“Theatre fills people in so many ways, emotionally and mentally. People discover things about themselves after being able to see theatre or help contribute in interactive shows. It helps us meet each other at our needs, usually ones that we don’t realize. The kids, the people here in Waterloo Region? They need that.”
What was it like growing up in the Waterloo Region?
Growing up in the Waterloo Region was a very fruitful experience. There were always so many different cultures, and my schoolteachers were always wonderful and encouraging. So many of my teachers, as a younger person, were the reason that I believed I could do so much more with art. Of course, there’s always issues growing up, but I really had a good support system, and helpful role models in my life to lift me up. I was a pretty sheltered kid, so I would let my imagination run wild with ideas of what I could accomplish.
Describe your process to becoming a professional artist.
My process was a little unconventional. Like I said, I loved to get wrapped up in my imagination, so I took a little detour from theatre and applied to study Political Science at University of Waterloo, where I also studied studio art. I continued doing community theatre outside of university, but it wasn’t my focus. I was worried about pursuing a career in the arts, scared it was simply a pipe dream that wouldn’t amount to any success. But after achieving my Bachelors I found myself two years out of school and getting further wrapped up in community theatre. A teacher of mine from my Glee club told me I had to audition for Drayton Entertainment’s General Auditions. After getting that job I made the decision that I was going to pursue a career in the arts full time.
Remember that you’ve been given talents, gifts and abilities that you get to share with those around you.
What would you pass on to anyone considering the profession full-time or part-time?
Two things. First, this profession feeds us. Everybody eats, and by that I mean we feed off our own creativity, the creativity of others or the absence of creativity in a pocket where we feel it’s lacking. It’s wonderful that the work we create moves in a beautiful cycle like that. Now having said that, in my experience the industry can bring you a lot of highs and lows and the contrast between the two can be very intense. When you come to realize that, remember what I’ve said about your work feeding you. Remember that you’ve been given talents, gifts and abilities that you get to share with those around you. Continue to feed yourself as much as you can in the highs and the lows, and never slack off because things are going well or because they aren’t. Number two, know what your version of success looks like and be okay with that. Whether it’s being an award winner or having many different outlets, know what it is. For me personally, my version of success is to be the best I can possibly be. That way I can create spaces for others, both in the industry and outside so they can indulge in their own artistic skills.
Who are some of the people that influence you? What about them specifically influences you? How does this fuel or show up in your work?
A lot of my friends really; when I see their growth in the industry and their passion, it just makes me want to dig even deeper into my own. Also, black female actors like Lupita N’yongo, Danielle Brooks, Issa Rae, Viola Davis – really everyone you can think of. Because they are able to share their work on such a grand scale. Through their work I’m reminded that as a black woman, I have a unique approach to acting that needs to be seen, in order to make others feel seen. I try to audition for shows that have higher amounts of BIPOC representation. To feel seen is so important to that feeding of other artists, and for that reason I try to be conscious of my own responsibility
I am self-taught, I didn’t go to [theatre] school, so I had to figure out connections for myself, and what way of learning was best for me.
What was it like being in the Canadian Premiere of the monumental, powerhouse musical, The Colour Purple? How did this experience change you as an artist and a human being?
The Color Purple was my dream, and I got to live my dream twice! It was easily one of the highlights of my life. That music, that story child! To perform in that show showed me that I wanted to be as good as I possibly could be as an actor, to get to tell more stories like this about the complexities of life. The Color Purple is a human story. That push and pull of light and darkness constantly straining on the lives of so many. How people aren’t necessarily bad, they just exhibit bad qualities for some amounts of time. There’s always so many levels to a story, and at the end of the day this is what life looks like for so many people. They can be victorious in finding the beauty in their life, if they can allow the light to come back in.
A common setback for aspiring actors is that they do not have the training or the connections to “break into the business”. Do you have any words of wisdom on this topic?
