Emerging Artist Spotlight - Jessica Buchanan - Western Canada Theatre

    At Western Canada Theatre, we provide opportunities to shape the artists, artisans, technicians, and administrators of the future through mentorship programs, professional development opportunities, and ongoing employment.

    If you have come to a show at either the Sagebrush Theatre or Pavilion Theatre lately, chances are you've seen our featured Emerging Artist, Jessica Buchanan! Jessica is currently our  Assistant Front of House Manager, but she has held several different roles with the company over the last 10 years. In addition to working at WCT, Jessica is also an aspiring actor and director. She recently had the opportunity to work with WCT's Artistic Director, James MacDonald, as an Assistant Director for our recent production of Jesus Christ Superstar. In fact, Jessica will be heading off to Calgary in September to pursue her Masters Degree in Directing!  While we will miss Jessica immensely, we wish her all the best in her new adventure!

    How is WCT different than other theatre companies you’ve worked with?

    I have had the privilege of working for several theatre companies over the years and one thing I have noticed that WCT has is a sense of connection with the community. From interacting with patrons in the lobby, to chatting it up with clients/performers that you run into on the street or in our offices, I love when I see the same folks or new folks coming to different shows and events and making those connections. Or exposing kids to theatre at a young age and seeing them light up when they leave the theatre.

    What drew you to WCT?

    Well… it’s the only professional theatre company in town; so it’s a pleasure to be involved in any kind of capacity, haha. When I was in my last year at TRU, WCT and AWT did a joint production of a Spring children’s show, performed at The Pavilion Theatre. There was a Canada Summer Jobs Grant that allowed for one of us to continue with WCT in the Summer months under the Education and Administrative umbrella and the rest is history.

    Has working with WCT challenged you and helped you grow as a performer?

    I think so! Due to it being a fairly local focused theatre company, there are opportunities that arise and I have been lucky enough to benefit from those opportunities. Most recently I was given the opportunity to Assistant Direct “Jesus Christ Superstar '' which was an amazing experience. It was a true joy to watch such an amazing Cast, Crew, Musical Director, Choreographer and Director, work together to make a pretty cool show. I’ve also been lucky enough to create/perform for numerous Highwire Festivals, Women’s Day Cabaret and the occasional poster model for shows... it was Glory... If you wanted to look it up...

    Why is WCT important to our community?

    I am the direct result of what happens when you expose a kid to theatre from a young age. So, biasedly I think WCT is immensely important to the community, especially in their Education and Outreach work they do. Theatre, in its simplest form, creates conversation, evokes emotional responses and can really change the way a person thinks or feels. Because Kamloops has WCT (and other community groups) available there is a sense of community that goes along with everything that we do. We want to inspire, entertain and leave people wanting more theatre in their lives. WCT is also home to some of the most wonderful people who belong to the community; not only actors, but Production staff, Administrative staff, Volunteers, Box Office staff, Front of House staff, Technical staff and our students; both young and young at heart. These are the people who belong to the community, that WCT brings together to make theatre for all!

    What has been your most memorable role or event to date?

    I have truly worked an uncomfortable amount of jobs at WCT over the years, but my favourite role has been working alongside Terri Runnalls (the AMAZING Education Director at WCT) I started working as an Assistant Instructor many years ago and have worked my way up to be an occasional Lead Instructor; I also work for SD73 as a Lead Instructor in their ASSAI Program. It has been amazing to watch these kids who might not fit in other extracurricular activities find a place where they belong, amongst other kids who are like them, AND they put on great shows to boot! It is incredibly fulfilling to watch kids, young adults or even adults play, create and feel safe in a space to explore a creative side they didn’t know they had or have had to hide away so they can be “normal” Yuck!

    Why do you continue to work with WCT, both onstage and with the company itself?

    Because of the wonderful people that work here. My current position is the Front of House Assistant Manager and my direct superior is the Front of House Manager Morgan Benedict and she is a true idol of mine. She works so tirelessly for clients, her staff and the up to 250 selfless volunteers who give us their time. I am so lucky to work with and amongst so many different peoples in a true wide variety of departments. They are all amazing.

    How has WCT allowed you to work towards / achieve your dreams?

    Due to many of the jobs I have had at WCT over the years, it has allowed me to experience and see how a theatre company runs from many different aspects. That and being involved in several smaller productions/cabarets/festivals has also allowed me to strengthen those performing muscles. As I mentioned previously, I was recently the Assistant Director of Jesus Christ Superstar! Because I went into James MacDonalds office, asked if I could and he didn't laugh, he just said yes. At a lot of other places, Artistic Producers wouldn't give emerging artists like that a chance.

    What excites you about WCT?

    That there is a theatre company that puts on such a wide variety of entertainment in a town like Kamloops. Most towns or cities our size don’t have a theatre company like WCT and it’s really exciting that people get the chance to experience shows. I also get so giddy when I think of little Jessica, who maybe got: “talks too much” on her report cards or “acts too silly during class” working at the company who first got her to stop talking and focus on that silliness with their wonderful performances.

    You have been a WCT staff member for many years. Which departments/jobs have you had with the company?

    Ooph, in order? I started in 2014 as a performer in “Bird Brain”. This led to me working in the Concession and as the Administrative Assistant for a couple of years. That eventually turned into the Events and Outreach Assistant; which was new and exciting because I got to learn from the rockstar that is Suzan Goguen; at this time I was also promoted from Concession to being a Guest Services Director AND still teaching with Stage One. I moved to Toronto in 2018 but Covid-19 brought me back. Upon my return my job was the Education and Outreach Assistant, which was a dream! Currently my position is the Front of House Assistant Manager, occasional Stage One Instructor and all-around theatre lover.

    In September, you are off to Calgary to pursue your Masters degree in Directing. Do you feel that WCT has helped prepare you for this next step in your career?

    WCT and shows brought to The Sagebrush Theatre are the reason I got into theatre in the first place. It made me study Theatre at TRU, which led me to be involved in productions connected to WCT, which allowed me to start working here almost 10 years ago. Because of my time at WCT I have worked and learned from some of the most hard-working, talented, patient and just lovely people around. These people, whether they know it or not, showed me what to do, what not to do, how to tackle certain jobs/tasks and how to make a production happen. I am so lucky that I have been able to work here for as long as I have and experience so many different aspects of this company. Because of my time at WCT, I was able to focus on what I want to do with the rest of my life and I will forever be grateful to the people who I have worked with at this company along the way. They are the ones that give WCT its heart and soul.