I realise this post has been long overdue. My partner in ‘theatrical adventures’ Neil, has already told his story and how it all started, I suppose it’s about time for mine.
When I was growing up, my parents constantly told me the story of how, at the age of 2, I was taken to an amusement park and a brass band started playing. I ran right up to them and started providing entertainment in the form of dancing. Apparently there was a lone video camera (one of those old skool ones with a VHS loader on the side) who captured my first performance. If only I could get a hold of it!
Fast forward a few years into primary school and I was cast as Emily Jane in The Ransom of Emily Jane. Who knew I would play a rotten spoiled rich child so well? For some reason, it was easy for me to do it. In retrospect I don’t think it was the theatre bug that bit me, but luck? Chance? In the same year as my theatrical debut, I learned how natural it felt to be onstage, had an accident involving the set (not so much Health & Safety back then) which left a scar on my right wrist, and realised that I was a visible minority (that is a whole other story). But it did the job it needed to do. From then on, I naturally stepped into extracurricular theatre groups throughout secondary school.
It was the moment a young person starts getting questioned about their future that it really got tense. I knew I was going to uni, but I didn’t know how to convince my parents to let me study theatre. I started researching options quite early on and came across a program that was at a very reputable university and involved practical and academic theatre studies. I was lucky (?) enough to be accepted into the Theatre & Drama Studies Program at the University of Toronto. The time had come to take everything a bit more seriously and to embrace the theatre arts. The program was without a doubt, the perfect one for me; well-rounded with a taste for everything and a piece of paper at the end of it with the university’s stamp on it.
Theatre school tends to be a bubble and I realised early on that my journey only began there. There was so much to see and do outside of the bubble and I couldn’t wait until I could start exploring. My taste in theatre refined itself and I was drawn to modern stories – ideas and experiences I could relate to. At the time and perhaps even still today, Canadian theatre wasn’t very good at colour-blind casting. As an actor, I struggled with finding projects which challenged me creatively and artistically. And then one day, I needed a break. I wanted to pay my bills. I wanted to feel in more control of my life. I wanted to stop working 3 jobs at the same time, making lattes and serving food. I wanted a change. I ‘retired’ from the pursuit of being an actor.
Years and detours passed. I drove a massive lorry shaped like a monster named Oooze across Canada, and went behind the scenes in TV production. All the while, I was writing and creating secretly. I finally took the plunge – something I had personally wanted to do for a few years – quit my job and came to London. Being here was exciting and new but completely overwhelming. I had no idea how to branch out into the theatre world. I came from a small city knowing many people in the tiny theatre community and now no one.
These days my outlook has changed. I feel extremely fortunate to have been involved with Old Vic New Voices and to have met Neil. Not only that, but with every project we create, we attract amazing people and for this I am grateful for. Somehow I knew that there were others out there, but I’m only realising the truth of it. I feel passionately about creating opportunities which challenge every individual involved: playwright, director, actor, audience member. I also firmly believe that it doesn’t matter what theatre school you’ve been to, or what your CV says. People have stories inside them, we should make them feel safe to let them out.
I’m still on my own journey, figuring things out, being kind to myself, crafting, cycling, and creating as I go. I guess as a fall back plan I could go back to school to become a librarian… and yes, there is such a thing as a Masters of Library and Information Studies. Until then, onwards and upwards.
Theatre created by people like you that reflects people like you, made with people like you in mind.