Thalia Gonzalez Kane| Toronto
MA in Theatre Practice graduate Thalia Gonzalez Kane is a writer, actress and theatre performer. She is a councillor for ACTRA Toronto and ACTRA National, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, as well as the co-chair for the outACTRAto committee, a committee dedicated to raising awareness about queer performers. Her new play At Birth which she co-wrote, produced and will star in will come to Ireland in May.
1. What made UCD stand out as the place you wanted to pursue your studies?
When I was looking into programmes for further education, UCD immediately stuck out because of their innovative MA in Theatre Practice, done in partnership with the Gaiety School of Acting, combining academic and practical work time to support creating and analysing work. The faculty was also top-notch – working professionals with years of experience and expertise.
2. What was your UCD experience like – the social scene, classes, lecturers?
It was very wholesome. We got to know our classmates very well going on regular trips to the theatre together, including a trip to London for a few days. The resources and space we had available to us were immensely helpful to our work.
3. Do you keep in touch with your UCD classmates?
I do! My class still has a very active WhatsApp group! It’s always brilliant to get to visit with them and catch up over pints. Some of us have also continued to work together on our creative pursuits. Watching their careers and lives grow has been extremely special.
4. How has your Masters benefited your career?
It truly changed the trajectory of my work. I grew a deeper sense of understanding and motivation while in the programme. The foundation we received gave me more confidence in the work I was doing, and with the encouragement of my instructors, I found myself taking more risks and challenging my own thoughts of what theatre could be. I also met many artists and was made aware of many more during the programme that still inspires and influences my own work. Moving to Dublin to do the programme also expanded my worldview and allowed me the opportunity to work at an international level. This experience encouraged me to continue to pursue working internationally.
5. Have you always had a great love of theatre and film?
I have! I started dancing when I was a toddler, and when I had the chance to see theatre for the first time, it was a no-brainer. I decided I wanted to be a performer when I was 4 and it stuck. I lived in a very small town in New Brunswick on the east coast of Canada, where theatre was sparse, which meant driving anywhere from 1-3 hours to see an amateur production of a play or musical. I was lucky because my parents would take on driving around so I could take in a bit of theatre whenever possible. I became more interested in film and TV after moving to Toronto and working on a few sets. I’d never understood the complex and brilliant craft of creating film. Both are special mediums and I’m grateful to get to work in both realms.
6. What has been the best moment of your career to date?
It was one night after a performance of my solo show A Drunk Lesbian Love Affair. I was in the dressing room getting my things together, when the director of the show, Eimear Keating, came down and told me there were some folks waiting upstairs who wanted to meet me. I was a bit confused, I didn’t think I knew anyone at the show that day. When I walked into the lobby, I got to meet two LGBTQIA+ youth groups that had driven in from Bray and Wicklow to see the show. Getting to engage with them and hear about what the show meant for them – seeing queerness proudly shared on stage, witnessing queer joy, feeling like they were a part of something like they were represented – meant everything. Many of them became fast friends and shared their plans of celebrating pride together that year. Being a small part of that remains one of my most precious memories.
7. What have been the most challenging aspects of your work?
Finding and appreciating my voice. Looking back on my early work, I remember how critical I was of my writing and my performances. I felt the need to fit into the box of what I was told was “good”, what was looked at as “right”. In reality, there is no right in this work, it’s all subjective. What there is, however, is truth – and that truth is found in honouring and exploring our own unique voices.
8. Who are the most interesting or helpful mentors or advisors that you have had?
My professors at UCD and the Gaiety School of Acting have remained extremely influential, their experience and teachings have stayed with me. Words of advice and encouragement they shared are the ones I regularly go back to. Another is Martha Burns, a brilliant actor, arts educator, filmmaker and friend based in Canada. I met her in my early twenties when I was working on a play she was in, and she’s been a constant inspiration, listening ear and stalwart supporter since.
9. How did you and your industry cope during the Covid-19 lockdown?
It was difficult, but I was amazed at how we adapted so quickly. That said, I can’t say I was too surprised – so many theatre artists are innovative and driven. I was part of an online reading series for new works, classic works, actor gym meet-ups where a group of us would meet and work on scenes together. My current project, At Birth, started being written during the pandemic. My creative partner, Ty Autry, is based in Atlanta, so the pandemic allowed us the chance to really connect and work together from afar since most people needed to work that way anyhow. We had a shared Google Doc to lay down our script and regular phone calls and video chats to work through how we’d bring this new show to life.
10. Does the work you do impact the way in which you see the world?
Absolutely. Writing can feel like such a solitary practice, but what it does in the end, for me, is bring communities closer together. I’m fortunate in my role as a performer and creator to try to understand varying perspectives. I think it’s made me more empathetic and curious about our differences and finding that which connects us all as people. There is much to learn, consider, and understand – all we have to do is listen.
11. What advice would you give to someone who would like to become a theatre actor?
I would tell them to believe in themselves and to trust that they are enough already, as they are. There is no right or wrong, only truth and curiosity. Seek out honesty in the work and yourself above all else.
12. What is life outside work like for you?
At the moment my work is my life, the two bleed into each other and honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. Advocacy work has become a significant part of my life, and for me, it’s all about contributing to a community and industry that I’ve gained so much from myself. I want to help make this industry more inclusive and accessible so future generations can engage and respect it. Aside from writing, producing, performance and sound design, I volunteer with different organisations when I’m able.
13. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“There is a lot that is out of our control, but what you can control is taking a chance.”
14. You are taking your new show on the road – can you tell us a little about the tour and what audience members can expect?
At Birth is a play I wrote with my dear friend and artistic collaborator Ty Autry. Ty and I actually met in Dublin when we were both performing at the International Dublin Gay Theatre, a festival in 2019 with solo shows. We instantly connected, stayed in touch and would visit between Toronto and New York when we could, where Ty was based at the time. During the pandemic, I was stuck in Toronto and he was in Atlanta. We’d been wanting to collaborate on something for a while, so we started writing At Birth and submitted it to IDGTF.
We received a new play bursary which was a valuable mode of support – and it meant this play would receive its premiere at the festival. The place we first met. This inspired us to see what else we could do since we had one guaranteed run and a bit of financing to help make it a reality. We were delighted and overwhelmed by the support we received from multiple companies around the world and before we knew it, we had secured performances of this new play in London, Prague, Atlanta, Nashville and New York.
Audiences can expect an evening of fun with a whole lot of heart and deep questions. Our hope is that the shop will spark conversation and invite people to reconsider ideas of family and what that looks like depending on circumstances.
15. Finally, describe yourself in three words.
Dedicated, awe-seeking, spicy.
At Birth is a comedic drama, considering queer families, abortion rights and the quickly-changing laws in the United States and will run from 8-13 May as part of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. For tickets and more information visit https://gaytheatre.ie/shows/at-birth/