By Brittany Devenyi
Michela Cannon never thought she’d be researching embalming to play the role of a 15-year-old undertaker from Iceland in her fourth-year at Ryerson’s Theatre School.
Cannon is starring as Sunna Thorson in this year’s production, “Unity (1918)” by Kevin Kerr and directed by Steve Arnott.
Her character is sent to Canada at a young age to live with her uncle. But when he dies she is forced to take up his morbid career and becomes an outcast in the community.
“I moved here from Scotland with my family six years ago,” she said.
“I understand the need and desire to belong somewhere and I understand feelings of being lonely and misunderstood.”
Cannon relates to Sunna in this way but has struggled with suppressing the character’s emotions.
“[Sunna’s] very controlled and has an otherness about her where she sets herself apart from her emotions and I’m not like that,” she said.
“I’m a cry baby, a loose cannon, I can’t hide what I feel.”
In “Unity (1918)” the actors work with directors from the industry. Cannon sees this new approach as more mature than anything she’s done before.
“They’re not our teachers, they’re our directors. You’re not in school anymore, you’re doing this,” she said.
Cannon began acting at the age of six in a chocolate bar commercial.
“That was really random because my parents weren’t stage mom or dad,” she said.
After that she was cast in popular roles like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and Oliver Twist.
The ruby red slippers and orphan life helped her to realize the stage is where she belongs.
“It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do,” she said.
Cannon has accumulated what she refers to as a “tool kit” from Ryerson.
“You’re pulling from everyone that you’ve worked with and all the exercises you’ve done.”
After graduation Cannon hopes to play a variety of strong female roles but had a new
ambition over the summer.
“I have a secret desire to be in an action movie,” she laughed.
No matter the role Cannon always finds an opportunity to grow as a person.
“It’s about understanding humans, and I think we [as actors] are very lucky to be able to explore these people,” she said.
Photo: Chelsea Pottage