Day 13 - Mariee (4th person I approached)
January 13, 2015 - The first three people I approached today all said exactly the same thing. As usual, I explained what I’m doing and asked if they’d be willing to chat. They each responded sincerely, with ‘Ordinarily I would, but today’s just not a good day. Sorry.’ The second person added a reassuring ‘I know there’s a good person out there for you,’ and of course, he was right. I just had to find that person.
I saw Mariee sitting by herself, eating at a local deli that I frequent. When I told her what I was doing, there was a flicker of recognition that I saw flash across her face. She told me she thought she had heard of my project before. I showed her my blog, and photos of some the recent stories. She agreed to chat, and let me take her photo.
“It’s spelled M-A-R-I-E-E, double E at the end. The second E is silent, or that’s what I tell people,” she told me with a big beaming smile.
“My mother made it up, so I made up the silent E part.” She was born in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, a small town at the head of the Alberni Inlet, the longest inlet on Vancouver Island.
“I have two brothers, one is two years older and one is two years younger than me. We always got along, I think in part, because my parents made sure to raise us as individuals. Although, there were a couple of dark years you know, like all siblings have,” she said laughing. Mariee has an energy and vibrancy that would make anyone smile. And it was infectious.
“My brothers were laid-back, easy going skateboarders. Both of them are DJ’s now. My older brother lives in LA and has his own label. I was the one who was the closest with my Dad. He and I went fishing and camping and skiing. I learned to fix cars with my Dad, all those things. My brothers had no interest in any of that. I was into dance and theatre as well,” she said. I asked if her brothers were protective of her, being the only sister.
“No, not at all. We were all equal as siblings. It made no difference that I was a girl.” Mariee is grateful to have been able to grow up in a smaller city.
“There were times when I wished I lived in a bigger city, but growing up in Port Alberni was so good. We were still able to go out, and play in the street until it got dark. Of course I appreciate it more now that I’m older and look back. It was a great place to grow up,” she told me.
“By the time I graduated high-school, I was ready to leave Port Alberni. But I didn’t want to go to a city that was too big. So I went to UVic (University of Victoria, on Vancouver Island). I had a room mate, a friend from Port Alberni and lived close to the university. It worked out well,“ she said. In the first year of university, Mariee wasn’t sure what it was that she wanted to study.
“I took general arts in the first year. I’ve always been interested in sciences and arts. I figured that teaching would be the best way to combine those, so I went into Education for my degree.”
In her first two years at UVic, during the summer, Mariee went home to Port Alberni and worked with her father at the local paper mill.
“Yeah, I was a, are you ready for this, I was a CTMP tester. (Chemical thermal, mechanical, pulp tester - does quality control tests throughout the pulp process). I learned a lot and it was interesting working with my Dad. I found out that he swore at work. I had never heard him talk like that before. I had to wear a bright orange shirt that said ‘New Employee’ on the back. And steel-toe boots,” she said, laughing and shaking her head. The next two summers she worked in a sawmill.
“It was the only steam-powered mill in the Canada. I didn’t actually work in the mill though. I got to dress up in period clothing and work with a bunch of friends from high-school. We did interpretative tours and education for school groups. I got paid to act and educate,” she said, excitedly.
After five years of UVic and graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Education, Mariee went back to Port Alberni.
“I got a job as a TOC, teach on call. It was kind of strange though, because I knew everyone in town. And all of the other teachers had been my teachers,” she said. It didn’t feel like a good fit, and Mariee only did that for about a year.
“I discovered Evergreen, and theatre for young people out of Calgary,” she said. Evergreen is a touring educational, environmental, science based, theatre company for young audiences.
“I joined the company and went on tour with shows for children. Again, it had an educational component and I was performing as well. The best of both of my interests, and it involved science too!” said Mariee.
“I ended up taking over the company and running it. I stayed in Calgary for five years, but I never felt like Alberta was my home. That’s when I moved to Vancouver.”
“I got a job working at Stanley Park doing nature tours with children. It was fun and involved education, but there wasn’t any performance aspect to the work. I was presented with an opportunity with Parks Canada. It was the Centennial year celebrations, and they wanted a show put together. I had about three weeks or something crazy like that, to write the show. And they wanted someone to perform in it as well. I got the gig and toured around Metro Vancouver with it. It was a huge hit and I did that for almost a year,” she said.
“I created a character, ‘Justine Beaver’ for the show, and that’s who I played. I ended up coming up with a rap song. There was so much talk about the show that after it ended, I filmed a video and put it on Youtube. ‘Justine Beaver Rap.’ I did it for the people,” she said, giggling. Oh how I laughed. It uses rhythm and rhyme to teach kids (of all ages) about what it means to be crepuscular. (*Fact Check - see links below.)
As well as being an educator and performer, Mariee also does voice acting for the PBS Kids show 'Plum Landing.' She voices the lead character ‘Plum.’ It’s a multi-platform, indoor-outdoor, science exploration adventure for kids and grown-ups.
“It’s funny. When I was touring with Evergreen, I was in Washington DC and I met this man there. We were talking about things and I mentioned that I wanted to do a children’s show for television. He told me that his wife worked for PBS, and that she was putting together a kids show. He gave me her contact information, and I sent her an email, but nothing ever came of it. Five years later, I get this gig doing the voice of Plum, and wouldn’t you know it, his wife is the Executive Producer. This was the show she had been putting together,” said Mariee. (**Fact Check - see links below.)
Mariee also shared a great story about a voice message she got.
“I’ve never met any of the people at PBS, they’re based in Boston. I got a call one day from one of the staff at PBS and she left me a message,” Mariee told me. The message she left said something like ‘Uhm, ahh hello. I’m ahh, sorry it’s just really thrown me off hearing your answering machine message, because I feel like I’ve called Plum. I know you’re an actor, and Plum isn’t real, but it’s just thrown me off.’
“I mean I voice Plum in my own speaking voice, just with more annunciation and excitement,” she told me. Best message ever!
Mariee is currently working as a resource educator. She talks with kids about how they get around. How they could be getting to school by moving their bodies more, walking, running, and bicycling.
She and her boyfriend have been together for about a year. I would have stopped the conversation there about her boyfriend but Mariee told me she had to show me a video she had on her phone.
“My boyfriend is a landscape gardener. He also has a charitable venture on the side. It’s called ‘Get-Gnominated,’ and people can nominate their friends if they know someone who has been sick, or had a difficult time with something, and just needs a boost,” she said.
If they're selected, her boyfriend makes arrangements to check out the home of the person nominated. He’ll then do a small space garden makeover. Perhaps a patio garden or a small plot. He has arranged for a nursery to donate plants, he’s had building yards donate materials to build planters. He also donates his own time. Of course, he does it all in character as ‘Dug the Gnome.’
And yes, there is video footage (***Fact Check - see links below) #notastranger