Sylvan Lake actor, dancer and singer Gracie Mack, pictured getting ready for her performance in the musical Chicago. (Photo submitted)

Sylvan Lake actor, dancer and singer Gracie Mack, pictured getting ready for her performance in the musical Chicago. (Photo submitted)

Gracie Mack shines on the Stratford stage

Life is about forging your own path and chasing your dreams – whatever they may be. For Sylvan Laker Gracie Mack, her dreams have taken her to the big stage and she has no plans to stop any time soon.

Mack, 21, was born and raised in Sylvan Lake and started dancing with Sylvan’s Performing Arts and Rhythm Centre (SPARC) when she was just three years old. She also played soccer, swam and took piano and voice lessons.

“But I decided I want to stop all of that and do dance seriously, so that’s what I did,” Mack said. “I didn’t end up being a star soccer player, but I found my own path.”

Mack said she tried a variety of different dance styles, but she fell in love with ballet. Karen Miller, her ballet teacher at SPARC, helped her get ready to attend ballet summer schools and she went on to study at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, the Alberta Ballet School in Calgary and Joffrey Ballet School in New York.

Although she had been accepted to those schools for summer programs, Mack said she was rejected when she applied to be a full-time student.

“I’ve always loved dance, but when I kept getting noes at all of these ballet schools, I thought maybe this wasn’t right for me,” she explained, adding that she eventually moved on from ballet and began taking musical theatre.

Mack said that during her high school years, she decided she wanted to live a more normal life and she applied to university to get her bachelor of science degree.

“But when I got my acceptance letter, I wasn’t that excited about it,” she recalled. Instead, Mack said she told her mom she wanted to be an actor.

“I had never said that to her before,” Mack said. “But when I told her, she was very accepting. And I think that’s the biggest gift that anyone has ever given me, that acceptance to be who I am and chase my dreams.”

After graduating high school, Mack was accepted to Randolph College for the Performing Arts in Toronto and she received some grants through the Metis Nation of Alberta to help her along the way. She graduated in 2021 and was given the Triple Threat Award when she graduated, which Mack explained is an award for students who are outstanding in the areas of singing, dancing and acting, and she also graduated at the top of her class.

In October of that year, she auditioned for Chicago, the musical, which was scheduled as an ongoing performance at the Stratford Theatre, in Stratford, Ont. She landed a role in the musical and moved to Stratford in February of 2022. The show opened that June and will be closing on Oct. 30.

“It’s been an absolute dream, and it’s been a lot of hard work,” she said of working in Stratford and performing in Chicago. “It’s been an amazing year. I get to put a smile on people’s faces and I get paid to do that.”

Landing a dream role at just 21 years old means Mack isn’t quite sure where she goes from here.

“People always say that this is everybody’s goal, to get here, and it’s been a bit of a journey for me. What it means for that to happen early on and where do I go from here, I think I just want to keep on performing. I don’t want to stop performing,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d be in Stratford at this point in my life. But I think things have worked out the way they’re supposed to. It’s come down to right place, right time, a bit of luck and a lot of hard work. I have big dreams and I want to keep reaching for those dreams.”

After Chicago wraps up, Mack said she will be doing an acting workshop and then heading to London, Ont., to take part in a play called Controlled Damage, which runs Jan. 17 to 29. The play will be a shift from the work she did in Chicago, which is a musical, but Mack said as a Metis woman, she hopes other Indigenous people can see what she’s doing and maybe that will inspire them to believe they can do it too.

“There’s been so many people back home who have supported me,” Mack said. “The staff from SPARC have flown out to see my show. There were a lot of people that didn’t believe this was a possibility and made me believe that this couldn’t happen. But I thank the people that always believed in me, and I want to thank the people who told me no, because I hate hearing no and that made me want to do it even more. So here I am, doing what I love; I hope I’m making my family and everyone back home proud. And I hope I can inspire that little Metis girl, if she can see me on the stage, maybe she will think she can do it too.”

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