially because she had the postcards fanned out to greet me. Oh, and she said she’d give my deliver the postcard for Justin Trudeau.
One thing I asked all the MP’s I met was “What’s holding Canada back when it comes to taking necessary action on climate change?”
When I look back on the answers I received, I can’t remember anything clearly from the first two MP’s I met. Which is understandable. Cannings was sick, and Goldsmith-Jones was rushed. All I can recall is a hazed blur of money, Alberta, and change; nothing that seemed to give me the clear answer I was looking for.
I was to meet Nathan Cullen in the Left Wing of Parliament. I marched out of the confederation building and up towards Parliament Hill. I saw some people going through a door, so I followed but was quickly turned away by security. I had to go through another checkpoint and get another pass. Which I did. At this point, I was dubious Nathan Cullen would still be there. I then traversed the underground tunnels of parliament which are a fantastic experience. It’s like a really classy bomb shelter. Coat check included.
With the help of more friendly security guards I found the elevator that leads me to the Left Wing. I was standing outside the House of Commons. Big wooden doors were blocking the way in. Security personnel and media were waiting outside as portraits of prime ministers past (a bunch of noble looking white dudes) looked onwards.
I had to fill out a slip of paper requesting a visit with Mr. Cullen and then gave it to a young female attendant who slipped inside the wooden doors. Behind them, I saw more doors and windows that glanced into the house. After a few minutes, a man came out. I shook his hand assuming he was Mr. Cullen. He explained that he was a member of the party and wanted to know what I wanted to talk to Mr. Cullen about.
Um. I have a postcard.
He went back inside. A few more minutes later the real-life Nathan Cullen emerged. He listened carefully to what I had to say and asked questions. He told me he was there when the Paris climate agreement was fashioned, but when he asked what Canada’s plan was actually to meet the targets, there was none.
This struck me. I’ve heard over and over again that to tackle climate change humanity will “require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” That quote is straight from the UN ladies and gentlemen. The keyword here is “unprecedented.” If we’re not noticing the change daily, it’s not happening fast enough. Which makes me wonder, what plan does Canada have to meet these targets?
The following are a few tidbits we agreed to that I’ve pulled from a summary by the Globe and Mail.
1. Canada has pledged to, by 2030, cut its emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels.
2. The federal government will now have to develop a climate strategy with the provinces while also moving on a North American plan.
3. Countries are urged to save their remaining intact forests and leave fossil fuels in the ground.
From the skimming of articles I’ve done, it seems that Canada is kind of working on a plan for the country and has reached out to Mexico and the U.S. Yet everything seems wishy-washy. We know the general idea of where we’re going, but I’d personally like to see a report that says: You want to cut emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030? Okay- here’s exactly what that would look like- here’s the taxes that would need to be in place and the renewable energy that would need to be created. Here’s the forest’s that would need to be planted and the exact number of electric vehicles that would need to be produced. Color by numbers to save humanity. A step by step recipe for success.
I could be wrong, I’ve just been skimming, but it seems that right now Canada’s just throwing a couple eggs into a bowl (a price on carbon) and hoping a cake comes out of it.
By the way, Canada’s policies are still leading to 4-degree warming. Read all about it here: https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/canada/
Mr. Cullen also recommended I do research on what made other movements work in the past. Besides just protesting. What was the grunt work behind it all? What connections and strategies did people use to make changes?
He brought up the example of lobbying, which he told me is a term which came from the practice of African Americans waiting in lobbies of hotels to try to persuade visiting Politicians to adopt a progressive policy.
He encouraged me to reach out to other young people when I go to university. I know for a fact, change cannot be made alone.
Overall, it was a thought-provoking and empowering meeting. I forgot to take a photo though. So I drew an artistic impression instead.
Looking forward, I want to keep writing and exploring what Canada is doing to combat climate change and what’s keeping us from genuinely leaping into a carbon neutral world. I’d like to visit Alberta and talk to the people that are pro-oil sands and that have been affected by a loss of jobs. Having a privileged upbringing, I don’t really understand what it’s like to be out of a job, or how an entire community can be rooted in one industry. I’d also like to create a sort of hit list with all the MP’s I’m sending postcards to, so I can keep track of everyone I’ve met with and everyone I’ve heard back from (three people so far).
I’ll keep posting and researching. You keep breathing and eating. I’ll write to you soon!
“Ever since I had kids I’ve cared a lot more too. I think the government plays a lot on fears, especially economic. Like, if we don’t build a pipeline we’ll lose this many jobs. But that’s short term. That’s why I wrote citizen instead of what I do for work. In the economy my job might matter, but as a parent and as a citizen I’m willing to make that sacrifice.”