Written by Joss MacNeil
Rebecca Perry: Cabaret Performer extraordinaire. Fringe Award Winner. Redheaded Former Barista...and Spy?
Yes to everything except spy (as far as I know).
Rebecca has definitely made herself known as one of the city’s brightest cabaret stars, and it isn’t just because of her flaming red hair. From selling out international productions of her musical Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl (and its sequel, Adventures of…) to being Broadway World’s Best Fringe Production pick two years running, Rebecca exudes a staggering work ethic and has the accolades to prove it.
As someone who was raised by parents who were constantly reinventing themselves throughout their careers, from a very early age she learned the importance of doing things her own way. When it came to light that she was entertaining the idea of an arts career, she had the full support of her parents, with the demand that whatever she chose to do, she had to do it full force.
“You deserve something if you work hard and you’re constantly feeding a skill set that grows with every project that you do,”
She attended George Brown College for classical theatre specifically to gain an understanding of dramatic structure. After graduation, she ventured out to build a life and career in the city. She described herself at this time as the fresh-faced ingénue stepping of the train and saying, “Here I am, New York!” But she was dropping her bags in The Six, and when she dropped them, she dropped them hard. What would follow was the harsh reality check that every theatre kid experiences. Theatre school is maybe 1/100th of the journey - though while it’s happening it feels excruciatingly important. Recalling this time period, she finds comfort in keeping her head down and avoiding comparisons. “It’s okay,” she says, “It’s happening to all of us. You need to learn to ignore the super muscular men in your class that are already on Grey’s Anatomy.”
It was during these early days of her career that she became convinced of the role that hard work plays. She explains how the industry will chew you up and spit you out if you aren’t prepared to do the heavy lifting. In a generation where everyone is rewarded for just showing up, the arts industry has vehemently maintained its standard of work ethic. “You deserve something if you work hard and you’re constantly feeding a skill set that grows with every project that you do,” Rebecca says.
It’s not just physical labour that the industry demands; the mental strain is just as weighty. Tired of being type-cast, she fought hard against her calling-card that she failed to see as a ticket to get work. It was during this time that a friend approached her about writing. When she asked him why he thought she should write, he told her that she seemed like she had something to say, and that translated into the characters she was playing. Lucky for us, that’s when the dream of Confessions of a Red Headed Coffeeshop Girl was first born.
Drawn to the open arms of the musical theatre community, Rebecca wanted to write her story of feeling stuck in a job when you want to be doing and seeing absolutely everything - an experience a lot of 20 and 30 somethings can relate to. It would go on to Fringe-hop across the country and even travel the high seas to Europe where the cabaret scene is thriving. A country born with theatre in its veins, the UK embraced the show and Confessions sold out at Edinburgh Fringe in 2015. Adventures would follow suit and sell out every performance at the same festival in 2016.
I feel like I could write a lengthily bio-piece on Rebecca’s career and reading it would inspire me to map out my future to be identical to hers, but that would be cheating. It occurred to me very early on in the conversation that she is the artist I want to be in 5 years from now. Not just because of her success or her work ethic; her drive to be not only a voice, but also a resource for young emerging artists is exemplary. And isn’t that what we should all strive to be? A hardworking and neighbourly artist who aims to lift up the people around them?
In this job, we so often place the value of person’s art on their talent alone, when their attitude is just as important. This is why Rebecca is such a delight. I had to research every award that was attached to her name because she didn’t mention them in the interview. It seems that to her, the process of feeding her skillset and the blood, sweat and tears it took to get to the first curtain was a more important story to tell.
And isn’t that what we should all strive to be? A hardworking and neighbourly artist who aims to lift up the people around them?
Rebecca Perry is an artist that I greatly respect because she’s an artist who respects the journey it took to get where she is today. She eats, sleeps and breathes her craft, while still being humble. She has all the skills of an amazing performer, and recognizing this, she finds a way to send it back into the community. Cabaret Performer Extraordinaire, Former Barista, Redheaded Fringe Winner, (potential) Spy, and Role Model: make sure you keep your eyes out for this force of nature.
Joss is a budding stand-up comedian and musical theatre performer. You can follow her on Twitter @Jocelyn_MacNeil.