You could say that Eponine Lee was born into the creative arts.
His mother, Nina Lee Aquino (currently Artistic Director of the National Arts Centre’s English Theatre), gave birth while rehearsing, and Lee spent much of her childhood in theatre, performing in her first play – Carried away by the crest of a wave by David Yi at the Tarragon Theater — when she was five or six years old.
“I was always raised near and with the theater,” said the 15-year-old actor and musician. “I loved meeting new people, getting to know people through the rehearsal process and all the magic behind it, with the stories it can tell and the beautiful art it is. It caught my attention and made me feel excited.
Lee has stepped up her game over the past three years, including playing Juliet in R+J, a reimagining of Shakespeare’s tragic teenage love story at the Stratford Festival last summer. (She also composed the original music for the project.)
“I’m always the youngest person in the room,” she said of her experiences in the performing arts, noting the exception of her longtime role in A Christmas Carol at the Soulpepper Theater.
“It’s a little intimidating at first. Most of the time I don’t know anyone, and obviously there are doubts and insecurities, but as the rehearsal process begins and I begin to warm up and get into my work, it becomes really fun and I feel special,” she said. noted.
For other young people interested in the show but not yet committed, Lee’s advice is to just say yes.
“The most important thing I would say is just ask around for all the opportunities you can get and say yes,” she said. “Say yes to even the smallest of roles with the smallest of theater companies.
“You just have to, just walk through it and grit your teeth through all the nerve-wracking things that come and know and believe that you’re taking up space in this room and you matter” , she added.
Aged 15 and from a Toronto theater family that once played Juliet in Shakespeare’s tragic love story at the Stratford Festival, Eponine Lee is forging an impressive creative career while balancing the demands of high school.
Young Lee also worked on several projects with her father, actor, producer and sound designer Richard Lee, including her latest role in a short film directed by Romeo Candido for an NBA Fan Movies Project.
“I am very proud of his determination, his generosity of spirit, his caring and compassionate soul, which I think also nourishes his art,” his father said.
Lee’s busy resume caught the eye of the Toronto Arts Foundation, which last week named her a finalist for its Breakthrough Artist award, to be announced in late April.
The precocious talent said she got a guitar at the start of the pandemic and that music and songwriting have helped her through the tumult of the past few years.
“With my guitar and my songbook, I guess, I was able to resolve some pretty mind-boggling and life-changing questions, whether it’s about who I am or my connection to my Asian heritage and roots. , and also trying to figure out what my sexuality is and who I love. Really big things in my life that music has helped me not just to understand, but to process and understand what it’s about” , she said.
It “really helped fuel my motivation to create new songs and let out everything I was feeling, because yeah, it’s a pretty overwhelming and really difficult experience being a teenager in the middle of a pandemic,” said Lee.
Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / National Observer of Canada