Starting your performance career in a Brampton middle-school production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown may not, at first glance, seem like a certain path to touring the world as a theatrical actor, director and creator but Rebecca Perry is proof that humble beginnings are good beginnings.
“I felt I really had the best of both worlds,” explains Perry. “Growing up in Brampton was lovely. Being just outside of a major centre for the arts there was still plenty of opportunity to learn about becoming an actor and a singer while not feeling lost among the hugeness of the Toronto scene.”
As a working professional in that larger scene these days, she is anything but lost. Her credits as a performer are extensive. She’s done work in film, television and theatre alongside veterans Simon Callow and Kris Kristofferson; she’s toured North America in the award winning play The Money Tree, but her own creations are the work that is closest to her.
Her original, one-woman shows have earned her great praise all over the English-speaking world. She has received rave reviews in England, Ireland and Scotland, leading to return engagements and expanded tours. Her first creation, Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl, debuted at Toronto’s FRINGE festival in 2014 and has since seen stages in much of the English-speaking world. She’s created two more since, a Redheaded sequel and a tour-de-force named From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood, where she performs as several of the 20th century’s fiercest women.
It’s worth noting that her connection to Brampton remains strong. It was the Rose Theatre that offered her the professional debut of Confessions and picked up the sequel as well. Those set the stage for the international touring she does to this day. For Perry, getting the chance to be a professional in Brampton reminds her of her roots.
“Before the Rose Theatre even existed, there was a company called ACT productions that I did my first shows with,” says Perry. “I really do credit Danny Harvey and Scott Lale for helping me catch the theatre bug.”
For high school, Rebecca attended the drama program at Mayfield Secondary School for the Arts. It was there that she first realized theatre could be her career.
“I was exposed to so many kinds of theatre that I didn’t even know existed.” Perry continues. “It was also there that I realized that one could do more than just act. They helped me realize I could be a writer and a producer too. I could make my own work.”
Many young actors are discovering the modern theatre scene requires the exact type of entrepreneurship Perry was exposed to at Mayfield.
“It really did hinge, for me, around two amazing teachers, Ms. Kelk and Ms. Bethune,” she said. “I played Sally Bowles in Cabaret in my final year and I will never forget it. It was the first time I felt capable of doing this as a career.”
After Mayfield, Perry attended George Brown Theatre School in Toronto, where she was encouraged further to make her own opportunities. After graduation, she found herself working at a coffeeshop and decided to write a show about it.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been able to do this now on both sides of the Atlantic and I look forward to touring even further from home in the near future,” said Perry.
Her experience creating and producing her own work has led to yet another opportunity. She now mentors and works with artists looking to create and produce their own work.
“It’s very hands on. I give them my opinion and they can take or leave what they need from it.”
On the horizon for Perry is a month long tour of the United Kingdom, her longest yet, for her solo work.
“This is the first tour where I’m switching between two of my shows at the same time. It presents all kinds of challenges, but it’s pretty exciting too.”
Perry also hints there’s even more possible shortly thereafter.
“I’m very much looking to tour further into Europe and even the Far East.”
As for her next creations, she’s currently developing two new pieces. A one-woman musical about a turn of the century Canadian explorer named Aloha Wanderwell, who aspired to be the first woman to drive a car in every country on earth, and a cabaret piece about Beatrice Lilly, a Canadian woman who performed on the famous USO tours of the Second World War, alongside Bob Hope and Vera Lynn.
“The countries I’ve been to really like stories about Canadians,” said Perry. “So many people have a special connection to us. It’s inspiring.”
Even though she’s now writing true stories about strong-willed, talented and impressive Canadian women who shared their work with the world, it doesn’t mean she isn’t still writing about herself.
More information visit rebeccaperry.ca.
Photo: Rebecca Perry as Lucile Ball from the show From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood.