What's Upintheair with actor Melissa Oei?

Born and raised in beautiful North Vancouver, Melissa is a busy theatre artist working consistently in Vancouver theatre. She is a graduate of the acting program at Studio 58, Cap U's theatre diploma program, and Langara's film arts program. This year, Melissa received her first individual Jessie Award nomination for her role as Elle in A Beautiful View (Naked Goddess Productions). Some of Melissa's most notable acting credits include Les Belles Soeurs and The Duchess (Ruby Slippers), Long Division (Pi Theatre), We Three, Arthur Boy King, Aesop's Fables, Love You Forever, Seussical the Musical (Carousel), The Audience, Boeing Boeing, She Stoops to Conquer (Arts Club), Flare Path (Slamming Door) and many many more. Melissa has also directed with the PuLL Festival, MSG Lab, Place des Arts, and her good friend Keara Barnes' one woman show Traveltheatrics. We asked Melissa What’s Upintheair and other fun questions! Check it out!

Melissa at the 2018 Jessie Awards

Melissa at the 2018 Jessie Awards

Describe yourself in the format of a character synopsis.

Melissa: Female Identifying, 20s-40s, Ethnically Ambiguous. Mature in the body like Whoa. Appears confident and self-assured, but is actually extremely sensitive, introverted and most of the time very confused.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I think my greatest achievement is making a living as a theatre artist for this many years and just sticking with it!

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for the theatre?

When I performed with the Caravan Stage Company, I lived on a 90 foot sailing barge with 25 other people for 6 months sailing through Greece. Besides performing, my job was to climb the masts before every show and hang the lights. Maybe not crazy, but rather unusual.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I'm pretty good at impersonates. Not of anyone famous, just people I know. So I probably won't make it big with that talent anytime soon.

Melissa with Emmelia Gordon in Lady Parts

Melissa with Emmelia Gordon in Lady Parts

What's one show and/or event in the Vancouver theatre scene you have loved?

I loved Alley Theatre's The Ridiculous Darkness. The amount of coordination it must have taken to put that show together is mind-boggling, and the community involvement was very moving and impactful. I really admire the work that Marisa and Daniel are doing at Alley Theatre.

If you could sit down with any theatre artist living or dead and have a long chat, who would you sit down with?

I know it's cliche, but I would have to choose Shakespeare. He has the greatest enduring legacy of any theatre artist in history, but there is also a lot of mystery surrounding him. People spend their lives researching his work and debating over who he really was. How great would it be if I could just buy him dinner and get all the answers. (And maybe ask him for a reference letter that I could send to Bard on the Beach).

When did you realize you wanted to be an actor?

My whole life I have had this performative, story-telling quality to me. I had no word for what that from of expression was until I saw theatre for the first time when I was about 11. I took my first drama class in Grade 9 which is when the addiction started. But it wasn't until well after high school that I learned that being a theatre actor was an actual job. So I started researching theatre schools, went to Studio, and now here I am!

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If you could only use one prop onstage for the rest of your life, what prop would you choose?

I don't know if it's technically a prop, but Oh do I love me a wig! If I could be wigged in every show I ever did, I would be the happiest!

Seeing as how one of Upintheair Theatre's mandate involves supporting the next generation of theatre makers, what advice would you give to an emerging artist?

I am still learning so much every day, but as a young actor I wish that I had enjoyed my opportunities more. When I was working, I was always so focused on what this show was going to lead to, or I was worried about finding the next gig. Being this many years into the lifestyle, I have observed in myself and others that as long as I choose to be an actor, there are always going to be highs and lows, so I had better enjoy the highs when I have them. Also, I have learned to practice gratitude more. Theatre is not something people get into as a last resort. It is a choice, often driven by passion. So, even though it can be gruelling, how lucky am I that I have gotten to do what I love every year for the past 12 years? If I can remind myself of that, then I remember to be grateful.

Now finally… what’s Upintheair? Give us the details of your show? Juicy details. Date/time/venue/tickets$?

I am just finishing up a run of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever with Naked Goddess Productions at the Havana Theatre until December 16. Then I head straight into rehearsals with Sticks and Stones Theatre's next production called The Open House by Will Eno. It is a darkly humorous, melancholy, intelligent script about family dynamics. The cast is stellar and includes Anita Wittenberg, Gerry Mackay, David Adams, Zac Scott and myself, and it's directed by Alan Brodie. It plays at Havana Theatre from January 17-26. I hear up to Prince George to do a show called Halfway There with Miracle Theatre in March. Then I am back in Vancouver to start rehearsals with Slamming Door Collective's next venture - The Sea by Edward Bond. Tamara McCarthy is directing and there will be lots of the old Slamming Door peeps in it again. It plays in May at the Jericho Arts Centre.

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