Christmas Carol Chronicles, Part XXV
Michelle Cormier has returned to the welcoming embrace of the crucible of Keyano Theatre, playing Mrs. Cratchit in our production of A Christmas Carol. Her connection to this sacred space goes back a long time, as a child growing up in Fort McMurray, and as a young adult learning the craft of acting in the VPA program, as you'll discover in the following interview.
As a former drama student at Keyano, now an adult with a family, what has it been like returning to the theatre?
It is surreal to be back on the KTC stage ten years later. It's like entering a strange new world and returning home all at the same time.
Have the lessons learned through your college years been useful in this process, and if so, can you give a few examples?
In particular for me as Mrs. Cratchit one of the lessons my university voice and speech teacher taught me keeps going through my head. He taught us not to focus on forcing an emotion but rather to breathe, let the words come out, react to those around you.
As a mother, how deeply does the death of Tiny Tim scene affect you? You appear to be authentically moved each night.
It is hard as a mother to hold the little shirt in my hand knowing she would be sewing it to dress her child for the last time. Holding the crutch knowing how achingly empty her arms would feel. I find it hard not to be incredibly moved by that scene and I know my role as a mother has given me insight into this role I wouldn't have had previously. It really helps as well that I have such amazing scene partners, particularly Tim. He is an incredible actor and it would be very hard to not be moved by him.
We have a lot of new people in this production. What do you think that says about the future of KTC?
I am excited by all the new people in the production. As our community continues to grow and diversify that will be true within the theatre community. I've seen so much change in my 29 years and I can't wait to see the new and amazing things to come.
Why is community theatre important to you, and important to Fort McMurray?
Fort McMurray is my home. I was born here. Raised here. I did the first two years of my post secondary here. It is where I am choosing to raise my family. I love it here. Unfortunately, a lot of the world sees us as nothing but an oil town. The theatre community is one of so many many many gems Fort McMurray has to offer, and as a life-long resident I am deeply proud of it. It allows the artistic residents to create and express themselves, allows people from so many backgrounds and life situations to come together for a brief time to share a collective experience. For me, the theatre community feels like a second home, an accepting place where everyone can belong. In fact, my first memory in life was at Keyano Theatre. It was a Syncrude Christmas party in the 1980s where I was watching Eric from the elephant show.
Who inspires you as a performer?
I am most inspired by Ben Thomas. He is so young and yet his maturity, professionalism, and understanding is well beyond his years. The creativity of, and commitment to his choices are amazing. He is an incredible performer.
How has your family coped during the rehearsal period for this show? What would you like to say to them in terms of their role in this process?
I can say one hundred percent I would not be involved in this production if I didn't have such an amazing support system. I am so blessed to have a partner who supports me following my passion. He has been encouraging me for years to get back into acting. His mom has been a huge help with babysitting my sleeping children while I am at rehearsals . She is absolutely amazing and I don't know what I would do without her.
This has been a life changing process and has reminded me why and how much I love the theatre. Taking a script and working with actors, the director, designers, crew, etc to create a play is such a special experience. I am so thankful that I got to be a part of this with such an amazing group. I think the funniest part was discovering, after a month of rehearsals, that myself and one of my cast mates used to play together as children.
A Christmas Carol opens tonight with additional public performances on the 22nd, 27th, 28th, and two on the 29th.