It’s shocking sometimes how much one decision can shape an entire lifetime.
Just ask Henri Canino.
At age 15, at the urging of her St. Patrick’s High School drama teacher Gord Bristo, she decided to check out community theatre.
In the 30 years since, Theatre Sarnia has been a second home, a critical outlet for her creativity, a wealth of learning, and a source of great personal accomplishment.
Canino even met her husband Frank there.
“He was set building and I was doing sound design. The rest is history,” she laughs.
That first season with Theatre Sarnia she stayed behind the scenes doing makeup. But by the second season she proved to have a natural ability on stage. At age 17, she won an award for best juvenile actress.
Since then, Canino has been involved with dozens of plays, sometimes performing on stage, often directing, frequently doing sound design and even producing once. She’s been nominated and won numerous awards from the Western Ontario Dram League for a variety of skills, including outstanding performance by an actress for her role in last year’s “The Clean House.”
Also in 2015, Canino was chosen by Theatre Sarnia to become an Honourary Life Member.
“I grew up in a house with music,” she said. “My dad introduced me to a vast variety of music styles. We watched films and he’d tell me about movie scores. I played the violin.
“He just wanted us to be cultured and I am really thankful for that.”
When Canino discovered her love of theatre she channelled all that energy into Theatre Sarnia, and believes community theatre can play a vital role in young lives.
“I was one of those teenagers that didn’t fit in. I didn’t do sports, but I was creative,” she said. “I found that community theatre was a place where I could be myself because it was a great place to be creative.”
Canino is directing Theatre Sarnia’s next show, 33 Variations, a poignant and funny play inspired by Ludwig van Beethoven’s work.
Sarnia pianist and music teacher Dan Sonier is on stage throughout 33 Variations playing the piano while 33 short scenes are presented by a cast of seven. Some scenes are only a minute long.
The combination of music and a strong message about the human condition drew Canino to the play, which debuted on Broadway in 2009 starring Jane Fonda and was nominated for five Tony Awards.
“I’ve been tending to choose plays that tell something about what it means to be human,” said Canino, who teaches religion and introduction to film at St. Pat’s, her alma mater.
“I want to direct plays where the audience comes away with something that changes their thinking, something that reminds them what is important in life.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: 33 Variations – A drama by Moises Kaufman
WHEN: Jan. 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. and Feb. 3-6 at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: The Imperial Theatre
TICKETS: Adults $25; seniors $22; students $12.50. Call 519-344-7469 or visit www.imperialtheatre.net.