Local actor makes professional debut at Upper Canada Playhouse

Jamie Wilson makes professional acting start in production of The Christmas Express

Jamie Wilson, working on set with actor Duff MacDonald, during final rehearsals for The Christmas Express.

MORRISBURG – When Upper Canada Playhouse’s new production, The Christmas Express, opens on November 30, look for a local face among the talented cast.

Jamie Wilson, 15 years old, daughter of Jim Wilson and Krista Gruetzner and Dave Pemberton, is making her professional debut in the role of Deborah in the final show of the 2018 Playhouse season.

I caught up with Jamie last week following rehearsals at the Playhouse, and talked with her about acting, and about being in a cast of professional actors for a professional theatrical run.

“Actually,” the young performer explained, “I took all of the summer theatre programs offered at Upper Canada Playhouse for the last eight years; junior, senior and advanced.”

During those experiences at the Playhouse, she learned a lot about the challenges and the demands of the stage. A grade 10 drama student, Jamie has been enthusiastically involved with the North Dundas District High School Improv Team, where she was actually one of the team captains.

“We were a very competitive team,” Jamie said, “I really like the challenge of spontaneously making up stories.”

Over the winter of 2018, Jamie was one of just five students who chose to take a special program of intensive theatre training at the Playhouse under the guidance of teacher Mary Ellen Viau.

In May, the teen actors staged an original production, In Ordinary Conversation, based on an interpretation of works by Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll and Mark Twain. As the determined “Eve” to Jack Peets’ “Adam”, Jamie gave a strong and assured performance in this production.

When artistic director Donnie Bowes was casting the part of Deborah for his production of The Christmas Express a few weeks ago, he invited Jamie to take on the role.

“Deborah is a young woman, seeking her father. Donnie adapted the role a bit so that some one my age could play her. I like her,” Jamie said. “I see a lot of similarities between the two of us. It just feels very natural to play her.”

She is thoroughly enjoying her debut experience as part of a professional cast.

“The other actors, they are really interesting people,” she said. “It’s just an amazing experience to be working with them all in this show. They are really friendly and they always treat me like an adult. I’m learning so much from all of them.”

She is also excited to be working with director Donnie Bowes.

“He’s fantastic,” Jamie said. “He’s very helpful, working with me, helping me to understand the motives in a character. He’s also very clear about what he wants from the actors in a cast, and he gives great feed back. Donnie is very encouraging to me when I am working.”

Rehearsals for The Christmas Express are now in final days.

“The show is definitely coming together,” Jamie said.

There is some exuberant singing and dancing in the show, and Jamie has been working on both. “What can I say about my singing and dancing?” Jamie laughed. “Well, I can say that I’m not awful at it.”

I asked Jamie if she was giving any thought at this point to a career in the professional theatre.

A strong student, she feels she still has a lot of options out there regarding the future. “But I want to keep drama and performance in my life. I am totally passionate about them.”

Jamie Wilson of Williamsburg will be appearing in Upper Canada Playhouse’s production of Pat Cook’s The Christmas Express, running at the Playhouse November 30 to December 21.

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