Heidi Specht

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Woman of the Week Before – Heidi Specht

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Here’s a little bit about her:
Heidi has been working as a professional actor, director, producer and teacher since 1990. She is the Artistic Director of Pangaea Arts, an award-winning intercultural, interdisciplinary, world arts company based in Vancouver. One of their productions, The Gull: The Steveston Noh Project, was awarded the prestigious Uchimura Naoya Prize from Japan. Heidi’s performing and training in theatre have taken her to Europe, Asia, Russia and all over North America.

Her performance experience and training is very diverse, ranging in styles from masked theatre to circus to Noh theatre and Chinese opera. She is also co-artistic director of The Trollsons, a masked family of Scandinavian trolls.

And here’s how she answered my 6 questions about creativity:

What does it mean to you to be creative?
To use my imagination and take myself out of my comfort zone in any activity or aspect of my life. To build something from nothing.

What inspires your creativity?
It is a difficult question. I find inspiration everywhere, and things just suddenly strike me from out of the blue at any time unexpectedly. My interests are wide and I am very curious. Any time I apply myself to something full heartedly my imagination is sparked and I find that I am taken in and always surprised by what I discover. I think that is what I love so much about being in a creative field. Life is always full of wonderful discoveries and the creativity is always present and available if I trust. If I had to narrow in on major sources of inspiration for my creativity it would be music and sounds from my environment, as well as travel. Travel has exposed me to new cultures and approaches to life which have helped exponentially to expand my creative vocabulary and ability to view things from different angles. And I have learned so much from watching my son play, his ability to be open and receptive at all times.

What keeps you moving forward in making things happen?
I’ll be inspired by an idea for a project and I can’t rest until I see it to fruition. Sometimes ideas will rest for awhile and many years will pass until the time is right to dust it off and make it my main priority. Other times the idea will pass and it no longer seems relevant. Sometimes I feel squeezed dry after a long arduous process of producing a project and I wonder if I will have the energy to continue. But it won’t take long and after several months the idea-o-meter is ticking and I can’t help myself but dive into another project. I am not sure what motivates me to continue. Sometimes I wonder if it is a disease that I need to be cured of. But ultimately it is what feeds me. My imagination, my desire to create and take a dream from idea to reality. That is an extremely rewarding and empowering process.

What’s the wildest journey your venturesome spirit has taken you on?
I’ve done a lot of international travel and living and studying in foreign countries. They were all wild journeys that challenged me beyond my comfort zone, but this one proved to be challenging on a much deeper level, as I had to weigh my decision to be there in the first place. I had been awarded a study grant to learn Beijing opera clown in China, yet my son was only one years old. Here was one of the big tests of motherhood, to continue with career and dreams, or put them on hold. I decided, with the support of my family, to continue on the path I had set in motion before my son was born. This was an amazing opportunity to live with one of the last living legends of the “Nan Dan” role type (male who plays female roles), and study with an elderly clown in his company. There were moments when I seriously questioned my choices. It did not help when the Chinese television crew who had decided to document my studies asked me while filming “do you love Chinese opera more than your son”, which caused me to burst into tears on camera. This same film crew loved drama, they sprayed my face with water to make it look like I was sweating while training.

There were many intense moments on this trip, like riding on the back of my teachers’ motorbike through alleys and on sidewalks in order to get to an opera costume shop, in complete fear of losing my life. The traffic is insane; constant tailgating, nonstop honking and braking, and changing lanes without signaling. Strangely I have never seen one car accident in China, there seems to be some kind of divine order in the chaos. This trip challenged me every step of the way, but I also had some magnificent, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, such as performing with my teacher’s opera troupe at a concert for rural factory workers on New Years Eve, and the audience was overjoyed to see a foreigner performing their art form – there was a connection that I will never forget, and it is somehow the essence of the kind of work I am doing.

In the end, my family and I survived, my absence did not make the sky fall down, and indeed my husband and son bonded greatly during this trip. I can now thank my venturesome spirit for pushing me to keep my dreams alive. I have been back to China several times since, and my son is very interested. He often talks about wanting to go there himself one day, and he is a huge fan of Monkey King, a character in the Chinese opera. It has become a positive part of his life experience as well.

What’s the boldest, most provocative statement you are willing to make about yourself, your business or the industry that you are in?
Don’t rely on anyone else to tell you when you can be creative. Create the opportunities for yourself. Follow your own path and the rewards will be so much greater.

What’s next for you?
I have been developing a new project with Pangaea Arts for the last two years, which will finally come to fruition in November of 2010. We commissioned the renowned Canadian author Paul Yee to write a new play about Cumberland Chinatown on Vancouver Island in 1900 and the touring Chinese opera troupes that toured BC at the time. This project pays tribute to the contribution of Chinese coal miners and to the long and rich history of Chinese opera in Canada. We are collaborating with renowned Cantonese opera performers from China and Singapore. I’m also touring with our masked troll characters The Trollsons, and developing some very original and unique street theatre acts, based on international forms of street theatre. So, lots of really exciting and stimulating work ahead.

And here’s something that inspires her creativity:

When it comes to creativity Japanese animation director and artist Hayao Miyazaki is king in my books. He is an endless source of exceptionally beautiful, insightful and creative ideas.


Thanks Heidi, love your spark filled imagination.