TORONTO — After experiencing the “rush of performing,” acting was Shaina Silver-Baird’s only logical career choice.
“There were other fields that caught my interest, but nothing else excited and challenged me enough to keep me wanting to go into work every day,” she said.
Silver-Baird, 22, is starring in One in a Million at the Randolph Theatre from July 6 to 15. A “micro-musical” written by Ron Fromstein, it’s part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.
Silver-Baird’s passion for theatre began in high school, when she auditioned for No String’s Youth Theatre production of Cinderella at the Harold Green Theatre.
“I found myself in the role of Cinderella. I had no idea what I was doing at first, but by the end of the production I was absolutely addicted to the rush of performing, the intensity of the bonds forged with the team and the theatre itself,” she said.
Silver-Baird continued performing throughout high school, but it wasn’t until she worked with director Mark Wilson on a production of Cabaret at Toronto Youth Theatre that she decided acting was her calling.
“He was the first director who really challenged me to be honest as an actor. At the end of the production, he encouraged me to enter York University’s theatre program, and subsequently the [York] Acting Conservatory, where I spent the next four years.”
One in a Million follows the journey of a band of sperm on the quest to reach the one and only egg, Silver-Baird said.
“The catch of course lies in the fact that only one of them will make it. Conflict and hilarity ensue as they fight on, only to find that the one and only egg has two egg handmaidens, who only further complicate the process of natural selection.”
Silver-Baird plays Grace, a handmaiden to The Egg. “She’s a sweetly naive and romantic young egg, hopelessly excited about the whole event of fertilization and always pining for the distant day that she might become the chosen egg.”
Silver-Baird said she’s happy to be working on a musical for a change. “Most of the work I’ve done during and after school has been gritty dark drama, so it’ll be nice to… tackle the challenge of a different style.”
She’s been part of several theatre productions, including Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare in Action); Macbeth (Shakespeare in Action); Olga (New Voices Festival); Little Crickets (Foundry Theatre/SummerWorks); Program (Theatre 4/4/SummerWorks).
Silver-Baird said three of her roles represent personal turning points for her. “The first is Sally Bowles in Cabaret, because it was the role that made me determined to follow acting as a career path. The second is Scarlett in Lion in the Streets, which I performed during my time in the York Conservatory.”
Her role as Scarlett, who has cerebral palsy, marked the first time Silver-Baird played a character that was drastically different from herself. Silver-Baird had to transform herself physically and vocally without detracting from the character’s “fierce intelligence and vibrant imaginative life,” she said.
“The third role would have to be Juliet… It was such an amazing opportunity to play such an iconic role right after school.”
Her role as Grace in One in a Million marks the second time Silver-Baird will be involved in the Toronto Fringe Festival. Last year, she performed in Saved, which was a co-production between Theatre Bassaris and Bound to Create Theatre.
As an emerging actor, Silver-Baird said she is “open to whatever opportunities the future brings,” but hopes to perform on some of the major stages in Canada, including at the Stratford and Shaw festivals.
“I would love to be a part of the burgeoning film/TV industry here and establish myself as a creative force in new Canadian grassroots theatre,” she added.
While she has a few dream roles, Silver-Baird said playing Anne Frank is at the top of her list. She said she would also love to play Eponine in Les Miserables.
Silver-Baird said her family and friends are very supportive of her career choice. “I remember deciding halfway through Grade 12 that I wanted to study acting and being nervous to break it to my family of very well-educated professionals. But when I broke the news to my mom, she just laughed and asked me what took me so long to realize. She knew before I did what I wanted to do with my life.”
There was even a running joke in her class at the York Conservatory that the front two rows were always full of Silver-Baird’s family.
Being Jewish has definitely influenced her work, she said. “It’s a part of who I am, and as an artist I’m always drawing on myself and my own experiences.”
On a more practical level, she said that studying with her bat mitzvah tutor, an accomplished singer, propelled her into the world of music, which in turn led her to theatre.
“My bat mitzvah was akin to my singing voice’s coming out party.”
For more information about the Toronto Fringe Festival, visit http://fringetoronto.com.