Introducing Claire Thérèse: Diesel Co-creator and Performer

Claire FriesenHow did you first get involved in theatre?

I was failing pre-calculus math (for the second time) and my father said, “If you can get into something else, like theatre, you can drop math class.” So I randomly auditioned for PTE’s Young Company and they took a chance on me.  I’ve avoided math ever since!

What is your favourite thing about being a theatre artist?

I love the impermanent nature of live theatre.  It is so real and all-consuming when you’re in the middle of it, and then it’s done.  I love that I’ve watched a good play and carried memories from it for years, without ever getting the chance to physically revisit it.  The theatre was the first place I really felt a strong sense of belonging, and guess that’s my favourite thing about being a theatre artist – the extended families that are created in during the process. 

What is your experience with devised theatre? If this is your first, what are your impressions?

My first experience with devised theatre was working with Theatre Incarnate on their show Dionysus is Getting Impatient.  I really loved the process.  I work in community development, so collaboration and innovation are things we strive for constantly.  Devised theatre really relies on diverse perspectives and diverse strengths and gifts.  It is a very different structure than mainstream theatre.

What strikes you most about the experience of working on I Dream of Diesel?

It has been an incredibly inclusive, inspiring, supportive, and collaborative process.  We live in a society that tries to separate and individualize us, so what strikes me most about this project is our ability to maintain harmony, respect and diversity for one another throughout the entire process.  It is a testament to what can be accomplished when we work together.

Any exciting projects coming up?

We’ve been bouncing around some ideas for a new show!  I have an idea that’s been rattling around in my head for a few years, and I would absolutely love to create it with Gwen and Andraea.  I’ll be performing in A Behanding in Spokane at the upcoming Winnipeg Fringe Festival.

Care to tell us more about any other job(s) you may have when you’re not creating theatre?

For the last four years I’ve worked with youth in the North End of Winnipeg at CEDA in their Pathways to Education program.  I coordinate a mentorship program that supports youth in attaining their high school graduation.  It is my dream job.  I feel incredibly honored to spend time with such awesome young people.  I run SIR’s outreach program, Shakespeare in the City, through the Pathways program.  A number of the youth will be performing a Stripped-down Romeo and Juliet in May.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be just about everything when I grew up!  My mom still has my elementary school scrapbook and every year there’s a new list of dreams for the future: firefighter, ballerina, nurse, mother.  For many years I wanted to grow up to be Billie Holiday.  I was a waitress for most of my working life.  So I feel a kinship to Sylvia.

Who do you live with/what type of family do you have?

I live with my partner, Andrew, and a teenager, who is not ours (but we think is awesome!).  Kali and Niko are our furry roommates/children.