Lack of enthusiasm has never been a problem for actor Pippa Mackie. “My parents realized it and were nice enough to put me in theatre camps instead of putting me on Ritalin or something,” she says. “I was helping my mom clean out her house a while ago, and I found a book called Raising Your Spirited Child. I’m guessin’ that was not about my med-school sister.”
The 24-year-old graduate of Kitsilano Secondary and Montreal’s National Theatre School is talking to the Straight from Edmonton, where she is about to open the Edmonton Fringe Festival run of The Progressive Polygamists, the satirical two-hander about sexual containment that she wrote and performs with Emmelia Gordon. If you’re lucky, you saw that show at the Firehall this June or at last summer’s Vancouver International Fringe Festival, and you know how winning Mackie’s combination of confidence and comic sensibilities can be.
It’s certainly getting her work. This fall, she’ll be playing the titular canine character in A. R. Gurney’s Sylvia at the Gateway Theatre (October 12 to 27), as well as the lusty peasant Charlotte in John Wright’s adaptation of Molière’s Don Juan in Blackbird Theatre’s production at the Cultch (December 26, 2012, to January 26, 2013) and then at the Gateway (April 11, 2013, to April 27, 2013). She is turning her short monologue Bait, which satirizes prohibitions on teenage sex, into a full-length screenplay and she recently starred in the short film “Wait for Rain”, which was written by local talents Kyle Rideout and Josh Epstein.
Asked which of her creative pursuits gives her the most pleasure, Mackie quickly responds, “Oh, stage acting for sure. You step on-stage and you just go to work. And being in rehearsal is the best. When I was younger, I was a rhythmic gymnast for 10 years, and I had a Bulgarian coach and a Chinese coach and they were really intense in training. I love having somebody say, ‘You’re doing that but I want you to do that.’ ”
Mackie ascribes her confidence to her “great family”—and to her training in high-school improv. “I was part of the improv team from Grade 8 to Grade 12,” she explains. “And in improv—especially in high-school improv—you’re failing all the time. When you’re doing a scene that’s just falling apart and no one’s laughing, I don’t think there’s any worse feeling ever. But you’ve got to keep bringing it. Say you still have a minute of the scene, you’ve got to try and salvage what little time you have left and appreciate the time when you are on-stage. And you know: sometimes it’s going to work and sometimes it’s not. Either way, you don’t die. So you just throw yourself in there and let it happen.”