Saskatoon: Heather Morrison

Photo by Jennifer Sparrowhawk. Intro by Jenna Berenbaum.

Photo by Jennifer Sparrowhawk. Intro by Jenna Berenbaum.

An artist, athlete and an ally, Heather is the first person you pick to be on your team. She is an artistic force to be reckoned with and a gift to the city of Saskatoon.  Whether she is acting, coaching, broadcasting or simply lending her hand in a time of need, Heather will bring her full commitment and energy to the room. Her grace and kindness are evident in her work within all her fields and she continues to make strong unforgettable impacts on this community. Did I mention she is also a mother? Between building up Saskatoon as a city of art, Heather raises her son with equal energy and compassion. There is no part of her life that is dismissed. All things are important, valued and respected. 

 As the Artistic Producer of Sum Theatre, Heather has brought free theatre to more than 40,000 people. She teaches drama to at-risk-youth and newcomers to Canada, giving people a place to unite and grow together. Her joy in this work is palpable: it spreads like wild fire and everyone feels welcome and celebrated. Heather is a champion of community growth and wellness in Saskatoon and we are stronger because of her. We are lucky to have her in this community. 

 In addition to her work with Sum Theatre, Heather has served on multiple boards, volunteered at various charity events and coached public speaking and group fitness. She has received various awards and has been recognized for her work in this community, but she is not done. Heather will not stop until all people are equal, empowered and celebrated within our community.

KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now? 

I co-founded a theatre company (Ferre Play Theatre) that has a mission to support and develop women. We just wrapped our first production, The Penelopiad, which featured the work of 24 women. I start rehearsals very soon for a play called WROL (Without Rule of Law) at Persephone Theatre. I will be directing an all-female cast in The Wolves as part of the Live Five season. My partner at Sum Theatre is on educational leave this year so I’m steering the ship, with the help of our Associate Artistic Director, Judy Wensel. We’ll be busy year round with projects like Youth on the Rise (a free drama program for Indigenous and Newcomer youth) and Theatre in the Park. This spring we produced #consent, a play about sexual violence for high school students. 2019 was a huge year of output for me. I’m hoping to take a large portion of 2020 to reflect and rest.

KC: What is your day job? What do you like about it? What's challenging? 

I have five jobs. I am the Artistic Producer of Sum Theatre. I work as an actress. I coach fitness at Freedom Functional Fitness. I occasionally host CBC Saskatoon Morning. I run a business where I coach individuals in public speaking and script development. There is no difference between “day” and every other time for me. I work days. . . and evenings, early mornings and weekends. It sounds wild but I love how every day is different. I recognize getting to work in areas you’re passionate about is a true gift. And, each of these lines of work inspire me, challenge me, and bring me so much energy and joy. Not surprisingly, I do find it challenging to balance everything. Recently I had a perfect storm where I had a show opening, a client had a big keynote, and I was filling in on CBC. But I also recently had a random Monday off where it was 30 degrees and I spent the whole day outside with my son. I try to appreciate those blessings.

KC: What is important to you?

Ironically, it is balance. I love what I do, but if I can’t make quality time for my son and the other people in my life I am closest to, then it’s not worth it.

Citizenship is also important to me. In our current culture there’s a lot of interest in being an entrepreneur and building wealth from passion, and also around self-care and growth. Those conversations are important (a lot of habits I’ve learned from “influencers” help me succeed and live a fulfilled life) but we need to balance our gaze. It can’t always be inwards. A question I think we can all ask ourselves more frequently is - what am I doing to address the needs of my community?

KC: What do you like the most, and least, about Saskatoon?

I love the community. I love how beautiful it is. I feel invigorated by all the people who work to improve the city. Their actions lead me to believe anything is possible. It’s difficult for me to choose something I like least. Saskatoon is such a part of my identity. I guess I would say I wish important conversations were not so difficult. I wish we could discuss issues of racism, poverty, and drug addiction with clear minds and compassionate hearts.

KC: What is your impression of Regina?

I met one of my closest friends while working in Regina so when I think of the city, I think of cups of coffee in her warm kitchen. . . and too many late nights at O’Hanlons. 

I think theatre artists in Regina operate in a totally different, and very cool, way. Many of them have a strong improv background.They also create a lot of their theatre, which is often a collaboration with artists from different disciplines. There is a lot of talent and expertise down there that I hope to continue to be inspired by and learn from. 

KC: Finish this sentence: If the best of all possible worlds was reality....

….climate change would be stopped and we could have our beautiful planet forever. 

KC: How do you think your identity has helped you / hindered you?

I’m white. I’m middle-class. I’m straight. I’m cis. I’m thin. I’m an extrovert. All of these aspects make it easier for me to operate in the world and I am grateful for the community members, writers, and friends who have helped me understand this. And have helped me understand the responsibility I have to address these inequalities. Some great advice I received years ago, and something I try to do consistently in my work, is to amplify marginalized voices. But I can always do better.

I am also a woman. There are many times when I was younger when I was sexualized or disrespected and it prevented me from participating in conversations where I really wanted to have a voice. I am grateful for getting older as it has helped me to be taken more seriously. Times have changed as well. I think our society used to only value female leaders who were very masculine in their power and their leadership. We’re starting to value different types of strength - from people of all genders - which I think is a very good thing.

(From the Proust Questionnaire): What is the trait you most deplore in others?

There is an oft repeated saying, which is what you don’t like about others is what you don’t like about yourself. I think the most beautiful way I heard it expressed is “everytime you judge someone you reveal an unhealed part of yourself.” Not surprisingly, things that bother me in others are qualities that come out of me when I am not being my best self. 

When is comes to things that get under my skin, poor leadership is a big one for me. Which makes sense because I hate letting my team down or not acting in my full maturity when I’m the one in charge.

I also really dislike when people lie, snap at me or others, or are not a good listener. But there is no one I will judge harder for this than myself. I also gain more respect for someone who will acknowledge having done one of those things and apologize for it. So that’s something else I try to cultivate in myself as well. I don’t have to be perfect but I have to own when I’m not.

Links:

www.sumtheatre.com

www.ferreplay.com

https://persephonetheatre.org/events/wrol-without-rule-of-law

https://www.livefive.ca/season/the-wolves/

http://freedomsaskatoon.com/

www.instagram.com/mo_heather

www.twitter.com/heathermo

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