I met Robin Snip at the toddler music circle in Bloomfield’s Baxter Arts building. Our kids loved each other from the second they met and we quickly became mom friends and soon after, real friends.
Robin was lovely: genuine, kind, a little shy, but beautifully normal in that “I’m totally awkward” indie way, that our generation all aspire to. We hung out at the Hub kids programs all week and confessed our parenting secrets and fears to each other—often while laughing hysterically, sometimes through tears. One day, Robin mentioned that she’d tried out for a local play and she’d gotten the part.
Um what? Despite the incessant blabbering about our every thought and daily experiences, we hadn’t really touched on our ‘old lives’, the ones that happened pre-County and pre-motherhood. She was an actor, a George Brown Theatre School grad, who’d auditioned and worked in Toronto for a short time after graduation, become disheartened by the business and decided to take a break. Within ten years, she had moved to the County with her toddler and husband—a prop master in the film industry.
We went to see the performance. I was absurdly nervous—acting is one of those things I’m terrible at and can’t imagine anyone I know actually doing. It was a Marysburgh Mummers production of Dan Goggin’s Nunsense and Robin played Sister Robert. She was transformed. It was remarkable: her hallmark sweetness was gone and she was loud, provocative and a little tough, even.
I asked Robin how she found her way back to the stage. “The credit for that goes to my Mum and Monica Alyea,” she told me. “My mum had brought me an audition notice for Nunsense. She kept gently nudging and I finally went to the audition. Monica cast me as Sister Robert and I ended up having a lovely experience. I worked with a group of wonderful women (including the amazing Julie Lane who plays my husband in Small Room) and I had fun on stage again. How often do you get the chance to play a singing, dancing, pregnant nun? Yep: I found out I was pregnant with my second child partway through rehearsals.”
And now? Is it hard to manage auditions, rehearsals, and performance demands with a young family? “It’s tough,” she admits. “I absolutely wouldn’t be able to do it without the help and support of my husband and my parents and my brother. Everyone has really stepped up to help out with the girls. Right now, everybody in my house is really tired. But we roll with it. As my friends and I used to say, we ‘make it part of the dance’.”
Why do you act? “Acting gives me a lot of things—especially live theatre. Every time I step on a stage, it gives me a real sense of purpose and connection. There is nothing like bringing a story to people, engaging them in a visceral way and leaving them thinking and talking and questioning what just happened. I think it’s shared experiences like these that help build and foster communities. Theatre in the County is fierce and thriving and I’m so happy to have the opportunity to join the community.”
A year after Nunsense, Robin was cast in Jennifer Brewin’s The Attic, the Pearls and Three Fine Girls, directed by the super cool Mihal Zada. Once again we were transported by her transformation on the stage. In this role she was petulant, even childlike, and entirely un-self-conscious. I realized then that Robin Snip was a force; a real talent—part crafted and part raw—that was being harnessed and amplified by the magic of the County.
By the time A Small Room at The Top of the Stairs was announced, I was counting down to her next performance. The play runs May 24-26th at The Regent Theatre in Picton. It’s put on by Shatterbox Theatre, a not-for-profit theatre company, founded in late 2017 by two born-and-raised County women, Georgia Papanicolaou and Samantha Branderhorst (formerly Kuipers).
“Shatterbox co-founder Sam Branderhorst, suggested I audition for Small Room,” Robin explains as we chat about her role as ‘Grace’, a young woman who is freshly married to “the dream guy”. The play is a loose interpretation of the Bluebeard story, by Charles Perrault—synopsis: Wealthy man has beard with glints of blue. Women find it repulsive. Despite this, he has seven former wives—whereabouts unknown. Man woos new lady friend with ultra lavish lifestyle and they wed. Man leaves town for business and gives wife the keys to everything, but warns her not to go into one small closet. Woman’s curiosity gets the better of her. Drama.
Are you anything like ‘Grace’? I wonder aloud. “I would love to say no,” Robin admits, “After you see the play you’ll understand why I say that. In reality, yeah, I’m a little bit like Grace. She’s very curious. We have that in common. I definitely feel insecure and lonely sometimes too, but doesn’t everybody? I think in a lot of ways, Grace is actually very relatable, it’s just that all of her emotions are super heightened, nothing in my life is ever quite so extreme, which I guess is why it’s her house on stage and not mine.”
Small Room was a play that Georgia had wanted to put on for a long time, so when I finally got to read it, I was shocked,” says Fiona Dodsworth (Shatterbox’s Jane-of-all-Trades, from stage manager to director to actor to marketer, etc.) It’s emotionally intelligent, but also really creepy and honestly a bit bizarre. It flips the traditional fairytale narrative on its head, and that’s really what Shatterbox is all about: creating something new and different, subverting stereotypes, and above all, trusting the audience to come along with us on this unusual journey.”
She makes us laugh, she makes us cry, and sometimes she scares the daylights out of us.
“Robin is such a fantastic actress and we’re so blessed to have her step into the role of Grace,” continues Fiona. “Right after her audition, Sam and Georgia FaceTimed me, tears in their eyes, to tell me that they’d found the one, how incredible her read was, and how they couldn’t wait for us all to see what she could do. We have not been disappointed. She brings so much energy and emotion to every single rehearsal, and having her be part of this really helps us as actors to elevate our own performance.” Fiona pauses, “and not only is she a great actress, she’s also a lovely human being who makes rehearsals a joy. She makes us laugh, she makes us cry, and sometimes she scares the daylights out of us. Her performance really is that dynamic, and she makes this show one you won’t want to miss.”
The description rings true and I know she’s talking about my totally amazing, consistently surprising, and deeply talented friend.
Check out The Small Room At The Top Of The Stairs at the Regent Theatre in Picton this weekend, May 24-26th. Tickets are available here.