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Conor Wylie

Protégé, 2021

Image: Name, Title, Description



Mr. Wylie is a Vancouver-based director, performer, writer, creator, and a member of A Wake of Vultures, an ongoing and dedicated interdisciplinary collaboration with Nancy Tam and Daniel O’Shea. He is a current artist-in-residence at Theatre Replacement, where he recently co-created MINE, a show about mother-son relationships performed live using the sandbox videogame Minecraft. Past works include a multimedia space opera called Visitors from Far Away to the State Machine and a satirical motivational keynote speech called eatingthegame (both with Hong Kong Exile). A graduate of Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts, and a recipient of the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for Emerging Theatre Artist, his current projects include GIRL RIDES BIKE, a collaboratively written sci-fi motorcycle chase through a post-scarcity society; and K BODY AND MIND, a fractured and minimalist theatre performance that aims to dissociate its aural and visual tracks, creating an imaginative puzzle for the audience, like a radio play overlaid on a silent film.

Acceptance Speech

Thank you so much. Thank you to James and Maiko. Thank you to Elinore and Lou Siminovitch and the whole Siminovitch team. In a profession where a feeling of abundance is sometimes hard to come by, this abundance of love, of sharing, of resource is rare and humbling. Thank you.

It is an honour to be present here with all of you.

I often find the present moment overwhelming. Our world feels like it’s living in a very dangerous present, doesn’t it? I’m an anxious guy. In the face of so many terrifying possible futures, my nature is to run and hide.

So I’ve made this tool I’ve been using lately: whenever my present self is faced with a difficult decision, if my present self doesn’t know what to do, I ask my past and future self what they think I should do.

My past self says be thankful, and I am. Thank you to all my loving and supportive family. Thank you to my mom, Mo, who comes to every show—two or three times—in each tour stop. To my sister, Aleia, to Leo. To my father, Mike.

Thanks to my teachers at Simon Fraser University and before, for instilling a spirit of collaboration early on. Who teach that the borders between directing, writing, designing, performing, are borders best left open.

And thanks to all the artists past and present who have shaped me, A Wake of Vultures, OOOO, the Progress Lab companies, and all my friends in our current home at the Greenhouse.

Thanks to Jasmine, who most deeply knows the nuances and dreams of present me.

For reasons that are partly a mystery to me, a lot of my work today looks to the future. On my own, and in collaboration, I keep writing about utopia. About desirable futures. Maybe because today, it seems so difficult to imagine.

I have this memory of being in high school English class, and utopia being a dirty word. Mature authors wrote about dystopia. Utopia was childish. Impossible they said, because the world was not homogenous, and so the presence of conflicting desires meant someone would not have what they want, and thus the perfect world would crumble.

But the future societies that keep appearing in my and our work, are not perfect monolithic utopias. They’re more like a network of little circles dotting the earth. Each circle contains a different group, a different society. Each circle is heterogenous, filled with people who hold very different values, beliefs, desires. Our utopia is actually a series of micro-utopias who intersect, and who understand that they must all to some degree, collaborate with one another.

For me, James and Maiko sit at the centre of one utopia, one that includes our shared office at the Greenhouse in East Van; it includes the Vancouver, Canadian, and international performance communities; it includes the East Van Panto and its pop songs and silly wigs and card-carrying socialist politics and the thousands of East Vancouverites it brings together each year. That’s like a mid-sized utopia!

Not in the classical sense, but I don’t much care for the classics. Thousands of people hold up this utopia: staff and volunteers and collaborators and organizations. But at one intersection, at one centre from which all that incredible capacity emerges, there are two people, Maiko and James, who see each other, for all their similarities and differences, and agree that they will get more done if they work together. For me that could be the smallest level of utopia, and also one of the most powerful, two people in relationship.

A few years ago in Iceland, James and Maiko decided they would introduce me to people as their son. We pretended to be family for a couple of weeks and confused the heck out of a lot of people. We still text each other as Mom, Dad, and son.

A running joke, but also a deeper truth. My theatre mom and dad have been there for over 10 years of my life: through so many anxious and angsty moments, through loss, through triumph. My dad passed away seven years ago, and in his absence, Jamie’s advice and presence holds a special significance in my life. My biological mom, my mom, travels around the world to see me perform with my theatre mom, they e-mail each other without me, it’s the best.

These moments where my past and present meet—like another one at my dad’s celebration of life, where my friends met my wacky family and saw deeply who I came from, and my family met my kooky friends, and saw more wholly who I am as an adult in communion with my peers—these moments where past and present understand each other deeply, are so confirming, and healing.

And now I just wanna invite future in a bit, right? But it’s scary. Future’s not looking so hot right now, right? Right now, future me wants to run and hide.

But here’s my dedication:

In the face of fear, I won’t close the door, I’ll open it. I won’t run and hide, I’ll seek community. In the face of scarcity, I’ll share. In the face of uncertainty, I’ll trust. If we must fight, we’ll fight together, and then heal together. I will strive to build bonds and relationships today that will be strong enough to be called out, questioned, broken, and then be repaired and built anew, tomorrow. From past and present me (and I am my family, my friends, my mentors), to the future: remember, we can get more done, when we work together.


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