Andrea del Campo remembers with startling clarity the moment her life changed dramatically. As a high school student, she was never involved with theatre. Then her Grade 10 drama teacher invited her to see an improv show.
"I don't know why I went, but it cost a toonie, and I guess I just thought 'Sure,'" del Campo says.
The show blew her away, igniting her love of improv and theatre.
"It was so graceful and funny and intelligent," she says.
But it took another crucial moment for del Campo to actively pursue acting as a career. She joined the improv team after seeing the show, but as the years progressed, she eventually moved into studying politics.
Then one night, she says, she realized she wasn't happy.
"I remember getting kind of drunk, and I went and hid under a skateboard half-pipe in my neighbourhood and I cried and I thought, 'I hate this. I hate writing papers and listening to lectures and reading all these books. I really just want to perform,'" she recalls.
So she switched her courses to theatre, earned a theatre degree and renewed her commitment to her improv group. Now she pays her bills through acting (you can see her in the film My Awkward Sexual Adventure), and is part of several shows at the fringe with her improv group Outside Joke, including The DnD Improv Show and Outside Joke Breaks All the Rules.
None of it would have happened if she hadn't decided to spend that toonie in Grade 10, she says.
"I'm so fascinated always how the tiniest events... change the course of your entire life," she says.
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The fringe is often a time for firsts: new playwrights show their first shows; new actors perform in front of a crowd for the first time; singers sing their first notes onstage.
This year's festival is not Kara Swayze's first fringe, but the show she's in is a debut in many ways.
Swayze is playing Molly in Understudies: A New Musical, a play written by two brothers, one of whom is in high school. It's the first play the two have brought to the fringe, Swayze says, and for many of the cast, it's the first fringe play they've performed in.
Swayze has prior theatre experience, having worked at Celebrations Dinner Theatre. While rehearsing for Understudies, the actress says she had to remember not to intervene too much into the brothers' creative process.
"It was hard to bite my tongue at first, because I'm a very opinionated person, and I wanted to say, 'It should be done like this,'" Swayze says.
But the brothers were also very receptive to suggestions, and willing to work with the cast on developing characters.
"They were really open to what I wanted to do with my character, and any ideas I had, if I asked them about it, usually they would be game about it," she says.
The rehearsal process also differed from what Swayze was used to. Her show at Celebrations involved very structured rehearsals, while the rehearsals for Understudies were a little more free-form. Both styles have their strengths and weaknesses, she says.
"Once you get towards the performance, it all comes together (either way)," she says.