Known affectionally to us as Elmira, Shannon Blanchet is a valued member of Edmonton’s theatre community and one of our favourite collaborators. She has toured the world with us for Nevermore, and we were over the moon when she accepted a part in Fortune Falls. Here are six quick questions with the amazing Shannon.
Who do you play in Fortune Falls and how do you help to tell the story?
I play a variety of roles in Fortune Falls (saying too much about any one character feels like giving the secrets away!). In addition to working as a part of the ensemble of narrators who provide a “birds eye” or “outside” view to the story, I play Miriam Mesner, who is one of the people that suffers a great loss when Mercey Chocolate decides to close the Fortune Falls Plant. I think her interaction with Everett awakens him (and the audience) to a notion of corporate collateral damage. I hope she invites the audience to question and reflect on how the corporate pursuit of constant growth, and the choices that people make in the interests of increasing the company’s bottom line can have a deep impact on the community at large, and not just the people who work within the industry. You don’t have to work in the auto industry to be affected by the decline of American vehicle manufacturing if you live (or lived) in Detroit, for example. I think the more “peripheral” characters bring this theme to the fore by forcing Everett to confront the realities of the system. They pull the veil on his dream and reveal it to be a naive, sugar-coated vision of the world.
What do you find the most intriguing part of the world of Fortune Falls?
The blurred line between dream and waking, fantasy and reality. What is fact and what is illusion?
This is your second time performing in a Catalyst show. What did you learn from doing Nevermore that you’ve been able to bring with you into Fortune Falls?
Nevermore was one of the most fulfilling projects I could ever hope to work on and was a large part of my life for six years. I learned a lot about my voice over the course of those runs–musical passages that were challenging at the beginning of the project got easier over time as I learned to navigate them with more dexterity and as I gained freedom in the technical execution of the music, it freed up my mind to delve deeper into how the music was helping to tell the story (i.e What about the sound of this word sung in this way reflects my character’s experience?). The most important thing I am bringing with me to Fortune Falls is a trust in and love of the work and the ensemble. The strength and bond of the ensemble is essential to Catalyst’s storytelling. We work together to tell the story so much; it is vital that everyone has an equal belief in and commitment to the project. I love seeing what can be achieved when a team shares a strong and ambitious vision-it makes the impossible possible, and that is a very rewarding thing to be a part of. I packed a lot more joy in my suitcase for the trip to Fortune Falls!
How do you think Fortune Falls will surprise audiences?
I think they will be surprised at how Fortune Falls differs in tone from other Catalyst pieces while maintaining the aesthetic and stylistic sensibilities that have become the company’s hallmark. It’s definitely a lighter, more youthful piece than Nevermore, for example.
You have a lot of experience with Catalyst, and have travelled a lot with the company. Do you have a favourite moment?
On Stage: July 6, 2010. The Barbican Theatre. Opening night. The blackout between the end of the show and the curtain call.
What’s your favourite Canadian play? (Or top three if one is too hard).
That’s such a hard question to answer that I am going to pretend I didn’t see it …