Our volunteer, Jessica, worked with YPT over several months, observing the production of James and the Giant Peach go from page to stage. An avid theatre-lover and actor herself, Jessica was particularly interested in the actors and spent time with Amy Lee (who played Sponge) over the course of her placement to look at what it means to become and work as a professional actor in Toronto. Here’s a snippet of an interview Jessica conducted in which Amy talks about her professional theatre journey.

Amy Lee in James and the Giant Peach, 2017, Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Pictured (L-R): Matt Nethersole, Amy Lee and Amaka Umeh in James and the Giant Peach at YPT, 2017. Set Design by Teresa Przybylski; Costume Design by Joanna Yu; Lighting Design by Rebecca Picherack; Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Jessica: How long have you been acting?

Amy: I started taking classes when I was 6 years old at The Manitoba Theatre for Young People. I saw my brother in a play, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and said, “that is what I want to do”. When I was 17, I moved to Toronto from Winnipeg and studied theatre at York University. At the end of first year, you decide what you want to do – I got into the Creative Ensemble.

Jessica: How long have you been acting at YPT?

Amy Lee in The Invisible Girl, 2010, photo by Iden Ford

Amy Lee in The Invisible Girl at YPT, 2010. Set & Costume Design by Camellia Koo; Lighting Design by Kimberley Purtell; Photo by Iden Ford.

Amy: My first show at YPT was in April 2010, when I played Hana in Hana’s Suitcase. In October 2010, I performed in The Invisible Girl. It was a one-person show where I played 5 different characters. It was about bullying and took place in a closet – a giant closet! Nina Lee Aquino – the director of James and the Giant Peach – also directed that play. We loved working together.

Jessica: What other roles have you played in past plays? What is your favorite role? Do you like to play serious roles or funny roles?

Amy: I have a clown duo called Morro and Jasp. I play Jasp and we are sisters.  We have been together for 12 years and met in theatre school. We have done lots of work together. Right now, we are doing a show called Morro and Jasp in Stupefaction.

Morro and Jasp

Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee aka clown duo “Morro and Jasp”

I remember years ago before I did Hana’s Suitcase, which is a serious role, I thought no one would hire me for a serious role, because I do so many comedic or funny roles. Whether it is serious or funny, I like to be honest and playful.

Amy Lee & Clarence Sponagle in Hana's Suitcase, 09-10

Pictured (L-R): Amy Lee and Clarence Sponagle in Hana’s Suitcase at YPT, 2009. Set & Costume Design by Teresa Przybylski; Lighting Design by Andrea Lundy; Photo by Iden Ford.

Jessica : Do you ever play in performances outside of Toronto, like Hollywood or Broadway?

Amy:  I have never performed in Hollywood or on Broadway, but I have done theatre in New York. We took two of our Morro and Jasp shows to New York! I have also performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (the largest in the world) and in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Halifax, Sydney and Cape Breton.

Jessica : Did you always want to be an actress?

Amy: When I was little I wanted to be an actor or a brain doctor (I didn’t know at that time that they were called a neurologist, but my aunt was one). I was also interested in being a psychologist, but I have been in love with theatre since I was very young.

Jessica: If I want to become a full-time actress, do you have any advice for me?

Amy:  It is a good idea to see all kinds of shows to help lead you to find the type you want to create. I am also a big advocate for creating your own work. When I finished theatre school no one was hiring me so I decided to make my own plays (Morro and Jasp). So, that is what I kept doing because it is hard to be hired all the time.

Jessica: I love acting!

Amy: Me too!

amy leeAmy Lee’s selected performance credits include James and the Giant PeachCinderella: A RATical Retelling (Dora Award), Here to Hear (with Carousel Players), The Invisible Girl and Hana’s Suitcase (Young People’s Theatre), Bright Lights (Theatre Brouhaha), Morro and Jasp: 9-5 (Factory Theatre), Weather the Weather (Theatre Columbus), Pride and Prejudice (RMTC), and November (WJT). Amy assistant directed Emily’s Piano and Annie at YPT and The Dog and the Angel with Theatre Columbus. She has been a writer-in-residence at Factory Theatre and often works as a Resident Artist Educator at YPT. Amy is Co-Artistic Director of U.N.I.T. Productions and plays Jasp in the Dora and Canadian Comedy Award-winning clown duo Morro and Jasp.

Jessica Rotolo

Jessica Rotolo loves acting, dancing and musicals. She has just finished grade 12 at Heydon Park Secondary School. She sits on the Student Council, sings in the choir and her favourite subjects are gym and drama. Volunteering is an important part of Jessica’s life and she has been involved with many organizations including YPT, Best Buddies, Down Syndrome Association of Toronto (DSAT), DramaWay and more! In her spare time, she loves going for lunch and movie with a friend (often seeing a flick multiple times. To date, she has seen Beauty and the Beast four times!) For the past 5 years, Jessica has been acting with DramaWay. Each year she performs in a play. Currently, she is working on a sci-fi themed play, Galaxy Trek of the Star Guardians. Jessica will be bringing her outgoing and brave personality to the role of Darth Serious (aka Darth Vader).