September 8, 2013

Spotlight on Alumni: Cherissa Richards

Cherissa Richards Cherissa Richards

Since graduating in 2009 I have been so lucky to work at some amazing theatres! Right out of school I spent two seasons at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-On-The-Lake and got to work with some of Canada's finest theatre practitioners. It was such an honour to grace those impressive stages and learn from some amazing mentors of the stage! But I think my most exciting work since graduating has got to be playing daughter Vivie Warren to “Grand Dame” Seana McKenna's Mrs. Warren in the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's production of Mrs. Warren's Profession directed by Alisa Palmer. I felt so honoured to get to play in one of my home town's largest theatres and every night on stage with the talented and gracious Seana McKenna was like a master class in acting! I will cherish those memories forever!

What is your fondest memory of studying Theatre at York?

My classmates. We had a bond that was so strong and supportive. We were a family. Ages ranging from 24-50, we were a very close knit class who always had each other's back. My friendships with these people are still very strong today and I will always look back on that time with fondness!

What did you do for the first summer out of the program?

The first summer out of the program, I got a grant to travel to Paris with fellow student and best friend Wesley Connor and studied Clown training for a month long intensive at Ecole Philippe Gaulier. It was probably some of the hardest training I've ever done. So humbling! Clown is a very difficult discipline to master and I was proud to say I allowed myself to fail miserably every day in class and still had a blast! (I mean…it was Paris after all!!)


Cherissa Richards and Wesley Connor at l'Ecole Phillipe Gaulier Cherissa Richards and Wesley Connor at l'Ecole Phillipe Gaulier


Do you have any advice or tips for York students just entering the dept.?

Be fearless! Never hold back. Before I went into the program, I made that promise to myself. I wanted to get everything I possibly could from that program and face the things that scared me-head on and jump right in. And I think for the most part, I achieved that for myself. You can always give more, but I think the love and support that our class had for each other made it so much easier to jump in and feel free to succeed and fail miserably and enjoy it and learn from it!

Do you have any advice or tips for York students just about to graduate? about to join the job market?

Hustle your butts off. Go to every show opening you can, send out personal cards or letters to AD's of theatres, not just headshots and resumes. Make personal connections with as many people as you can in the biz and be your biggest advocate! No one cares about your career more than you!

Cherissa Richards - left - in Bound to Create Theatres Dirty Butterfly Cherissa in Dirty Butterfly

In which ways has your education at York, and in Theatre in particular, helped you in work and life?

Being taught by outside directors who are in the business. We were super lucky to work with Eda Holmes from the Shaw festival and I have no doubt, it was the connection I made with her in class that definitely led to me getting noticed at my auditions for the Shaw Festival. Also, doing the MFA program really re-invigorated my passion for acting and took my work to the next level!

What surprised you about YOU by the end of your time at York?

How fast it went! Before you know it, it's over and you'll find yourself wishing to go through all the tears, pain and joy all over again!

What did you learn at York that has been of greatest value?

The Movement classes were essential to making me the actor I am today. I was always told I needed to “be in my body” more. Erika Batdorf's mind and body connection work Michael Greyeyes' Suzuki and Viewpoints training changed me forever! And David Smukler…well, he's just a voice god!

Cherissa Richards in Mrs. Warrens Profession Cherissa Richards in Mrs. Warren's Profession