Spotlight - Jennifer Lyon
Written by Andrea Danelak
The daughter of former Manitoba premier Sterling Lyon, Lyon dreamed of becoming an actor right from young. “I think I got the bug in elementary school, doing school plays and being given the opportunity to do things onstage,” she recalls. “It just brought me so much joy at a very young age, and I’m very lucky to have continued to do it for so long.”
After studying theatre at the University of Winnipeg, she decided to pack up her bags and head to Toronto to hone her craft at York University. “Education has always been important to my family, so I investigated universities that had an acting program,” she says. “I loved it at the University of Winnipeg, but I also had a bit of a curiosity about Toronto and York was the next logical step—you only live once!”
And the move to Toronto paid off. For years, Lyon enjoyed a successful career across the country and lived what she calls the “vagabond lifestyle” of a performer in everywhere from J Stratford to Vancouver to Toronto. “I lived out of a suitcase, subleted apartments, stayed with friends,” she laughs. “I’ve had the privilege of working from coast to coast and I loved that—I love being in new places and meeting new people.”
During her trek across Canada, she played roles in productions like The Miracle Worker, Camelot and My Fair Lady, one of her personal favourites. “I loved playing Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady,” she says. “It was such a large transformation, both vocally and emotionally.” Indeed, in addition to her acting abilities, Lyon is also known for her vocal talent. “There have been some artistic directors who didn’t know I could sing and others that didn’t know I could act,” she says. “It was great not to be pigeonholed.”
After years of a nomadic lifestyle, Lyon put her roots down in Winnipeg once more to spend time with her family. “In one degree or another, Winnipeg will always be home,” she says. “Right now, it’s home and that feels right to me.” And it’s no wonder—the city has provided her with outstanding opportunities throughout the years, including roles in Manitoba Theatre Centre’s productions of Guys and Dolls and Pride and Prejudice, as well as in Manitoba Theatre for Young People’s Comet in Moominland, which she got the chance to perform in New York.
“Winnipeg is so unique and it has a reputation for being such a great centre for the arts,” she says, attributing part of the city’s fondness for theatre to its rich cultural diversity and central geographical location. “There’s certainly a freshness and uniqueness to what’s created here in Winnipeg.”
Though she took the year off from acting to pursue her culinary training, Lyon will soon be back in action for rehearsals of MTC’s production of the classic White Christmas and then The Father at the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre.
“My favourite part of my job is performing in front of an audience, telling a story and bringing as much truth and honesty as I can—that, I find incredibly fulfilling and rewarding and that’s why I got into acting and have stayed with it as long as I have,” she says. “Sometimes it can be challenging to maintain consistency in a longrunning show, but I happen to like that. I look forward to playing many more challenging roles in the future and to never know what’s around the corner.”
Lyon offers a final piece of advice for anyone trying to break into the industry: “Don’t let other people get you down. Stick to your guns, follow your heart and dreams, and try to take the negatives and turn them into positives. You have to find that inner happiness.”
And judging by the enthusiasm in which she discusses her craft, it’s obvious Lyon has found it.