If there were ever a friendship that truly exemplified that of the Companions, it would be the friendship I saw between Eric Wigston and Tory Doctor during Eric’s interview this week. Having known each other for 9 years professionally and personally, the mutual love, admiration and trust was apparent. Their personal jabs at each other and witty banter had me laughing probably more than I was interviewing. And there may have been more said “off the record” than “on the record.”
After having to refocus multiple times back to the actual interview, Eric shared some of his thoughts and incredible insights about his personal history. We get to catch a glimpse into his thought process behind the amazing work he’s done for OBP and his hopes for the future of theater.
Valerie: When did you start acting?
Eric: “I started acting in Junior High. I went to theater school after that and have been working professionally in Alberta since 2009.”
Tory: What was your first show professionally?
Eric: “My first show professionally was “Dirty rotten scoundrels.” I was really young but my tap teacher at school was choreographing the show and one of the cast members had to leave for the last month of the run. They were like, ‘we need someone the same size as this dude because we don’t have enough time to get new costumes’ and I was the same size as this guy. And I could dance. So that’s how it snowballed into more and more work.”
Valerie: What role would you most love to play?
Eric: “At this point in time, I think I’m getting a little old for it, but I’ve always wanted to play Gabe in “Next to normal.” I play a lot of nice characters and that character is a semi-villain throughout it all. And I was like, that’s the role that I want.” (At this point Tory made a shameless plug for a “really handsome villain” in the “Path Less Traveled,” part two of the Greater companions trilogy. Eric asked Tory to give the producer his headshot and Tory informed him that the producer already had it.)
Valerie: Eric, you’ve composed music before right?
Eric: “Yes, I taught myself guitar. I started playing bass guitar when I was 13 or 14. All of my friends played guitar and I wanted to be different. I was like ‘everyone needs a bassist.’ Over time I realized that you can’t just pick up the bass and sing. So I started teaching myself guitar at a young age. I have files and files of riffs and things I’ve composed over the last 12 years. I was in a couple of bands and did a lot of writing there. But for ‘Off the Beaten Path’ specifically, as soon as covid went down, I had a lot of time on my hands and nothing really to do and was like ‘you know what? I’m gunna write some music.’ So I’ve composed two and a half songs for Off the Beaten Path.”
Valerie: What is your favorite composition that you’ve written?
Eric: “There’s something really really special about ‘La Ditty Hey’ for me in the show. Because there’s a whole sense of loss in that song. When I was composing it, I was kind of grieving the loss of theater a bit. And the loss of my career and my profession. I was kind of in this place, ‘why do I feel like I’ve lost another human in my life?’ And I realized that the other human was my stage self. So that’s where my head was at when I started writing. It’s a very personal beautiful song. Tory has written these gorgeous lyrics and beautiful story. As soon as I read it, I realized that there is so much more to this. I heard the melody in my brain before I even wrote the music. That song has a big, special place in my heart.” (We all agreed that we love that song. It makes your eyes sweat.)
Valerie: Is there anyone you look up to as an actor or a performer?
Eric: “Yes… everyone. Having grown up in two really strong theater communities because I was born and raised and Edmonton and I learned a lot from a lot of people. My first show in Calgary was with Tory. It was called ‘Jeremy Deberserack’. I was always a bit of a weirdo growing up. There was this older gentleman in the cast, you might know his name….his name’s Tory Doctor, and he was a *expletive* weirdo! I was like ‘oh, cool…that’s me in a couple years right there. I’m that weirdo.’ I mean Tory’s definitely been one of those people I’ve aspired to be. And we’ve shared the stage on so many different levels throughout my career. I’m looking up to him…literally…because he’s so tall. We did “Spring Awakening” together and “Secret Garden” together. Everyone that I do shows with, I see something in someone and I’m like ‘wow, how do you do that’ and then try to mimic that. There are some amazingly talented people and I’m like wow, I wanna be like you when I grow up.”
Tory: “I wanna be like Eric when I grow up. For the record, I’ve always loved you Eric. I’ve always loved your work. I would take you 10 times out of 10 in any of my productions anywhere ever. The mutual admiration society is in full swing.” (So much love…’the best of friends and perhaps closer too?’ Kidding…kind of.)
Valerie: Besides OPB, what is your favorite stage show?
Eric: “That’s a hard question. Musical wise I’ve always loved “Company.” There’s something about it that I really really like. To play Bobby in Company would be a cool role. Another show that Tory and I did called “Top Secret Musical” and that was a ton of fun. I’m constantly amazed by all the new shows coming up. The way the world is, we are adapting to new ways of putting theater out. OPB is an example of that. I’m so proud to see that our community is working hard to make sure diverse voices are heard. We are still trying to be creative and put out creative work. I’m so excited to see where theater will go. I hope it keeps going, because we need it. I love to see what’s going to happen.”
Valerie: When did you first become involved in OBP?
Eric: “As soon as the world took a turn for the worse. Tory kind of had spoken about the show that he was doing. My wife is really REALLY into D&D, maybe as much as tory is (Tory: Probably more). Tory told me “well I wrote this D&D musical!” I read it through and I was like ‘alright, i”m on board.’ I did 4 readings in a row every weekend as different characters. I felt like I knew all of these characters in different ways and connected to a lot of them in a lot of different ways. I’m loving being able to play these songs. I recently composed for another song called “How do you wanna do this.” It’s more of a rock song, like a Tenacious D meets Anaax.”
Tory: “Because of Eric’s work he has something called “right of first refusal”. So anytime if the show goes up anywhere in Canada, Eric gets the first stab at the role if he wants it. He’s a brilliant actor and fits Anaax so beautifully.”
Valerie: Without giving away any major plot points, what is your favorite line Anaax says?
Eric: “All magic is analogous” (Eric and Tory were both laughing thinking about how Khulgar pronounces it.) “It gets me every time. I have to make sure that I’m reading the script VERY well so I don’t say it wrong.”