September 14, 2016

Spotlight on Alumni: Tamara Bernier Evans

Tamara Bernier Evans
Tamara Bernier Evans

Tamara Bernier Evans (BFA 1991) began her acting career at the Stratford Festival of Canada working in the young company before going on to perform lead roles in the main company. Since then, she has performed at Tarragon Theatre (Mimi), Necessary Angel (Seven Lears and It’s All True), Nightwood Theatre (Anything That Moves), Theatre Aquarius (The House of Blue Leaves and M. Butterfly), Canadian Stage (Proof and Outrageous), The National Arts Centre in Ottawa (The Wrong Son), and Theatre Calgary (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), as well as played a lead role in the hit musical Mamma Mia! in Toronto, Las Vegas and on Broadway.

After spending some time in Los Angeles, she returned to Toronto and became the Artistic Producer and a Founding Artist of Theatre 20, a position she held until July 2011 when she won a lead role in the Toronto production of War Horse. Her television acting credits include a recurring role on Murdoch Mysteries (Aunt Azalea), and roles on Flashpoint, Republic of Doyle and The Border.

As a voice artist, Tamara has recorded over 30 commercials and played recurring roles on the animated series Braceface (Mom), Ace Lightning (Lady Illusion), Timothy Goes to School (Mom), Maggie and the Ferocious Beast (Mavis the singing cow), Wolverine and the X-Men (Mystique) as well as roles on Cyberchase (Mermaid) and The Berenstain Bears (Coach). While in LA, she worked on the films The Breakup, Catch and Release, and The Invasion, among others.

In 2014/15, she served as a member of the Dora Mavor Moore Awards jury for the Touring, Musical Theatre and Opera division.

She has directed workshops at the Stratford Festival of Canada, for Theatre 20, and at George Brown College, among others. She will be directing a Mainspace production of Midsummer: A Play with Songs at Tarragon Theatre in April 2017 with Richard Rose. Tamara has written a musical play entitled Beholden which was workshopped for the FUSE new play series at Theatre Calgary. She also released a CD of original music entitled Brand New Remedy.

In 2015/16, Tamara was the Assistant Artistic Director at Tarragon Theatre before becoming Artistic Director at The Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts.

Tamara Bernier Evans with ABBA's Bjorn Ulvaeus after a performance of "Mama Mia!"
Tamara Bernier Evans with ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus after a performance of “Mama Mia!”

What attracted you to York in the first place?

I grew up in North Bay, Ontario and it was pretty important to me that I find post-secondary education that was close to the professional theatre scene in Toronto. I’d also heard from a colleague, who’d been accepted into the program, that the acting teachers were very good.

What was the most challenging aspect or experience of training/studying at York?

I remember doing Japanese theatre training with an amazing guest teacher—Tadashi Suzuki—who came over from Japan. Theatre students from all disciplines would gather and traipse in huge long lines across the studio floors for hours at a time to train in the art of Suzuki Theatre. The work was very physically demanding—as was the required focus. I’ll never forget it—nor will my knees!

Tamara Bernier Evans with Dan Chameroy in "Anything that Moves"
Tamara Bernier Evans with Dan Chameroy in “Anything that Moves”

What is your fondest memory of studying Theatre at York?

One of my favourite memories is doing a choreographed stage fight with my fellow acting student, Simon Fon, in the main mall at the time Central Square, in a little sunken corner area that has cushioned benches around it. Simon and I fought with rapiers and our Stage Combat teacher, Robert Seale, would evaluate the fights while huge crowds of students gathered around us at lunch time. It was both hilarious and exhilarating.

If you had the chance to go back and visit your younger self as you were beginning at York, what advice would you give yourself?

Trust that you’ve been accepted into this program because you have something to offer. Trust your professors because they have a vat of experience and will give you the skills you need to succeed. But also know that you must pick and choose the advice that works best for you and your personality. Not all classes will fit you perfectly. Incorporate the training that will serve you best when you get out into the real word and land that first job – which you will.

Did connections, friendships, relationships you made at York help you afterward?

Many of the students that were in my acting class remained friends for years after graduation. I just had two of them over for dinner last week! We have also been able to work together as professional colleagues. Shawn Doyle and I produced a play by Sam Shepard called Fool For Love right after we graduated with fellow Directing student Alex Ganatakos (who is now a TV Executive story editor). Shawn and I re-connected in Los Angeles—where his acting career blossomed—and we helped each other prepare for auditions. Just recently, I brought Simon Fon on board at Tarragon Theatre to do the fight choreography for a play I’ll be directing there in the spring with Richard Rose (also a York grad) called Midsummer: A play with songs. And Jennifer Lyon—who starred in Tommy here in Toronto and who continues to work in theatre in Winnipeg—and I shared a dressing room at The Stratford Festival in a production of Camelot.

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

York always believed in the discipline of theatre. “Show up on time. Respect your colleagues and your advisors. Do the work that you’ve been trained to do and you will continue to get the work. Don’t be arrogant on your first job or you’ll never get another one!!!”