Friday, March 15, 2013

Coffee Talk With Julie McIsaac

Welcome to our coffee talk series! We are just about to enter into our first week of rehearsal for Us & Everything We Own! I thought I would kick things off by chatting with Julie McIsaac who plays "Rachel" in the show. She was also involved in our first play reading of Us & Everything We Own in 2012 and we are excited to have her back with us for the world premiere!

(Julie [centre] with her friend Samantha [right] with her [joke] idol Debbie Gibson [left])
What is your favourite role to date and why? 

Ack. No way can I pick one. So tough! I try to get involved only in projects I really like, and the ensuing pay-off is that I tend to really enjoy all my roles. Hmmm. My most recent project - playing "Jane" in Helen Edmundson's Mother Teresa is Dead at Pacific Theatre - was fantastic, because the character's journey was an exploration of some themes and issues that are pretty meaningful to me. Then again, playing "Miranda" in The Tempest (Bard on the Beach, 2008) was just so darn magical. Such a beautiful production, with a beautiful company, in an exquisitely beautiful location. 'Twas the perfect show for a summer's eve. And playing "Evelyn" in Twenty Something's The Shape of Things (2007) was tremendously fun and challenging; such a complex, crafty character.

Tell us your "I wanna be an actor" story... 

From a very young age, I loved being on stage and making up stories (and my siblings and I definitely did the whole putting-on-shows-in-the-rec-room thing) but the point of no return was when I was eleven, and got to be a part of the children's chorus in Livent's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. There was no going back, after that... I mean, I got to miss school, leave my wee little hometown and stay in the big city three nights a week, perform on stage with professionals - who were, in my pre-adolescent opinion, the absolute coolest and nicest people EVER - it was all so very awesome. Also - visiting London for the first time, seeing shows in the West End, feeling a part of this wonderful, rich tradition; that was when I began to "own" it - when I became truly proud of saying, "I'm an actor."

(Julie in Spitfire Grill at Pacific Theatre in 2012. Photo credit: Ron Reed)
As an actor, how do you let go of a past character as you transition from one role to the next so quickly? 

Well, each character demands your absolute full commitment and attention - you need to inhabit them as thoroughly as you can, particularly in rehearsal - and by giving yourself over to that, the transition just happens. If you happen to be performing one show while rehearsing another, the ritual of it all - arriving at the theatre, entering the space, putting on the costume, being in relation to your colleagues - that sort of just facilitates it, it just happens. It all has its own engine, its own momentum, and the trick is just being present in it, and allowing yourself to get swept up in that imaginary world.

(At work on set of The Exquisite Hour in 2012. Photo credit: Jessie van Rijn)
As you were in the original play reading of Us & Everything We Own and have seen the changes in the script, what would you say is your favourite thing about this story? 

It's so darn timely. Young adults living in Vancouver will definitely see themselves in the piece, and recognize the central issue - the model of our parents' generation no longer applies. The expectation and promise of's not the case anymore. Unfortunately, a university education does not guarantee a job, and a job does not necessarily guarantee the kind of financial return that will allow you to buy a home... It's hard to come to terms with this, and it raises all sorts of questions, it makes you question every choice you've made, and urges you to re-examine this whole notion of value, and of success.

(Julie [centre] with her mom [right] and friend Alison MacDonald [left]. Photo credit: Jessie van Rijn)

What do you think audiences can learn from the characters of Us & Everything We Own

Well, I wouldn't necessarily encourage anyone to follow in the steps of any one character in particular (I think we all do questionable things), but witnessing these four individual journeys will definitely cause you to reflect on your own ideas and expectations. The notion of integrity for example, and of compromise. How much can you sacrifice while still maintaining your sense of self? How much can you change, and yet still recognize and be proud of what you see reflected back to you? And there's this great tension between a "reach for the stars, follow your dreams" mentality and a "grow up already!" practicality. Sean explores some great themes here, and I'm eager to see how people respond.

Such great answers! Thanks for sharing Julie! 

Make sure you see Julie in Us & Everything We Own from April 4 -13, 2013 at PAL Studio Theatre (581 Cardero St). Tickets: $12 - $22. More information at

Thanks for reading! Hope to see you there! 

-Jessica Van Elk
Producing Assistant 

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