A year ago, I was an actor. Now, 365-ish days later and a whole other world apart, I think I’m something else. I used to believe that an artist’s life meant continuously hustling for that next job and staying laser-focused as we did so. While that isn’t totally incorrect, there’s also much more to it than that. For the first two years of my career, I was so focused on the “active” part of it; running to and from auditions and overworking myself to do more projects I could throw onto my resume. Now I’m focusing on the more “passive” parts of this industry. Personal development. Connecting with other artists. Learning. Listening. Funny enough, it took a global pandemic to make me slow down (to all my friends reading this – shut up) and actually think about what I was doing, my sustainability, and the future of it all.
In January 2020, I was preparing to step onto the Colin Jackson stage playing my dream role – Juliet in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). Artistically, it was a grueling, exciting, and emotional experience. Physically, thanks to a flare up of my autoimmune disease, I can only describe the experience as painful, paired with a lovely cocktail of painkillers and energy drinks on the side. (I was thankful every day I did not have to partake in the epic sword fighting my castmates did. Those swords were heavier than they looked. Instead, I got to play with a cool knife; much easier on the wrist.) Throughout the first month of the year as I learned how to delve into Shakespeare and adjust to the nuances of English-speaking theatre, I found myself asking some very pertinent questions I wanted to get answers to. In my opinion, my experience – or lack thereof, became very evident during the course of rehearsals. Was learning on the job and risking utter failure at the same time the only avenue of professional development for an artist like me? Was going back to university the only way to rectify that? Was I going to continue to feel like I was way out of my depth for the rest of my life?
It’s 2021 now. I’m about to turn thirty, and I find that reflecting back to where I was a year ago is just as important as looking forward to the year that lies ahead. I have a play in development, a movie I’m ready to shoot, and a short film getting ready for release with CBC. 365 days and a global pandemic made the difference between checking the box that says “emerging artist” to the one that says “mid-career artist”. There was no rulebook to navigate through such an unexpected turn of events, but I think that we’ve all proved twice over that artists are just as flexible as we are innovative. Thanks to Ardith and Theatre Projects Manitoba, I’m excited to share with you a simultaneous look backwards and forwards at what ended up being the turning point of my professional career, with the hopes of supporting emerging artists and the theatre community along the way. I’m thrilled to share the incredible, frightening and vulnerable journey from actor to… whatever it is I am now. Maybe you can help me decide.