By Jeremy Jagusch, Live History head writer
It all started with a phone call. Anytime the subject of Live History comes up, either from seeing a shirt or hoodie I’m wearing (available at our online store found here) or whatnot the natural question is always something to the effect of “how did you get involved with them?” My answer is that it started with a phone call.
A few days or so before Christmas in 2014, I was sitting in my apartment and my phone rang. Jasmine was on the other end of the phone. She was sitting in an airport and telling me about her trip to Bermuda. She was also telling me about this crazy idea she had for a business, the goal of which would be to get people into museums. She also said that when she thought of the idea I was the first person she thought of to start it with her.
The thing with Jasmine is, she said that so casually that you would think she told me she was going to get a soda. Though as she tried to explain her vision to me, I had zero idea what she was talking about. I’m pretty sure my reaction was something along the lines of “that’s nice, sounds fun.” But I didn’t give it much thought. That changed a short time later.
One reason that Jasmine wanted me on board was because I write. I’ve been writing since I was a kid and I’ve been told I’m a natural storyteller. The real history of Live History actually started when Jasmine and I met while I was in film school. I was asked to be the casting director of a short student film. A role that was way out of my wheelhouse. Jasmine was one of the actors who applied for the role and unfortunately didn’t get the part. But I always felt she had a great personality. I remember even in the audition room thinking she could easily play a princess or the girl next door or anything in between. I was the one who called her and gave her the bad news, but we remained in contact. Sometimes she would toss me some filmmaking work, other times I would try to get her in a project I had in mind and so on. Through that, we became great friends.
Once Jasmine took over the sales, things happened fast. It must have been a month or so at best when she called me to let me know that we had our first venue. My immediate reaction was something like “are you being serious?” She was. Now the job was mine to write the script. Well, that’s great. We went over the show idea over the phone for what became our first show, Mary’s Odyssey. To this day it was the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I had spent the majority of my time writing screenplays and stories. Things that had a lot of detail in them to try to suck in the reader and create the world. My idea as an aspiring screenwriter was that if it’s boring to read no one will want to watch it or put money towards it. My entry to screenwriting was pretty basic, going to websites like Drew’s Script – O – Rama http://www.script-o-rama.com/ and reading scripts. Just to learn the language of a script, a proper script. It wasn’t until film school where I learned some of the finer points. Writing the first show, the main note I kept getting was that it was too specific, as in we don’t know what the space will look like yet so we can’t write about the space. Eventually, I was able to hammer out a very rough first draft.
The best way I can describe writing our first shows was giving a tour of an empty warehouse. I was trying to fill the script with possibilities but nothing too specific. Not too long after the first draft was done, I took my first trip to Ottawa, where Jasmine and our other partner Joshua, our game designer lived. Sitting on a chair in the dining room was one of the best moments of my life. Actors and writers are generally very different beings. In film school, I had worked with a few actors of course. But I had never been “inside” before. I had never really collaborated with someone. To me, the process of writing is a solitary venture. I’ll go off to my darkroom and write, present you with the finished product and off we go. Sitting there, however, was the most unique experience I had up to that point because (along with going over the script and improving it with Jasmine and Joshua) I watched Jasmine “find” our Mary. I got to see her, learn about and create the character. To this day, the thing I’m most proud of was getting to witness that. I wouldn’t trade anything for that experience. We refined the script and tightened it. The following day or so I took the six-hour bus ride back home to Toronto.
I can’t remember the exact time frame but maybe a few weeks later our first lead actor, Jeff was on his way to my place. We had our first gig coming up in Picton, Ontario at Macauley House. Jeff was crashing at my place and we were going to leave in the morning. Something I still like to remind Jasmine about was the fact that our wakeup time was the ungodly hour of 3:50 am. I’m a natural night person so it’s very easy for me to stay up until 6 am. But having to WAKE up 3:50 am, not so much. I hardly slept a wink. Shortly after we awoke Jeff and I got ready, had breakfast at Mcdonalds, took a Bluenight bus on TTC to the bus terminal in downtown Toronto. We both caught a 6 am greyhound to Kingston, where Josh and Jasmine would pick us up. We got to the cabin where we would be staying, dropped off our stuff and headed for the venue. We were a day early so the actors could rehearse and get a feel for the space. My role was that of the show manager, or as I deemed myself the butler. It is a role that many more experienced, qualified and talented people have gone on to evolve and perfect. It was while watching Jeff, Jasmine and Joshua, our brilliant show designer work that it finally hit me.
“Ohhh! This is what we’re doing. This is what the shows are! Neat!” It came to life, it was more than just words on a page. We were really here, only 5 months after we dreamed it up. You have to understand I was a film guy if I wasn’t writing. I was spending time on film sets as a gaffer and grip. So this was a totally different universe for me. The next day we got in our costumes, waved to the owners of the cottage who were eating their breakfast and probably thought the circus was in town and went on our way. During the course of the show, I did my best to do my best. At some point, someone from the local newspaper came by and took a photo of our two leads standing in front of the house. I took a photo of that photo being taken. The photo I took appears on our media page, and reminds me of how that first day became the rest of our lives.
I hate talking about writing because I always fear coming off as pretentious. But honestly, there is nothing cooler than hearing amazing actors speak words that I wrote at 3 am. I’ve watched Jasmine perform dozens of times throughout our friendship and I sincerely always enjoyed watching her perform. From the moment she started speaking I had a huge smile on my face. Since the company started I must have seen and heard her perform a hundred times. The thing of it is, I always have that same smile on my face. No matter how many times I hear Jasmine or our other actors say the lines. It’s not that I’m happy they are saying “my” words. I just love the performance, I love that this is my job. I didn’t have to buy a ticket to be there, I got to be there. Jeff was amazing as he always is. Joshua was great and the unsung hero of the day. For me, I was just thrilled to be around these amazing people.
As I write this, it’s now more than 6 years after our first show. Jasmine no longer does most of the shows. Going to our mass rehearsal and seeing 20+ actors and knowing they will go to 10 countries and cover 60 venues a year…..how? How did we get here? How are we here?
It’s because we dreamed and then we did it. Sometimes, it’s simple.
I could not possibly be any more proud of the people I work with, the company I helped build and the shows that I’ve been a part of. If I could change anything, would I? For sure.
For example, if I had the guts I would have gone with my instinct and called Jasmine at 3:50 am to wake her up. Only fair, since we are all on the same team. I have a ton of great memories which I may get into at a later point. Anyway, that is my story. We hope to see you at one of our shows so you can help us make history.
Your next chance will be Round Table: International Waters, May 16th, at 3:00pm, with other show times being added quickly! https://www.facebook.com/events/3276525435693540/ Watch the event for more details!