It’s always a big deal in a small town when a homegrown talent makes it big.
That special someone now is Georgia Bennett, 23, the daughter of Liz and Mark Bennett and granddaughter of one of Chemainus’ most iconic residents, Sandra Heydon. Georgia is currently gracing the Chemainus Theatre production of Little Women until Dec. 30 and drawing rave reviews for her portrayal of Beth March.
“I just think she’s a really sweet character and I can relate to her a lot,” said Georgia. “Growing up, I was very, very shy and I can definitely see myself in her.”
Getting to this stage, so to speak, has taken passion, dedication and perseverance, and Georgia possesses all those qualities and more that fostered her successful foray into theatre.
She comes by her talents naturally, with arts and performing in the family background, including her grandmother’s legendary direction of Hospital Day shows in the community for many years.
“I danced since I was a young girl,” Georgia pointed out. “I didn’t get into singing and acting till I was 15. I kind of catapulted into it.
“My last few years in high school I was doing theatre and realizing how much I loved it. It definitely runs in my blood.”
Mom Liz recalled a summer program in 2010 with Chalkboard Theatre in Duncan really turned Georgia in that direction.
“She was a bit of a late starter in that sense in liking musical theatre,” Liz noted.
Once she immersed herself in it, Georgia couldn’t get enough. She appeared in the Comox Valley Youth Music Centre’s Musical Theatre performance of Les Miserables in 2012, the Cowichan Musical Society’s production of Oklahoma! during her Grade 12 year and the Victoria Operatic Society’s Miss Saigon.
Her earlier training with Carlson’s School of Dance in Duncan was complemented by singing lessons from Laura Cardriver in Crofton, starting at the age of 15.
“She taught me a lot about just the voice and music in general,” said Georgia. “She’d always have new songs for me to sing. I definitely started out mostly singing, but I knew I wanted to act.”
After graduating from Chemainus Secondary School in 2013, she didn’t hesitate about furthering her career ambitions and headed east for Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont.
“When I went to Sheridan, their mantra is you should be good in all three – singing, dancing and acting,” Georgia pointed out.
So she set about doing that, honing her skills in the three disciplines during a four-year program. It was a big step to make the move from Chemainus, but Georgia adjusted well.
She admitted to being a bit nervous at first, but “it was the thought of being able to do theatre all day long and people who loved it as much as I did was an exciting thought,” she said.
Georgia went on to complete her Bachelor of Music Theatre Performance in 2017.
“It was a very busy four years,” she conceded. “I learned a lot from doing it. I think the biggest takeaway was the actual training.”
During the four years, Georgia went back and forth between her basement suite in Toronto and Chemainus. She received her initiation at the Chemainus Theatre doing shadow puppeteering in James And The Giant Peach and even worked in the dining room.
Georgia appeared in the KidzPlay The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in the summer of 2017 in Chemainus.
“I’ve been able to come back a few times,” she indicated. “I’m so thankful to be here.”
One Small Step, part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, and Theatre Sheridan’s Dogfight built up Georgia’s resume the last few years.
Landing the role in Little Women in her hometown has put her name into the mainstream.
“I grew up seeing all the shows here,” Georgia noted.
Now her family is watching her in that very venue. Mom’s already seen the show five times and has plans to sit in for two more before the end and her grandmother, who just turned 90 in September, is going to see it a second time.
It brings a great sense of pride and enjoyment, Liz said, “just to be able to watch her perform and do what she loves to do. That’s where her heart is.”
NEXT WEEK: Part 2 includes more detail about performing and reflections on Little Women specifically.