Finding Direction

As a recipient of the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund, Shannon Blanchet reflects on the community that built her up

Shannon Blanchet was at a crossroads in her life.

Arriving in Edmonton at 19 years old, she was uncertain of her direction. But she auditioned for a Walterdale Theatre show — Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) — and was cast as Juliet. From there, theatre artists approached her to work on other projects. And show by show, she realized a vocation.

“My career has really been a series of events where people reached out their hands to me, and invited me to try something new,” Blanchet says.

Those offers have had her perform all over Edmonton, and beyond. Blanchet’s a core member of Die-Nasty:The Live Improvised Soap Opera, and was part of Catalyst Theatre’s acclaimed Nevermore, which had an 11-week Off-Broadway run in New York.

Those are two gigs among many: She works in theatre, film, television, video games, and also teaches at the University of Alberta, where she recently completed her MFA in Theatre Voice Pedagogy.

Blanchet is one of the recipients of the 2020 Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund (EATF), which provides $15,000 as an investment in her work in Edmonton. Since 1997, the EATF has supported more than 100 artists from across disciplines, in a joint project between Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) and the Edmonton Arts Council.

“I’m ecstatic and honoured, to get the support and to be included,” she says. “You look at the company [of recipients] you’re in and just go, ‘Oh, that’s pretty neat.’”

Elise Graham, who nominated Blanchet for the Fund, notes how perfectly its criteria align with Blanchet’s work in the community.

“When I read the [EATF’s] guidelines, I was astounded not only by Edmonton’s commitment to investment in their artists, but it seemed as though it had been written specifically for Shannon as an artist,” Graham says. “Someone who excels in their field, continues to push the boundaries of artistic expression in their work, and is committed to strengthening the entire Edmonton community.

“Some of the strongest companies and institutions in Edmonton have benefited from Shannon’s expertise,” she continues. “It is past time for her own voice to be heard.”

Blanchet’s plans for the fund include developing a script, continuing her thesis research — which explores the neuroscience of how acting affects one’s mind, to “understand what’s happening underneath the hood for the actor, as a result of their training” — as well as “upping my technical skills” to see where tech and creativity can overlap.

“I’m interested in how we can use technology to play and create, rather than just document,” she says.

Blanchet’s also looking to return the karmic favour of being invited into the community years ago.

“I don’t need the invitation as much anymore,” she says. “Now I’m in a position to reach out and invite others.”

Learn more about the EATF