“I’ve been blessed with a bit of impatience” says theatre artist Rebecca Northan. “I’ve never wanted to wait. I like to be busy.”
Which may explain the vague descriptor “theatre artist”: Northan is actor director writer improviser teacher producer and self-identified troublemaker. Best known most recently for Blind Date Kung Fu Panties and Legend Has It Northan also has an active film career having guest hosted CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes and appeared in Being Erica Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays and The F Word.
A Calgary native Northan divides her time between her film career in Toronto and her theatre work in Calgary. Regardless she says that “Calgary is the home of my heart.” Why? There are little differences like apologizing to people who bump into you on the street or saying thank you to transit drivers (apparently not common occurrences in Toronto) but also two big reasons: “One is the theatre community itself here. I find incredibly supportive and it feels like family to me because I grew up here” she says. “Also the Loose Moose Theatre is one of the most valuable resources in my career.”
She particularly credits Loose Moose artistic director Dennis Cahill who both challenges her and is open to her creations. “Anytime I’ve come to him and said ‘I have an idea for this show’ he says ‘Sure you can have the theatre.’ I don’t know of any place in the world that that happens.”
The Loose Moose Theatre took in Northan when she was 16 offering free improv classes in exchange for volunteering at the theatre. Northan learned four major lessons through improvisation: to be positive say yes fail forward and take risks. “Whether I was going to have a career in the arts or whether I was going to be a business person or any [other] profession those skills are transferable and applicable across the board” she says. “Those skills will make you a better human being.”
Another thing she learned both at Loose Moose Theatre and the University of Calgary was to make her own work. And she has including her next show Troublemaker a one-woman autobiographical show with standup-style storytelling. This is her first solo show and Northan admits that it scares her — but embracing her vulnerabilities is partially why she’s tackling this show.
Having been bullied as a child she explains “I developed this stoic distant I’ve-got-my-shit-together persona to make the bullies go away but that’s not actually serving me anymore. So I’m trying to dismantle my armour and go it’s okay that I have this armour but I don’t have to wear it all the time.”
Audiences can expect a celebration of trouble both big and small good and bad. Not to mention a lot of humour. “One of my purposes in the world is to bring laughter to people because life is hard — so let’s take 90 minutes out of our day and have a bit of a laugh and be a bit bratty together.”
Northan has a busy season coming up with Blind Date booked for 11 weeks (Northan herself is taking it to Toronto Renée Amber is performing in Yukon and Christy Bruce in Quebec and Gananoque). She’s also acting in a new TV series a spinoff of The Next Step called The Music Room (created by Frank Van Keekan) and Legend Has It will return as Alberta Theatre Projects’ family show this winter. Interestingly Amber Bruce and Van Keekan are all Loose Moose alumni as well.
As for Calgary’s future? “I hope that we abandon discussions about things like let’s put a freeze on public art funding because I know for a fact that what makes Calgary a vibrant exciting place to live are the artists who live here” she says. “Artists… improve the world everywhere they go…. If you support your city’s artists you’re improving your city.”
On that note she also considers the closure of this paper to be a major blow. “Fast Forward has been such a beacon of our arts community I don’t know what will happen. The loss of Fast Forward is going to be felt by more than just the people who work at Fast Forward. The music community the visual arts community the dance community the theatre community the social activists in our city — we’re all losing something really really valuable…. It’s heartbreaking. Because your grandma can’t cut your picture off the Internet and put it in a scrapbook. So Great West is hurting the proud grandmas of the city.”
TROUBLEMAKER runs March 4 to 14 at the Loose Moose Theatre Company.