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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

REMOTE | Madison Angus: ‘Right Now Isn’t Forever’

By Michael Zarathus-Cook on May 25, 2020

Soprano Madison Angus (Photos courtesy of the artist)
Soprano Madison Angus (Photos courtesy of the artist)

It’s obviously been a very difficult time for all aspects of the performing arts across the country, but the challenges faced by young and emerging artists in a city as expensive as Toronto can be quite different from how more established individuals and organizations experienced such a sudden loss of income. Soprano Madison Angus joins us for this episode of REMOTE to reflect on her experience of the pandemic as a multi-faceted performance artist. Her perspective focuses on the mental health cost of the last two months, as well as the reorientation towards digital performances that we’ll all have to do in order to bridge the gap between now and live performances.

Part of that reorientation consists of a return to creativity for those of us who have been using this time as a respite from hectic schedules. Though I think there’s a crucial distinction to be made between creativity and productivity — there’s still no rush to get to the latter. The damage has been done, and the path towards recovery begins with reminding ourselves why we committed to a career in the arts in the first place. This, and more, is the subject of Madison’s contribution to this series; and she’s got a ton of book and TV recommendations to make it worth your while.

How have you been coping with this lockdown?

In the last several weeks I’ve started to find my creative drive again. I have been privileged in the sense that essential goods have not been a struggle for me to access. In a strange way, despite the current circumstances, I think the time away from the busyness of life has been an opportunity to reflect on what I care about most and how I would like to move forward both personally and professionally. I will say though, that the first month of quarantine was incredibly challenging for me. As someone who works daily on managing my own anxiety, the extreme change of lifestyle and global worry due to COVID-19 was quite debilitating. I’m grateful to have found more of a routine and to be working on and dreaming about what artistic initiatives are possible during this time and beyond.

What sort of digital initiatives have you been involved in?

I do have a few projects in the works but nothing I can reveal just yet! I’ll let you know soon!

I believe innovation is key right now. The pandemic has caused artists to interact with technology in ways that may not have been examined previously or with the same intensity. I am a strong advocate for learning about and within a multitude of different artistic disciplines. Right now, all areas of arts and culture are in the same difficult place. Moving forward, I think it could be wise to lean on each other, expand our efforts, and grow together.

Also, it is the responsibility of artists and artistic administrations to actively think about online content and the way we want our industry to be viewed in a digital format. What is it that we want people to take away from these performances? No longer having the opportunity to be singing in an unamplified process gives way to serious discussions about how opera is to stay relevant. Jenna Simeonov, wrote an editorial entitled, “Without the acoustic thrill, why are we still singing?”, on her platform, Schmopera, which discusses this same idea. I highly suggest reading it.

Words of wisdom that have helped you get through this pandemic?

I feel very fortunate to have a few wonderful mentors whose support during this time has meant a great deal to me. I couldn’t just pick one and I figure why not spread the love and advice. We could all use it, I think!

My teacher/ soprano/ mom/ Associate Artistic Director at Against the Grain Theatre/ wonder woman, Miriam Khalil, and I have been texting and checking in with each other throughout the pandemic. This was just over a month ago and I hadn’t felt like singing much at this point. I remember one day we were messaging and I was going on about this app called Design Home (Side Note: It’s really fun if you like interior design), she politely acknowledged her interest but also lovingly suggested that maybe we could consider having a lesson and to enjoy making music for ourselves. I recall tearing up reading that message with the response that I would like to try. We’ve had a few lessons since then and the biggest takeaway from what we’ve talked about is to just stay present, find happiness in the small things, and to not think beyond what you are not able to control.

The next bit of advice that was offered to me was from Andrea Donaldson, who is the Artistic Director of Nightwood Theatre. Nightwood offers a program called the Young Innovators Program which helps train emerging artists in the process of producing theatre. One of our last sessions happened over Zoom on “networking” and with Andrea speaking to 13 or so worried 20-something artists faced with the uncertain realities of the pandemic…I think the topics discussed meant more to us than ever before. A couple of points that had an impact on me were that, objectively, this period of time in our lives is small compared to the span of an entire career. Right now isn’t forever. It’s the people going through these same experiences that will remain your colleagues as you move forward. So, why not further establish those supportive relationships through this phase too.

Finally, Aria Umezawa and Teiya Kasahara have both been fundamental in helping me establish my own path within this industry. They recently founded Amplified Opera and are forces in a variety of artistic work. I have spoken to both of them during this time and their encouragement for me to follow my instincts and trust my own creativity has been crucial to my development as an artist. Also, Teiya and I regularly send each other kitten/cat related content on Instagram which has really gotten me through some of these days!

What do you think are some of the ways arts communities can better prepare for adjusting to a crisis such as this?

While I don’t think anyone ever anticipated this kind of situation, I think an ongoing discussion between artists and companies has been the message of transparency and inclusion. The pandemic has brought this conversation to the forefront. I feel this could be a time of re-building and re-inventing for our industry.

Books, films, or TV on the go?

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading my TED Talk. Here’s the fun stuff:

Books:
I wish I read more. The last full book I read previous to these was a book for my vocal pedagogy class about Psychogenic Dysphonia. Interesting topic.
Inward by Yung Pueblo (This was gifted to me and I have enjoyed it thoroughly. Great perspectives on life. I love a good Instagram quote and this literally is a book full of them.)
Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis (Easy read with lots of motivational messages. I had read half of it prior to COVID-19, I have a bad habit of doing that, but I am now almost done.)
Films:
I finally watched Parasite and Jo Jo Rabbit, both were excellent for different reasons. Also, I rewatched Ocean’s 8 because those women are bad***. Can I be Cate Blanchett when I grow up?
TV:
I LOVE television.
Always binging:
Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix (It never gets old. Fight me. Also, Grey’s Anatomy: The Opera anyone?? I think it could be the new Ring Cycle, there’s enough material.)
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix (I cannot explain my obsession with this show but yet it remains. I think it’s my nostalgia of a childhood filled with stacks of Archie comics mixed with my love of all things magical.)
Recently:
Hollywood on Netflix (Loved it!)
– Killing Eve on BBC (I’m on the 3rd season, Sandra Oh kills it in this one too!)
Guilty Binge:
Keeping Up with the Kardashians on E! (Don’t judge me. Their lives are insane and it numbs my mind.)
Best Overall:
Big Little Lies on HBO (Debatably, I think this is the best series I’ve seen with GOT being a close second because of that last season…come on.)

For more chats with artists in social isolation, read on HERE.

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Michael Zarathus-Cook

Michael is a student at the University of Toronto, a music writer and general arts critic on briband.com He has been published in The Wholenote Magazine, Opera Canada, The Dance Current, Schmopera and more.
Michael Zarathus-Cook

Michael Zarathus-Cook

Michael is a student at the University of Toronto, a music writer and general arts critic on briband.com He has been published in The Wholenote Magazine, Opera Canada, The Dance Current, Schmopera and more.
Michael Zarathus-Cook
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