In Pictures: A Day in the (Wonderful) Life with Shaquille Pottinger

Photo by Shaquille Pottinger.

You may think you know It’s a Wonderful Life.

But Young People’s Theatre (YPT)’s take on the holiday favourite turns George Bailey’s story of regret and redemption on its head, adding live Foley effects to create a rich, inventive soundscape. It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, adapted by Joe Landry, builds an entire world out of a 1940s radio broadcast, complete with retro jingles and Christmastime flair.

Shaquille Pottinger returns to the YPT stage as Jake Laurents, who doubles as George in the radio play-within-a-play. Intermission caught up with Pottinger to walk through a day in the (wonderful) life of YPT’s big-hearted holiday show, playing until December 30.

“So in terms of the part these pictures play in the show, they’re purely aesthetic,” said Pottinger. “They’re pieces I guess the production thought would look specific to the time period. But as an actor, looking at these pictures really inspires me. I don’t know what it is about them. From an actor’s perspective, they seem like my forefathers and foremothers, and especially the picture of the Black gentleman. There’s something about him and his aura. I feel like he paved the way for my character to be here.”

Later in our interview, Pottinger added, “I’m so blown away by the original movie, and how relevant it is even today. I’m struck by the diversity of the movie…it’s been interesting to dissect the background. There were a lot of people of colour in the background in 1946, when race relations obviously weren’t their best. So that was really interesting to see. It felt like this director in 1946 made a conscious decision to reflect the real world and how diverse it is.”

“So when I’m doing a show, I’m gonna decorate my dressing room,” said Pottinger. “For The Darkest Dark, it was all space-themed. This year I did everything Christmas. You can’t just have a plain white wall during this kind of play — you have to spice it up a bit! So I have my baubles, and my garland, and some mementos.”

“My grandma got me the “follow your dreams” sign when I was in college. I remember one time I was devastated because it broke into pieces, and I glued it back together. And if you look at it, the glue, it’s kinda haphazardly done. It’s a little ugly…but for me it enhances the message that even if your dreams are broken, you can repair them.”

“This is my breakfast. The little dessert was brought for the whole cast, it was a vegan pineapple pastry,” Pottinger said. “If there’s one thing about breakfast, I never understand people who only like savoury or only like sweet. I like them both together, all the time!,” he added with a laugh.

“I’m known as the patty guy around here,” he said. “I thrive on patties. If you look in the freezer, you’ll see boxes and boxes of patties, because they’re so simple and easy to make. I don’t like stressing over food. I just want something in 30 seconds.”

“I thought it fit with the theme, with Clarence and everything, my guardian angel,” said Pottinger. “That’s why I put the angel at the very tip top of the room. I like having her watch over me, kind of like a good luck charm.”

“As you can tell, everything’s on theme,” said Pottinger. “Before shows I like to play music. There’s these really specific types of YouTube videos that will play, like, ‘nostalgic songs you hear playing in another room while a fire crackles in the background.’ I love something specific like that. I find it relaxing.”

“I made this stocking in second grade,” Pottinger said. “And what strikes me about it is how simple it is for a child to have made. I’m like, ‘Why didn’t I put more stars or more snowflakes on it?’. But I remember as a kid, even now, I always hate doing what other people are doing. I always have to be different. I was born a hipster. I have no doubt in my mind that second-grade Shaquille looked around himself, and saw all these kids putting snowflakes and stars all over their stocking, and said, ‘You know what? I’m going to keep it simple.’ And that’s what I came up with.”

“I normally don’t go to the front of the space,” said Pottinger. “Maybe in the beginning, before opening, I’d go sit out there, and really familiarize myself with the space. But it’s cool to see how it looks when it’s empty.”

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play runs at YPT until December 30. Tickets are available here.

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Written By

Aisling is Intermission's senior editor and an award-winning arts journalist with bylines including the Toronto Star, NEXT Magazine, CTV News Toronto, and Maclean's. She likes British playwright Sarah Kane, most songs by Taylor Swift, and her cats, Fig and June.