From Fargo to fairytale princess.
It’s been an interesting couple of years in the career of Calgary actor, director and entrepreneur Caitlynne Medrek.
The artist, who was born and raised in the city, has been featured recently in such notable locally shot productions as Hell on Wheels, Wynonna Earp, The Detour and played Grace Stussy in Season 3 of the Emmy Awards-winning series Fargo.
But these days, her time is being spent on something a little less edgy and a little more inspiring — brightening the lives of young girls and boys by running the party company YYC Princess that she started over a year ago. In fact, she refers to herself as the “Fairy Godmother of YYC Princess,” which sends trained actors, singers and dancers dressed as Disney princesses to the homes of area children in an attempt to bring a little magic into their lives.
On Saturday, Feb. 10, however, she’ll take it one step further by helping out at the Southern Alberta Make-A-Wish foundation’s Princesses & Superheroes Family Gala.
The evening, which takes place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Hotel Arts, is a fundraiser for the incredible charity that grants wishes to kids with life-threatening medical conditions. To that end, the gala will feature a red carpet and activities for the kids, dinner, silent auction and, thanks to Medrek, her fellow princesses and Calgary children’s theatre company StoryBook Theatre, an original musical production called YYC Princess, the Musical: Don’t Stop Believing.
Prior to the fantastic family event — one that is truly deserving of your support and should be a magical event for everyone of all ages, including the hearing impaired as one of the actresses will sign during the production — princess Caitlynne spoke with theYYSCENE.
Q: How did you get involved with the Princesses & Superheroes Family Gala?
A: Well, actually I have been doing StoryBook shows since I was 10 years old. So StoryBook had been a big part of my life growing up and just this past season I directed my first show with StoryBook — 17 years after doing my first show with them. It was Pinkalicious: The Musical. So that was my first opportunity to direct with JP (Thibodeau, the company’s artistic director) and then Make-A-Wish happened to contact JP around the same time and said, “Hey, would you mind putting together a show for our Make-A-Wish Princesses & Superheroes Gala?” And JP said, “I’m a little busy right now but Caitlynne owns a princess company, why don’t I send this her way and see what she can do?” So of course I got that note right away, and I just took it and ran with it and decided that we could turn this show into something way more than the cheesy princess show that everybody was expecting it to be.
Q: So they contacted you, and what did they say?
A: They said they wanted a musical that inspires hope and bravery in families that are having a really hard time in their lives right now. And so having met a whole bunch of those families at the (mini Stampede) Parade (at the Children’s Hospital) last summer, we really got to know one girl specifically and her name was Greta Maroske … Her mom sent us an email the next day actually telling us how grateful she was that our princesses took the time to meet her because she wasn’t really sure how much time Greta had in her life. So we stayed in contact with the family and about a couple of weeks later I got an email from Greta’s mom asking if we could get a Moana costume as soon as possible, because Greta’s birthday was a month later, October 1. And I said, “Sure, a month is a long time, no problem, we’ll do it.” And about two weeks later I got a separate phone call from Kids Cancer Care saying that Greta wasn’t going to make it to her birthday party and if we could get a Moana by the weekend that would be ideal and amazing. So I called up my fairy godmother Kathy and said, “Hey, Kathy, could you by any chance make a Moana costume for us by the weekend?” And she said, “Absolutely,” she didn’t even hesitate. And so she made us this amazing Moana costume, and myself and three other princesses went and did Greta’s fourth birthday party and she passed away three days later.
So Greta, to me, is the reason why I believe in the magic of princesses and superheroes. Up until then I saw this job as a supplementary job where I can dress up and still be an actor and play with kids, but until I met Greta I hadn’t really realized the power and influence that these characters have. So Greta changed my life a little bit and I know she changed the lives of the other princesses. So when Make-A-Wish asked me to write this musical I didn’t even hesitate, I called Greta’s mother and said, “Is it OK if we use Greta as the main character of our show?” And she said, “Yes, Greta would love that.” So here we are today.
Q: So tell me the story.
A: The story is about Greta and Simon, they are two best friends who are calling the hospital home right now in their life. And sure enough, one day they want to go outside and build a snowman, but they’re both too sick so they’re not allowed to go outside and, before they know it, they’ve built a snowman out of tongue depressors and cotton balls and all the crazy things you find in a hospital. (Laughs) And suddenly Tinker Bell is in their room and she turns the snowman they made into, of course, Olaf (from the film Frozen) and he takes them on a magical adventure through the hospital where they meet all of the different princesses and heroes, who ultimately, in the end, end up just being their friends and their family and the doctors and the nurses. So, the moral of the story is that you can find magic really anywhere in your life, and it doesn’t matter if you’re in a hospital or a school, at home — your family and the love that they have for you is what gives kids bravery and strength. My dream is that people will go away from this talking about Simon and Greta as the heroes of this story rather than talking about the princesses and superheroes … And at the Make-A-Wish gala we’ll have a giant big dance party at the end of the show so everybody gets their moment to shine with the princess or superhero of their dreams.
(Main photo courtesy Citrus Photography, inset of Caitlynne Medrek courtesy HannahK.)
Southern Alberta Make-A-Wish foundation’s Princesses & Superheroes Family Gala takes place Saturday, Feb. 10 at Hotel Arts. For tickets and more information, please click here. If you can’t make it to the gala, two performances of YYC Princess, the Musical: Don’t Stop Believing will also take place Sunday, Feb. 11 at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m at the Evergreen Theatre (1709 8 Ave. N.E. # 2), with tickets available for each show here and here, and proceeds from the snacks and a cash bar going towards Make-A-Wish.