By Brittany Devenyi
For the past month, Edward Hillier has slipped into a woman’s girdle, fastened on a juicy pair of fake breasts and abandoned his masculinity.
Hillier, a fourth-year acting student at the
Ryerson Theatre School, is taking on the lead role as a transwoman, Aline, in one of this year’s largest productions, “The Girls Who Saw Everything” by Sean Dixon and directed by Ruth Madoc-Jones.
Defying his own expectations, he says Aline has taught him more about himself than he ever thought possible.
“I feel more sure of myself as a man after exploring the other side ,” he said.
Although Hillier says playing this distinctive character is challenging — like remembering to cross his legs while wearing a skirt — he says it also reveals the extent of his capabilities.
“It’s about stretching yourself and broadening the spectrum.”
With each character he endeavors, Hillier is able to learn more about himself. Still, he manages to keep his personal self separate from his identity on stage.
“It’s more about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes than just mimicking their behaviour.”
He compares the art of acting to playing an instrument.
“An instrument is a physical object that you practice and get in tune with, much like we need to get in tune with the instrument inside of ourself.”
However in acting there is a component of delicacy that must be acknowledged.
“A guitarist can always buy a new instrument, but if we break our leg then we’re out of luck.”
Hillier grew up in England and has been acting since the age of 13. He practiced performing in England for two years before coming to Ryerson.
“I look at myself now compared to who I was in first year, and I am a completely different person.”
Hillier is hoping to open his own theatre
company this spring. His aspirations to become a
director have already taken hold, as he begins to plan for his company here in Toronto.
“Acting itself has given me the tools I need to learn how to work with other actors.”
Through his eyes, acting involves a group of people emersing themselves into a story and
creating something as real as it is raw.
“If you watch a music video of your favourite band perform, it’s never going to be as good as seeing the band live,” he said.
“It’s live, it’s there, and it’s breathing.”
Photo: Chelsea Pottage