Mark Keller

PIN

How I Found Myself by Killing Bugs in Australia – I was in the acting conservatory at York University. It was an incredible program and I will always cherish my experience there. It was there that I fell in love with Angels in America and The Laramie Project; with movement and avant garde theatre and clowning.

But as my training continued I began to worry I wouldn’t be able to “pass” in straight roles and started to distance myself from my queer sensibilities – I would restrict my mannerisms and vocal affectations – just like I had done before coming out in high school. 

Even if Meryl is devouring that phantom Activa, if she’s not the look they planned for the ad, she ain’t getting it.

I was told that passing wasn’t a problem for me, but things got worse when we moved into film work where you have to be even more contained. School ended and I began auditioning. To be a cop on Flashpoint. To be a cop on Rookie Blue. To be an old timey cop on Murdoch Mysteries. And I wasn’t booking. It didn’t help that I was twenty-two years old and had no idea how to talk to my agent.

I had signed with a big time agency and was scared. I felt I had to prove myself to them. And the more that I wasn’t, the more I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted from them. Or what I wanted from myself. As grateful as I am for my training, theatre school had messed with my sense of self and I no longer knew what kind of actor I was. 

Not that training will help much when you are doing a silent-on-camera audition and have to pretend to eat a bowl of yogurt and LOOK LIKE YOU ARE ENJOYING IT. Even if Meryl is devouring that phantom Activa, if she’s not the look they planned for the ad, she ain’t getting it. And life after theatre school is a lot of SOC auditions. It’s also a lot of auditions for American movies that they have already cast with American actors, but are legally obligated to audition Canadian talent if they want to shoot here. It’s also a lot of cop auditions.

I ended up leaving my agency, bowing out of ACTRA apprentice status, and moving to Australia. As one does. It was going to be my break from my life as a struggling actor. I was going to get a non-theatre job and do non-theatre things. After three months I got an agent and started working at a theatre. Ugh. Gross, I know. But I starting finding myself as an actor again. I ended up booking a big ad campaign for an Australian bug spray that had me playing the grim reaper as a flamboyant harbinger of death. I felt confident that I was doing good work in exactly the way I wanted.

I came back to Toronto and was a changed man. No more cop auditions, no more SOC auditions, and no more agency. I found community-created queer theatre and honed my skills in projects that excited me. I’m currently in the process of finding the right representation, and going after that again is scary, but I’m much more prepared now than when I was a twenty-two year old theatre school graduate. 

I know exactly who I am now.

Mark Keller
Mark Keller

Mark is a co-producer of the Toronto Queer Theatre Festival, and submissions are currently open for the 2020 Festival!

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