December 12, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
FIT AND FIGHTING: For some, being fit and healthy can be a daily struggle. For Devin Shen, Arash Baboo and Jessar Nygard, being fit was a way to escape their daily struggles.
The four are performing as part of Strength Project on the Winnipeg Fringe Festival's outdoor stage. While tumbling and showing off their acrobatic prowess, they advocate for healthy lifestyles through exercise.
"Not only is fitness good for your body, but it has so many mental-health benefits," Shen said.
And he would know. Years ago, Shen was in Las Vegas, fighting addictions to heroin and meth, and found exercise as a way to break free and start a new life.
"(Strength Project) helped me find a way to change myself mentally, physically, and spiritually and transform myself into a more positive person."
Baboo also knows a thing or two about breaking free with fitness. Growing up, he says, he went to the gym whenever his parents would fight.
"I would escape home. I would leave, like, six in the morning, so I wouldn't have to be around that, and I would go to the track and run for hours and hours," Baboo says.
"That's how I found solace, instead of playing video games all day," he says.
In addition to their live performances, Strength Project has a YouTube channel they use to spread their message.
That message? You can be a better person, Shen says.
"What I want to do when I perform is give people a ray of hope that there is a way to conquer whatever negative habits you have," he says.
PHYSICS TO PERFORMANCE: Theatre isn't astrophysics, but if it were, Christine Lesiak would probably not have a problem adjusting. The star of Ask Aggie -- The Advice Diva was working towards a masters degree in space physics when she decided it wasn't the life for her.
"One thing (the other students) had that I didn't have was a calling for the work. It's not that I couldn't do the work, but to be really good at it, you have to devote your life to it, almost like ministry," Lesiak says.
So she stepped back, did a variety of jobs and had children before figuring out that theatre was where her true love lay.
"I realized that there was this sort of element in me that I'd been squashing and not addressing," she says.
And now, she can see herself doing what she does for the rest of her life.
"I imagine I will be performing for the rest of my life ... (Aggie) will age with me beautifully," Lesiak says.
ATTENDANCE: Monday the fringe saw a slight drop in audiences compared with the weekend. The total number of tickets sold was 7,887, with 10 sold-out shows. This is higher than the first two days of the festival, but lower than Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 24, 2013 C5