#YEG: The Play’s the Thing

Ellie Heath looks back on her time acting in Vancouver and Edmonton and how it inspired her to move back to the latter city.

Illustration by Kyle Schneider

Like many actors, I used to live in Vancouver. I was there for four years and, at one point, I was paying $200 a month to attend a weekly meetup of other female actors, where we discussed the arts, worked on our craft and, I hoped, would inevitably make some like-minded friends. Maybe it was the competitive nature of the big city — people fighting for their jobs, their statuses, even their groups of friends — but, through this process, I was never asked to hang out, I was never offered a ride home. I’d start a new job and feel like I was auditioning for my coworkers to be part of the “in” group. The niceties began and ended within the space where we met. It was exhausting and lonely.

The constant process of trying to prove myself became even more tiresome because, as an actress, I was already auditioning for roles on a regular basis, standing before expressionless ad execs and cold casting directors with very little feedback or success. It was a vulnerable time, where I tried anything I could to ingratiate myself to others with the hopes of finding my people.

All the while, I was working intermittently on shows in Edmonton — these were periods where I flourished and felt connected to my old self. In August 2012, I was facing eight months before my next acting gig in my hometown of Edmonton. I made a choice to give it my all in the coming months and see if Vancouver was the place for me. I signed up for the women’s meetup, I sent out multiple packages to prospective agents and put myself out there even on days where I felt unmotivated and alone.

I returned to Edmonton in April, excited to spend two months working on a play, staying with my dad and reconnecting with my family and friends.

Though it was spring, there was snow on the ground. In fact, the first day of rehearsal was a particularly brisk day and we all crammed into the rehearsal hall in our parkas and boots. Everybody had cause to whine and complain due to the unending winter, but spirits were high — we were all excited to begin work on a new project and the room quickly warmed up.

As we left that day, I was blown away by the generosity of the cast — nearly every member of the large ensemble asked if I’d like a ride home. This was the moment I decided to move back.

While some people like the bigger city, the competition and the anonymity, I learned it was better for me to spend my life around kind-hearted, down-to-Earth humans who inspire me with their open arms and generosity. Edmonton is home to the best people in the world. Maybe we don’t have mountains, but we have mountainous hearts, and that’s more of a draw to me any day of the week.

Ellie Heath is a producer/performer/playwright/teacher based out of Edmonton. She is one third of the sketch comedy trifecta, Girl Brain. Since graduating from theatre school in 2007, notable moments include playing Alice in Alice Through the Looking Glass (Citadel Theatre), Cindy in Slipper (Alberta Theatre Projects) and having Carolyn Taylor from Baroness Von Sketch Show join Girl Brain.

This article appears in the May 2020 issue of Avenue Edmonton.

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