• James Armstrong

Treading the boards as acting becomes post-retirement career


PHOTO COURTESY JOHN ELLIOTT

John Elliott (right) in a Lakeshore Theatre production of The Miracle Worker with (left to right) Andrew McLennan, Sandy Ferguson, Melia Cressaty, and Jennifer Martin Cressaty.

For many of us, the prospect of retirement may seem a distant dream. For others, life after a long and rewarding career may loom as a problem needing to be solved.

For Vaudreuil-Dorion resident John Elliott, it was a case of stumbling from full-time employment into being an actor.

“I retired from corporate life and worked for a couple of years doing freelance consulting,” Elliot told The Journal. “I was a freedom 53 kind of guy.”

It was a co-worker friend who was involved in the Lakeshore Players Theatre who encouraged Elliott to audition for one of the community theatre’s productions. “Unexpectedly for me, I got a role,” said Elliott with a chuckle. That happened in 2001 when Elliott was selected to play the lead role in the Arthur Miller play, ‘All My Sons.’

“I was terrified,” said Elliott. “I had to learn 58 pages of dialogue.” The whole experience was a surprise as Elliott hadn’t been onstage since high school.

“I fell in love with it,” said Elliott, adding stage fright wasn’t an issue. “I was used to public speaking having worked in sales and marketing for an international corporation,” he said.

Elliott’s biggest hurdle was learning the craft of acting.

“I had no training as an actor and it’s a lot more complex than most people realize.” The solution was scene study classes provided by retired professional actor Robert Vernicks for members of the community theatre group.

“Being a neophyte, I joined his workshops and learned the basics of acting,” said Elliott. “Without those lessons, I would never have progressed to where I am now.”

Discovering a long lost interest

Acting was something Elliott had forgotten he had enjoyed. It was overshadowed by career responsibilities and raising a family. Elliott rediscovered his fascination with the entertainment business and the capacity of actors to engage an audience.

“The ability of an actor to draw an emotion out of a person who is watching is an amazing power to have,” he observed. “It’s a really rewarding experience for the actor and the audience.”

Elliott also found that participating in community theatre filled a gap in his life that appeared when he retired. “I was used to dealing with large groups of people, making presentations to executives and working with members of a sales force,” he said. “Working as a consultant was very lonely.” However, community theatre although fulfilling and enjoyable, doesn’t pay, as it is all-volunteer. Elliott’s big break as a professional actor began when an agent attended a community theatre performance.

“I hadn’t planned to be a professional actor,” said Elliott. Again, it was a case of happenstance as Elliott had accepted to fill a non-speaking role in the absence of another actor. After accepting the agent’s offer, Elliott was faced with a new challenge: learning how to audition.

“The worst part of acting is auditioning,” said Elliott with a chuckle, “It’s a soul-crushing procedure.” He noted that actors have to deal with a lot rejection. “You get more rejection than acceptance, in terms of auditions,” he said, adding it wasn’t as bad for him because he wasn’t relying on his acting career to support himself and his family. Elliott’s professional career has covered various media from film and radio to television including two seasons of the CBC production ‘This Life.’

PHOTO COURTESY JOHN ELLIOTT

Discovering a post-retirement career was almost

accidental for actor John Elliott.

Challenges of retirement

“I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for my retirement,” said Elliott. “There’s a certain skill-set I had after a 30-year career in the corporate world and I wasn’t sure what that meant in retirement life.” He found his involvement in community theatre was a means of giving something back to the community.

“The biggest challenge is how to bring the younger generation to see live theatre,” he said. Elliott discovered that being home with his wife 24 hours a day, seven days a week produced some challenges for both of them. “She retired before I did and all of a sudden I was dropping in on what she was doing,” he said with a laugh. There was an adjustment period and they both got their footing as his acting career grew. “The beauty of the situation is that your time is your own,” he said. “I try to fit my acting career in around everything that we do together.”

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