Yes, I identify with that so much. I think the most important thing to do is to go seek out the training and connections. I am self-taught, I didn’t go to school, so I had to figure out connections for myself, and what way of learning was best for me. That for me was being a part of KW Glee when I was younger, but as I got older it became about training in the studio and on the job. So if you want to pursue theatre and you’re able to take the time to apply and go to school? Do it. If you’re late to the party, or if you’re like me and don’t respond well in school settings, take as many independent classes you can. That’s how you make integral connections that can last your career. Look up the training around you and do whatever is necessary to get to it or reach out to people and see if you can trade – singing help for dance help. Also, if you’re a singer (that’s how I used to solely identify myself) and you want to be in musical theatre – START DANCING NOW. It’s more important than you think, and if you’re a “dancer”, start singing. Never confine yourself into a box, even if that is the thing that you excel in – do the work to be more than one thing. I decided after Color Purple that I wanted to be a much better actor than I was, so I decided to apply for Black Theatre Workshop’s Artist Mentorship, and it was easily the best decision I ever made. Mentorships are great. Mine showed me how to be a more multi-faceted performer and I got to learn in a much more organic way, in my opinion, because I was learning from someone who had been through the doors I want to go through and gave me the space to solidify my style of acting.
Music, it’s the emotion that’s so embedded in sound. You can feel so much from some performers as they play an instrument or sing. The feeling that washes over me when someone is really performing from a place of truth is undeniably palpable.
What do you love most about the theatre?
Music, it’s the emotion that’s so embedded in sound. You can feel so much from some performers as they play an instrument or sing. The feeling that washes over me when someone is really performing from a place of truth is undeniably palpable. I think the same is true with theatre too. Another thing that I specifically love about theatre is seeing an actor so committed to their character and watching the character, not them, fight for something they want so badly. It’s so relatable and beautiful to watch.
What do you find the most challenging?
When you’re rehearsing a professional show, I don’t think people realize you rehearse for like 2-3 and ½ weeks. So it’s really not a lot of time, and once your show opens you’re usually not rehearsing it anymore. So that can be difficult, but I think even more than that is connecting. When you’re acting, you’re creating the life of a person – one that is different from yours usually. And to commit, to be completely one with that character and their emotions can be very difficult – think about just how complex you are as a person! But that’s also part of the fun, discovering all of those intricacies of someone else.
There are so many of us out there waiting to be seen or start important conversations about our society and theatre does that. It’s so necessary to our lives, and like I said everybody eats. Not just as creatives, but everyone.
What is the show that has yet to be written but you are dying to see, create, or be a part of?
I would love to create a comedic play for a tiny cast. What it would be about exactly? I couldn’t tell you. But I would love that it’s a comedic play on what real life feels like for young people of colour growing up like me and their experiences with racism/microaggressions internally vs. what we portray externally. There’s always something you wished you would have said when those things happen and I feel like it would be very relatable for our generation, and a great way to open up the conversation of being young and dealing with race. I’m sure some exist like this but if not, I’d love to write it – especially with the comedic side at the forefront to make the conversation more accessible to everyone.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not in the theatre?
I play instruments, usually that. I love trying new ones and singing along if it’s possible. Netflix, lots of that. Honestly, theatre used to be my hobby and now that it’s my career I’m usually engaging in it in some way at home. But your girl do love some Buzzfeed quizzes as well.
If your life was a musical, what would the title be?
Over-achiever goes rogue and decides to be an actor. It has a happy ending I promise.
Why do you think theatre is important for the Waterloo Region?
Waterloo Region is filled with a lot of untapped talent. Having the opportunity to enjoy theatre as child opened my eyes to what the world can make available to me if I pursue it. There are so many of us out there waiting to be seen or start important conversations about our society and theatre does that. It’s so necessary to our lives, and like I said everybody eats. Not just as creatives, but everyone. Theatre fills people in so many ways, emotionally and mentally. People discover things about themselves after being able to see theatre or help contribute in interactive shows. It helps us meet each other at our needs, usually ones that we don’t realize. The kids, the people here in Waterloo Region? They need that.