Fort St. John arts stars return home for Christmas

Three professional performers originally from Fort St. John enlightened a crowd at the North Peace Art Gallery on Thursday evening about what inspired them to pursue a career in the arts.

Emily Fraser, Elysia Cruz, and Shannon May Craig were home for Christmas and each presented stories about their personal challenges and successes. Arts Stars Home for Christmas was the fourth in a series at the North Peace Cultural Centre featuring professional artists who came from Fort St. John. Arts Stars is aimed at encouraging local youth to understand the scope of the commitment in a career in the Arts.

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Emily Fraser is working in Vancouver as a costume designer in professional theatre. After training in all aspects of theatre, she became intrigued with costuming and worked with Bard on the Beach and recently on the Passion Play in Drumheller, Alberta. She emphasized that costume designing and sewing takes more than skill with a needle and thread.

All facets of a business are now her personal responsibility from doing her own taxes to setting up meetings to move on to the next job. In her job she has to research authentic costumes, design the wardrobes to suit the actors in the various roles and relate to the entire production and cast.

She has seven different jobs lined up for next year. She said, "You have to be ready to take all reasonable jobs offered — big or small — and get to know people so they get to know you."

While she is working on one show she is constantly looking ahead for the next opportunity.

Elysia Cruz graduated from North Pace Senior Secondary in June 2019 and was directly accepted into the Sheridan College Musical Theatre School in Oakville near Toronto. Elysia had no formal training in music nor dance but said her community theatre experience with Stage North and NPSS inspired her to pursue this journey.

Sheridan has the highest calibre musical theatre training in Canada and rarely accepts students directly out of high school. Facilitator at Arts Stars, Ted Sloan, a professional actor on his own, said, "Sheridan for musical theatre performers is like getting into the NHL for hockey players."

Elysia explained that her first three months have been a big adjustment but says keeping in contact with her parents and her family's close religious affiliations have helped her through the self-doubt and anxiety. As one of only 25 females and 20 males accepted at the school this year, and up against more seasoned professionals in dance, music, and acting, Elysia is determined to learn as much and as quickly as she can.

She takes music, acting, dance lessons daily and works eight hours a day then does textbook work after that. Her advice is, "believe in yourself and be prepared to work hard."

Shannon May Craig is a professional dancer who trained in Fort St. John with Studio 2 Stage and Arts Umbrella in Vancouver. Having all the basics of ballet, jazz, and tap, Shannon has found her calling in Contemporary Dance.

She has worked in Mystic, Connecticut, and Haarlem, Netherlands, and now is in Vancouver choreographing short works for video and breaking new ground with a Dance Collective. She is most excited about a longer piece that she is choreographing with a company in the Netherlands.

Shannon has discovered that one cannot be shy about making yourself known in the dance world. Shannon said, "Stepping out and being noticed is important."

She advised local youth to take every opportunity to learn from others, go to workshops, don't be afraid to introduce yourself to those who may help you, make a portfolio of your work, and take a risk with something new.

The Fort St. John Arts Council and the North Peace Cultural Centre will feature Arts Stars again in March 2020. Look forward to hearing from professional artists and performers from Fort St. John who have made a career in the Arts in the province, across Canada and internationally.

Email your community news to Managing Editor Matt Preprost at

Arts Stars - Home for Christmas was the fourth in a series at the North Peace Cultural Centre featuring professional artists who came from Fort St. John. Arts Stars is aimed at encouraging local youth to understand the scope of the commitment in a career in the arts. - Sue Popesku
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