Cal Webb Wilkinson is a quintuple threat artist: singing, dancing, acting, sewing, and visual art are all activities they’ve cultivated for over 10 years and employed in over half a dozen shows over the past 5 years.
Cal Webb Wilkinson was an Artistic Producer at Crane Creations Theatre Company for their 2022 Summer Ensemble. Raised in Mississauga, Cal starred in their first school musical at the age of 5, and ever since, Cal’s known that dramatic arts were their passion. Now as a quintuple threat in singing, dancing, acting, sewing and visual art with over 10 years of experience in productions in and out of school, Cal’s mission is to push boundaries and demonstrate the power of art through performance. What will an artist do once they discover what is possible? That is the question Cal plans to answer as they dive deeper into the world of performance art.
Cal has completed their Regional Arts Program certificate studying dramatic arts at Cawthra Park Secondary school, which acclimated them to the fast pace of theatre production. They have learned to employ their wide range of skills in acting, singing, dance, sewing, and visual art in the performance and production elements of theatre upon being cast as a ballet girl in their grade 9 musical Billy Elliot. After starring in the rest of their high school musicals, Cal set their sights on their post-secondary education. They are currently pursuing their Bachelor of Arts at Brock University as a full-time dramatic arts student.
Past Theatre Experience
Cal has starred in over 10 school theatre productions since they were 5, their favourites being Billy Elliot the Musical (Cawthra Park SS, December 2017), Chicago High School Edition (Cawthra Park SS, December 2019) and Abortion (Brock University, March 2022). Participating in musical theatre, school plays, and singing/dancing lessons have helped them strengthen their acting, singing and dancing abilities while learning about the importance of creating a supportive environment with their peers. In addition, Cal has spent much of their free time since the age of 8 learning how to design, draw, and sew their own clothes and costumes, which has encouraged them to become involved in costume crews for their school productions. A quintuple threat indeed!
Cal was part of the fourth annual Summer Ensemble. They are a member of Crane Creations Theatre Company’s 2022 Summer Ensemble.
The Summer Ensemble is an 8 week training program for theatre artists. In this paid working opportunity artists learn skills required to be a professional artist in Canada, and gain valuable insights into the theatre industry in Canada and abroad. To apply, artists must be between 18 and 30 years of age.
Cal Webb Wilkinson as an Artistic Producer.
Why do you enjoy being a producer?
I enjoy being a producer because of the creative freedom I can exercise on projects and the elevated level of responsibility I am delegated. I have a lot of experience in performance, but the more I performed, the more I wanted to learn about the production side of theatre: what do the directors and producers talk about? How do they reach the decisions they make? I can now express my creativity and organizational skills while learning about the production process, which is such a special opportunity for me.
Artistic Producers are leaders. What does being a leader in the arts mean to you?
Being a leader in the arts means that you hold a lot of responsibility, but it’s also an opportunity to meet other creatives and make art with new people. What being a leader in the arts means to me is freedom and endless possibilities. Leaders in the arts are the people who push boundaries, encourage new ideas, and inspire change. As a leader in the arts, I take it upon myself to guard and practice my core values of growth and experimentalism through art.
What does an artistic producer do and why are they so important?
An artistic producer’s main job is to communicate with the stage management and artistic direction teams and monitor the development of projects to ensure the successful creation of new works. Artistic producers collaborate and communicate with technical, production and artistic teams to ensure proper planning of projects. Artistic producers are also responsible for writing and overseeing budgets, applying for grants, and facilitating easy communication between departments. Artistic producers are essential to the theatre process because they operate in all the areas of production, ensuring all jobs are being done successfully and projects are running smoothly.
Imagine you are speaking to someone who knows nothing about your field. How do you become an artistic producer?
An artistic producer is sort of like an assistant manager at a department store. Department stores have lots of different sections: clothing, footwear, bedding, appliances, furniture, etc. Assistant managers are responsible for checking on workers and reporting back to management, ensuring things are running smoothly, and taking on delegated tasks from their managers that the other workers would not be assigned. That is essentially what an artistic producer does between the different departments of a theatre company plus some budgeting responsibilities.
An Interview With Cal Webb Wilkinson.
What is your favourite part of the Summer Ensemble?
So far, my favourite part of the summer ensemble is how we are being taught about the theatre industry while still being treated as industry professionals. Throughout this process, our ideas are not only respected but also encouraged to be developed. I feel valued as an artist, and have met so many amazing creatives in the ensemble.
How can you describe Summer Ensemble in one sentence?
Summer ensemble is a space for learning, play, and growth as a person and artist.
What is your favourite thing about your hometown?
My favourite thing about my hometown Mississauga is the incorporation of nature all over: there are over 3 parks in my neighbourhood, and everywhere you go there are hidden gems of nature. Even just along the suburban roads, there are towering maple, willow and oak trees, or ivy vines growing on old houses. No matter where you are, you’re never too far from a lovely green space, and you can always hear the birds chirping.
What are your favourite plays and why?
