Jamie Cavanagh is an actor and comedian and has been improvising with Rapid Fire Theatre since 2006. He is a graduate of the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting program at the University of Alberta.

@JamieKnifefight

Jamie Cavanagh

Jamie “Knifefight” Cavanagh

Jamie has performed in cities all over the world including: London UK, Atlanta GA, Chicago IL, Bellingham WA, Vancouver BC, Toronto ON, and Winnipeg MB and has taught as a guest instructor at London’s renowned London Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA).

Past acting credits include: Stanley [Death of a Salesman] for The Citadel Theatre; Nicholas Nickleby [The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby], Leon Katz [The Gertrude Stein Project], Tony [Savage in Limbo], Policeman [Good Person of Setzuan] for Studio Theatre; Claudio [Much Ado About Nothing], 1st Murderer [Macbeth], Martius [Titus Andronicus], and Gaoler [Comedy of Errors] for the Freewill Shakespeare Festival; Bernard Litko [Sexual Perversity in Chicago for Quiet Things Creative; Edmund [Edmund], and Todd [The Overnight] for Mer-Man Productions; Zastrozzi [Zastrozzi: Master of Discipline] and Alex [The Suvival of Pigeons As Studied by Human Lovers] for Surreal SoReal Theatre; and Hamlet [Hamlet], Romeo [Romeo and Juliet], and Rudi [East of Berlin] for the University of Alberta.

“Jamie Cavanagh is literally a force of nature from which there is surely no escape.”
– Kevin Gillese
“Improvising with Jamie Cavanagh is like stuffing a rabid pleasure weasel in your pants!”
– Chris Craddock

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE:

TV Show: The Wire
Book/Author: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Film: Perfume: Story of a Murderer, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Departed
Play: The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh
Performer: Christopher Plummer, Daniel Day Lewis, Raul Esparza
Music/Song: Hopsin – “The Ill Mind of Hopsin 5”
Website: twitter.com, 8tracks.com, 5secondfilms.com
Food: Tacos
Place to eat: Tres Carnales
Place in Edmonton: The Next Act

HOW DID YOU GET INTO IMPROV?

I wanted to be an accountant in high school so as a pre-emptive strike to university I took a whole bunch of financial management courses as options. Some people take art and drama and phys-ed as options but I took financial management. That turned out to be a poor decision and I started stressing myself out. So, as a break my best friend at the time said “They’re doing this improv thing at lunch. You would be good at it, and should come and do it.” This was in Grade 11, and I had never taken a drama course at this point and so I got into improv and really liked it. The next term I switched all of my financial management courses to drama. I really liked it and got into a couple of plays and then in Grade 12 we won the Nosebowl and got into Rapid Fire. That’s when I met Chris Craddock and decided to be an actor.

HOW DID YOU MEET CHRIS CRADDOCK?

We were at the Nosebowl in Grade 12, and it was the second-last day of the tournament. We do a set and I go to the washroom and Chris Craddock, who was a total celebrity in my eyes at the time, walks in and uses the urinal next to me. I have a little freak out and I go and wash my hands and he comes and washes his hands and he said, “Hey, great set.” I said thank you and he said, “Keep it up.” Then he walked out and that’s when I first met Chris. Shortly after he took me into the company and gave me a lot of responsibility for my age and experience level and I like to think I thrived in that. I moved up in the company quickly. I was playing in the second half with in a year. Being around Crad, and seeing his energy, his attack and love and passion was great. It made me passionate about improv and I decided to take drama in university and see where that route took me.

CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE PERCEIVED DIFFERENCE BETWEEN IMPROV AND WHAT MANY CONSIDER TRADITIONAL “ACTING”?

I would argue that there is less than a difference than people’s feelings suggest. Improv is perfect spontaneity. You’re literally walking on stage with nothing to say, nothing memorized and nothing planned, and your intention is to entertain an audience for an hour with nothing. With “acting” you have had time to rehearse, time to prepare, but ultimately it’s the same thing. Improv is the discipline of being in the moment, moving things forward and saying yes. Acting is also the discipline of being in the moment, moving things forward and saying yes.

HAS IMPROV EVER SAVED YOU DURING ONE OF YOUR PLAYS?

When I was in high school we did a play that involved me being a con artist and I sat down on this stool and it shattered. It felt like I was laying on my back for five minutes, it was probably only a second and a half, and I shot back to my feet and in this scene I had to sell my partner on stage this stool. Since that wasn’t an option anymore, I changed it to my shoes. We did the same scene interchanging adjectives and jokes originally meant for the stool to fit my shoes. By the end everyone thought that’s what the script said. They thought it was trick stool that was meant to break.

TELL US ABOUT THE IMPROV MARATHONS YOU’VE PLAYED IN:

I’ve done the improv marathon in London as well as the Soap-a thon here in Edmonton. When you finish a 50-hour story that makes sense, has catharsis and asks questions and all the characters go on a long, huge journey where all the characters change multiple times. You go from villain to hero to lover, it’s this beautiful Dickensian mosaic. It’s rewarding to be able to say I created a weekend-long show. It’s a really emotional experience.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO LITERALLY SPEND TWO DAYS IN THE MIND OF A CHARACTER?

It’s great. After one of the marathons my buddy Matt said you go in as strangers and you leave as best friends. It’s like going to war together. You say to your friends, “Remember when we were on the beach after slaying that monster and our ship got destroyed in the waves and we were sitting on the beach.” You have these conversations where you recount these memories as if they actually happened. And they did, it’s just that they happened in a little theatre on the west end of London not on an actual beach. It becomes a reality in your personal relationship.