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Correlieu grad starring in new swashbuckling ‘femme-forward’ play in Vancouver

Junita Thiessen grew up in Quesnel and went on to study acting at Capilano University
Junita Thiessen, who was raised in Quesnel and graduated from Correlieu Secondary School, is starring as Volta in the Fabulist Theatre production of The Untold Legend of Imogen Flight in Vancouver. (John Ball photo)

A Correlieu Secondary School graduate is currently starring in the world premiere of a daring and imaginative “femme-forward” play by Fabulist Theatre in Vancouver.

Featuring epic sword fights and tall tales of pirates, nuns and Queen Victoria, The Untold Legend Of Imogen Flight is being called “a swashbuckling feminist comedy for our time.”

On the day Imogen Flight is set to be knighted by Good Queen Vic, the patrons of the ladies-only “Saucy Chicken” pub share stories of their heroine. When Imogen herself shows up, along with her trusty sidekick Volta, she comes with more stories of her own — and someone on her trail with nefarious intentions, according to a news release about the play, which is running Feb. 27 to March 7 at CBC Studio 700 in Vancouver.

The Untold Legend Of Imogen Flight, which was written, directed and co-produced by Mary Littlejohn, stars a diverse, inter-generational cast of 10 women.

Junita Thiessen, who grew up in Quesnel and studied theatre at Capilano University, plays Imogen’s sidekick, Volta.

The Untold Legend Of Imogen Flight is the story of this woman, Imogen, who is a sword-fighting heroine; she goes about 19th-century England and saves people who need help,” said Thiessen. “The story is also about the full cast of women, who all have interesting lives, who are all fully actualized people. It’s super cool that this is a play all about women, where none of their stories really revolve around men; they’re all just fully actualized people with their own stories to tell.”

Thiessen does her own sword fighting, and every actress in the play gets to sword fight or have some sort of dagger play at some point in the play.

“It’s been a really cool experience doing this play because I can’t think of another play like this where women get to sword fight every single scene,” she said. “It’s been a super cool environment to work in too, all of these really supportive women of different generations, all from different ethnic backgrounds. It’s just been amazing.”

Thiessen, who is 22, moved to Vancouver about three years ago to study the Acting for Stage and Screen program at Capilano University. She graduated about seven months ago.

Thiessen says her time at Correlieu Secondary School was extremely valuable in leading her on this path.

“I totally give thanks to the school system in Quesnel,” she said. “I think Correlieu was super supportive of the arts, as supportive as a small-town high school can be. At the time, Ashleigh Desbiens was teaching the drama program, and she was so encouraging of me from the get-go. I remember going into her office one day crying, being like ‘I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life,’ and she was like ‘what do you mean you don’t know what you want to do? You want to act.’”

When Thiessen asked Desbiens if she thought she could do it, her drama teacher told her she absolutely could and this is what she had to go to post-secondary school for.

“It was just so nice to have this adult completely support you and really see potential in me, and she’s the one who recommended that I attend Capilano,” said Thiessen.

Thiessen says she always loved performing and being the centre of attention, and she started studying drama in middle school.

“I kind of always knew I wanted to be an actor, and once I got a little bit older and you’re in Grade 11, and you’re taking Planning and you have to decide what career you want to do, I got really discouraged because there were some people in my life who weren’t as encouraging and were like ‘you need to be realistic; you need a realistic career path,’” she said. “But I can’t imagine myself doing anything else, so I’m glad I had people in my life who were supportive.”

One thing Thiessen has found really interesting and inspiring is that she has met many Quesnel graduates pursuing artistic careers while in Vancouver. She says there are quite a few people she went to school with who also went to Capilano or Trinity Western University for acting or musical theatre, and she has also run into former classmates who are now doing makeup for the film industry.

You can keep up with Thiessen’s career by following her on Facebook or Instagram by searching “Junita Thiessen.”

READ MORE: Quesnel native Stewart Cawood is the new operator of Barkerville’s Theatre Royal

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