Calgary-based theatre artist Conrad Belau is making his Vancouver debut in Walt Whitman’s Secret next month, where he plays Whitman biographer, caretaker and star-struck admirer Horace Traubel. He took some time to play “10 Questions” with us when he wasn’t busy rehearsing.
1. What made you want to be a theatre artist?
I wasn’t seeing the kinds of stories I wanted to see and hear, so I decided to make them happen. I also saw that the kinds of stories that should be told weren’t being told, so I decided to lend my voice and abilities to bringing them out of the darkness.
2. How many plays have you acted in?
3. What are some favourite plays you’ve been in?
I’ve gotten to play some incredible roles with some incredible people, but some highlights have got to be playing Edmund in a phenomenal musical adaptation of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, speaking Linda Griffiths’ beautiful words in The Darling Family. A forever favourite production was a show which I helped create with a remarkable group of people with Calgary’s Third Street Theatre called This Is How I Left. Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to make my debut as a director and produce the Calgary premiere of Colleen Wagner’s The Monument, which was a huge achievement for myself as a storyteller, not only in learning and doing something new, but also being able to offer a hugely difficult and challenging piece of theatre to a typically safer theatre scene.
4. Who are some of your favourite actors?
Ben Whishaw. Billie Piper. Jake Gyllenhaal.
5. What’s the best piece of theatre you’ve seen this year?
It’s been a good year of theatre for me, the top productions are probably Broadway’s The Color Purple, Sense and Sensibility by Theatre Bedlam, Mustard at Tarragon, and DNA by a tiny youth based company in Calgary called Hoodlum.
6. What’s your favourite colour?
7. All-time favourite movie?
Toss up between Titanic / The Princess Diaries / Sleepless in Seattle.
8. Favourite non-theatre-related activity?
Hiking, road trips, reading, podcasts, live music, fringe spirituality. Typical stuff.
9. Favourite drink?
At the moment, Scotch.
10. Why should people see Walt Whitman’s Secret?
It will surprise you. It certainly did me. When I first read the script, I was thinking I figured out what the “secret” would be and how it would be a typical, American play. But the story is layered in ways that are emotionally and intellectually gripping in ways that will hold you and cradle you. That will make you rejoice and at the same time be infuriated. This project is something that feeds our every day conversations about love, marriage, belonging and worthiness. It is a timely and beautiful story, as told by some of THE best storytellers I’ve had the pleasure of creating with. It’s got it all, you won’t be disappointed.