BWW Interview: Taylor Long On BOTH 3.0 And Growing Up With - And Giving Back To - The War Amps Of Canada
With BOTH 3.0, a collaborative fundraiser concert in support of the War Amps of Canada, coming up quickly, co-creator and performer Taylor Long gives BroadwayWorld Toronto readers the inside look at this year's production. From the inclusion of two new performers to sorting through a lifetime of experiences and stories with his collaborator David Connolly, Long offers a glimpse into what audiences might expect to see and hear in this third installment of the BOTH series.
Both Long and Connolly have lived as double amputees since childhood, and have deep ties to the War Amps. By creating and putting on BOTH, Long has found a way to give back to the foundation that had such a strong impact on him as a kid - while managing to remain true to himself and his performance roots.
How are you feeling about going into your third year of BOTH?
I am absolutely thrilled that BOTH has turned into an annual tradition. It is such a special night - both for us and for the audience. We can't wait for October 6th!
When David Connolly and I started this journey three years ago, we had no idea that we would get the response that we ended up getting. Not only have we become more comfortable in our skin by doing this show, but we've been able to share our stories with so many more people than we could have ever imagined - breaking down the stereotypes of what it's like to live with amputation.
How do you navigate your personal experiences and feelings to select the stories you share with audiences?
Well, living with double amputation isn't always sunshine and rainbows. There are hard days. There are painful days. But we try our best to keep the evening light-hearted. We tell funny stories - like having to use duct tape on our feet in the middle of shows, or accidentally kicking our legs off while playing sports.
Our goal is to give everyone in the audience a better understanding of what it means to live as an amputee, while sharing some of the power that comes from discovering similarities in what we think makes us different.
Are there any challenges in presenting such a personal show alongside a co-star (David Connolly)? If so, what's the process in collaborating on the story and presentation of the show?
I think it's so much easier to present something personal when you have a great support system. David is the best support system I could ever ask for! He was such an important role model for me growing up, especially as a young performer. To have a double amputee to look up to and learn from who had been on Broadway and is now directing and choreographing - I am so glad I met him and it's an honour to share the stage with him every year.
David and I usually sit down in the early summer and brainstorm an overall theme for the concert. From there we try to choose a selection of songs that mean something to us, align with the stories we want to share, and showcase a broad range of the musical theatre repertoire. Our music director and accompanist Anthony Bastianon is an invaluable part of this process - he has such an amazing wealth of musical theatre knowledge... and he's absolutely hilarious!
This year you're bringing two guest performers (Ben Faulknor and Jennifer Pos) into the show - how did you find them, and has their addition changed the format of BOTH?
This year we wanted to bring something fresh to BOTH, so David and I decided to add two guest performers to our roster. David had worked with Ben Faulknor - a leg amputee and performer going into his first year at Sheridan for musical theatre - so obviously he was a natural fit.
And Jennifer and I go way back. We grew up together in the War Amps CHAMP Program, attending seminars as kids and then working as counsellors as we got older. She's an arm amputee and a ridiculously talented piano player - so she fits the bill. We can't wait to have them join us on stage!
What does it mean to you to be able to perform in benefit of the War Amps of Canada?
The War Amps of Canada is an incredible organization. The support they provide for young Canadian amputees is unparalleled - from financial support for artificial limbs, to counselling, to bursaries for post-secondary education. They give kids an opportunity to meet other kids who are just like them - creating an amazing community of amputees helping amputees.
David and I are very grateful to be able to spread awareness and give back to an organization that has given us so much.
You've worked as an ambassador for the War Amps of Canada (and been recognized for that work) before - did that experience have a hand in creating BOTH?
Definitely. I wouldn't be the man I am today without the experience of growing up in the War Amps CHAMP program. The CHAMP program is all about building confidence and showing child amputees that anything is possible - no matter what life throws at you.
They showed me that I wasn't alone by introducing me to other kids just like me, going through the exact same experiences. They funded decades of my prosthetics, making it possible for me to walk, run, ride horses, dance - whatever I wanted to do!
It's hard to express in words how grateful I am for this organization. It was a no-brainer that we would give back to them as David and I were coming up with the concept for BOTH.
The night is set to include performances of both musical theatre and jazz - are there any pieces that you're particularly excited to cover onstage, whether they're new to the show or old favourites you're bringing back?
Well for starters, everything we're performing this year is brand new - so if you've been to BOTH before, this is a whole new show!
It's been a tradition that we perform a big opening number with some sort of fun reveal - so that's always exciting. Last year we had tear-away pants and when we finally revealed our legs in shorts, the audience went wild! We have something similar, but entirely new, planned for this year.
Is there anything else you'd like readers (and audiences) to know about BOTH 3.0 before the performance on October 6?
We would love to see you at the Glenn Gould Studio on October 6 for BOTH 3.0. It's a night of great music, very unique stories, lots of laughs, and lots of leg jokes - all in support of a wonderful cause. Tickets are $30 and proceeds are in support of the War Amps of Canada Child Amputee Program. See you there!
BOTH 3.0 will be staged on October 6 at the Glenn Gould Studio located in the Canadian Broadcasting Centre, 250 Front St. W., Toronto, ON.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://both.brownpapertickets.com/
Photo credit: Bruce Zinger