BY JANELLE HARDY
“When I heard your voicemail, I cried!”
With that, community theatre enthusiast Nancy Smythe openly and vigorously agreed to be interviewed.
A staple in the local Whitehorse theatre scene for the past eight years, Smythe, after 19 years in the Yukon, is moving all the way across the country.
“In ’89, I’d just finished my rehab diploma at Mount Royal College,” says the Alberta native. “So a friend of mine suggested we apply for jobs up here and we got the jobs. So, same old story, thought I’d be here a couple years. I love the Yukon.”
Even so, Smythe’s not moving to a bigger locale. As much as she loves the Yukon, she loves her husband, too, so she’s trading in the remote north for the tiny island of PEI.
“Well, my husband is from there and he’s always wanted to go back. I always said no, but then my daughter and I talked it over and we decided we can always come back to the Yukon later.”
A big, bold talker, Smythe’s down-to-earth demeanour belies her propensity for drama and theatrics. But the show that got her hooked in 2000, the Rocky Horror Show, was motivated by personal loss: “In 2000, I was five months pregnant and lost the baby and saw the audition poster for Rocky Horror. I thought, that’s one screwed-up movie, so I auditioned and sang and danced. I was a dominatrix in it.”
Summing up the experience, she says, “Well, when you do an orgy scene onstage for 1,000 Whitehorsians, well!”
She’s dominated the scene ever since. “Since then, I haven’t stopped, I’ve done one or two shows every year.”
For many, it’s the energy of shows, the swirl backstage that keeps them coming back and Smythe is no exception: “The whole energy, just watching the dynamics of the theatre and then being on the stage, I just found there’s an energy from the crowd and you just feed off that energy.”
And then, there’s the opportunity for play, trying on new roles. “What it is, is, I’ve done things on the stage you’d never do in real life. You can be someone else.”
Getting involved in community theatre has provided all sorts of opportunities for learning. As Smythe recalls, each part opens doors to new skills. “I got the lead in Chorus of Disapprovalin 2001.
“It was a big part, I got to do solos. I remember hyperventilating for three weeks until I got my lines. Then my husband said, ‘You know, you have an OK voice, but you should go to the choir and learn how to sing’. So I did, I joined the community choir and learned how to breathe and stuff.”
Smythe learned to sing, to dance, to act and, from the Chorus of Disapproval role, confidence. “That role gave me confidence to do all the other auditions I’ve done. Now the only time I’m nervous is just before I go onstage and if you don’t have those butterflies then it gets boring.”
But what she’ll miss most are the acting classes: “I’ve been doing acting classes with Anton Solomon of Moving Parts Theatre every Thursday for six years, all year, except for summer. That is the best thing I ever found. They develop your skills.
“And, with Moving Parts, it became a very safe environment. For the longest time, it was the same core group of four or five people. We could tell each other, be really honest, like Sophie Marnik, Cate Innish. I’m going to miss them dearly, they’re such friends. I’m gonna miss a lot of people.”
As for PEI? “I’ve looked it up, they have a strong community theatre and there’s professional theatre all over. I’d like to try I think. I could maybe break into getting paid in a few years.”
With exciting prospects ahead of her, Smythe still knows, “I’ll be bawling as I’ll be driving down the Alaska Highway.”