Chasing your dreams

Winnipeg theatre artist chosen for esteemed directorial fellowship

Theatre artist Cherissa Richards was recently selected as a directing fellow for the ThisGen 2021 Fellowship.

Many actors aspire to careers in Hollywood and Broadway. However, Cherissa Richards says acting is not only about the limelight.

“I realized that it is not about the glitz or the glamour at all, and I really learned what acting was,” she says.

In the University of Winnipeg’s theatre program, “I had some really tough teachers who instilled a work ethic in me and taught me what theatre was all about. I fell in love with the theatre program, and I have not looked back since,” she says. 

Richards won the 2021 RBC Rising Star Emerging Director Prize for her work in Crow’s Theatre and was recently selected as a directing fellow for the ThisGen 2021 Fellowship from Why Not Theatre. The fellowship supports BIPOC female, trans and non-binary theatre practicioners and gives them a platform to grow their crafts and careers.

Richards says that, after 16 years living and working in Toronto, she had enough of the big city. “I moved back home, and I was ready to give up acting,” she says.

“My goal was to teach theatre at the U of W, and I got an opportunity to direct my first show, The Power of Harriet T, at Manitoba Theatre for Young People in 2015,” Richards says. Although she was hesitant at first, Richards says this moment solidified her focus in directing.

“I was really lucky, because I was given this opportunity to direct this show, and I really fell in love with directing,” she says.

“After the show ... I spent the last five years training as a director. I apprenticed as a director at Bard on the Beach in Vancouver, and I participated in the Shaw Festival and the Stratford Festival in Ontario,” she mentions. 

Richards is looking forward to her ThisGen Fellowship, because she is inspired by the people she will work with, and she will get the chance to train with other Directors of Colour.

“It has always been white men or women, so I am really looking forward to this lineup of incredible leaders in our industry across the globe that I get to learn from, create with and be inspired by,” she says.

Richards says initiatives like ThisGen are are important, because they celebrate diversity and can inspire young women in BIPOC communities.

“Being celebrated as a Black female artist from Winnipeg is really important for other Artists of Colour to see that these dreams are possible, real and attainable,” she says. 

“It is by leading the way for others that we can see ourselves doing these things.”

Richards says that although acting is dependent on the opportunities given by directors and companies, those granted chances should not be the only focus.

“Do not wait for the opportunities to come to you. Go out there and chase them,” she says. “Knock the doors down, connect with people who look like you, ask how they did it and be brave and bold in asking to be a part of programs. Go out there and hunt them down, chase after those dreams and know you are worthy.”

Published in Volume 75, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 24, 2021)

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