When I was a kid, I had a secret dream of being an actor. I didn’t dream of being the centre of attention or being famous: I wanted to tell stories and inspire audiences. I kept my dream a secret not because my family wouldn’t support me, but because I didn’t know that it was actually possible to act as a career, especially considering where I grew up.
I grew up outside of a small city with less than 10,000 people and no theatre groups- community or otherwise- for people under the age of 65. I desperately wanted to perform, but the only opportunity given to me was at our school’s Christmas assemblies or in the safety of my own bedroom. That is, until a professional theatre company from Ottawa visited our school and helped us put on a production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
From that day on, my secret was out. I couldn’t contain it anymore! I did whatever I could to immerse myself in theatre. I watched old MGM musicals, I auditioned for every show our high school put on, and I eventually auditioned (and got in) to a youth training program at the Stratford Festival.
As I continued to grow as an actor and as a person, I noticed my goals starting to evolve- as they always do. I still had a passion for acting, but I also had a desire to create something of my own. I had seen so many of my performer friends in Toronto succumbing to unfair wages, working conditions, or casting biases because they felt they had no choice. Everyone was angry all the time, whether it was over who had gotten the part, the roles (or lack thereof) available for women, how they’d been treated at auditions, or what they were being paid. They were willing to settle for less because ‘that’s just how things are’, but I wanted more; I had had enough.
When my husband and I moved to Fredericton, it was like a breath of fresh air. There were so many different artists supporting and collaborating with each other instead of fighting against each other; they were living and working in a ‘we’ mentality, instead of a ‘me’. I immediately saw an opportunity to put my own stamp on the Canadian theatre industry, and started working on Spearhead Theatre.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb ‘spearhead’ as “lead (an attack or movement)”, which is exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to create a company that would pave the way for others and be a trailblazer; I wanted to take all the things that made me fall in love with theatre, and lose everything about the industry that frustrated me. I wanted to share the stories that had inspired me (and countless others) when I was younger to New Brunswick, and I wanted to offer artists more opportunities to be paid and treated properly for their work.
When I told people that we were leaving Toronto, I was surprised by how many people asked me, “Why? Why are you moving there?” My answer to them was always, “Why not there?” Canada is made up of all different types of artists that all have their own unique voice and offerings; the theatre industry does not revolve around one city, and I am determined to prove that with Spearhead Theatre.
I am beyond excited to share this journey with the people of Fredericton, and I hope one day that other young aspiring, ‘secret’ actors will go to a Spearhead show, or take part in a Spearhead workshop, and feel the same spark of inspiration that I felt when I was their age.
– Kelly McAllister