"I couldn't be in better company with incredible artists from 'Casey and Diana' "
Provided by The Stratford Festival
A delightful conversation with Krystin Pellerin.
This month she appears as Diana, Princess of Wales, at the Stratford Festival’s ‘Casey and Diana’ by Nick Green. The production opens June 1 and runs to June 17 at the Studio Theatre.
During our Zoom conversation, I told the National Theatre School graduate she and I went way back. She smiled and quizzed me a bit further. I saw her work back in 2009 when she appeared on CBC’s ‘Republic of Doyle’. I was off on cancer leave from work that year and Tuesday nights were my ‘me time’ spent watching her, Allan Hawco (Jake Doyle), and a cast of wonderful actors tell the weekly story of the Doyles, their work as police officers, and all the other familial machinations. A big smile then came across her face as she was so grateful to hear how the show provided some relief for me and my family.
Fast forward past 2010, I have seen Krystin’s work in Soulpepper’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ and at Stratford where she played a sultry Lady Macbeth.
By the publishing date of her profile, Pellerin will be in performance of ‘Casey and Diana’.
The play is a Stratford Commission. The story follows the Toronto AIDS hospice, Casey House, and the anticipation of the Princess of Wales’s arrival in 1991, the hope she brings, and the effect her visit has on the house residents. This historical moment saw the world in fear over the AIDS and HIV pandemic. Nick Green’s story vividly captures when a rebel Princess, alongside less famous caregivers and advocates, reshaped the course of a pandemic—and how those stricken by the virus found hard-won dignity, community, and love in the face of astonishing hardship.
Krystin feels so fortunate to be a part of the production. It has been completely inspiring and fulfilling for her in ways that she could never anticipate. With an incredible script by Nick Green, Pellerin feels this is a perfect opportunity to return to the theatre:
“This has been one of the smoothest rehearsal periods. I feel so well taken care of as an actor. I couldn’t be in better company with incredible artists. [Director] Andrew Kushnir has been facilitating all that. It has been a heartfelt and heartening experience. His vision has been crystal clear but entirely collaborative."
As an actor, Pellerin acknowledges Kushnir’s mindfulness has allowed the artists to go deep into the intensity of the story.
And on playing the late Princess of Wales?
Pellerin took a moment and paused to try and find the right words:
“It’s daunting and very, very big shoes to fill. It’s such a privilege to be inspired by her for a whole nine months. I was cast in September, and I’ve been absorbing as much as I can in keeping her close to my heart. I intend for Diana’s spirit to stay with me always. She is a gift.”
She also spoke about how healing the research and rehearsal process has been. When Krystin gets past the initial moments of feeling scared, she says there is such a calming effect Diana exudes on the actor and the people in Nick Green’s script.
Pellerin has said it has been a real treat researching online the videos of Diana and her work in visiting and being with others. There is so much out there, but what has been remarkable in this research was finding those candid and private moments of the Princess. These documentaries where Diana is herself and at home speaking privately were the most informative for Krystin.
Any word from Buckingham Palace or the Princes about their mother?
Rumours will always float around, and they can’t be verified. However, Krystin has heard there might have been reaching out to Harry and Meghan but that is unfounded.
Who knows? One of us just might be sitting next to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. As Krystin says: “That would be surreal.”
What are some important messages audiences will take away from ‘Casey and Diana’?
One thing Krystin has noticed is the lived experience many of the audience members have had about this time in the early ‘90s. She hopes the performance will bring healing to them. For those who are coming without any lived experience of this time, she also hopes the performance gives a glimpse of the people who lived with HIV in the past and those in the present. She trusts the play will remove that stigma that might remain today.
How’s she feeling about the return to the theatre?
She follows the advice she gives to anyone entering the industry:
“Take care of your spirit and be always looking for ways to be inspired on a daily basis. If you’re living well and taking care of yourself you have so much more to give.”
Change has been a part of the theatre industry. Nevertheless, Krystin feels this is the first year we are starting to come out on the other side bit by bit. The proverbial next five years of the theatre will be making up for lost time and she appreciates now more than ever to be with an audience again and how changing it can be.
She avows we need the theatre industry now more than ever. It takes time for all to adjust and become comfortable again, and yes Krystin at times feels a bit tentative; however, that sense of relief with the personal connection of being in front of a live audience again after having been without it for so long has become a visceral experience. It’s ELECTRIC and so VITAL.
Although ‘Casey and Diana’ is a short run, Krystin can sense she and many of the cast feel the play will have a life after its run at the Studio Theatre. Will it tour around the province? Krystin can only speak for herself but she’s almost positive everyone would be there in a heartbeat if it moves forward in that respect.
As we concluded our conversation, what’s next for the busy artist once the play concludes its run:
“Right now, it’s an open book. We’ll see what happens. I am looking forward to getting back to my family life. My husband and I have a two-year-old daughter. I’ve been away from her during the days and nights and am looking forward to having a summer and quality time with her. I’m open to anything.”
To purchase tickets to see ‘Casey and Diana’, visit www.stratfordfestival.ca or call 1-800-567-1600.