In anticipation of Nightwood Theatre’s 8th annual Lawyer Show, The Theatre Reader’s Daniel Fridmar spoke with Courtney Evans who plays the lead character in the company's production of Legally Blonde: The Musical.
Evans graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 2012 and has a background in drama and musical theatre. She currently works for TD Securities, where she advises on implementing regulatory requirements.
How do you find time to balance your work, personal life and rehearsal responsibilities? How often does your troop meet?
We normally rehearse three times a week for three and a half hours. You do (a lot of) your work outside of rehearsal. We also have a buddy system where everyone helps each other out, but we treat each other like professional actors – when you show up, you have to be ready to go. This is a tough obligation overall. It’s easier for me because I work a nine-to-five job, but some people who are working on Bay Street have a much more difficult time with this commitment.
What has your experience been like playing Elle Woods?
The experience itself has been great – the focus has been finding exactly what makes Elle tick. It’s easy to fall into the trap of playing a character as dumb and perky, but she’s actually really strong, resilient and open, and all of these incredibly positive things guide her through the show. It’s been neat to find her through this journey, while trying to keep her grounded and not treat her like bubble gum.
Your LinkedIn indicates that you’re a manager at TD – are you no longer practicing law? Does this mean that the Lawyer Show is available to all members of the bar, regardless of their practicing status?
I work in Business Regulatory Initiatives in TD Securities, which means I’m advising on new or amended regulations for the business, although you’re correct in saying I'm not practicing law in the traditional sense. The Lawyer Show however, is open to all members of the bar, including law students. This is the fourth year I am involved, with the first year being when I was articling. I had a law degree at the time, however. They are open to people coming in – however, a lot of people audition and it’s somewhat competitive. You have to prove yourself. I was in the chorus for two years, and had a lead last year.
I can see that you have an undergrad and Master’s degree in musical theatre – is that a requirement or consideration during auditions or do you have actors with varying levels of skill?
Not at all – that’s what’s so fun about it. You have people with some theatre (experience) coming together with people who have never seen a stage in their life. It brings a sense of community. There are no egos involved and everyone is there to support one another. You don’t need to submit a resume. No need for an intense interview, but there is a callback audition. Some people might find the callbacks more stressful.
Funnily enough, Legally Blonde is actually one of the reasons why I was motivated to attend law school. Is there any particular reason for this choice – aside from the topical relevance?
It’s hard to find a show that meets the criteria of a big cast, and Legally Blonde carries an opportunity for people to do little character bits. Another issue is the availability of rights to use the script and overall expenses in putting on the show – the Lawyer Show is a fundraiser, after all! I think one of the main reasons they chose Legally Blonde is due to Elle Woods being a strong female lead – which connects with Nightwood Theatre’s feminist point of view. As a female, she rises through the odds against her and it sends a strong message.
Has your law training translated at all into your acting training or vice versa?
Definitely. It’s funny because as some lawyers are scared during trial preparation or during litigation and articling, I, personally, am very comfortable on my feet. Even though you don’t always know exactly what to say, the actor training makes you agile and heightens your listening and observation skills, making you present and engaged at whatever is thrown at you. This has actually helped me in my job. Conversely, being in situations where you don’t know what’s going to come at you in the real world (helps my acting). Whatever goes wrong on stage isn’t as scary because I'm used to the uncertainty.
Aside from the obvious networking opportunity that actors receive by participating in the Lawyer Show, are there any other reasons that you think people would be willing to commit to this activity?
It’s just fun. Yes, it is a networking opportunity, but it is so nice to be in an environment where you’re not in a suit. You show up and you’re playing silly games in your bare feet. It’s a lovelier way to meet fellow lawyers than at a stiff cocktail reception.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Legally Blonde: The Musical will run at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts from June 8-10.