Many people would rather do just about anything than work with their parents. But not alumna Nina Gilmour.
“Working with my parents is great! Every day we are getting to know each other a little better and learning how to work together. They are very inspiring and push me to give my all every single day.”
Maybe that’s because her parents are Dean Gilmour and Michele Smith, actors and teachers in Humber’s Theatre Performance program.
Knowing that, it’s probably not surprising that Nina studied theatre, nor that she graduated from Humber College. But her parents aren’t her only lasting Humber connections. Her main collaborator, Danya Buonastella, is a Humber grad, and she has also worked with Ben Muir, Marissa Zinni, Lacey Creighton, and Dan Watson.
Nina says her time at Humber helped her figure out what kind of theatre she wanted to pursue by exposing her to a wide range of things.
“I did a lot of devised work at Humber College and worked with some of the best professionals in the business. The program also exposed me to text-based work through workshops with certain professors, which I am very interested in as well; I love Shakespeare and Chekhov. I think in the near future I will do more text-based work; some Chekhov has been on my mind for a while now!”
Interestingly, even with both her actor-teacher parents, Nina says she still didn’t expect the program to be quite so “intense and fulfilling”:
“We did so much in those three years– countless numbers of projects and workshops with incredible teachers and directors. I learned a lot about myself and my craft, which is exactly what I would want out of an education.”
Learning from Roadblocks
Of course, she still remembers her most terrifying moment in school, her first year’s “vocal masque,” where the students combine all aspects of their training to create a performance about something they are interested in exploring:
“I was so young and lost and had no idea how to work through my nerves. I was performing in front of the whole school and forgot my lines and just froze. It was horrifying, but I learnt so much about that… BREATHE and have FUN!”
Luckily, Nina says, she “loves learning from roadblocks” and, only two years later, that nightmare turned into one of her best memories of her time at Humber. For her third-year vocal masque, Nina put together all her favourite texts and songs and “had a blast performing it as my last big shebang in theatre school.”
Nina also looks back fondly on her second-year performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
“I was cast as Olivia. The whole idea was you don’t rehearse with your scene partners; you only learn your own lines, and you know your partners’ first and last lines. Then you do it in front of an audience for the first time ever. It’s a great lesson in listening and being present because you never know what will come next and if it’s your turn to take the stage. It was so fun and exhilarating; we put in a ton of work and then just improvised the entire show all together.”
Easy is boring
That story illuminates what Nina loves most about her work:
“The challenge. Every day is challenging in some way… I think I would be really bored if I had a job that was easy and repetitive. This way every day is different and I really thrive on that.”
Of course, even if you like a challenge, that doesn’t make the challenges any easier! Nina says that in addition to the practical concerns of staying in shape and getting enough sleep, problem solving is a huge part of what she does as a creator-performer.
“I’ve been creating a piece from scratch in the last few years rather than adapting something that has already been written, and I find it super challenging. The structure of a story when you start from a blank slate is not always evident.”
And, she admits, “being an actor is a lot of work.” But it’s worth it.
“I love it and that’s what keeps me going. I don't want to look back on my life and think I didn’t do what I really wanted to do. I want to meet people, collaborate with them, create, write, sing, dance, travel and have fun. I can’t picture myself doing that at a desk job so, while it’s difficult and unpredictable, it takes me to incredible places.”
Nina Gilmour is an actor, producer, and theatre creator. Nina’s training includes Theatre Performance at Humber College and École Philippe Gaulier, Paris, France. She is the founder and co-artistic director of Play It Again Productions.
Her theatre credits include Louison in Théatre Français de Toronto’s Le Malade Imaginaire, Semele in Tatiana Jennings' Pentheus, Juliet in Shakespeare Link's Romeo and Juliet, Dewey Dell in Theatre Smith-Gilmour's As I Lay Dying, co-producer, co-writer and co-star in Play It Again Productions’ Death Married my Daughter, which was Best of Fringe 2013 and part of The Independent Creators Cooperative 2014 at the Theatre Centre.
Nina is a Dora Mavor Moore Award nominee for Best Ensemble in FIXTPOINT's The Tale of a T-shirt.
Upcoming: Dewey Dell in Theatre Smith-Gilmour’s Take Me Back to Jefferson at The Factory Theatre and Ottawa’s National Arts Centre.