Actor pays it forward with new theatre academy

Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Sounder News

Monday, December 31 2012

Bonnie Catterson has lived on a beach in Mexico, traversed Europe and spent years hitting the floorboards as an actor in Vancouver. But Gabriola roots grow deep; she has returned to island life opening up Kismet Theatre Academy a stroll away from the Nanaimo Harbour ferry terminal.
Bonnie grew up on Gabriola in the ’80s and ’90s. Her childhood was “bucolic. My parents built their dream house on Thompson Road on six acres.” She would make up plays, corral her friends to act in them, and perform them for the neighbourhood on the outdoor cedar “stage” (her deck), charging five or 10 cents for admission.
“I’m so happy I had that experience of freedom growing up. I think it plays a huge part of who I am as an artist.  Instead of growing up somewhere where it was rigid and everything had to be in a certain way, everybody over here was expressing themselves creatively in some way. It’s a huge part of who I am.”
Bonnie said the desire to perform for people has always been an innate part of her.
“I really like to make people feel things, I always have.”
She first studied acting through Antony Holland’s Theatre Centre when she was 17. “When I met him I thought Shakespeare was boring!... I was saying this to one of the greatest Shakespearean actors in the world, and he said, ‘This too will change.’ And he was right.”
After the Centre, she applied to the Canadian College of Performing Arts to study acting, singing and dancing. She got the call that she was one of 30 accepted out of 3,000 applicants while she was managing a bar on a beach in Mexico. Her time at CCPA was one of the best years of her life, she said.
After a short bout in London, England, Bonnie moved back to Vancouver to live the life of a working actor, that is, supporting herself through waiting tables, and going to dozens of auditions for theatre, film and television.
Bonnie lived in that world for five years, acting locally for stage, film and television and touring with a play, One Night Stand, and starring in an independent film called Male Fantasy.
Suffering from health problems that nearly killed her, Bonnie returned home to Vancouver Island. For two years her creative pursuits were non-existence. Then a performance of The Vagina Monologues with actor Nicole Busby brought her back.
“I got on stage and I remembered myself – I realized how big a part of my life it was.”
She started teaching classes again, and learned she loved sharing her knowledge with others.
Six months ago she decided to open up a theatre school.
“Here in Nanaimo, it’s sort of the perfect time, the perfect place. There’s a wealth of possibility.”
Bonnie opened the doors to Kismet in September. She offers classes for six-year-olds to adults; her students write and perform everything on their own, something Bonnie was fortunate enough to be able to do while growing up on Gabriola.
“I always felt I had the freedom to create my own work, and I think that we all do,” she said. “We are taught ... we have fit into a certain package or that you need to have a certain mode of doing things.  As crazy as it is, I kind of love the fact that I’m not following those rules and I’m creating something from an organic place.”