Ehattesaht actor rehearsing for lead role in Toronto production

Toronto, ON

A nomadic lifestyle has brought Aaron M. Wells to Canada’s largest city until at least the end of September.

The 26-year-old actor, a member of the Ehattesaht First Nation, arrived in Toronto last Monday (Aug. 13) to begin rehearsals for the world premiere of I Call myself Princess. Wells will be playing the lead character of William Morin in the production, an opera play which is scheduled to run from Sept. 9-30 at Toronto’s Aki Studio (585 Dundas St. East, #250). I Call myself Princess is being produced by Paper Canoe Projects and Cahoots Theatre, in association with Native Earth Performing Arts.

Wells had graduated from a three-year program at the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria in 2016. Since he has landed steady acting work he has not had a fixed address since March of 2017. He has been criss-crossing the country appearing in various artistic ventures.

Besides acting in his home province in productions in Vancouver and Kamloops, his theatrical roles have taken him to Yukon as well as Edmonton, Ottawa and now Toronto.

“There are moments I wish I had (a permanent address),” Wells said. “For now I love what I’m doing. It’s doing what I love.”

Wells caught the acting bug when he was in Grade 11, during his first year at Georges P. Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay, B.C.

“I took an improv class and loved it,” he said. “And then I took every drama class I could after that.”

Wells also appeared in his school’s production of Crazy for You, the romantic comedy musical.

Besides having the opportunity to play the lead role for the first time in his acting career, Wells said he found I Call myself Princess a rather appealing production for him as the plot parallels the identity war with himself.

“It hit home in a lot of ways for me from when I was at performing arts college,” he said. “There were 60-70 students and I was the only First Nations person in the program at the time.”

Wells’ mother Victoria is from the Ehattesaht First Nation while his father Ivan is from the Lax- Kw’alaams, the Indigenous village near Prince Rupert.

Written by the multi-disciplinary Metis artist Jani Lauzon, I Call myself Princess is about Morin, a modern-day Metis music student who is given an opera from 1918 about Tsianina Redfeather, a Creek/Cherokee mezzo soprano. Through that opera he discovers the trying circumstances Indigenous performers, both past and present, face. During the play Redfeather appears to Morin and through those interactions he makes a critical decision about his future as an artist. I Call myself Princess includes music and was inspired by the 1918 opera Shanewis, also known as The Robin Woman, which chronicled Redfeather’s life.

Three preview performances of I Call myself Princess will be held on Sept. 9, 11 and 12. The opening night of the production is set for Sept. 13.

Wells said he finds live theatre extremely appealing because every show can be different, even though the same production is being performed.

“It depends on what the environment is like in the room,” he said. “If it is a lively audience it changes the energy on stage.”

Though content to travel from production to production now, Wells is hoping to branch out at some point.

“Eventually I’d like to get into film and television,” he said.

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