My favourite play would be Bears by Matthew Mackenzie. It tells the story of an Indigenous man named Floyd with a spiritual connection to bears who works in the Alberta oil patch, but for some reason is now on the run through the Rockies. The character roster consists of Floyd, the Chorus, Mama Bear, and She Grizzly. The chorus, in collaboration with Floyd, recreates the stunning landscapes and animals of the Rockies and pops in occasionally with excellent comedic timing. Beyond the substantial entertainment value of Bears, what I love most about this play is how it does not compromise the values, history, and performance traditions of Indigenous people. It was made in collaboration with elders, knowledge keepers, and Indigenous creators to ensure the tale of Floyd was told as respectfully and truthfully as possible.
What are your hobbies?
My hobbies are quite varied, to name a few, in my spare time I enjoy sewing, drawing, dancing, biking, playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, singing, reading, playing the guitar, and writing poetry. What I love about exploring these hobbies is that they all help me express myself creatively and to connect with nature and the people around me, each one in a different way. These hobbies inform my many passions and what I hope to achieve as I grow older. If I were to name one thing I wish to achieve one day, I think it would be to write, direct, and star in an absurd theatre-style show of my own creation. An accomplishment like that is something that I know I would treasure my whole life.
What is your favourite food?
My favourite food to eat is potatoes: you can boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew, there’s nothing potatoes can’t do!
What is your favourite food to make?
My favorite food to make would be a garlic-tomato-basil pasta dish my mother taught me when I was in high school, whenever I start make it I feel like I am home.
Where is your favourite place to eat?
My favorite place to eat would be at my cottage, with the fresh lake breeze and the view of the rocks and water.
What languages do you speak?
I am a native English speaker and I am fluent in French. I can also speak bits and pieces of Spanish, Italian, and Russian thanks to my Duolingo phase.
What is a new skill you want to learn?
A skill I have always wanted to learn is areal silks, it is such a beautiful art form that requires a very unique combination of flexibility, strength, grace, and a fondness for heights (as a short individual I always seize opportunities to be tall).
Where would you travel if you could?
If I could travel anywhere in the world I would go to the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Many of my ancestors hailed from the Scottish Highlands, I would love to see the land of my family and to explore the same streets and fields they may have walked themselves.
What is a fun fact about you?
A fun fact about me is that I cannot whistle. I have tried for years, to no avail.
Why do you love theatre?
I love theatre because of the possibilities it presents to the artist and the theatregoer. If you’re making a theatre production, you can make it realistic, interpretive, or absurd. Your show can be anything! And if you’re a theatregoer, you can find so many different works to see out in the world! You can see a Broadway box office hit that inspires you to become a baker, or a hole-in-the-wall poor theatre production that changes your outlook on life. There are no limits to what theatre can do for you, no matter who you are.
How did you get into theatre?
My theatre journey began when I was 5 years old. I was in first grade at Whiteoaks Elementary school, and each class was required to perform one song in the annual junior school musical. That year, we were doing the musical How Does Your Garden Grow, and my class was the sunflower field. I do not remember in the slightest what the song we sang was, but I do remember the thrill I got from performing for the first time. Since then, I continued participating in my school musicals and having lots of fun making friends with my classmates while we rehearsed. However, my theatre journey truly took off when I was accepted to a school of the arts and completed the Regional Arts Drama Program. The rest is history.
Why is theatre important?
Theatre is important because it is a living, breathing art form. When an actor is on a stage and there is an audience watching them, the energy in the theatre is beyond anything a movie theatre would ever achieve. With live theatre, there is a uniqueness to every performance: there is always the possibility that an actor will miss a cue or drop a prop into the audience. It is those shared moments with the audience that vary between performances that make live theatre such a special art form. You do not get that same uniqueness with film, editors and directors spend months filming and cutting scenes together so they can make their movie as perfect as it can possibly be. Theatre’s beauty lies in its imperfection.
What is one project you were proud of?
A project I was a part of that I am extremely proud of is the production of Abortion that I starred in at Brock University this past March. The story of Abortion covers the aftermath of an affair college golden-boy Jack Townsend had with a local girl named Nellie, which resulted in her getting an illegal abortion. It is a very sad show, but my director’s interpretation to rewrite the narrative Eugene O’Neill created to become a story of women’s empowerment instead of anti-abortion propaganda was genius. A friend of my father came to see the show, and she was crying during the bows because her grandmother died from an illegal abortion just like Nellie did. She was so supremely grateful for the respectful and reclaiming narrative of the show, and knowing that we had touched someone so deeply is such a wonderful feeling. Theatre is meant to connect people, and I am so supremely proud to have connected with that woman through my performance.
Do you have any advice for aspiring theatre artists?
Oh boy, if you’re an aspiring theatre artist, get ready for the ride of your life! This industry moves fast, so make sure you can keep up with the wild sprint that is theatre. I myself am still an emerging artist, but so far throughout my experience, I have learned one thing I will share with any aspiring theatre artist: seize every opportunity you get to participate. Even if you don’t get into a show you auditioned for or didn’t get into a crew you wanted to be a part of, applying and auditioning are all parts of the experience. Every opportunity to participate in theatre is a chance to learn and grow as an artist, and along the way you will make valuable connections with fellow creatives. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so make sure you keep trying!