Friday, June 25, 2010

In 1998 I was cast to play the “The Caller” in the (short) film version of Michael Ondaatje’s (long) poem Elimination Dance (1978). The film was written and directed by Ondaatje, Bruce McDonald and Don McKeller, who played the male lead. Playing opposite Don was Tracy Wright.

Shot in a single day at an old hall on Toronto's Queen Street West, Elimination Dance was a pleasant experience. Among the dancers were musician Carole Pope, filmmaker Clement Virgo and actor Valerie Buhagiar.

As with most film productions, there is a lot of waiting. During these waits I spent time with Carole, Clement and Valerie, but also Tracy, who reminded me that acting is not just a craft but an intellectual proposition, a debate concerned as much with the history of theatre as the method(s) one draws on when approaching a part.

Since that time I have had numerous conversations on theatre and theatricality, in part because the person I live with, Judy Radul, explores these things in her work as a visual artist. I have also had further visits with Tracy, and after each one have come away richer for the experience -- charmed by her intelligence and wit, but also impressed with her integrity.

Last week I received an email saying that Tracy’s health, which had been in decline, had taken a turn for the worse. Then on Tuesday, news of her passing.

Tracy’s oeuvre, though not huge, was carefully constructed (like Terrence Malick, she believed “there is something to be said about not making a movie”). Regardless of the production, be it stage, film or TV, Tracy shone, such as her scene in Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), where she meets the fellow she has been dating online. A fine example of interior acting. (This scene, along with Elimination Dance, can be found on youtube.)

In closing, I would like to leave off with a line from Bertolt Brecht, whose Life of Galileo (1939) Tracy once took part in. These words speak to what Tracy taught me about being an artist -- and a person too.

Do not fear death so much, but rather the inadequate life.

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