In a world of tag lines and quick pitches, I find it difficult to answer the question: “What do you do?”
As a ‘portfolio careerist’, my professional and personal interests are varied and intertwined.
“Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world. She took the midnight train going anywhere…” (thanks Journey!) I grew up in the country outside a small Ontario town in the Ottawa Valley. At the age of 18, along with a handful of fellow dinner theatre performers, I made my way out to St Andrews, New Brunswick, where we lived for 6 months in a house on stilts! The rest is, well, read on and find out.
My first attempts at post secondary education included theatre production in college and acting performance in university. Out in the real world, while holding on tightly to a clothing retail job, I strutted the cat walk (most often in wedding dresses), taught shoppers how to tie a silk scarf six different ways and promoted a wide range of products at trade shows from fine jewellery to industrial street sweepers. Non-union commercials soon followed as well as a variety of background, stand in and doubling work in television and film. Naturally, I got my ACTRA union card doing stunts! (Fav gig? Stunt doubling for Brooke Shields. Fav action? Diving over an exploding table of food – decades of competitive volleyball proved useful.) I am also a member of the Canadian Actors Equity Association, the guild for theatre performers. With the help of a few agents over the years, the speaking parts became the mainstay of my work. Although I don’t do camera work anymore, I still audition for voice work in my home studio.
Remember that bit about the retail job? I bravely gave that up just a couple of years into the biz but quickly realized that I couldn’t pay my rent. But learning on the fly is pretty much what an actor does so doing temp work in high end banks and ad agencies quickly forged the new income. However, I felt the need to head back to school. After learning sign language at night for about 2 years (wha?? they say that actors should pick up a skill that makes them different than everyone else…) I took three years off to study interpreting and upon graduation I set up a new business as a freelance ASL/English Interpreter (member of AVLIC 19 years). Sure enough, it was then that the acting world tugged on my heart again and for years I found creative ways to balance both careers. (read my archived blog Theatrical Interpreting)
To add to the learning curve, I entered the world of civic duty and was elected to ACTRA Toronto council for two terms and ACTRA national council for one term. There I collaborated with many fine performers and union staff to make changes in the contracts and to improve working conditions for Canadian actors. (check out the action at ACTRA Toronto)
Several years ago, I decided to transition out of interpreting (19 years!) and I added a new career to my repertoire – life coaching! Having an inquisitive nature and pestering those around me to discover what is important in life, I went back to school and completed the Adler Professional Coaching program in Toronto. I then decided to get certified and I passed those exams with the International Coach Federation (ICF) receiving the designation ACC, Associate Certified Coach. (Read more at my company website solomojo.ca) While coaching clients to emotionally and mentally ‘declutter’, the topic of physical clutter as a barrier started to come up in sessions. I then joined the Professional Organizers of Canada and passed their Trained Professional Organizer exam (member 2013-2018) Since being back at school was so much fun, I entered into a Psychology certificate program at Ryerson University (graduated 2015) This involved eight psychology courses, including a research component and a comprehensive final paper (on improved wellbeing by turning off gadgets at night!) This is definitely a compliment to coaching, with courses focusing on positive and personal psychology, stress management, environmental psychology and behaviour modification. I then embarked on a certificate program at University of Toronto in Applied Mindfulness Mediation studies. And the call to serve returned, so I sat on the board of the ICF Toronto chapter as their Director of Membership Engagement, 2017-2019. With over 800 members, our chapter has received the ICF Global Award of Excellence.
So what else does a girl do to keep active between agent phone calls, Zooming with clients and going to school? I stand up for our suffering environment! I love to help people figure out how to navigate the complex issues around the climate crisis and I write letters to politicians and companies to express my wishes. To keep my head and heart from blowing up, I have a deep mindfulness practice and I walk – a lot! (we gave up the car) Besides daily stretching and meditation, I take care of myself by dancing in NIA classes twice a week. Also, a great mindful activity for me is to take photos, particularly in nature. The only place I post them is on Instagram. The best part of life though is being in love with – and being loved by – a gorgeous human being named Karl (a fellow performer) and sharing this exciting world with him.
To be continued…
Even though I was hamming it up in elementary and high school, I didn’t become a professional actor until after a brief modeling career in my early 20s. For over 25 years I was involved in a variety of television, film and theatre projects. My focus now is recorded voice work.
For 19 years I was a professional sign language interpreter. I had the most fun interpreting on stage. While framing the discussion around theatrical interpreting in Canada, I was able to work with many companies who wanted to make their shows accessible.
An archive of my theatrical work can be found at signjotheatre.