March 5, 2016

Spotlight on Alumni: Emilio Vieira

Emilio VieiraEmilio Vieira graduated York University in 2014 with a BFA from the Acting Conservatory. That summer he performed in Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in High Park, as Lucius in Titus Andronicus directed by Keira Loughran and as Charles the Wrestler/Lord Amiens in As You Like It directed by Nigel Shawn Williams. From there Emilio continued to pursue work in classical theatre, a passion of his that was cultivated at York. In December of 2014, Emilio toured Ontario schools with a production by Shakespeare in Action, a classical youth outreach theatre company based in Toronto, aimed at highlighting the parallels between Shakespeare’s language and the language of modern day poets and lyricists.  It was a rewarding experience that brought Shakespeare to students of all ages in an engaging, interactive way. In the summer of 2015 he played the title role in a web-series based on the events of Shakespeare’s Othello titled: The Soliloquies of Santiago, and appeared in The Guild Festival Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet as Benvolio alongside many of his York peers. Most recently Emilio had the privilege of studying in the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre, where he worked with many masters of voice, movement and acting disciplines all under the guidance and direction of Martha Henry, who directed him in Richard III this February, in which he played Lord Hastings and Richard in the 5th act. A highlight of this training was his trip to Scotland’s Orkney Islands to study with voice guru Kristin Linklater at her studio atop rolling green hills overlooking the ancient Bay of Skaill. Emilio is currently working with the Stratford Festival and looks forward to his first season this spring. You may catch him as Donalbain in Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino’s Macbeth and in the premiere of Hannah Moscovitch’s new play Bunny at the nearby Studio Theatre in downtown Stratford.


Do you have any advice or tips for students just entering the department?

Write notes and quotes. I have often returned to my journals for exercises, discussions in class and helpful things professors said. It’s valuable to know what you learned and when you learned it, to articulate it in your own words afterwards and to feel the way it resonates to you. You may find that you return to the same questions about your craft, and that the answer may have been hiding in a teacher’s note to you years before. It’s surprising how often a penny drops and you think, “Ah, THAT’S what they meant.” It can take years for that to happen. Also, ask questions! Sometimes even teachers don’t know what knowledge they have tucked away that may be of use to you and you have to mine it out of them. When you do, write it down. The learning never stops.

Did connections, friendships, relationships you made at York help you afterward?

Absolutely. Often from people in a different discipline. The York Army is strong out there. Keep in touch with your colleagues. Turn to them when you need help with a project and they may turn to you for subsequent projects down the road. I remember someone saying that Yorkies tend to make more work than they get by other means. I think that’s great. Finishing a degree can be a bit like being a wet sponge, you can’t just hold on to all that stuff that’s inside you and never use it. Take a risk, wring out a bit, so you can soak up more from the next person you meet. I should also say that connections beyond university are important as well. Friends of friends in any art. Being up at York so far away from the city is a bit of a curse. Reach out to people already established in positions you aspire to be in, and pick their brains too. I think generally people are pretty open to helping someone out because we’ve all been in/are still in that position of just starting out.

What were some of the things about Theatre that you believed to be true but found to be either false or fluid?

Emilio Vieira
Emilio Vieira

I think I had this idea that talent was the most important thing, and that I was diving into a sea of graduates with the same training I had and it was hopeless unless I had some ‘it’ factor, great gift, or something like that. I’ve observed that, while skill and training are indeed super important, having a hard working mentality and unwavering passion is just as important. These are the types of things that set you apart in an audition room, not necessarily whether you were ‘good’ or not. Whether people ‘like’ you is so subjective, and it’s not worth hanging your whole career or idea of self-worth on one interview or the opinion of people in authority. Your resume is only a list of things you’ve done: I think the person you are is far more important to your future in this industry. If you’re open to learning, and abandoning what you thought you knew for what actually works for you, I think that leads to being more successful in the type of work you want to be doing.

Do you have any advice or tips for York students just about to graduate? about to join the job market?

Building off of what I said in the previous answer, because it’s kind of connected, I think it’s important to remember you are a theatre practitioner whether or not you’re currently practicing theatre. It can be discouraging to be unemployed, to be waiting for the right opportunity, or trying countless times and not booking gigs. I believe the trick is to speak positively about your journey. Rather than thinking you didn’t get something, think you got the opportunity to try. I remember being told by a coach once that the audition is actually the first day of the job; yes it happens to be a one-day contract, and if your character gets another day that’s great! and if that was the only day on the job, then that’s an accomplishment as well. Every opportunity is a chance to grow, to learn, to wring out the sponge a little bit. I found applying for everything right out the gate to be very helpful for me. It made me feel like I was working all the time, constantly emailing, applying for auditions and grants and job positions. It also meant that as a new person to the theatre community I was making my presence known, even if only to a small fraction of the pre-existing workforce. I volunteered my time as an usher, went to opening nights, talk-backs, shook hands, saw shows, asked questions – anything to get to know what was going on in some of the houses I wanted to work in. It was resume building and networking and meant that I had things to talk about when I auditioned for those people. We are working even when we’re not. Your next job could come from the bartender who happens to be holding auditions for a small fringe show next week.

If you had the chance to go back and visit your younger self as you were beginning at York, what advice would you give yourself?

My advice? There is so much time ahead of you, no need to rush things now. If you had told me 6 years ago I would be working as a classical actor with the Stratford Festival I’m not sure I would’ve believed you. And I understand that I’ve been fortunate to earn a gig like this so young. But now I realize as a 24 year old that I’m still young with so much to learn. It’s the rushing mentality, the voice in the back of your head that says you need to be something or somewhere by a certain time that actually robs you of the chance to learn as much as you can. By end-gaining, as the Alexander teachers would say, we bulldoze forward in search of results instead of allowing the slow percolation of knowledge to lead to improvement. This is one of the most valuable things I’ve learned about acting in only the last few months: that by actively DOING, PUSHING to be a good actor, I miss the subtleties. I miss how easy it is. There’s a frightening sensation when you walk onto a stage and do nothing, it feels like it’s too easy – but if the pros can make it look effortless…maybe there’s not so much to do as you think. Just be present, listen, don’t force anything. Let the audience come to you. I thought this was something I was learning for the first time when Martha Henry gave me a note that said, “No Acting Required”, but after some thought I realized York professors had been trying to give me that note before, just in different words. Sometimes wrestling with the question is more important than getting the answer.

What did you learn at York that has been of greatest value?

Emilio with Master Voice Teacher, Kristin Linklater.
Emilio with Master Voice Teacher, Kristin Linklater.

I think all the Linklater-based voice work was really important to me. It taught me that the voice is part of the body, not some kind of other entity that comes out of my head. The voice work really spurred me on a bit of a voice obsession and helped me balance the imagistic actor work with the super technical: my brain liked that. Finding the link between voice and acting is an ongoing diagnostic procedure for me, one that I have been able to chart real growth in during my time at York and beyond. It also serves as a common language when working with other actors. This is especially true when it comes to Shakespeare. He has infused his language with vocal clues almost like a cheat sheet. By following the map he’s laid out you can learn so much about the character, their mental, physical and emotional states and of course how best to communicate all that to the audience. I realize now that I didn’t quite appreciate it as much as I should have back at York, but after studying with Linklater herself, I have been reminded how valuable freeing the natural voice can be.

What did you NOT get taught at York that you wish you had been taught?  

Honestly, it’s going to sound super boring but I wish I had learned more about EQUITY and ACTRA and doing your taxes as an artist. Since graduating I have heard little bits and pieces about what the unions and taxes are like, but have been met with the overwhelming sense that I wasn’t the only person who didn’t have knowledge of these resources.