It was the promise of bannock that first lured Melaina Sheldon into the orbit of Gwaandak Theatre in 2010.
The Teslin-born actor, writer and arts administrator had just returned to the Yukon after studying and working in British Columbia. That's when she saw an ad seeking performers for the company's summer aboriginal play reading series.
"They were doing the rehearsals at Wood Street School. I was living downtown at the time, so it was accessible. And there was going to be snacks. Especially bannock snacks," she says with a laugh.
Sheldon admits she was nervous when she entered the audition hall, until she saw Gwaandak co-founders Patti Flather and Leonard Linklater ("with their beautiful smiles"), along with some more familiar faces.
"Patti had me read a character from a Kenneth T. Williams play called Bannock Republic. My character was talking about self-government, and the rez, and bannock: all these things that were quite wonderful," she recalls.
"I had never read a piece that reflected a reality that I was familiar with. And I was hooked. I felt the power of that."
Sheldon had first encountered the world of drama through Sharron Chatterton, one of her early teachers in Teslin.
"We did a theatre component, and she had us writing our own little scripts. Somebody had to be the director, and there were actors, and I think we had a visit from some professionals," Sheldon says.
"Then she actually said, 'You know, Melaina, I think you've got something and you should really run with it.' But I was like, 'Oh, that's not realistic', so I kind of talked myself out of my own dream, or my own interest."
She later enrolled in the then-new Music, Art, Drama (MAD) program at Wood Street, but her focus at University of Victoria was a double minor in Indigenous studies, as well as Greek and Roman studies.
"I took an introductory acting class in the summer, and a singing class, and that was OK. But I still wasn't really interested."
Her first taste of real theatre with the summer play reading series changed everything. That fall, she tried out for a role in Me and the Girls, a one-woman show about breast health written by Flather and directed by Whitehorse actor Moira Sauer.
"I was at a point in my life that I didn't have a full-time job, and I was kind of looking for something. So I thought, 'Let's go out and have a laugh. The worst thing is they're going to say no, and I don't do it. That's fine.'
"So I went and read for them, and it was five different characters, which is something I like to do, different voices and different tones. I just went in and had fun with it. And they liked me, I guess."
The show's limited budget also allowed Sheldon to use some of the design skills she had developed in a one-year diploma course in fashion design in Vancouver.
"I'm a Salvation Army thrift store shopper, for sure, and was able to piece together some stuff. The Alpine Bra Boutique also donated a couple of bras, and it was just a good fit. No pun intended."
Sheldon soon found herself on Gwaandak's board of directors, eventually becoming president. Her departure from that role last fall allowed her to accept a newly-created position as artistic associate with the company just before Christmas.
Besides that part-time job, Sheldon also holds an "awesome" position in her home village, as community arts and events co-ordinator for the Teslin Tlingit Council.
One of her key duties with Gwaandak is to organize the play reading series, which takes place in June this year.
"That's a huge honour, to go full circle from my first step into the theatre world to co-ordinating that event where I got my start," she says.
Sheldon previously directed two summer readings, and acted in the national tour of the Gwaandak/New Harlem production, The Hours That Remain. She recently added the title of playwright to her resumé with a solo piece called Chance, which has had readings in Winnipeg with Sarasvati Theatre, and in the Yukon with Gwaandak.
It took a while for the theatre bug to bite, but it's definitely part of Sheldon's future.
"I love it. I just want to be relevant in any way, shape or form. I love being behind the scenes and I love being on stage in front of the audience," she says.
"I can write, and I can be an administrator, and I can still take an acting gig. But I do recognize and realize that the future is me making that my full time."