Marti Hopson of Wheatley River counts her role as president of the board for ACT (a community theatre), in its 25th anniversary year, as one of her five jobs. “I consider a job anything I give more than ten hours a week,” she laughs. She is quick to reassure that some of her jobs are “seasonal and don’t happen all at the same time.”
Among her many roles other than volunteering with ACT, she works on a farm, works as a veterinarian in community practice (a teaching role at the Atlantic Veterinary College), collaborates with the music teacher at Gulf Shore School to help with a middle-school musical with grades four, five, and six each year; and has been the music director of the River Clyde Pageant since its first season in 2016.
Acting and producing theatre aren’t jobs to Marti: they are her bliss. Her job list also excludes jobs Marti Hopson let go to make more room for creativity in her life. She says, “You can’t be a full-time vet and a mom and do arts and theatre in your life,” but, she decided a few years ago, “I can have two of these three.”
A CBC interview gave her a life-changing insight: “If you have the means to follow your bliss, and you don’t, what a waste of life.” She realized, she says, “I’m blessed— I didn’t need to keep up a full-time vet career.” She returned to the world of community theatre she had begun with when she moved to PEI with her veterinarian husband and before they had two children.
Marti grew up in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario and “got the musical theatre bug” when she was fourteen, thanks to a community production of Fiddler on the Roof in her hometown of Sault Ste. Marie. She continued through high school “playing in pit bands and as a rehearsal pianist.”
And yet, she started university in science. “I didn’t think people had ‘real’ careers in music,” she says. “I thought people had to be a teacher or performer, and I didn’t see myself as either of those.”
Regardless, she switched from sciences to arts, completing two degrees in fine arts, learning and working in music, theatre, multimedia, and sound installation, mostly on the West Coast and Montreal. Then, “through a series of fortunate accidents,” she says, “I got a job in the Sault Ste. Marie Humane Society”—and soon returned to an earlier dream of becoming a veterinarian.
She always maintained creative outlets, but when she truly reprioritized creativity in her life, it coincided with planning for the River Clyde Pageant. In the midst of a fierce thunderstorm, at a preliminary meeting at The Mill, the late Ker Wells outlined what they imagined for a scene, and Marti couldn’t help but pipe up, “You know what that needs is an accordion!”
Marti ended up as music director, leading bands and choirs, and even composing music for the pageant. “It changed my life,” she said. “It made me feel I had finally found a home.”
Marti says, “The community part of community theatre is important.”
Especially so today, she says. “Now, it’s easy to be isolated, to stay at home with Netflix and a cat on your lap.”
The River Clyde Pageant, she says, “is an example of an interesting opportunity for people from the very young to the very old to communicate and work together on something… Getting together, building something,” she emphasized. “Building something is so important, and seeing it take flight.”
Though Marti is relatively new to the board, ACT has been ACTive for twenty-five years, and she appreciates what it has built. “I worked on the new ACT website,” says Marti, “and it made me nostalgic, even if I wasn’t there for all of it.”
Her own hope is for more performance roles on stage and for flourishing opportunities to produce theatre. “Life is short,” Marti says. “You have to pick and choose. But all those things are my bliss… And so are carrots, and being a teacher!
“It is lovely sharing with people. I think it all comes back to community,” she reflects