Published on December 7th, 2016 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Kevin Kokoska
Using his own experiences as a counsellor as inspiration, Kevin Kokoska has made the bold creative choice to write and star in his own one-person play, The Mirror Test.
Just ahead of a limited 3-performance run in Vancouver on December 9th and December 10th, we spoke to Kevin Kokoska to find out more about his journey into the arts and what creative tests and rewards were at work in building The Mirror Test.
Can you start by telling us a little bit more about you and The Mirror Test?
The Mirror Test is a one-person play about self-awareness and authenticity. It’s set at a weight loss camp in California where two men who look very different start noticing deep-seeded similarities.
What was the inspiration for this production?
A collision between my clinical and creative worlds. I was doing a master’s degree in counselling psychology at UBC when I started to become very interested in acting. The two are very similar, in my view, and embodying various aspects of self (acting) has recalibrated my empathy meter in a welcome way.
Can you walk us through your writing process from the beginning all the way through to opening night?
I took The Writer’s Studio (TWS) program at SFU and, during that time, I got in the habit of reading works of short fiction at literary open mic nights around the city. I noticed that I would write differently if the piece was intended to be read aloud—the work would be more specific and I would go for more laughs. Around that time I also discovered solo show artist, TJ Dawe. Watching TJ is what planted the solo show seed in my brain.
I tend to work well under a healthy amount of pressure. So, when I noticed the structure of potential play forming in my mind, I booked a theatre venue before I’d even put pen to paper. It was a trap for my future self. The journey from creation to production was far more arduous than I expected, but the trap worked. Along the way I learned how to continue creating under any/all emotional conditions. In the past, I’ve been something of a fair-weather artist—only doing my creative work when I’m feeling “good.” I now see the value in working while experiencing life’s more difficult emotions, too. It stretches you as an artist. It layers the work.
What should audiences expect from this production?
A comedy with compassion that, hopefully, challenges them to take a closer look at themselves.
What are the three most important ingredients for a successful stage production?
- The relationship(s) between members of the production team.
- Not being too tied to your ideas.
- Having an anchor idea to return to as a reminder of meaning when things get overwhelming.
What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned in your career so far?
How to shift from being in my head (my default setting) to being in my body, and the context(s) in which that shift is most important.
What books and authors have been influential in your creative process?
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, Blue Bird by Charles Bukowski, and, as mentioned above, the work of TJ Dawe (who reminded me of Blue Bird during dramaturgy for The Mirror Test).
What other projects do you have coming up and where can people find out more about you?
I am currently working on my next solo show—Nobody’s Boy—which (I hope) to premier at the Vancouver Fringe in 2017.
Thanks to Kevin Kokoska for speaking with us!
You can see The Mirror Test at The Orpheum Annex on December 9th and December 10th, 2016. Visit Kokoska.co for ticket information.