Katherine Johnston and Lisa Baran hit the road
Katherine Johnston and Lisa Baran prepare to head out on the road in MTYP's touring van


As an accomplished actress, director, and now playwright, Cherissa Richards credits her success in the world of theatre to the Manitoba Theatre for Young People (MTYP).

“I’m so lucky that MTYP has taken a chance on me and has given me the opportunity to grow in so many different ways,” says Richards. “My biggest beginnings [in theatre] have come from MTYP, which is amazing,” her smile lighting up as she talks.

Her first major acting debut was in The Power of Harriet T in 2003 with MTYP and 10 years later she was asked to make her directing debut for the same play, both in her hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Richards says that her success in theatre speaks to the fact that MTYP does such a great job at giving local artists a platform to thrive.

Audiences can currently find Richards on stage at MTYP as Alice, Eeyore, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo in The House at Pooh Corner. In this play, she uses puppets for the first time on stage and says it’s a fun challenge.

“The thing about puppets is that they have a limited range of motion and you have to be very precise with the way you move it, where you’re looking, and where your energy has to go,” says Richards. “Your energy has to go from you into the puppet, and from the puppet into the audience.”

The House at Pooh Corner is special because the puppets look like stuffed animals of Winnie and his friends.  Richards loves this play because it feels like you’re just playing as children would with their stuffed animals in their bedroom. The kids get to watch the animals come alive right in front of them, taking them on an adventure through The Hundred Acre Wood.

This play in particular is very interactive and requires a lot of participation from the children; Richards says it’s so rewarding to see the kids’ faces light up with excitement and joy.

“To bring joy to any child [through theatre] is such a huge win,” says Richards.

Richards’ acting experience has helped her with directing, writing and vice versa. “Whenever I direct a show, I learn so much about acting, whenever I act, I learn so much about directing,” she says. “The playwriting [experience] gives me a stronger respect for the words and how I approach them as an actor or director.”

Speaking of playwriting, this brings Richards to another ‘first’ in her theatrical career, and once more it’s with MTYP.  She will have her first play, co-written with Carrie Costello and Frances Koncan, produced in the upcoming MTYP premiere of Torn Through Timeshowing January 25 to February 3, 2019. The play follows the story of Jess, a 10-year-old girl who rips a page from a library book featuring three important women from history. This act summons the women into the present as their 10-year-old selves.

“[The play] really speaks to the diversity of our country, following an Indigenous woman, a black woman, and white woman,” says Richards. Thanadelthur, a peacemaker between the fur traders and the Cree people, Helen Harrison, the first Canadian female pilot in the Second World War, and Rose Fortune the first black female police officer in Canada are all superstars in this play.

Richards encourages other young women in the arts to be active in their communities which will give them access to try different aspects of theatre. “The more you know about the different elements of theatre, the better informed you are as an artist,” she says.

Richards strives to do even more of what she’s already doing. More acting, directing, and playwriting is definitely in her future. “I’m so fortunate that this is what I do for my full-time job and have more chances to learn even more,” she says.