Justin Stadnyk

Looking Ahead

Courtesy of Talk is Free Theatre website

Joe Szekeres

‘There are other voices in today’s world right now that are more important than mine for them to tell their stories, and for them to lead and be seen leading.”

Justin Stadynyk’s final comment during our recent conversation resonated strongly with me. He is more than happy to allow these voices to take their course and proper place in society. He hopes to still be performing in the next five years but also hopes to take that creative bug he has to be on the writing team of a show or the re-creation of a show.

I applaud artists who will do their best to make something like this happen and I believe Stadnyk will do just that.

He and his wife (who owns a few Winnipeg dance studios) have one newborn and one toddler boy in the house. He stated that he prefers shorter work contracts for now as he doesn’t want to be too far away from home. After we ‘zoomed’ each other, I did a bit of research and discovered I had seen him perform in 2009 at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra in ‘The Boys in the Photograph’ (formerly titled ‘The Beautiful Game’ when I saw the show in London’s West End). I wished I had told him that during our conversation, but it’s here now in print and that’s the important thing.

He will appear in September for three days in Barrie Ontario’s Talk is Free Theatre’s ‘Giants in the Sky’.

Just what is ‘Giants in the Sky’ aside from a song title in ‘Into the Woods’?

Over September 9-11, 2022, and September 16-18, 2022, culture, music, and theatrical performance are bringing rooftops, balconies, and fire escapes of the city of Barrie, Ontario to life, and it’s all free.

Performing in some manner has always been a part of Justin’s life. He reminisced that he sang on the playground when he was a “young, young kid.” He attended a Winnipeg high school that had a good performing arts program. He jokingly stated he didn’t follow in the footsteps of his two older brothers and decided to go somewhere else. As soon as he graduated high school, Justin relocated to Oakville, attended the Musical Theatre Program at Sheridan College, and graduated in 2006.

This thing called Covid still hovers around all of us, including the performing arts. For Justin, these last two-plus years of absence from live entertainment have placed a lot of things into perspective for him. Justin proudly states his path during the pandemic slightly veered as he and his wife had two boys born during this time. One was born days after the initial shutdown and the other was born five months ago.

He calls these last two years a re-shuffling in a perspective shift: “it feels nice that things are slowly getting back in, and it seems as if people are okay with that. Before there was the hustle of the artist trying to get the work, and now, for me, the work seems more meaningful and has a weight to it. Talk is Free’s GIANTS IN THE SKY will allow me a three-day event of musical theatre songs that I love and love to showcase.”

What was it that drew Justin to the upcoming ‘Giants in the Sky’ project?

He found this a great welcome back for the artists to come together to share their voices in this festival. He recognizes artists are trying to find their comfort level returning to performance as it is nerve-wracking since one can’t just simply return and pick things back up again.

Not only does he consider his 45-minute performance set ‘Corner of the Sky’ a nice welcome back to theatre, but also the vast array of programming that has been put together by Talk is Free for the two weekends is fascinating from drummers to poetry readings to opera singers, jazz singers, musical theatre artists, impersonators. Stadnyk calls ‘Giants in the Sky’ a great chance for the artists to ‘wet their whistle’ again with arts and not be forced to put an entire evening aside for one style.

Stadnyk will perform outdoors in a back alley for the comfort of those who might not be ready yet to venture indoors into a packed theatre. He has selected an array of songs from the musical theatre canon from classic to pop. He doesn’t have to stick to one genre of the musical theatre category in case a specific song might not be someone’s cup of tea.

Additionally, Justin is also a ten-year entrepreneur and works in Yoga and Meditation. He completed his teacher training for Yoga in Brazil in 2011/2012. According to his website, his primary business is: “just music™ . It has become the “go-to” music editing company for choreographers all over North America and the world. The mission of just music™ is to provide a resource for the creative arts and sport communities to create non-jarring, seamless music edits along with providing other music services in order to allow choreographers the time and head space to flourish as just that, the choreographer.”

Justin started Yoga when he was playing Gilbert Blythe in the Charlottetown Festival’s production of ‘Anne of Green Gables’. It was called Moksha Yoga then and now it’s called Modo Yoga. He fell in love with yoga as he discovered it helps with his singing and dancing in his musical career. What he didn’t expect from yoga was how much it would help in his acting because of the ability to practice letting go of everything and being in yoga for however long the session:

“It is the same with acting.” Justin explains: “One has to let go of the day and be in the moment for the length of the performance. This is hard as there is so much going on in our lives especially surrounding the pandemic now. It’s important not to be able to push down your feelings and stories but to shelve for that moment so you can pick them up later for performance if necessary.”

He smiles and concurs how good of a question it is to ask someone where he/she/they see themselves in the next five years. His favourite part of the arts is creating. Some of Justin’s favourite shows have been world premieres and not re-creations of something. He would love to start working on the other side of the table as part of that creative process and perhaps become a writer, an assistant director or a director. If these opportunities presented themselves in the next five years, Justin would like to dabble in them more.

And finally, what’s next for Justin Stadnyk once ‘Giants in the Sky’ is complete and he returns home to Winnipeg and his family:

“I’m working on ‘Into the Woods’ with Winnipeg’s Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. The pandemic has made many companies realize they need a bigger insurance policy with standbys and understudies. This is a different role for me as I will be a standby for two of the roles: the Baker and the Narrator and the Mysterious Man. So, in true form to what I said about my five-year plan, I’m really looking forward to the creative process where I get to sit and watch all of these people create and then I get to learn the roles…It’s going to be a new experience for me to be sitting taking notes up in the back and rehearsing things, but I’m excited to be doing it in Winnipeg. I’m happy this is happening more and more in theatre companies.”

To learn more about Talk is Free Theatre’s ‘Giants in the Sky’ festival, visit www.tift.com.

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