Cara Headshot .jpg

The bounty of suc​cess

Brampton ac​tor’s plate is full, play​ing the sis​ter in Raisin in the Sun be​fore go​ing to Strat​ford

 

Toronto Star · 13 Oct 2008 · RICHARD OUZOUNIAN THE​ATRE CRITIC

 

Cara Rick​etts is nor​mally one of the busiest young ac​tors in the coun​try, but con​sid​er​ing to​day is Thanks​giv​ing, she’s go​ing to be work​ing over​time.

“I am so grate​ful for all I’ve been given this past year!” she says, be​fore start​ing a fi​nal re​- hearsal for Soulpep​per The​atre’s A Raisin in the Sun, which opens at the Young Cen​tre for the Per​form​ing Arts Thurs​day night af​ter con​clud​ing a suc​cess​ful run at The​atre Cal​gary. And Rick​etts is right; it’s been a pretty amaz​ing run of luck for Rick​etts, al​though — hav​ing seen many of her per​for​mances — it’s a safe bet that tal​ent plays as much of a part as luck in the equa​tion.

 

She started this year with the con​tro​ver​sial pro​duc​tion of Born Ready by Joseph Jomo Pierre, which caused a flurry of school can​cel​la​tions be​cause of its graphic de​pic​tion of ghetto life. Then she joined the com​pany of the Dream in High Park for the sec​ond sea​son of its hit Caribbean styled pro​duc​tion of A Mid​sum​mer Night’s Dream. Then it was straight into A Raisin in the Sun, which will oc​cupy her for most of the rest of this year. Af​ter that, a short break and she joins the Strat​ford Shake​speare Fes​ti​val com​pany for a sea​son in some very sub​stan​tial roles. Not bad for a young woman who started out think​ing she re​ally wanted to be an Egyp​tol​o​gist.

 

“No, re​ally!” she laughs. “Okay, I ad​mit it was af​ter I saw one of the In​di​ana Jones movies, but I was re​ally se​ri​ous about it for a while. I even had an ankh tat​tooed on my neck.” Luck​ily for us, the the​atre had a stronger pull, al​though it took a while to make it​self felt.

 

Rick​etts was born in North York on April 22, 1983, in a dis​tress​ingly fa​mil​iar sce​nario: “I had two younger sis​ters, my mom worked hard at a hospi​tal . . . my dad wasn’t around.” Dur​ing her early years, she was raised at Jane and Finch, which meant that “mom kept us in the house a lot.” But af​ter a while, they moved to Brampton, which was “a whole dif​fer​ent world,” she re​calls. “Ev​ery​body knew ev​ery​body and got along.” Around that time, her aunt used to take her to see com​mu​nity the​atre shows, but things didn’t re​ally click un​til she reached St. Mar​garet d’You​ville high school.

 

“A won​der​ful teacher named Mr. Si​mon kept push​ing me into plays like Marvin’s Room, with to​tally non-tra​ditional cast​ing. The same thing hap​pened with all the roles I played in Brampton, the Peel Pan​tos, ev​ery​thing. “Be​ing black was never an is​sue, never brought up.”

 

The suc​cess Ricketts has known ever since, in parts writ​ten for al​most ev​ery pos​si​ble race, sug​gests the va​lid​ity of the old phrase “a child learns what he lives.” In 2002, Rick​etts went on to the Hum​ber School of Creative and Per​form​ing Arts, where fate was on her side again when she came un​der the wing of Diana Belshaw, head of act​ing at the school. “I still call her Mama Belshaw,” she gig​gles. “She taught all of us that there wasn’t a thing we couldn’t do if we re​ally put our minds to it.” Rick​etts learned Belshaw’s lessons well; be​fore she even grad​u​ated in 2005, “I had an agent and my first job,” which was play​ing Luce in The Com​edy of Er​rors for the late, lamented Fes​ti​val of the Arts in Oakville. Af​ter that, the hits, as they say, kept on a-comin’, with ac​claimed per​for​mances in Born Ready, The Last Days of Ju​das Is​- car​iot and A Mid​sum​mer Night’s Dream.

 

Now she’s in the world of Lor​raine Hans​berry’s 1959 play about a black fam​ily strug​gling to find its way from the mean streets of Chicago to a home in an all-white sub​urb. Hailed as rev​o​lu​tion​ary at the time of its cre​ation, it went through a pe​riod of dis​favour, dur​ing which its Bi​ble-quot​ing ma​tri​arch in​spired the mock​ery of Ge​orge C. Wolfe in The Col​ored Mu​seum. But a 2004 re​vival star​ring Sean Combs proved Broad​way dy​na​mite and trans​ferred to the small screen, earn​ing three Emmy nom​i​na​tions. “I love the play and still find it em​pow​er​ing,” de​clares Rick​etts, who plays the sis​ter, Be​neatha Younger. “Here’s this young chick and she’s call​ing her own shots, way ahead of her time. “I think it’s re​ally won​der​ful that Soulpep​per is do​ing a play like this and I’m proud to be in it.”

 

Af​ter that, the Strat​ford fes​ti​val. Is she ready for it? “When​ever I start to think about that,” Rick​etts gasps, “my head feels likes it’s about to burst right open. Let me open this play first, then worry about the next.” With any luck, she’ll have even more to be grate​ful for next Thanks​giv​ing.

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