I have been trying to track down Ma-Anne Dionisio for quite some time to profile her work as an artist. I first saw Ma-Anne’s performance in the original Canadian production of ‘Miss Saigon’ which opened Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre. Since then, I have seen her performance as Maria in ‘West Side Story’ at Ontario’s Stratford Festival. I’ve also seen online that she and other artists have given concerts as our world slowly makes its way out of the pandemic.
I was so thankful when she agreed to be profiled for this series as she is one busy lady in preparation for an upcoming production in May.
Originally studying in the Sciences either to become a doctor or a dentist, Ma-Anne was invited into the world of the performing arts. She has three children and homeschools them during this time of the pandemic. Ma-Anne sees her purpose in life as healer and provider so the science mind within her was highly cognizant of the constant flow of varied conflicting information we were all receiving as a collective race during Covid.
She is a self-assured, confident lady who opened up quite a bit about what she called the ‘loaded question’ of year three of the worldwide pandemic and how she and her family have been doing. She candidly spoke how she feels she has heightened and deeper intuitions and has learned to trust them especially when it comes to the safety of her loved ones. Ma-Anne continues to work on her personal well being because the situation of Covid in which we now find ourselves, we put our loved ones first.
Ma-Anne spoke about the challenges she has faced during the pandemic, but she also says this time was a blessing for her. With gratitude, she acknowledges several of her family members who are front line workers and with sadness she has also experienced several familial losses during this time both from Covid and other reasons. Personally, this time has given her the opportunity to be with her immediate family members and those close to her, and to look inward where she honoured and made use of that time in the first year to get connected with herself and the planet.
She made a definite choice not to perform for that first year.
Ma-Anne knew that a lot of artists panicked where they felt they had to move towards virtual performances because they needed to do so. She respects and honours those who felt this way and made that choice because it was a challenging time.
She chose not to do this. Instead, in her own words, she said: “Let’s honour the quiet, be quiet and do nothing because why not?”
This time away was a real gift for Ma-Anne to honour. She is quite humble in that she doesn’t like to talk about herself so much or to be the centre of attention. She doesn’t consider herself a stereotypical performer and actor. For her, she is grateful to be able to use the theatre to connect with people and to heal both herself and whoever is present. She clarifies the work comes ‘through’ her and it is never about her. I found this latter statement interesting.
But as a single mother, whenever Ma-Anne signs on to a project, she is mindful of the fact her children rely on her as caregiver and provider. It is a big decision now to come inside a theatre for everyone because there is a risk involved, but it’s even bigger than before the pandemic. She cannot afford to put herself in a situation where she endangers herself and therefore her children, so the project has to be worth it to make that decision to get involved.
It was only last year where she decided to take on a couple of projects. The first production was ‘Follies’ a two-evening concert at Koerner Hall directed by Richard Ouzounian back in October.
The second project is the upcoming ‘Lesson in Forgetting’ in May with Andrew Moodie through Pleaides Theatre at the Young Centre in the Distillery District. Ma-Anne took this project on as she learned Pleaides would sell 50% capacity for the run of the production, and that is for the safety of those attending plus the performers.
How true, Ma-Anne, especially for all of us who have a keen interest in the live arts. We have seen how things can turn so quickly so we must take things day by day especially when we look to the Broadway theatre scene.
What drew her to want to get involved with ‘Lesson in Forgetting’:
“Once in awhile in this business you come across certain pieces that are just beautiful. Hopefully we are successful in delivering the intent of this piece and what it has in its very core in this story. The play is a wonderful observation of humanity and devotion."
And how is Ma-Anne feeling at this point in the value of rehearsals as she, Andrew and the company approach opening night?
Before she answered this question, Ma-Anne reiterated once again the value of work is always in progress. For her, the beauty of theatre is that it is a living, breathing piece, and because it is living it constantly changes in an instant. Rehearsals are still a work in progress for Ma-Anne as she continues to become comfortable with the material in the moment and learn about the character so that, in the end, she can move out of the way so that whatever needs to be delivered through her and the piece can come through.
And what does she hope audiences will leave with after seeing ‘Lesson in Forgetting’:
“This piece is so beautifully written about the vulnerability and fragility of the human mind and heart, and the human spirit. It’s a wonderful observation of what goes on when your own idea of what love should look like is being challenged.”
What’s next for Ma-Anne Dionisio once ‘Lesson in Forgetting’ is completed?
She laughed and said there’s a lot happening simultaneously right now for her, and she said that’s the thing about this business because when it rains, it pours. Personally, she is a work in progress all the time. Professionally, Ma-Anne is developing a new musical with a writer from New York and a Canadian co-writer, so a writer/director team from there. Her limited series she shot last year with Apple is coming out soon. Her other series ‘Astrid and Lilly Save the World’ both on Crave and Sy Fy.
Andrey Tarasiuk, Artistic Producer of Pleiades Theatre, announces the English language world premiere of ‘Lesson in Forgetting’ by Emma Haché, commissioned by Pleiades and translated by Taliesin McEnaney with John Van Burek, runs live on stage from May 3 to 22 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto’s historic Distillery District.
For tickets visit www. https://tickets.youngcentre.ca. To learn more about Pleaides Theatre, visit www.pleiadestheatre.org.