I’ve come to notice lately that in most of my posts I’m talking about my health and fitness changes, and while that’s been beneficial for me in order to track progress and really motivate myself it isn’t actually the reason I started this blog. When I first purchased my domain and started to set this place up my hope was to just put some of my thoughts out into the world in a way that was a little more organized and structured than a rampant Facebook post. I wanted to share the things I love in life not only to brighten the days of others but to make myself smile as well. While my fitness posts have been full of positivity and personal enlightenment, I am more than what workout I did or how many calories I consumed. In order to get back to posting more about life in general I’ve decided that today I’m going to talk a little bit about a place that is near and dear to my heart: the theatre.
Growing up, it was always the expectation in my household that every year I would be part of at least one extracurricular activity. I was never the type to be on multiple (or any) sports teams and it’d be a far cry to find me in a number of after school clubs but I stuck by the rule and tried one thing every year. One year was clogging, another involved adventure camps, but theatre was the thing that stuck. My first dramatic arts experience was as Merlin in The Sword in the Stone at our local YMCA. I went back to that club a year later and played Lord Farquad in Shrek, though I had desperately auditioned for the park of Donkey. I spent the show on my knees, got a lot of laughs, and had a ton of fun.
Throughout elementary school I was part of little in class productions and somehow came up with the horrid idea to reenact a scene from the Van Helsing movie as part of a school talent show. As campy and ridiculous as it all was it was something that was absolutely instrumental in creating the young woman I am today. When high school rolled around I nervously auditioned for the school’s student written production and somehow made the cut. Even when stupid braces gave me a lisp my directors and the cast stood by me, letting me know I was still a valuable part of that theatre family.
With each passing year I auditioned for the next production and enrolled in whatever drama class I could. As someone who was incredibly shy when it came to social situations, theatre was an outlet that helped bolster my confidence. In my senior year of high school the final act of that confidence came in the form of a little show called On the Line which I had written. That show, although it was definitely the prime example of unpolished writing of a seventeen year old, remains one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. The kind words I heard from teachers I dearly respected, and the sense of family I got from that drama class are unparalleled in many ways.
But as high school ended and the treacherous days of university began I found that I pulled away from the home I’d made myself in the dramatic arts. I had friends who dove into studying the arts while I went off to what I then considered a more practical route in Psychology and Sociology. But despite all of this, I never lost my love of theatre, I just started to be a part of it from the other side of the curtain.
I’ve had some great opportunities to sit in the audience of some wonderful shows and to watch others on the big screen. I have more ticket stubs stashed away from the past fifteen years of my life than most people would have for their lifetime. I’ve sat in the very back row and the very front. I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve cheered, and my heart has come home in those theatre seats time and time again. It was never about being on stage or even behind it, to me it was always that sense of belonging I got from being there.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my love of the theatre recently because this past Friday I have began a return to my performing roots. While my stage will now be the streets of Toronto and my character is simply myself in a cloak, carrying a latern, my adventure as part of the Haunted Walks team is something I’m regarding as kismet. As I begin to memorize the stories I’ll be telling this summer, I’m excited for my return to performing and I believe it will be something that does more than put some money in my bank account.
So I guess this is my love letter to not only the theatre but to all the people who made it part of my life. To my grandmother who sewed that first costume for my role as Merlin, to my parents who picked me up from rehearsals and allowed me to raid our family home for props and costumes. To Mrs. Hinch, my first drama teacher who encouraged me to stick with it and to Mr. Coo, who spent an entire rehearsal with me annunciating vowels over my jaw widener so people would actually understand me when show time came. To Katie and Kimiko, the brilliant creators of that first show I was in who empowered a shy grade nine into a life loving the stage. To Mz. JP who believed in the power of my writing and who never failed to remind me that it was my show. To every cast member I’ve acted alongside or have had the pleasure of directing, to every crew member who trusted me to lead them in set changes and entrance cues. To the friends and family who sat on uncomfortable cafeteria benches to watch me get stuck down a garbage shoot (a set piece, not a real one) or to clap along as I came out for a final bow. Thank you. Thank you so much. I wouldn’t be who I am today without all of you.
Finally, to every artist on the stage or behind it whose audience I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of, thank you for keeping theatre alive and well in my heart. Thank you for bringing me home again.