An interview with Jay Northcott, a multidisciplinary artist, director, playwright, and burlesque dancer. They joined the 2023 season of the Stratford Festival as an assistant director on the production of King Lear. We discuss the importance of including diverse perspectives and stories within the Black experience to create a more inclusive and vibrant artistic landscape. Topics include celebrating the richness of "black identities" and encouraging the exploration of different narratives and the intersection of art, identity, and self-belief.
In the conversation, Jay dives into their journey, reflecting on the challenges they faced as a young multiracial individual growing up in a predominantly white neighbourhood in Spruce Grove, Alberta. They open up about their artistic influences, drawing inspiration from pop culture icons like Paris Hilton and Beyoncé. Aesthetics and fashion heavily drive their artistic expression, creating unique and engaging live performances.
We explore the importance of representation, the challenges of being a person of colour in the industry, and the power of storytelling. Jay's unique perspective sheds light on the intersection of art, identity, and Black culture, and we delve into fascinating discussions about the development of Black theatre and the diverse experiences within the Black community. Get ready for a thought-provoking conversation about art, authenticity, and the limitless possibilities of the creative journey.
Topics and outtakes from our podcast conversation:
Overcoming Intimidation and Owning Your Space: "But I think the best thing that I learned from Kimberly is that you go into a space, and everybody is where they're at. And the only thing that can make it awful is if you think that somebody doesn't believe that you should be there, if you can do that. If you can, make sure that you go into that space knowing that you deserve to be there and that you belong. And obviously, that might waiver at certain points, but if you can go back to the mirror and be like, I know I belong here. I know this is where I'm supposed to be. This is my space that we're creating together, and I've worked my butt off to be here, then if you go into the day with that, then something good is going to [happen]."
— Jay Northcott 00:12:5800:13:38
The Importance of Shakespeare in Modern Theater: "I still question to this day, what is the point of doing Shakespeare and why do we still do it? And what other things can we add on top of it that make it for now, when there are so many playwrights right now writing plays and so much content that's already being created right now ... Why do we go to a text that's so old? And I still don't have the answer, but I think that a lot of stories come from Shakespeare, and a lot of the story structures come from what Shakespeare has created. So I think that's why we keep digging through it."
— Jay Northcott 00:15:5500:16:36
Navigating the Assistant Director Role: "I know the first couple of weeks, I'm always trying to feel what the vibe is...how much input I should be putting in...where my space is and where I can connect."
— Jay Northcott 00:21:4500:21:45
Representation Matters: "There's one great thing about it is that being a person that looks like me and has this representation is you get all these messages after of people that have young kids or even older adults that see that they saw themselves in you and that they were able to be more of themselves because of seeing somebody that was able to exist on a national TV show and still prosper, I think was something that was really beautiful."
— Jay Northcott 00:26:5100:27:18
The Importance of Safe Spaces and the Power of Reality TV: "And it being such a good space and me having to really let that go and be like, yeah, it is a good space to be in and that these people are safe. And they might be these new strangers, but they actually want to become friends. And they're looking out for your best interests at heart. And it also just made me look at art differently because I think that people really look at reality TV as this thing that is outside of art, that it's like this thing that was created because people weren't interested in story anymore. But I think what people are most interested in is people. And I've always said that in all my art is that the one thing that Kimberly [Rampersad] said to me one time is that every character goes on stage to be loved."
— Jay Northcott 00:28:2400:29:03
The Complexity of Blackness in Canada: "I think the long and short of that question is I always question in Canada, what does Blackness look like and what is the actual there's no real definition of it."
— Jay Northcott 00:31:4800:31:58