Jessica Gallant changes her passion from soccer to musical theatre and eventually lands the role of Anne Shirley’s best pal in Anne of Green Gables – The Musical
© GUARDIAN PHOTO BY SALLY COLE
Jessica Gallant is excited about making her professional debut in Anne of Green Gables - The Musical at the Charlottetown Festival this summer. A resident of Ten Mile House, she changed career goals after spending a summer with the Confederation Centre Young Company.
If anybody had told Jessica Gallant three years ago that she was going to play Anne’s kindred spirit in Anne of Green Gables – The Musical, she would never have believed it.
That’s because, at the time, the resident of Ten Mile House, P.E.I., was planning to dedicate her life to sports.
“I was playing soccer day in and day out, training with the Canada Games team. I was planning to go to St. Thomas University (in the fall) to study the arts and play soccer,” says the Morell Regional High School graduate.
However, her career plans changed after spending that summer with the Confederation Centre Young Company.
“That experience changed my life. It inspired my love of theatre,” says Gallant, who is making her professional debut this summer as Diana Barry in Canada’s longest running musical about the little red-haired orphan girl who finds love and acceptance in the Avonlea home of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert.
Performing on stage in Canada’s longest running musical is totally different than playing on a soccer field, she laughs.
“It’s totally exhilarating. It also means so much to perform a role that means so much. I’m working with some of the most talented people in the entertainment industry, people like Chilina Kennedy and Adam Brazier (stars of Evangeline) and Katie Kerr (star of Anne of Green Gables), who has been wonderful to work with,” says Gallant.
The feeling is mutual, says her on-stage kindred spirit.
“It has been an absolute joy working with Jess this summer. She is so energetic and spunky. She embodies Island life and hospitality in her work and her everyday life. She is Diana personified,” says Kerr.
Gallant’s journey to the stage began in the summer of 2010.
“I had always enjoyed watching the young company perform each year. I was always in awe of the people who got to perform on that stage every day. I also enjoyed acting,” says Gallant, who was looking for a summer job.
So, on impulse, she decided to submit an application for the Young Company.
“Randomly, I was on the Confederation Centre website and it said it was the deadline for the young company — the day you had to have your resume and head shot sent in. So my mother and I raced into (the Charlottetown Festival) office and dropped it off.
“Then I auditioned for it, just on a whim, and amazingly I got in. And that’s when everything completely changed,” she says.
Changing course on her previously charted waters, she applied and was accepted into Sheridan College’s musical theatre program.
Then, after a year at school, she returned to the Young Company to learn even more about the creative process.
“Working with people like Annie Allan and Wade Lynch was incredible. For example, at the end of the summer they would do an audition panel so they could see our growth. That experience helped me get my foot in the door,” says Gallant.
Following her graduation and stint with Feast Dinner Theatre, fast forward to this summer, where she is putting all her confidence and skills to the test in one of Canada’s most coveted roles.
“Getting to portray the friendship between Anne and Diana and seeing the reaction of the little girls in the front row is one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. Their eyes are so big end of the show. It’s so rewarding,” says Gallant.
The biggest challenge?
Playing the scene (which is a favourite one for many audience members), where Anne accidentally serves Diana currant wine instead of raspberry cordial.
In just five on-stage minutes, she has to go from being a prim and proper 10-year-old visiting her best friend to a giddy drunk, who ends up running off stage to be sick.
“Marsha Kash is such a wonderful director because she let me try new things .... So, I get to explore Diana extremely well in that scene,” says Gallant who plans to take the next step in her theatrical journey when the show closes on Sept. 25.
“I’m planning to go to California for a workshop for film acting. I’m also taking singing lessons because you can never stop learning in this industry. I’ll also audition for the things that I see.
“So we’ll see where things go from here.”
AT A GLANCE
Up close and personal with Jessica Gallant
Favourite food: Her mother’s spaghetti and meat sauce.
Favourite books: Peaches or The Alchemist.
Favourite movie: The Lion King.
Favourite part in Anne: The drunk scene, egg and spoon race.
Favourite family: Allan and Darlene Gallant.
Claim to fame: Sang at two Toronto Blue Jays Games at the Rogers Centre last fall.
Advice to young people considering a career in theatre: “Follow your dreams. Believe in yourself.”