I wrote a post over a year ago about my “how I got to where I am” story, which nobody asked for. You can read that post here. Today I’m finally adding part two to the blog!
So, we’re at the university years! I applied to only three universities: the University of Guelph, the University of Waterloo, and Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ontario. I got early acceptance to all three schools, and all three offered me an entrance scholarship as well! I even got a handwritten letter from the head of the drama department at Waterloo, which was pretty cool. But I ended up going to Queen’s, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Queen’s gave me my first letter of acceptance, and they offered me the most money. Second, my best friend Rosanne was going there, and we planned on rooming together in the dorms. But most importantly, Queen’s had the very specific program that I wanted, and it’s the only one of its kind in Ontario to my knowledge: Stage and Screen Studies. (Yes, that’s actually me on the STSC page on the Queen’s website!) It’s what Queen’s calls a Special Field Concentration program; basically a double major between Drama and Film Studies (now the department of Film and Media), but with “required electives” in Art and/or Music. It is a great program, and I learned a lot throughout my four years of university.
I took courses in a myriad of topics, including film and theatre history and criticism, screenwriting and playwriting, acting, directing, and musical theatre (through both the departments of drama and music, and both were vastly different experiences). I took a couple of courses in experimental film, where we watched some incredibly weird stuff, including a film called Wind Water Baby Moving (trust me, you’re better off not seeing it) and what I can only describe as a black and white Japanese porno. I took a course in Theatrical Design when Theatre Management was full, and was utterly terrified (although I managed to scrape an A in the class, despite a total lack of drawing skills). I also somehow ended up watching both versions of Blade Runner (the theatrical version AND the director’s cut) all four years of university in various classes.
In my first year, I was bound and determined to make my mark at Queen’s. I knew I was going to Be Someone. I was going to become a Serious Actress. I went into my first audition in September with wide-open eyes, ready and eager to land a part. I recited a monologue from Taming of the Shrew (of course, as a girl from Stratford, I knew I’d wow them with my Shakespearian prowess).
I did not get cast in the show.
And, because I was so embarrassed, I did not audition for any other show for the entirety of my university career.
All you young actors out there should know that being an actor is tough. You subject yourself to rejection ALL. THE. TIME. You will not get most of the jobs/shows you audition for. But if you seriously want to be an actor, you don’t take no for an answer. You keep auditioning.
But I didn’t. Instead, I filled my time with a ton of other activities. I was involved with Campus Chat, which was a group that promoted conversations in various languages across campus by distributing colour-coded buttons to both native speakers of that language and people who wanted to learn to speak that language. I was a member of Queen’s Dance Club, taking lessons in jazz and hip hop. I also took highland dancing lessons. I worked for Campus Security (and for some reason, was always paired with the biggest, burliest guys on staff). I also occasionally appeared in a friend’s project for Studio Q, our campus television station.
However, my biggest contribution to Queen’s was as a member of the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (short for ASUS) Orientation Committee — aka, FROSH WEEK! In my second year at Queen’s, I was a Gael (frosh group leader) and in my third year, I was a member of the Academics Committee as a full-fledged OC. Being an OC consumed my life, and it was an honour to have been a member of OC’04.
I did get involved in two arts-related projects during university, both during my third year. One was a film project called Backhand. Friends of mine decided to write, direct, and produce a horror movie, and I was asked to assist with auditions, reading opposite people trying out. I was also enlisted to be script supervisor, which normally is in charge of continuity during films, but I also helped the actors with their lines. Partway through filming, one of our actresses had to back out for whatever reason, on the same weekend we were set to film all her scenes. As we were on a tight shooting schedule, the director asked me to step in and film the role, because I knew the script so well. So I did. Filming the movie was an eye-opening experience. So much of working on a film is “hurry up and wait.” The actors have to wait while the grips and sound guys and hair and makeup people set up, then they all have to wait for the actors during takes. (I fell asleep on set numerous times, which unfortunately did not go unnoticed.) Backhand was presented at the YoungCuts Film Festival, and even came out on DVD. My copy was stolen, but I think my parents still have their copies.
The other project I worked on was as an Assistant Stage Manager for a production of the Vogt Studio Series, in particular, Vogt D. I’m pretty sure the reason I worked on the show was because one of my classes required you to volunteer on a production that year. I don’t know. I do know that I worked my butt off with difficult actors (one of whom was overheard to say “I would never want to be an ASM, they do all of the work and actors get all of the glory and recognition”) and I met one of my best friends, Maggie, as a result of that show. She was the first ASM on that show, and we had to do a number of unsavory tasks, including a 30-second scene change involving 5 huge risers, and keeping a dog cage from getting scratched so it could be returned to the pet store after the production closed. We also were stuck in the teeniest makeshift “ASM booth” known to mankind — it was essentially a curtained-off corner right on the stage, in pitch darkness that had to be less than 5 feet square. We had to be onstage to make the scene changes, as there was virtually nowhere else we could be. However, it was our special ASM booth and we nicknamed it the “love nest” and had it set up with a tiny night light and playing cards and magazines and snacks.
(Oh, and I went to class and studied and wrote some essays too. Maintained a solid 78% average all four years of university. At least I was consistent!)
During the summer of 2005, between third and fourth year, I had a summer internship at Walt Disney World, three incredible months in Orlando during the Happiest Celebration on Earth, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Disneyland. I was “cast” in Merchandise, on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. I worked in ten different stores on Main Street (basically everything except the Emporium) and got to wear an uber-sexy blue and brown plaid costume (except when I was in the Confectionary, where I got to wear a pouffy yellow dress with a white apron), and sold everything from autograph books and pens to cotton candy to trading pins to thousand-dollar Mickey diamond earrings, and everything in between. I watched the SpectroMagic Parade 78 times (yes, I counted), and could recite the entire program and do all the dances. Oh, how I wished I could have been in Entertainment!
Working at Disney was an incredible experience. I lived with seven other girls in a Disney-owned residence apartment; four girls from France, one from Hong Kong, one from Jamaica and one from Mexico. I ate cheesecake for the first time in my life there (my mom is lactose intolerant and my dad dislikes cheesecake, so I grew up thinking it was gross). I rode nearly every single ride on property (I have yet to ride Kali River Rapids and I have no desire to… I’m not a fan of water rides in your clothes. I only rode Splash Mountain because I was dragged on), saw all the shows, watched all the parades, and even got a backstage tour of the Haunted Mansion before it opened. I was surrounded by Disney magic all day long, and played in the parks on my days off. I didn’t want to leave, and bawled on the plane the entire way home.
I did get back there, though that story is still to come… stay tuned for Part Three!