Kitsilano girl Rachel Cairns has come a long way from her days at Lord Byng Secondary’s specialty arts program. After spending three years honing her craft at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, Rachel is back home in Kitsilano making her debut at Bard on the Beach and has been receiving rave reviews for her roles in Twelfth Night and Hamlet: “Cairns is an excellent Ophelia – a wounded equal as she implores Hamlet to return to his old self.” Marsha Lederman, Globe and Mail. “Rachel Cairns makes a fresh, enthusiastic debut at Bard in the role of Cesario/Viola.” Jo Ledingham. We caught up with Rachel to find out how her summer was shaping up!
It’s your first time performing at Bard, how things going so far?
It’s a wonderful summer working at Bard. Being on site out in the open air, overlooking the beautiful view of the ocean and mountains is inspiring. Nature can be quite humbling and the weather keeps you present to the moment. So far we’ve been blessed by the weather gods. It’s been quite gorgeous. It’s like theatre camping, sheltered by tents. Above all, I love the people I’m working with. Our cast and crew are all good eggs. Everyone is making this a wonderful experience!
How did you land the roles of Viola/(Cesario) and Ophelia?
I auditioned for Bard a few years ago. Then one day, last November, I had an email in my inbox asking me to put an audition on tape for Ophelia and Viola and a few months later, here I am!
You trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. What was that experience like for you?
I’m really glad that I studied in England. It was a coming of age period in my life, and moving to a different country gave me a lot of experiences and perspectives that I don’t think I would have been exposed to if I stayed at home. RADA was a gamut of experiences. I ranged from hating it to loving it. My first year was the most difficult, mainly for personal reasons. There was a lot to adjust to both at school and in day-to-day life what with moving away from home for the first time, living on my own, and a few heart bust-ups. But ultimately I’m very grateful for my time at the school and had a wonderful third year in which I got to work with some amazing artists and I felt incredibly fulfilled. I’d say that being in Europe and being so close to different cultures and countries and all their history really opened up my perspective about a lot of things.
What’s been your favourite moment so far in the process?
There are too many to choose from! Off the top of my head I’ll go with sitting on the grass outside the tent with Daniel Doheny (Sebastian, Twelfth Night) writing a duet about our roles in the play. Also, when we first got down to site to see the designer’s and director’s visions all come together as we donned our costumes for the first time and walked on the beautiful sets.
As a young actor making your debut at Bard what advice can you offer aspiring actors?
To quote Ophelia’s father Polonius: “above all: to thine own self be true.” I try constantly to remember why I started acting when I was a kid: that I love stories and people, and that acting makes me feel connected to myself, and those around me. Also, it forces me to stay curious about the world. I also try to keep perspective. There are some challenges to this job, professionally and artistically. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the drama of it all both on and off stage but at the end of the day for me it’s about the people in my life who I love and who love me, and that’s the major force I pull on to keep me grounded.