Halifax actress Kirstin Howell is at home both on the stage and on the screen. Along with an impressive list of theatre credits, Howell is the brain-child behind the online series The Sunny Daye Show. Recently AE spoke with her about the show.
How, when, and why did you get involved with acting?My mother saw an audition call in the local Halifax newspaper, looking for boys aged 6-10, so naturally, as a 14 year old girl, I decided to crash the audition. I ended up getting cast as Zaneeta in the Nova Scotia Drama League's production of "The Music Man", starring Anthony Sherwood and Julia Moore. It was my first foray into the lovely world of community theatre, and there was no turning back. I like to think of 'community theatre' not as 'theatre that is produced by the community', but 'theatre in which one can FIND a community'. Many lasting friendships, and creative relationships were formed from that first experience, and I went on to study Musical Theatre at Sheridan College, work with great theatre companies like Neptune, Chester Playhouse, Two Planks and a Passion, and have roles on tv shows like "Haven" and "TV with TV's Jonathan Torrens".
Are they the same reasons you keep doing it today?The most rewarding productions that I am a part of are the ones where I get to collaborate with peers to create something that we can all be proud of. I'm still acting because it sustains my creative spirit, is super super fun, and allows me to bond with like-minded people. So, yes, the reasons are basically the same; and the paychecks are nice too!
What inspired you to start the web-series?I heard a great quote recently from a well-known screenplay writer, "An actor is like a pretty girl at the prom; standing around waiting to be asked to dance." Ie; Actors are not known for initiating projects. After being like this for several years, I realized that I wanted to be a different type of artist. I wanted to initiate a project that I could be proud of, and make a series that I would find funny. I also wanted to showcase my acting chops, and those of my peers, in a sitcom style, so we could show that to potential collaborators or casting directors and say 'hey! look what we can do!' I knew it would behoove me to create my own work, so I decided to get it going sooner rather than later!
What are the challenges of putting it together?Financial challenges are always on this list, of course. We had an excellent opportunity with this project, however, to work with ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) and produce "The Sunny Daye Show- Pilot" through the MIP (Member Initiated Program). This means that we as ACTRA members (Haluk Tatlidil and I) would be producing the project and casting our peers, and each of us would own a certain percentage of any future profit. This made it possible for us to cast really great actors, who sparkle in this show, and still be able to afford it. The other big challenge came after the shooting was all over; editing. I took on the role of editor, and taught myself how to use a new editing suite. The next project I work on will have a MUCH quicker turnaround!
What are the rewards?The whole process was extremely eye-opening. I learned so much about every aspect of film-making, from writing to casting to shooting to editing to scoring... The whole experience was priceless. One of the most rewarding things for me is hearing people laugh at my jokes. I have done a bit of writing up to this point, but nothing really this 'scripted'. It was terrifying the first few times I screened the episode, because I just didn't know if anyone would laugh. Luckily, most people laugh right on cue, so that is very rewarding. I am also very proud of the piece as an actor, and am so excited and proud to show this to anyone and everyone who'll sit down for 16 minutes to watch it! Having 'creative control' is the most rewarding aspect; every aspect of the whole show has my little stamp of approval on it, and this is not something that we actors usually get to experience. And let me tell you, if you're an actor, go out and create your own work, because nothing feels better than this.
What has the response been like so far?The response has been really great; we are getting more and more YouTube views every day, and lots of people clicking through the website, www.SunnyDayeShow.com which features extras, cast and crew info, stories, and more. People are really loving it, and going out of their way to congratulate me, which is more amazing than I can describe. I have even had some impromptu auditions given by other local actors who want to be cast in the next episode! That is pretty cool.
What are the plans for the series?Right now, we are in pre-production to shoot several more episodes.
What are your thoughts on the state of theatre in Halifax and Atlantic Canada?I like to think of Halifax as a teenager who is finally ready to cross the bridge to adulthood. There are some fabulous actors/directors who live here, work here, and produce work here, whom I have known since Junior High. That says a lot. For a small city like us to be able to be so vibrant, gorgeous, and alluring that talented young people cannot stay away, is a huge accomplishment. Halifax has been feeling some growing pains as of late, but I really think that the actors, writers, and directors here are now ready to showcase themselves and compete with the other bigger cities. I really think we can now hold our own, and I am so proud of that.
Aside from the series, what's next on your creative agenda?I will be playing Heidi once again in the hilarious musical "[title of show]" which is presented by TheatreSpeak, in association with Off The Leash Productions: Neptune Studio Theatre, November 15 and 16, 9pm. After that I will be a featured singer/actor in "The Christmas Story" presented by Judy Savoy Productions, which will be at the Saint Agnes Church Hall, November 29, 30, and December 1st, with a matinee on the 1st.