A Danforth native moves back to town, an educated entertainer
by Katy Littlejohn
Born and raised just off Danforth Avenue in a little house across the street from Chester station, Cameron Lapp knew the Danforth Village as home. Just before he hit high school, his family relocated to Hamilton, Ontario where Cameron lived out his teenage years followed by an undergraduate degree in Drama from Queen’s University.
Since he’s been gone, Cameron has made many accomplishments in the world of theatre, taking on everything from performing to puppet engineering. He has won awards for his work in set design, including a Queen’s Student Opera Company production of Carmen.
Since graduating last June, Cameron has attended the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space as a representative of Queen’s Drama alumni. Also a company member of the student-run Vagabond Theatre, Cameron has performed several of Shakespeare’s iconic roles including Romeo and Juliet’s Friar Lawrence, enjoying his usual role of the “father figure.” No longer the old-looking fish in the young student pond, Cameron is facing new acting challenges in the city. It has been advised that he shave his beard and start auditioning to play characters his own age.
Now, beard and all, he’s returned nine years later to the little corner of the city that he knew so well as a boy. No longer living with his parents, Cameron rents a spacious 4-bedroom apartment over a bistro with two university friends. He keeps up with his theatre training by working with small companies in the city.
Cameron began his university career on the path to a degree in chemical engineering: “My thought process in high school was that it would be easier to take training to be an engineer and take community theatre on the side.” Although he did enjoy the design elements of his engineering courses, it only took a year before switching his major to Drama. This wasn’t such an extraordinary move, however. Cameron has been part of choirs since he was a kid. He performed on stage for the first time in grade 9 in a school production of Annie: “[I] knew one of the cute girls I liked was in the show,” gushes Cameron who also admits to having been only one of three boys in the 40-person cast.
Since high school, Cameron has explored more areas within theatre including puppetry, lighting, and, of course, set design. He has served as Set Designer for several of the productions on Queen’s campus over the last few years including Queen’s Musical Theatre’s The Mikado and Queen’s Student Opera Company’s Carmen. Cameron points out Robert Lepage’s Ring Cycle set as inspiration. Just listening to Cameron talk about design is enough to convince anyone of his passion for it: “I guess it is an ego thing: I like to bring wonder and joy to people’s faces; I like to see the actors play on the set for the first time, or the director or choreographer come in and say ‘I can do this or this!’” he explains with a grin. Not that design has always proven to be stress-free for Cameron. He recalls his experience with Blue Canoe Productions’ Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street in 2010, his first intricate design with a small budget: “[There were] lots of things in production week that didn’t turn out the way we thought it would,” explains Cameron, who goes on to talk about the potentially dangerous, yet necessary barber’s chair and trap door that he had designed for the set. Instead of scrapping the whole system, which is iconic to the production, Cameron stood by the concept: “The set has to serve the performance—otherwise, it’s just a statue.” By the end of his Sweeney experience, he had learned “to not freak out about things,” and just keep solving problems until they are fixed. After all, the show must go on.
Looking back on the last five years, Cameron has been involved in many productions and looks forward to many more. He continues to hold ties with Single Thread and the University of Toronto’s Alumnae Theatre, whom he hopes to design for in their upcoming production of The Trojan Women.
It’s interesting to think about where he might be if he had not chosen to switch majors. Would he be where he is now? Perhaps not. It was the production in which he performed in his second year at Queen’s that sealed the deal for Cameron: Single Thread’s Famine by Tom Murphy. “The one I always come back to is Famine… [it was] ridiculously intense to be in the cast. Even though it was in a cold warehouse by the water in November, that was the best part of the day—part of why I decided to go into drama.”
The arts are not always the easiest choice when it comes to making a decision about what to devote one’s life to. But for those like Cameron who are willing to trudge forward in the name of art, giving up the security of an engineering degree for the sake of bringing entertainment to an audience it is a clear choice. The show must, indeed, go on.