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Genny Sermonia

Moving Forward

Pierre Gautreau

Joe Szekeres

Genny Sermonia is one person whom I hope to see on stage again very, very soon. The first time I had seen her work was in ‘A Chorus Line’ where director Donna Feore and the Stratford Festival had received permission to stage the production in a unique way to fit the Festival Theatre. And my goodness, every part of that stage was used to full effect. It was a terrific performance.

I had a chance to peruse her resume, and Genny’s work on stage, in film and television is extensive. Her training is top notch as she is an Honours Graduate of the Sheridan Institute with further study at The Charlottetown Festival Young Company and Shaw Mandate Intensive.

We conducted our interview via email. Enjoy every moment with your new baby girl in your lives, Genny:

It has been an exceptionally long six months since we’ve all been in isolation, and now it appears the numbers are edging upward again. How are you feeling about this? Will we ever emerge to some new way of living in your opinion?

I’m not going to lie; I am beginning to feel a little anxious again about the numbers edging up because it broke my heart to not be able to see my family at the beginning of isolation. Summer allowed us to safely be socially distant outside and so going back into isolation indoors, though we’ve already experienced it. I am not looking forward to remaining away from family and close friends.

How have you been faring? How has your immediate family been doing during these last six months?

Well, I was pregnant all throughout quarantine and so I wasn’t sure if my anxiety was because I was pregnant, being afraid of contracting COVID-19, or just my anxiety in general. I’m an introvert and so staying in wasn’t so bad at first, but not having the option to leave our condo unless necessary made me feel a little trapped.

My family and I are very close so in the beginning of isolation we Face Time’d quite often and also kept in touch through Facebook Messenger where we have a family group chat. We’ve safely seen each other this summer but there’s definitely an invisible barrier around each other that I wish wasn’t there.

As an artist within the performing arts community, what has been the most difficult and challenging for you professionally and personally?

I was actually supposed to perform in this season at the Stratford Festival but my husband and I were blessed with news of being pregnant! Even though we were over the moon to become parents, a part of me was sad to let go of not being able to be in one of my favourite dream shows, ‘Chicago’, and to be in the world premiere of ‘Here’s What It Takes’ in the newly built Tom Patterson Theatre. It was a whirlwind of emotions coming to terms with letting go of my professional dreams for my personal dreams but oddly in the end, I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t able to perform this season. Is that weird to say?

Were you in preparation, rehearsals, or any planning stages of productions before everything was shut down? What has become of those projects? Will they see the light of day anytime soon?

I guess I sort of answered this question with the previous question. I’m not quite sure what is to become of these two musicals. Donna Feore, who is the director of both ‘Chicago’ and ‘Here’s What It Takes’ invited me to sit in on a technical rehearsal one day for ‘Chicago’ and it was incredible. I would hate for all of Donna’s work and the work of the actors and creative team to never see the light of day. The talent and caliber were out of this world.

What have you been doing to keep yourself busy during this time?

During isolation I was taking dance classes through Zoom, reading up on pregnancy and parenting, baking, self-tape auditions for commercials, and lots of yoga and meditation to keep me centered. As of late, I’ve been giving all of my time to my newborn baby girl and now teaching Jazz technique to the Music Theatre Program at Sheridan via Zoom.

Any words of wisdom or advice you might /could give to fellow performers and colleagues? What message would you deliver to recent theatre school graduates who have now been set free into this unknown and uncertainty given the fact live theaters and studios might be closed for 1 ½ - 2 years?

You know it’s such a dark time for many right now. I feel like while we’ve been going through this pandemic for months now; we have also been seeing many social and racial injustices come to light. So much is coming out of us mentally and emotionally, and as artists our job is to portray and mirror society, and so my advice for fellow performers and colleagues but really for anyone who is trying to find light in such a dark time is to be gentle with yourselves.

Take this time to reflect on how we treat each other, and how we’ve been treating each other while we have time…and we have lots of time right now. Take that Zoom dance class, brush up on vocal scales but pace yourselves and remember to work on your well-being. We rarely get that chance to slow down in our fast-paced “God, I hope I get it” industry. How are you able to mirror reality as an actor if you’re not grounded as a person?

Do you see anything positive stemming from Covid 19?

I am actually seeing a lot of positives coming out of COVID-19. Me personally, I have been able to spend time and LIVE with my husband in Toronto for almost an enter year now as I am usually living and working in Stratford or Niagara on the Lake. I’ve seen many friends develop new skills and create their own businesses. I’ve been able to be present and have a baby!

I am hopeful that if and when theatres are back that the talent is going to be show stopping because many of my colleagues are itching to get back and have been keeping up with their training and finding ways to keep themselves grounded which I find so important as an artist.

Do you think Covid 19 will have some lasting impact on the Toronto/Canadian/North American performing arts scene?

Like I said, my colleagues are itching to get back to work and already Canadians are known for their talent and work ethic it being such a smaller theatre scene in Canada already. I can’t wait to see what’s in store when we eventually get there!

Some artists have turned to You Tube and online streaming to showcase their work. What are your comments and thoughts about streaming? Is this something that the actor/theatre may have to utilize going forward into the unknown?

I think it’s great that artists have been showcasing their work online. We are entertainers living in a new era where we have to be even more creative wit how we share our art because our job is to remind people how to feel. I’m not saying it’s our duty because not all artists feel open right now, but it’s certainly an outlet for some and I’m enjoying watching our theatre community come together if not for an audience but for each other.

Despite all this fraught tension and confusion, what is it about performing that Covid will never destroy for you?

Performing is a feeling, an emotion. I can’t ever fully put into words but when I act and dance it says it all. Even if it’s just dancing in my kitchen right now or looking at stage photos it makes me happy. A recent clip of ‘What I Did for Love’ from ‘A Chorus Line’ that I performed in at the Stratford Festival in 2016 popped up online that I didn’t even know was filmed. The song, the scene, the moment was a good reminder that there will still be dark days, but what I did for love and what I still hope to do was and is still worth it.

I look forward to the day theatre comes back.

Follow Genny on Instagram and Twitter @gennysermonia

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