Artist Voices Essay Series | Part 4: SOCHI FRIED

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Modern Times’ mandate is to give a voice to artists; to this end, we would like to share a series of essay pieces written by former artists of Modern Times, specifically, but not limited to, those from Black, Indigenous or racialized communities, to give them a voice and highlight their creative work. Our fourth article in this series is from Sochi Fried, who played Leonardo’s Wife and the Moon in Blood Wedding (2015, 2017). 

by Sochi Fried

I’m feeling very distant from theatre these days. From the making of it, the dreaming of it, the orienting of my days and nights towards it. And yet theatre hasn’t completely disappeared, nor has this forced hiatus turned audiences off it. Perhaps this pandemic pause is the right time to remind myself why I was drawn to it in the first place and to mull over what my experience has been like up to this point.

Working with other people is one of the great beauties of the theatre. I have always loved collaborating on something larger than any one individual and creating something that could not exist without an exchange of ideas and impulses among those very specific actors, directors, writers. I miss this.

In eleven years of being a professional actor in this town, I’ve met and witnessed truly astonishing people who create beautiful, searing works of art, often with limited resources, and whose very vibrations leave long-lasting imprints.

For thirty years Soheil Parsa and Peter Farbridge have kept Modern Times alive, have kept their artistic visions and desires alive, and, in doing so, have consistently provided opportunities to a wide array of artists – seeking out the human being and all they have to offer.

There is a largeness to their endeavours that starts with the plays they choose and is driven forward by a fascination with the epic nature of the human story. They don’t shy away from large casts; instead, they open the door to more sophisticated levels of collaboration. More people hired brings more points of view into the rehearsal hall, more histories and experiences to draw from and contend with, and ultimately a diversity that deepens everybody’s work.

Now the bottom has emptied out of everyone’s lives. Society is getting a taste of the existential void that actors face between every job.

My years as a Toronto actor have also opened my eyes to the cliques, the fear, and the scrambling-for-crumbs-in-a-finite-pie-of-opportunity mentality that shuts down, shuts out, and shuts up so many. I’ve observed this in all aspects of the industry, from those who are doing the hiring to actors themselves, and, sadly, I’ve felt it take hold within my own psyche and heart from time to time.

I think in many respects this mentality stems from a very real fear that you won’t be able to pay the rent. Moreover, I think it stems from the industry’s reliance on an oversaturated workforce kept constantly underemployed, pitted against each other, and terrified they will never work again. If being inclusive in our organizations and projects is actually important to us – if we want our theatre to truly reflect the society we live in – we need to find a way to pay people a living wage.

Many cannot afford to work in the theatre at all and the fumes of passion and devotion can only carry you through so many existential voids. Who are we losing? And who never even gets a chance to try?

Now is the time for theatre companies and artists to fight like hell for a universal basic income.

Feature photo caption: Sochi Fried (left) and Liz Peterson in Blood Wedding (2015).  Photo: John Lauener

BIOGRAPHY:

SOCHI FRIED grew up in New York City and Ottawa, and is currently based in Toronto. Primarily a stage actor, she has worked in theatres across North America and was named one of NOW Magazine’s Top 10 Theatre Artists of 2015. She is a graduate of the Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Theatre Program, Ryerson University Theatre School, and The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Sochi narrated A Student of Weather, by Elizabeth Hay, for Penguin Random House Canada.