What's Upintheair with performer, director, writer and creator Conor Wylie!

rEvolver festival and Upintheair theatre alumni Conor Wylie has so many exciting projects on the horizon we thought it would be a good time to ask him ‘what’s up’ and other fun questions!


Conor Wylie is a performer, director, writer, and creator of new works of experimental theatre. He is the co-artistic director of A Wake of Vultures, regular collaborator of Hong Kong Exile, and the current COLLIDER Artist-in-Residence of Theatre Replacement. He was selected by his friend and mentor Marcus Youssef for the Mayor's Arts Award for Emerging Theatre Artist in 2017.

Conor likes to play at the edges: between performer and audience and between disciplinary boundaries. His work is mischievous, whimsical, and strange. He's made game-shows, shows with video games, fake motivational speeches, and other weird biz. He ain't crazy bout dat 4th wall. For Upintheair, Conor performed as Detective Qussim Dhatt in The City and the City (collaboration with The Only Animal).

He also wore a variety of turtlenecks and animal masks in OOOO's twisted game show, ALL THE WAY, at the rEvolver Festival in 2017.

dino - Conor Wylie.jpg

Describe yourself in the format of a character synopsis.

Conor Wylie disappears and reappears at odd intervals. We frequently wonder whether he's still around. From chapter to chapter his style changes from patterned shirts to norm-core neutrals, etc, with no apparent through-line. The viewer should be unsure if it is the same guy they have met before.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I wouldn't call it an achievement. Maybe the opposite... but something I'm proud of was pulling the plug on the forward career-and-life momentum to travel, party, experiment, get lost, explore queerness and non-monogamy, and generally open up to the unknown in a vulnerable period around my 30th birthday. It was scary and messy, and definitely worth it.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for the theatre?

A solo show. Twice. WHY? SO LONELY :'(

Do you have any hidden talents?

Catching food in my mouth. I'm talking long distance catches, running catches, diving catches, food thrown from the balcony. Once in university at SFU we did a show where my buddy Sean Marshall Jr. threw a dino-sour across the stage and I caught it in my mouth while falling backwards, and I got the loudest, most enthusiastic ovation I've ever received on stage. CHEAP THRILLS, BABY.

money - Conor Wylie.jpg

What's one show and/or event in the Vancouver theatre scene you have loved?

Progress Lab's HIVE 2 at Magnetic North was a formative viewing experience for me. 11 companies in one massive warehouse making a variety of micro-pieces you had to rush around to see. So much formal exploration, such irreverent weird experiments. I was enthralled by the buzz in the room, of seeing so many respected companies collaborate rather than compete. I think that's very indie Vancouver and it's the vibe I cherish. The individual works I saw, and especially the form of the whole evening, really shaped my path when I was just starting to discover my aesthetics and practice.

If you could sit down with any theatre artist living or dead and have a long chat, who would you sit down with?

Madelyn Kent. I don't really have big theatre heroes. Madelyn Kent is a humble and cool writer from NYC who has reinvented her practice a few times. I came to her work as a student, when I discovered her plays Enoshima Island and Sachiko in an anthology called New Downtown Now (curated by Young Jean Lee and Mac Wellman). The plays are these bizarre, disjointed slice-of-life stories created through English-language improvisations with her Japanese ESL students. Now she teaches a program called Sense Writing. We met in NYC and I'd love to sit down and chat with her more.

When did you realize you wanted to be an actor?

Many times forgotten and rediscovered. In first-year at SFU: After getting kicked out of Ryerson Theatre School a couple years before, I was low on confidence. I took Vancouver darling Patti Allan's intro acting course at SFU and she was just the mother I needed to get me back on my feet.

If you could only use one prop onstage for the rest of your life, what prop would you choose?

Those glasses with the nose and moustache.

Seeing as how one of Upintheair Theatre's mandate involves supporting the next generation of theatre makers, what advice would you give to an emerging artist living in Canada?

Don't attach your self-worth to how much work you are getting. I was lucky to go through a training program that empowers its students to create their own work. I think there's a lot of competition in theatre schools. You jockey with your classmates to get the leading parts. You create a sense of self-worth based on how often you are chosen for them. You get out of school, you do the audition circuit, you get a few good gigs and you feel like dynamite, but as soon as you miss out on a few, and the momentum shifts, your self-worth plummets because if directors aren't casting you, you think you have no value. You're not good enough. WILL YOU EVER WORK AGAIN? That's a real trap for young artists, and all artists, really. Instead, I say: work on what you want to work on. Keep training. Make friends and stage the things you want to stage. Seek out your own funding, like the BCAC Early Career Development Grant. Create your own systems for evaluating the success of your practice. When you get hired for gigs, GREAT. But when you don't, you'll have a foundation of collaborators and your own creative practice to lean on.

Now finally… what’s Upintheair? Give us the details of your show? Juicy details.

RIGHT NOW: MINE by Theatre Replacement Nov 14 - 17 (hurry on down!)

Where? Shadbolt Centre for the Arts

GET YOUR TICKETS NOW: https://tickets.shadboltcentre.com/TheatreManager/1/tmEvent/tmEvent1090.html

It's a sprawling and cinematic exploration of the mother-son relationship through the lens of myth, pop culture, and personal stories, using the sandbox computer game Minecraft as the container. This show feels seriously fresh! It's for the classic gamers, fans of anime and Adventure Time, classic films like Bambi and the Terminator. It's irreverent and so fun to perform. I get to do so many silly voices. But what I think is surprising to audiences so far is how cinematic it is. Huge landscapes, epic skylines. It's not just a little kiddie game (though we have 4 awesome kids playing with us), it also has a lot of dark beauty and deep questioning.

ON THE HORIZON: GIRL RIDES BIKE A team of 8-artists co-writing an algorithmic (like a beefed up Choose Your Own Adventure) science-fiction motorbike chase through a Utopian, post-scarcity world. Dozens of characters, story-lines, and competing outcomes that are chosen by computer, performers, and audience for a radically different experience each night. ETA 2021-22

K BODY AND MIND Another piece of sci-fi performed by two badass women of colour: a blend of theatrical minimalism and maximalist 90s anime cyberpunk. A cyborg security agent investigates the strange case of The Crying Woman, some sort of glitch occurring in their company's "body-share" program (think Airbnb for bodies). Commissioned by Theatre Replacement as part of their COLLIDER Artist-in-Residence program. ETA 2020-21.

Production photo from MINE (Theatre Replacement)

Production photo from MINE (Theatre Replacement)