Shawna Van Omme: One to Watch
You see them all the time: notices for “Open Calls”. Sometimes you have to wonder: is this real or a scam? If you don’t already know this, there are a lot of money making schemes out there. Any time you see something telling you a big producer or casting director from Hollywood is coming, run. If anyone says they’ll assess your talent for a fee, run faster than non-waterproof mascara on Oscar night.
Sometimes though, especially for theatre, they are real. But the next question is: are they doing it because they’re really looking for people, or is it simply a publicity ploy? For many shows, sadly, they’ll do these calls so they can get the media in and squeeze out as much coverage possible. It’s a way to drum up pre-opening publicity and help boost ticket sales. So the question is, can someone actually get hired this way?
That’s exactly what Charlottetown native Shawna Van Omme was wondering when she decided to go to the open call for the Canadian premier of the hot Broadway musical Billy Elliot.
As she spent 3 full days going through an intensive casting process, she kept thinking “there are so many people here in Toronto, what are the odds they’ll pick the one girl from PEI?”
Turns out the odds were pretty high because that’s exactly what they did.
An Island girl through and through, Shawna’s been part of the Charlottetown Festival since she started with the Young Company in Grade 12. She then went to Sheridan College’s famed musical theatre programme. Though she’d been dying to get to the “big town” for years (“I begged my parents to move to Toronto when I was 9”), she still met a fair amount of culture shock. Says Shawna, “On the island, you drive everywhere. The transit system here was definitely overwhelming at first. And people are so friendly in PEI. They are here too… after you get to know them.”
Now that she’s on the big stage, I asked if there were any key difference. “I’ve never had a wig built for me, or had custom made shoes. So that’s really amazing. Most of the cast is American, and it’s refreshing to realise that the talent level is the same, as is the sense of professionalism.”
Based on the film of the same name, Billy Elliot takes place during the 1980’s UK miners’ strike, and is about a boy who trades in boxing gloves for ballet shoes, and follows his dream. Sounds a bit like Shawna, if you think about it.
Wonder if I can get some nice pictures of him to post here…