Monday, 20 July 2020

The Corona Diaries: Kurt Kansley


These recent times have been some of the hardest challenges we've faced and as a community, it hit us pretty hard. However during these difficult times, here at Pocket Size Theatre, we wanted to spread a little positivity and share some peoples experiences because we are all in this together. Each day we'll be speaking to our friends in the industry to share their experiences with you all so take a read and see how people are getting through these hard times. 

Let's stick together, share the love and get through this as a community!

Kurt Kansley was most recently seen playing Coalhouse Walker Junior in Ragtime in Australia. His other credits include Che in Hal Prince's Evita, Ensemble in Jesus Christ Superstar, Show Boat, Hair, RENT (Australia); Harry the Horse in Guys and Dolls (Royal Exchange); Koos Malgas in Draadwerk (Tristan Bates Theatre); Bob Tucker and Envy in Exposure (St. James Theatre); That's Entertainment (UK Tour); Ensemble and cover John in Miss Saigon (Prince Edward Theatre); Jacky in Sweet Bird of Youth (Chichester Festival Theatre, The Old Vic); Ensemble and cover Coalhouse Walker Junior and J.P Morgan, Tom Snout and cover Demetrius and Theseus in A Midsummer Nights Dream (Regent's Park Open Air Theatre); Berger in Hair (European Tour); Munitsa and Kolodey in The Love-Girl and the Innocent (Southwark Playhouse); The 12 Tenors (Istanbul); Coalhouse Walker Junior in Ragtime (Landor); Chuck Berry, Richie Vallens and Fats Domino in Rock Around the Clock (UK Tour) and Ensemble and cover Simba and Banzai in The Lion King (Lyceum Theatre).

On Monday 16th March 2020, The Society of London Theatre announced the closure of all Theatres in London. This followed suit with regional venues. Where were you when you found out and what was your initial reaction? 

I was at home already in lockdown when I found out. I was showing symptoms of the virus and made the decision to quarantine myself so that I would not expose anyone else. My immediate reaction was sadness, but not only for our theatre community, but also for every other industry that has been affected by this awful situation.

Can you tell us anything productive you’ve been doing? 

The lockdown has been a valuable time to work on projects that I have been developing with my writing partner Oliver Lidert for the last few years. We have been writing original musical theatre for about 7 years, our partnership is called Kansley & Lidert. Last year at The Other Palace we showed a workshop performance of our original musical CONFESSIONS. In the lockdown, we had the opportunity to work online with our director/dramaturg on the script and music to make the best edits and additions so that the show will be ready once the lockdown is over to go into production. In late May we had a reading of the script and played the music with some incredible West End actors and our creative team over Zoom. It was so wonderful to feel creative with a group of likeminded people who want to keep the flame of creativity burning. 

A week later we had a Zoom reading of another one of our original musicals, AUTUMN RHYTHM. This reading involved actors and creatives from 3 different continents and time zones. It was great to also work on 3rd and 4th drafts of this script. My time in lockdown has been fortunate to get as much 'grass-roots' creativity in my writing with Oliver and also alone. We have several other new shows and songs that we have been working on. I have also enjoyed a bit of DIY on my flat and some gardening. 

There’s so much important information and messages being spread on social media but sometimes it can be quite mentally draining and consume a lot of your time, how have you been looking after your mental state whilst using these platforms?

I try my hardest to limit my time on social media platforms and focus on other things like writing, yoga, nature (walks, bike rides), I cook a lot, exercise, have regular FaceTime chats with friends and family and I meditate. We are only human after all and sometimes we have bad days where we can lock ourselves into our devices and get easily consumed by negativity. My feeling on this is that it is ok, we should not beat ourselves up for being human.

With the Arts temporarily shut down, how would you advise people to continue to support the Arts industries? 

I think we must remain positive and talk to each other regularly, look at the positive side of it. It's nice that we have had the opportunity to stop and reflect and not feel like 'we have to be someone', or prove how brilliant we are, or run on that endless chase of self-improvement. We have had the opportunity to stop and 'smell the flowers'; creativity thrives when we allow ourselves to do that. The big thing we can do when restrictions lift is to buy tickets to see shows, encourage our friends and family to do the same.

Have you discovered anything that you’d like to recommend to our viewers? 

I have enjoyed watching theatre that has been streamed for The National Theatre, Bristol Old Vic and even Disney+ (Hamilton and Newsies). The biggest discovery has been enjoying nature, social distancing of course. We often take for granted what's right in front of us when we exist in our crazy bust London lives. Discovering parks, and river walks and the like while enjoying some lovely weather has been a real blessing.

In these times of Social Distancing and isolation, how have you been trying to connect with Friends and Family? 

I have connected with most friends and family on Zoom or FaceTime. There are a small handful of my closest people (including my writing partner) who I have seen in person (practising strict social distancing rules of course). But I have to say, I cannot wait to give out big hugs to everyone I know!!

And finally, looking to the future, what are you most looking forward to when all of this is over?

I am looking forward to a few things; sitting in a theatre, going to a restaurant or a pub, giving regular singing lessons again to all of my amazing clients (whom I adore) and giving everyone I know a big hug.

We'd like to thank Kurt and all other performers who have given up their time to contribute to this feature.

For more information please visit GOV.UK and NHS.co.uk

Other useful links for anyone needing further help:

Acting For Others - Charity that provides financial & emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need.
Help Musicians - An independent Charity that helps all forms of Musicians through times of need.
Industry Minds - Mental Health Support for the creative arts.
Theatre Helpline - a free, independent and confidential phone and email service that provides support to people working in the theatre industry.
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