Aspiring performers from across the province will soon make their way to Regina to audition for another season of Saskatchewan Express.
© Aldona Barutowicz Photography
Professional performer and former Saskatchewan Express member Ksenia Thurgood.
The Saskatchewan touring group has a well-established track record of finding and inspiring talent throughout the province, and the Prince Albert area is no exception. The city has produced 11 Saskatchewan Express performers since its founding in 1980, with several more from the surrounding area.
Beth McIvor and Ksenia Thurgood are former members, and they fondly remember their time with the organization.
“It was the best years of my life. I’m still best friends with the people I met there,” says McIvor, who grew up in Shellbrook, but moved to Prince Albert in high school to pursue her performing interests.
“Most definitely positive,” agrees Thurgood, a proud graduate of Carlton Comprehensive High School. “It taught me so much about intricate harmony singing.”
Like many Saskatchewan Express alumni, McIvor and Thurgood used their time with the group to propel them to a career in the arts. Thurgood has appeared in numerous theatrical productions throughout the country, most recently at the Mae Wilson theatre in Moose Jaw where she played the title role in Snow White.
McIvor spent two years with Saskatchewan Express before graduating from the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria. She currently works in event management in Calgary.
Both say their time with the group was well spent.
“It taught me how to have a good work ethic,” Thurgood says from her home in Montreal. “I can think of only two other times where the music was that hard, but I learned a good work ethic and that’s why I’m still doing what I’m doing.”
“It was a lot of work,” McIvor remembers. “Every Friday I’d leave school early for rehearsal. I’d take my homework with me to do on the weekends. I wanted to perform so badly. I was so excited when I got in.”
There are plenty of other success stories, most notably Prince Albert’s Jason Huska who is currently appearing in the North American tour of The Wizard of Oz. It’s been Saskatchewan Express’ mission to provide opportunities to the provinces up and coming young performers.
“It’s a great way to experience teamwork and what the arts is all about,” says Express spokeswoman Nora Berg.
Currently auditions are set for Feb. 8-9 in Regina and are open to performers 15 years of age and older. Berg says the number of auditions varies wildly, but the average would be around 50 per season. She says they can also arrange something in Saskatoon for young people who can’t make the trip down. The auditions themselves can be stressful, but Thurgood encourages potential performers to make the trip.
“It doesn’t matter where anybody is from, so go and try,” she says. “You always have something to offer. Just go audition.”
McIvor also urges young performers to try out. She stresses the experience and confidence she gained from the three seasons she performed.
“I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a career in the performing arts,” she says. “You just need lots of discipline and work ethic.”
The constant emphasis both performers place on working hard is a reality of their career. They say they need to avoid hard living because your career depends on your body and voice. However, there’s also a little hard-working Saskatchewan spirit in there too.
“I’m still a Saskatchewan girl at heart,” McIvor says.
“It’s important to work hard and do your best,” Thurgood says with a laugh. “That’s a Saskatchewan trait.”
Former Saskatchewan Express performers from Prince Albert and area:
Jody Jordan Johnson
Bonnie Lynn Koshlay
Beth McIvor (Shellbrook)
Mercedez Carlson (Melfort)
Doug Holoien (Melfort)
Jennifer Holoien (Melfort)
Cindy Lacheur-Muskeg (Melfort)
Stan Garchinski (Nacaim)
Cindy Hanson (Nipawin)
Angie Roy (Paddockwood)
Ed Daubenfeld (St. Brieux)
Valerie Daubenfeld (St. Brieux)
Cory Daubenfeld (St. Brieux)