Crafting art from the ground up

In Slipknot, TJ Dawe presents three monologues lamenting three terrible jobs: stock boy, truck driver and post office worker

University of Victoria alum TJ Dawe performs his one-man show The Slipknot

Connecting with students is a highlight of the TJ Dawe’s latest Victoria performance of The Slipknot. The renowned UVic grad is the second performer in the solo marathon marking the opening of Phoenix Theatres’ season.

“This is the show of mine that gets produced the most,” Dawe said. “It’s about working horrible jobs and who has not worked a horrible job?”

In Slipknot, Dawe, an award-winning writer/performer/director, presents three monologues lamenting over three terrible jobs: stock boy, truck driver and post office worker.

“It wasn’t by design but I worked all of them,” Dawe said.

“It’s a feat of memory for sure because there are a couple of word routines that are like juggling routines. It’s a matter of practicing those parts, but on the other hand it’s tremendously fun to do because it’s full of jokes.”

Plus there’s the twist of a happy ending.  “It’s got this big rush of ‘yes’ feeling,” he said. “I just love doing it.”

He looks forward to the talk back sessions where he plans to share his success in taking on the challenge of creating his own work.

“There’s a talk back after every show and that’s something I’ve come to love,” he said.

While early on his main themes were horrible jobs and unrequited love, his newer works focus on personal work and deep experience.

The Slipknot doesn’t open the door to deeper conversation necessarily, but the conversation that might come about is the changing landscape of theatre.

“I was an infrequently cast actor when I was an undergrad (at UVic) and that makes a lot of sense in the career that I’ve forged,” Dawe said. “It’s a matter of creating something from the ground up.”

Dawe writes, performs, directs, and creates new theatre pieces. Based in Vancouver, he’s toured theatre and comedy festivals across North America. He has six published plays and a humour book and continuously juggles a dozen or so new projects.

“I’m making my living doing this,” he said. “The Slipknot is the show that got me out of the world of horrible jobs.”

The other two performers in the Phoenix Anniversary Alumni Festival are also prime examples of success in the field, he said

“That’s another thing I got at UVic, connecting with other students,” he said. UVic teaches everything from the technical angle and theatre history to lighting and staging. Students spend a lot of intense time together and “you can forge connections,” he said.

He’s working with former classmate Charlie Ross – whose trilogy of trilogies kicked off the alumni festival – on a one-man Stranger Things.

“We didn’t form a show until after we graduated, but the bonds were there, working on projects together and even more hanging out,” Dawe said. “(Shannan Calcutt) and her husband just brought me to Vegas to teach a weekend solo course and she and I are talking abut working on something together. I saw her go from an infrequently cast actor to being a star in her own stuff. It’s a matter of finding ‘this is what my voice is.’”

The Slipknot (Oct. 18 to 22) is the second show of the Anniversary Alumni Festival. Shannan Calcutt performs Burnt Tongue Oct. 25 to 29 to finish the festival. Visit finearts.uvic.ca/theatre/phoenix for more details and ticket information.