A Christmas Carol 2017: Justin
Today in The Backstage Chronicles, we meet the one and only Justin Shaw - actor, playwright and comedian extraordinaire. Originally from Prince Edward Island, he moved to Montreal for three years as he trained at the National Theatre School of Canada, and ended up in Fort McMurray over a few summers, and now lives here permanently. He has already had an impact on the local theatre community as the newly appointed Artistic Director of the independent theatre company Theatre; Just Because. Thus far, he has presented his solo show The Wrestling Play (directed by Michelle Thorne) and a play-in-development Exhale for One Act Wonders at Keyano Theatre earlier this year during Alberta Culture Days, is currently directing the Youth Play Production A Kid Summer Nights Dream, and developing the text for upcoming dinner theatre A Knight To Remember with director Diana Moser. Justin is now making his Keyano Theatre Main Stage debut as Young Scrooge and Fred in our upcoming production of A Christmas Carol directed by Karen Johnson-Diamond.
"The first few weeks of rehearsals have been very engaging – I was surprised by the density of the text. Most adaptions I’ve seen of A Christmas Carol have typically been very campy, whereas Michael Shamata’s adaptation retains a lot of the darker qualities that are found in the original Dickens. And Karen’s respect for the dynamics and complexities of each of the characters is quite refreshing – I’m very excited to see everyone exploring their characters with such depth and creativity, rather than relying on the typical preconceived notions of the story. If I had to pick a favourite part of the experience thus far, it would have to be working along side my scene partner Camryn Hannigan. Her appetite for the work and the process keeps me on my toes, and is always so present and engaged when on stage. A total delight."
"I got into theatre the same reason a lot of high school boys got into theatre – I thought it’d be an ‘easy’ credit, and it was better than calculus. As time went along, I discovered I was investing a lot of my time and energy into my school work, and I was excited to go to class – not exactly part and parcel for most hormonally-driven teenage boys, I don’t think. Our class performed an improv showcase for the classes one afternoon, and I remember as soon as it began I looked out into the audience and saw people wide-eyed, smiling, echoed by the sounds of their laughter. These were people I barely ever talked to and who barely knew me, and suddenly I felt a little more understood. I was home."
What are you looking forward to this KTC season?
"While A Christmas Carol" is the only show I’ll be directly involved in as a cast member, I am looking forward to seeing my buddy TJ Carabeo in The Drowsy Chaperone. He worked so hard at his audition, and was thrilled to hear he was cast. I’m really looking forward to tech week when we begin to layer in the technical elements of the play. I’m very excited to see how the lighting and sound design will make some of the more intense moments of the play all the more palpable."
What about the holiday season?
"I’m looking forward to taking a break this holiday season. I’ll be visiting Montreal briefly to visit a special someone, and then I’m heading home to Prince Edward Island. Spending the holidays with my family will likely always be the most important time of year for me. A lot of my work requires me to travel – something I’m sure most people in Wood Buffalo can relate to. My favourite holiday memory was back in 2015 I surprised my Mom and Dad by coming home to PEI a whole week earlier, and surprised them at our family’s Christmas party. My family has been so generous and supportive of me and my work, and the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is leave home. Being able to surprise them with the gift of more time is something I wouldn’t trade for the world."
"It has been an absolute blessing to be part of this ensemble. This is my first KTC production, and I feel so welcomed and supported by everyone in the company. Spending the coldest months with the warmest people is definitely a treat."