PAQTNKEK MI'KMAW NATION, N.S. - Virginia Sylliboy can teach us a lot about not being pegged as a left-brain versus right-brain personality.
By day, she helps manage the finances at Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation. But the right-brain creative side kicked in last year when she auditioned for the role of ‘Buck’ in Cerulean Blue, an uproarious comedy by Indigenous playwright Drew Hayden Taylor presented by Festival Antigonish.
“I was just curious,” Sylliboy said. “So I went to the first reading, then the second, and really enjoyed playing the cranky old bus driver ‘Buck’ and it kind of went from there.”
The board of directors was so impressed with her acting and community involvement that they asked if she would consider joining them.
“She had never been in a play before,” Andrea Boyd, artistic director of Theatre Antigonish and the Festival Antigonish, said.
“I was impressed by her courage, her ability to multi-task (she works full-time, takes classes, is a mother, and volunteers at various organizations) and, of course, the terrific sense of humour that she brought to the character. I was thrilled that she got involved and delighted with her portrayal of Buck.”
Sylliboy’s only previous acting experience was in Grade 8, when she borrowed her grandmother’s clothing to perform a funny three-minute skit in front of the class.
“It was a complete surprise to be asked to join the board,” she said. “But it is a great way to bring about even greater engagement between the local theatre community and Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation. I think that is very important.”
Paqtnkek Chief Paul ‘PJ’ Prosper was thrilled to hear of her selection.
“I was very excited upon hearing that Virginia was appointed a board member of Festival Antigonish. She is a wonderful mother, role model and leader in our community.”
Boyd said Sylliboy’s appointment was the answer to an obvious question; “What can we do to expand our outreach to the Indigenous community and to develop a lasting relationship with Paqtnkek?”
She acknowledges the Bauer Theatre hasn’t always done a terrific job in making sure that its First Nations neighbours feel welcome, and that there are many reasons to take part in future productions as actors and audience members.
“Cerulean Blue was an example of how to bring people, cultures and communities together through shared laughter,” she adds.
“There was no better way to continue that discussion than to have someone like Virginia on our board.”
Theatre Antigonish will launch its 2018-19 season this Thursday (Sept. 13) at the Bauer Theatre.
Paqtnkek community members are invited to meet the team, sign up for auditions and explore opportunities on stage or behind-the-scenes. No prior experience is needed.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 902-867-3333.
by Richard Perry, communication advisor