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Fearless female

Crystal Sevigny not afraid to play a psychopath in The Seduction Of Chaos

Crystal Sevigny is one of Whistler’s "neither" people. She’s neither skier nor snowboarder.

Like many of her fellow non-skier/snowboarders in Whistler she says she ended up here in September 2001, at the age of 19, because of a boy she was seeing at the time. She was a year out of high school, looking for adventure, and the area around Ottawa where she grew up just wasn’t doing it for her.

Some may deem that following your heart.

But according to Sevigny, a sly brunette all of 23 years old, she didn’t really know the meaning of "following your heart" until she discovered her true passion here in Whistler – the stage.

Arriving with no formal training, Sevigny has instigated and nurtured an acting portfolio out of the vibrant community theatre scene in the Sea to Sky corridor.

It started with an audition for Squamish-based Between Shifts Theatre’s production Five Women Wearing The Same Dress , for which she was turned down for being too young for any of the roles. But the audition made an impact on Between Shifts founder Kathryn Daniels, who recommended her to the producers of the February 2003 production of The Vagina Monologues in Whistler. Sevigny was given the monologue My Short Skirt and made her stage debut at Millennium Place.

She was hooked after just one fix.

"That first play – Vagina Monologues – I was standing backstage and it wasn’t butterflies, it was this incredible excitement to get out there and do my thing," Sevigny recalls on the sunny patio at Gone Bakery in Alpine Meadows. "The reaction you can get from one simple little facial expression or one word… You get that roar of laughter or that sadness. There’s nothing more important than that interaction.

"To have a whole audience commanded by you, it’s very empowering!"

After Vagina Monologues she participated in local stage impresario Michele Bush’s 24-Hour Play Project.

Sevigny then went underground, appearing in several of Whistler/Vancouver indie film director Lauren Graham’s projects including World Ski & Snowboard Festival 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown entries Static in 2003 and Insert Meaning Here , which won the prolific contest in 2004. She also appeared in Graham’s 2003 Heavy Hitting Films B-Grade Horrorfest entry Slowfade and in 2004 she took it all off for another Horrorfest entry – the Asian-style dubbed film Kill Count 8 – winning "Best Actress" honours from a judging panel adamant about gratuitous T ’n’ A.

Next came the title role in Short Skirt Theatre’s raucous, rollicking pantomime production Sleeping Beauty, where she charmed the pants off sold-out crowds at Millennium Place with her wide-eyed innocence and impeccable comic timing.

Her next role would be a radical departure from the spoon-fed silliness of pantomime.

She’s come full circle from her first audition, back with Between Shifts as part of the All 4 1 quartet of short plays currently in mid-run at the Brackendale Art Gallery, knocking socks off with her portrayal of twisted artist Kristina Lambrisi in the taut, psychological thriller The Seduction Of Chaos by American playwright Kent R. Brown.

Brackendale is the Canadian premiere of Seduction Of Chaos and it is turning out to be a seminal career move for Sevigny.

Her character is a puppet-master manipulator with self-destructive tendencies rooted in a tragic childhood. It’s a challenging role, for which director Paul Fletcher recruited her specifically.

It’s dark material, "definitely not for the conservative," Sevigny says with a glint in her eye. But she hasn’t backed down and in doing so has earned the respect of her directors and of several audience members floored to learn of her relative lack of stage experience and formal training.

Fletcher, for one, says he is convinced Sevigny should pursue stage acting beyond community theatre. She appears to be taking the advice to heart, stating her intentions to move to Vancouver in the near future to pursue the greater opportunities a metropolitan centre has to offer.

Not just any opportunities, however.

"Anything I’d want to perform in would have to be something important to me," she says. "I definitely would not want to move to Hollywood and be ‘that actress.’ That wouldn’t make me happy at all because that’s not who I am."

It’s not going to be easy, and the young actress whose stage dreams are squashed by unsympathetic forces is a tale too often told. It’s only going to help that Sevigny is innately bold, conditioned from a childhood of moving around, always starting new schools and having to put the best face forward to portray herself as "the cool kid."

"I got the best compliment from my director telling me that I was fearless," Sevigny says. "I started thinking about it later and that is an amazing compliment. Probably one of the best I’ve ever received."

That’s not to say she’s not scared of anything.

"Snakes," she laughs. "I respect them, ’cause they’re just here and they need to live too, but they creep me out."

Between Shifts Theatre’s All 4 1, a lineup of four plays including The Seduction of Chaos, Eight Variations On The Death of Trotsky, Save Me A Place At Forest Lawn and Bentley Burnout, continues with three shows starting tonight (Thursday, May 26) and running through Saturday, May 28. All performances take place at the Brackendale Art Gallery beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 available in advance from the venue and at Mostly Books in Squamish.