Valeria Ascolese takes to Yellowknife’s NACC stage on Saturday to play a nine-year-old whose story she believes will resonate with Northwest Territories kids.
Ascolese is Sandy in The Troll Grandfather, a play by Axis Theatre, running from 1pm at NACC on Saturday, January 28 as part of this year’s Children’s Festival of Silliness.
Sandy and her grandfather go on a journey to claim an ancestral blessing that every troll receives in their lifetime – a journey on which Sandy realizes she is part troll.
“She gets to learn all the ancestral history and cultural background of what it means to be a troll,” Ascolese told Mornings at the Cabin on Thursday ahead of her performance.
She hopes a young NWT audience will understand the show’s messages about “what it means to learn from your Elders, and honour your ancestors and the place where you are from.”
Ascolese and the production are touring the country. Saturday’s festival at NACC also includes francophone performer Kid Kouna’s silly songs for kids of all ages, alongside a series of games and activities. Tickets are $5 each.
A drama teacher when not acting, Ascolese – who is 24 – said her students help her understand how to play a convincing nine-year-old.
“I’m exposed to kids a lot and I get to watch. Part of being an actor is just watching other people, studying their movement and how they talk,” she said.
“Working with kids is my favourite thing in the world, how judgement-free every action that they do is. I wish I could be more like that and I drew inspiration from some of my students.”
And while The Troll Grandfather has an eight-foot puppet dragon to keep audiences enthralled, Ascolese thinks the idea of discovering your identity is what will appeal to a northern audience. It’s certainly what captivated her.
“I am half-Peruvian, half-Italian. I came to Canada when I was 11. I got to learn, through my parents, a lot of my culture,” she said.
“I assimilated a lot and forgot a lot about my cultural background. Going into university and theatre school, finding out a lot about my identity and historical background, I started to honour that side of myself.
“What’s beautiful about this show is this little nine-year-old is doing the work that I was doing in university.”