Elisabeth Marks, a grade seven student at J.C. Charyk Hanna School, has been making a name for herself as a performer in our community. She successfully auditioned for one of the starring roles in last year’s ‘Shrek the Musical’ by Stage Hanna and managed to steal almost every scene she was in, all without a singing a single sour note in any of her performances.
Miss Marks was kind enough to answer some questions for us about how she got into live theatre and what advice she has for other JCC students who are interested in becoming involved with the performing arts.
Have you lived in Hanna all your life, or were you transferred here?
I have lived in Hanna my entire life, although, I was born in Drumheller.
Do you do any other singing in the community in churches or clubs?
I love to sing so I perform every chance I have like singing “Oh Canada” at local events, singing at the ‘Coffee House’ located at the United Church and auditioning for the Next Star.
When I was about three, I was obsessed with Donkey. I even asked to be Donkey in the church Christmas pageant. When I heard Shrek was coming, I went crazy! In Stage Hanna, you get to make the character your own, no matter how unique that becomes. It gives you an opportunity to get into your character and really have a great time! (Especially if one of the characters was your childhood idol.)
Was this your first performance with Stage Hanna? If not, what other roles have you played?
The first role I auditioned for was in Beauty and the Beast when I played Lumiere, the candlestick, a year before we did Shrek.
How old were you when you landed the part, and what grade were you in?
Auditions for Shrek occurred last May but I realized I got the part two weeks later, when I was in Grade 6.
How many months did you have to prepare for the role?
We are given our scripts in June but we do not start practices until the end of August. We usually have about 2 months preparation until opening night but I find that learning your lines is the easiest part. I tend to get overly excited about the play and go over my lines constantly until I’m slipping quotes into my every-day life.
How did you prepare for role and how many times did you have to watch Shrek to learn Eddie Murphy’s accent?
Honestly, I listened to Donkey’s voice continuously on a short clip of Shrek on Youtube. Originally, my accent was way too high but after all the play rehearsals, it changed to fit the character. My friends and I began to run through the script and later, the play practices helped with the acting. Gwen Snell is an incredible director!
For me, I didn’t have too much trouble balancing time. For the higher grades, I know it is very stressful with homework. Dance is another activity that can sometimes get in the way of the play. Most of the activities I do don’t really start getting serious until the play is over so I didn’t have too many problems. It really depends on the person.
How do you handle it when you forget a line or another performer does?
Stage Hanna is almost like another family. We always help each other out. Therefore, if someone forgets a line, you feed it to them. You almost ask it in the form of a question. For example, “Were you going to say this?”
What motivates you to pursue acting?
Acting is something I’ve just always loved. I enjoy getting into a different character, getting out of your comfort zone and just being crazy. Getting into character allows me to experience a whole new way of life. Something about it just changes the way I look at things and the way I look at myself.
I noticed that you didn’t miss any notes, even some tough ones! How much singing experience do you have, and how did you get it?
I have been in voice lessons for seven years. My mom found my first voice teacher, Robyn Lake, through her cousin and I have been taking voice ever since. Currently, Michelle Viste is my vocal coach! Since she is also in the play, it really helps.
Sometimes, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t be able to be as good as everyone expected me to. But nobody ever told me their expectations and I really grew to know every cast member. After you start being around everyone, you feel more comfortable around them. That’s exactly what happened to me and helped me feel more relaxed.
Was handling the ‘fame’ of a major part in the musical a problem at school?
Not many kids in my grade went to the musical so nobody really talked to me about it. Most of the kids in my grade who went to Shrek were in it and we all supported each other. Not much else conversation about the musical occurred.
Looking back, was there anything you would have done differently?
I’m not really sure that I would have done anything differently. We had plenty of time to think what we wanted to do with our characters and I did everything I wanted to. Maybe I could’ve worked on choreography for my songs a little more…
Do you hope to continue performing in the future? Any thoughts you might want to sing or act professionally?
I’m hoping that in the future I can pursue my dreams of performing on Broadway and creating my own music. It is a lot to hope for but there isn’t really anything else I’d rather do.
Who is your favorite actor or actress?
Although I have many favourites like John Candy and Robin Williams, my favourite actor would have to be Eddie Murphy. I know it’s kind of crazy but I love all of his movies and the way he portrays the characters. I also really love the actress Lauren Lopez who is really outgoing, funny, and is in my favourite acting group, Team Starkid.
Fear is something that can stop us from doing what we love. Performing can be really scary. If you want to join Stage Hanna or a drama project, don’t let fear stop you. You can give into the fear but you will miss out on meeting some funny, kind, and talented people who will support you. Being up on the stage is an indescribable feeling that I hope everyone will experience some time in their lives. If acting is what you want to do, don’t let being afraid stop you from doing it.
We would like to thank Elisabeth for taking the time to share her experiences with us today, and wish her the best with her future career on the stage, behind a microphone, or both! She is proof that determination and practice can overcome barriers of age when it comes to achieving her goals.
by Ashlyn McCormick
Grade 8 student
J.C. Charyk Hanna School