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Performing in Typecastress has prompted a kind of introspection in actor Keisha Mowchenko.
The play, which looks at the societal pressures women face and how they manifest in theatre, seemed to speak to her experience directly.
In theatre school, Mowchenko said she was slightly heavier than she is now; teachers told her to direct her efforts at matronly roles and goofy female sidekicks.
“That was kind of where I was always put. And so that’s kind of how I saw myself,” she said.
It led to some trepidation about auditioning for a lead role this summer in the Saskatoon Summer Players production of 9 to 5, the Musical, she said.
“Recently with this weight loss, I have started to see myself as a different type of casting — which is insane, because it’s not like my talent has changed at all; I was always capable of playing roles like (this).”
While she was excited to get the part, it’s taken a lot of work to unravel the persona placed on her and chart her own course as a performer — and she knows she’s not alone in that experience, she said.
Typecastress, a play written by Bobbi-Lee Jones, will be presented at the BackStage Stage at the Remai Arts Centre from April 5 to 9. The play’s filmed version premiered at the Roxy Theatre on March 11.
Jones first wrote Typecastress for a playwriting class at the University of Saskatchewan.
“This very vulnerable material was based off of real experiences of myself and my friends and other female presenting artists and the rest of the women in my life,” Jones said.
“There are parts of the script that are inspired by stories of my peers and observations I’ve made about how we all tend to internalize the way we perceive ourselves in reflection of how we think others perceive us.”
Jones turned the script into a musical, intending it to be performed at a festival showcasing students’ work in 2020. Her work wouldn’t see an audience for two more years due to the pandemic.
It seemed miraculous the way everything fell into place, she said.
A chance encounter led to Typecastress finding not one, but two stages — one of them in an unexpected place. While working as a server, Jones chatted with a patron who turned out to be Alex Fallon, CEO of the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority.
Fallon was intrigued by her project. His proposal included shutting down the Traffic Bridge in Saskatoon and filming Typecastress there, to promote the City of Saskatoon and as a celebration of International Women’s Day in March.
With her team assembled, Jones was inspired to use the opportunity to stage Typecastress as she had originally intended. That version uses the same script but is notably darker, Jones said.
It really hit home that her work was connecting when she saw footage of audience members sharing their thoughts after the filmed show, saying they saw themselves in the material, she said.
“That really struck me, as the project is doing what it had been intended to do, that people are feeling heard, and people are feeling inspired to not limit themselves the way that they thought that they should be limited.”
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