I have so many wonderful memories of theatre over the course of almost 40 years of being involved – that truly seems wild! Unlike many others, my only interest in theatre as child and teenager was as an enthusiastic member of the audience – which I thoroughly enjoyed! In my early 20’s a business colleague thought I needed an outlet for my frenetic energy and suggested that I come to a one act play reading. Must against my better judgement, I went along to what was then known as Bramalea Little Theatre and auditioned for the BBDF – the Bramalea Backstage Drama Festival. I didn’t want to audition, but was persuaded to “read”, and the rest as they say is history! I have been involved in well over 100 productions, both onstage and backstage. I truly love theatre, and especially the many wonderful people I have met and connected with. Theatre has truly fed my soul, and has been my friend, support and outlet through good times and bad.
It’s really difficult to pinpoint one memory that stands out – there are many – from the comedic to the poignant. On the funny side I recall performing in a dinner theatre production of Move Over Mrs. Markham – one of the actors was frantically trying to “hide the evidence” of a paramour, when he accidentally flipped a shoe he picked up into the audience. The shoe dangled on a chandelier for a moment then landed with a clunk in someone’s dinner plate. The audience exploded with laughter. Unfortunately so did the actor who had me over his shoulder with nothing but a bed sheet covering my top half. The more he laughed the further the sheet slipped! Fortunately we made it offstage before all was revealed. The funniest part was the actor that flipped the shoe was oblivious to what happened, and came off stage saying,”my God – they love me out there tonight!!!”
On a more poignant note, I sadly lost my first baby late in pregnancy – this was a very difficult time for me, but I had the opportunity to take on a really challenging role of The Woman in Veronica’s Room with the Credit Valley Dramatic Society. This is a VERY dark play, and required me to reach into the darkest parts of myself to portray a believable character who was a psychopath among other very nasty things. I worked with a cast who were amazing, and this very dark play was incredibly cathartic in so many ways. The director, Brenda Worsnop, was so understanding, and she remains one of my dearest friends to this day. The play one several awards in the ACTCO drama festival, and I received the award for best actress. A bittersweet memory indeed – when the award was presented, I was at home with my newborn daughter 🙂
Two of my favourite roles have been in Willy Russel plays – Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine. I love Willy Russel’s work – he writes from the heart, and so beautifully captures the people of Liverpool, a city I lived quite close to growing up. The women in both of these plays are such incredibly resilient and funny characters, and they grow throughout the show. Rita is raw, uneducated with a driving desire to learn at the beginning of the play, and by the end of the play she becomes the one with knowledge and insight that transcends that of her tutor. One of the most thrilling parts of doing Rita, was my Mum got to see me perform – I may have been involved in over 100 shows, but my Mum only got to see two and Educating Rita was one of them. It was really sweet hearing her tell folk in the audience “that’s my daughter”. Shirley Valentine is a one woman show when performed on stage, so that was a very different challenge – rehearsing without other actors was a very unique experience, but it was fun working really intimately with the director and producer. An actor’s greatest fear is dropping or losing lines on stage, and in a one person show -you are it. Strangely, once the lights went up on stage each evening, I never worried about forgetting the lines, for those 2 hours, I became Shirley, and became very adept at cooking chips (french fries) and egg (fried eggs) on stage each show. I think this role has perhaps been my favourite to date – such a poignant, funny, and ultimately triumphant character – I was so privileged to have had this opportunity.
A couple of the more recent shows I loved were Waiting for the Parade – where I played Margaret, Silent Sky where I played Williamina Flemming, and Drowning Girls which I directed. Such different plays and roles – one dramatic, one comedic and one avant garde. All performed in the intimate space of the Firehall Theatre in Cobourg – a very special space to perform. The connection to the audience is visceral, and this works so well for some shows – especially one like Drowning Girls where the actors interact with each other and the audience almost seamlessly.
I think plays can provide us with so much variety – I have been a hooker, dancer, mother, daughter, aunt, lover, wild child, nun, murderer, psychic, nurse, wife, love interest, the other woman, a grand dame, a Norwegian, Brit, New Yorker, Irish, Scot, Canadian and many others I can’t even remember. But what I do remember is the sheer joy that I get from working alongside so many talented and wonderful people and have the chance to bring a smile or a tear or evoke a special emotion in the audience.