People from Powell River who take in the annual Christmas play at the Chemainus Theatre will see a familiar face on stage in Miracle on 34th Street.
“I grew up in Powell River and graduated high school in 2009,” said Michelle Morris. “I really credit my dear mother Elaine Bidiuk and also Brooks Secondary [School] with my decision to pursue acting as a career.”
Morris took part in school plays in elementary and middle school in Powell River, but never considered it as a career before high school.
“My mom sat me down and said, ‘you have to start thinking about what you want to do after graduation,’ and then I remember coming across the drama classes in the Brooks course book,” said Morris. “There was something about being in front of people and speaking that at once scared, enthralled and fascinated me. That’s the moment I look back to, flipping through the course handbook and being like, huh, drama, that sounds really scary but also really cool, and I haven’t looked back.”
Morris took full advantage of the arts programming at Brooks, attending the school just after the renovation of the Max Cameron Theatre and art classrooms were completed. After attending University of Victoria for theatre, she took a year off. Next, she went to Vancouver’s Studio 58, one of Canada’s top acting conservatories.
“I knew there was more I wanted to do and learn,” she said. “I thought about moving east, but after going to Toronto for two weeks of master classes, I knew that I couldn’t be away from the ocean and the mountains. While I was attending Studio 58, I fell in love with Vancouver. It was so much like what I’d grown up with in Powell River in terms of the environment, the weather, and the people.”
Morris graduated from Studio 58 in April 2018. Miracle on 34th Street represents her first job with a major regional theatre company.
“This is the culmination of eight years of hard work,” she said. “It’s also the next step in my journey from being a little kid who doesn’t like getting up in front of the class to an actor. Now I am the female lead in a cast for 52 performances in front of 250 people every single night. It’s an amazing, beautiful experience to be having.”
Morris is proud to be from Powell River, and that pride informs her work as an actor.
“I want to be part of and create theatre that speaks to working-class people in places like Powell River,” she said. “I don’t like seeing plays about small-town Canadians where it’s obvious the actors or the writers don’t understand the content. They’re missing things, their mannerisms are wrong, or that’s not how people from a Canadian mill town talk, for example. I want to represent people like the people from Powell River in every sense of the word.”
Miracle on 34th Street plays at the Chemainus Theatre, 9737 Chemainus Road, Chemainus, until December 29. For more details about the play, go to chemainustheatrefestival.ca/miracle-on-34th-street.