This year marks my 10th season with Bard on the Beach education programs. I did my first Young Shakespeareans Workshop in 2005 when I was 12, taught by Andrew Wheeler. We performed Romeo and Juliet and I played the Nurse. I participated in 10 workshops over the next six years, until I aged out of the program. I became a Bard Volunteer in 2010, and joined the Riotous Youth in its first year just last summer. This summer I returned to Riotous Youth and moved from being a Bard Volunteer to working in the Bard Box Office.

Some of my favourite moments with the Riotous Youth members this summer (although I’m sure they would disagree with me here) came from our late night rehearsals. We rehearsed our show on the Howard Family Stage, so some nights we would have to wait for the other shows or lectures to come down before we could get in to work. That meant that our rehearsals wouldn’t start until 10pm or so, and would obviously go very late. That for me was kind of when the magic would happen – we were all exhausted and a little grumpy, but there was a wonderful sense of camaraderie.

Ross Denny-Jiles and Alison Knight in "Shakespeare Unhinged" (Photo by Phil Knight)Another huge highlight of the summer for me was playing Lady Macbeth in our production of Shakespeare Unhinged. I had the most wonderful scene partner in Ross Denny-Jiles, and when we were doing the scene we very genuinely could not see anything through our blindfolds. Every time we grabbed hold of each other near the end of the scene I felt a massive sense of relief and exhilaration. I think it’s because there was always a slight fear that we wouldn’t be able to find each other and would just be wandering around the stage like blindfolded idiots, but it always worked out! That scene was the most challenged I’ve ever felt as an actor, and it was a real pleasure to be able to respond to that challenge.

The Riotous Youth program has absolutely changed me. I’ve grown not only as an actor and member of the theatre community, but as a person as well. It is some of the most fun I’ve ever had, and I am truly privileged to be working with such an amazing company.
Our 2015 Riotous Youth (Photo by Phil Knight)
I’m looking forward to another closing night this season! The closing night experience at Bard on the Beach is magic. I’ve been studying at Dalhousie University in Halifax and have had to miss a few years of closings, which completely broke my heart. Last year, as an acknowledgment of my work with the Riotous Youth, my wonderful parents made it possible for me to come home for closing and it was so amazing. I actually cried. And I’m thrilled to say that I’ll be back again for closing night this year. I know it must seem crazy to most people, but in my book the closing night experience here is worth flying 4,000 kilometres each way.

To me, Bard is much more than a theatre company, it’s a home. It’s somewhere I feel completely comfortable, but also challenged in the best possible way. The wonderful people who work there are not just my co-workers, they are my family. That sounds totally corny but it’s absolutely the truth.