I love process in the theatre, whether it's watching a script in development or catching the work of young actors finishing off their theatre training at post-secondary schools around town.
There are a few reasons for the latter. Not only do I get to watch an artist develop over time -- I get to see the early work of people who will go on to perform on indie and main stages -- but it's a chance to give a little boost, via a mention in NOW, to actors who are just starting in the business.
Last year one of the standouts in the Ryerson Theatre School class was Janick Hébert, who stood out in each of the season's three productions: Dave Carley's Walking On Water as the sympathetic wife of a small-town newspaper publisher, Brendan Behan's The Hostage and especially as a flirtatious actor in Jason Sherman's adaptation of Maxim Gorky's Enemies. I say especially because her work as Tatyana was the last performance of the year, and her growth, her ability to find nuance in the part, demonstrated how she'd grown over the course of year.
Now, happily, she's proving her skills in the professional world, as one of the ensemble members in the superb Tarragon production of Wajdi Mouawad's Scorched, running through March 31. Hébert's cast in a striking fashion here, for she's one of three actors performing the role of Nawal, a Middle Eastern woman who assigns a quixotic task to her twin children. Hébert plays the youngest Nawal -- her "later" counterparts are Kelli Fox and Nicola Lipman -- and as such she sets the tone, the characteristics, for the character.
The woman she creates is innocent and exuberant, flush with the energy of youth, a lover who wears her emotions close to the surface. Given her own quest by her dying grandmother, the young Nawal leaves her village to learn to read and write, returning several years later for the express purpose of write her illiterate grandmother's name on her tombstone. And not expecting it, she also becomes an inspiration to others in the village.
Working with some pretty impressive talent -- the cast includes Alon Nashman, Alex Poch-Goldin, Valerie Buhagiar, Sophie Goulet, David Fox and Sergio Di Zio -- Hébert does more than hold her own. She shares the stage comfortably with these more experienced performers and helps to create one of the most moving productions I've seen in years.
My review of Scorched runs in the March 8 edition of NOW.