The day Kevin McLachlan stepped onstage at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre for the first time, he forgot every single line he had in The Wizard of Oz.
Fortunately, it was only a technical rehearsal for the play, in which he’s part of the ensemble. Still, McLachlan says there’s been a moment every night since, where he’s stared out at the 2,000-seat theatre, in awe of its Edwardian beauty.
McLachlan, 22, was born and raised in the Yukon. Right now, he lives in Toronto, where he’s working on the show until Jan. 5, but he says that’s not home.
“I don’t have an address,” he says. “I just sublet place to place and have all my things in a bag and some stuff in storage.”
That’s because a job in theatre has taken him all over the country since April, when he graduated from the bachelor of music theatre performance program at Sheridan College.
Since then, he’s been in plays and productions on Prince Edward Island, in Toronto, Chemainus, B.C., and even back home in Whitehorse — a gig that, weirdly, came out of a Toronto connection.
Earlier in 2018, McLachlan had written and directed a short play for the Paprika Festival in Toronto. Throughout the process, he was mentored by Clare Preuss. They’d never met before Paprika, but as they worked together, they realized their Yukon connection — she was about to direct the play Bystander with Gwaandak Theatre in October.
Preuss ultimately cast him in the play.
“For me, it was a no-brainer,” he says of the opportunity.
“The more time I spent away the more I fell in love with it in that funny way that we do.”
In addition to missing home, McLachlan was excited by the role … or roles, as was the case with Bystander.
There are only two characters in the play, but each of the three cast members played both characters at different times during the run of the play. That meant McLachlan had to memorize a solid 75 minutes of dense, intellectual dialogue.
“It was so rewarding because you had the luxury of seeing other actors perform the same role (you were performing),” he says. “Normally you’re just in your lane and that’s it.”
It was a challenging, unique experience that he’s never had before, which is one of the things he says he loves about having gotten into theatre in the Yukon.
“I’ve caught myself, at moments, doubting my ability because I was from a smaller place. It’s easy to sell yourself short because we didn’t have the crazy expensive equipment that a bigger city might have,” he says.
But the Yukon has things that bigger cities don’t have. He says you can’t underestimate the value of having a supportive community, or the talent that can be found in that community.
Growing up, McLachlan attended Leaping Feats beginning in grade eight. That was his introduction to the arts (besides staging “battles” with friends in his Whitehorse neighbourhood) and where he fell in love with break-dancing.
Eventually, he enrolled in the music, arts and drama program at F.H. Collins. He says the calibre of instruction at both is on par with what you’d find anywhere else in the country. On top of all that, there are so many grants and funding opportunities, and other artists who just want to create. All of it worked together to lead him to Sheridan, which led him to his current career (including songwriting — he has two albums on iTunes and Spotify).
He says the scariest part of the job is the uncertainty. After The Wizard of Oz finishes its run in January, he’s part of the ensemble in a Fallsview Casino, in Niagara Falls, Ont., production of We Will Rock You. In the summer, he’s playing the part of Pepper in a production of Mamma Mia in Chemainus.
But with the uncertainty comes a lot of joy, he says. He’s constantly challenged by new scripts, new locations and new songs.
“There’s no stagnancy to the work,” he says.
“If you love it, hopefully you can find a way to do it … I certainly do not make a crazy amount of money but there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think that I’m not doing the right thing. I’m so sure that I’m in the right place at the right time because I just get to do something that I love.”
Contact Amy Kenny at firstname.lastname@example.org