You are the best. THE BEST.
Now, I’ve come to understand this clearly these past 7 months while working so closely with you and Curtain Razors. But, when I really consider this fact, I realize that I’ve actually known it for a long time…
I’ve known it since I was ten years old, really. It was the mid-nineties and I was sitting in the back seat of my older brother’s tiny Mazda truck. My brother Monty and my new sister-in-law, Mitch were in the front. I idolized these two. They were both recent graduates of the University of Regina Theatre department and it was at this time that my interest in theatre was just starting to surface. Anyway, it was the middle of winter and Monty and Mitch saw you at the side of the road, trudging through the snow, wearing eighteen layers and a large fur hat. “Is that Michele Sereda?” they said. They pulled over, offered you a ride to wherever it was you were headed and you hopped in the backseat with me. You said ‘hello,’ I probably said it back, and then I just sat there, staring at you, wide-eyed, so utterly confused by and interested in this strange, loud, vibrant creature. Once you got out of the truck, Monty and Mitch both said, “I just love her. She’s so fricken’ wild.”
I wouldn’t meet you again until five years later. This time I was fifteen and in a drama class you taught at the Conservatory of Performing Arts. You introduced me to the “Sun Salutation” and in doing so, made me realize I was an out of shape, lazy teenager. You said, “wear clothes you can move in!” I tried to ignore you because I only ever wanted to wear my stylish teenage outfit of jeans and a secondhand t-shirt. I regretted that outfit every time we were in downward dog. One day, I walked into class late, in near tears due to a combination of teenage perfectionism and trying to do to many things at once. Teenage-Me had too many balls in the air and I was feeling overwhelmed. You took notice and then you dropped whatever you were in the middle of doing with the rest of the class. You told me to “lie down on the floor” and then you had everyone gather around me in understanding and camaraderie. I had never felt that kind of support before. Support from near strangers and teenage ones at that. I cried. You said, “breathe.” And, I listened.
Flash forward eleven years later, to this past June. This time I was twenty-six, and I asked to have lunch with you. I wanted to pick your brain. I wanted to know how you’ve successfully created an independent theatre company in Regina, that has fuelled and framed the work you’ve done for more than twenty years. A pretty big question for a sixty-minute lunch. Nevertheless, you were an open book. Then, in the middle of eating your salad you said, “why don’t you just come and work with me next season?” Then, you generously took me under your wing as your Associate Artist for Curtain Razors’ 2014/2015 Season.
You taught me so much in this brief period of time. You shared your wealth of experience, letting me ask you big questions and small ones. You shared with me what it means to be a Saskatchewan-based artist with an enormous connection to home, with a deep love for this prairie place and at the same time being an artist with an eye, pulse and heart on the big wide world.
You told me simple truths. You said ‘loosen up, sometimes things have to fall. Sometimes you won’t check everything off your list. You can’t do everything. Let go of doing it right, doing it perfect, you’ll just wear yourself out.”
You asked me hard questions. You made me think out loud. About who I am, the work I do, the work I want to do. You said “write it down. Be clear. Be articulate. Define what you’re on about.” And, then you laughed and told me a story. A story that could only be told by acting the entire thing out, on your feet, in a crowded coffee shop, accidentally bumping into someone holding a latte, who is giving you an annoyed look, who you politely apologize to while laughing loudly and openly and then simply carrying on with your story. All the while, I stared at you, trying to stifle my own laughter and in complete awe of this same strange, loud, vibrant creature that I met in the back of a truck in 1997…
All these lessons seem more poignant now than ever before. I am so grateful for them. I am so grateful for you.
My sister-in-law Mitch, upon hearing about your passing said “she lives on in so many, with people of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life. She was a conduit for deep down laughter, deep down seriousness and living in the present.” My brother Monty said “I just saw her on Sunday morning. She was walking down 13th Avenue, on her way someplace, doing… something. She was always doing something. You know, those days in the U of R Theatre department were wild ones. And she was teaching us. It was a big deal when she was around. People talked about it. People were so excited about it. She was something else.”
Thank-you, Michele for giving our world so much. You have given us so much to celebrate. Your love and spirit erupted all over our city, our country and our world. And, all of us, left in your volcanic wake will try our best to keep all that love and spirit erupting… just like you intended.